When the service member receives orders to deploy, your first impulse may be to pack up your belongings and move back home to more familiar surroundings, especially if you haven’t been married for long. While there are advantages to being among family and old friends while your spouse is away, there are many benefits to staying in your military community. Before making a decision, it’s important to think through the pros and cons of staying or moving.
Deciding what's right for you
The decision to stay or leave is a personal one that will depend on a number of factors, including the following:
- Your ties to the community where you live — If you have lived on or near the installation for a while, you've probably developed support systems that can help you while your spouse is away. The people in these communities maybe able to help you with any challenges you encounter during the deployment.
- Your children — It's easier to pick up and move if you don't have children. But if you have a baby or toddler, you may want to live with relatives who can help you care for them. If your children are older, moving may be disruptive, especially if they are in school and involved with sports, lessons, or other organized activities.
- Whether you have a place to move to — If you plan to move back in with a parent or other relative, how do they feel about sharing their home with you and perhaps your children? Although moving back home may be done with the best of intentions, it can also create added stress.
- Your finances — Moving means paying transportation costs for you and your children twice — once when you leave, and again when you return to the installation. You will also have to pay to transport or store your furniture and other possessions.
- Your willingness to spend the time before your spouse deploys preparing to move — If there's enough notice before the deployment, you and your spouse may want to take a last-minute vacation or just be together without the distraction of packing up your home, canceling services, and looking for a new place to live.
- Your housing situation — If you will be paying rent in a new location, it may not be covered by your Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH). BAH is based on the housing market in the area where the installation is located. If rent is more expensive back home, then you’ll have to cover the difference yourself. If you live in government quarters, you may not be able to keep your housing if you leave. Check with the housing office to find out whether you can leave your place vacant until you return after the deployment.
- Your need for special medical treatment — If you have a child in the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP), the special care he or she receives may not be as readily available in your new location.
Advantages of remaining on the installation
Your reasons for wanting to move back home when your service member deploys are good ones. You may need a break from the military lifestyle and the constant reminders of the deployment by others. You may look forward to the love and support that your extended family and old friends can give you. Before you make up your mind, it's important to consider the advantages of remaining at the installation until your service member comes home:
- Access to installation services — If you stay on or near your installation, you'll have easy access to the commissary, exchange, recreational activities, family and community support, legal assistance, and other services.
- Family readiness and unit activities — Many installations have special activities and programs for family members of deployed service members. This is a good way to meet others in your situation and to stay connected with your spouse's unit.
- Medical care — If you need to see a health care provider while you're living away from the installation, you may not be able to find a preferred provider and you could end up spending more for medical treatment. Visit the TRICARE website for more information on medical services in different areas.
- Other military families to turn to for support — It can be comforting to be with people who share your experience or have already been through a deployment. Friends and family back home may not understand the military lifestyle or the unique circumstances of a deployed service member.
- Safety and security — You and your service member may have peace of mind knowing that you’re in a familiar environment on or near a military installation.
- Keeping children's routines intact — Your children may enjoy visiting their grandparents or other relatives, but leaving home to move in with them — even temporarily — will disrupt your children's normal routines.
- A chance to settle in — If you recently moved to the installation, you can start putting down roots while your service member is away. His or her transition back home after deployment will be easier if routines have been established and the family is settled.
If you decide to move closer to family
Once you have considered all the options, you may decide that moving closer home is the right choice for you and your family. If you decide to move
- Give your contact information to your spouse's unit. Though it sounds obvious, be sure to give your spouse your new address and phone number.
- Contact TRICARE. Talk with a TRICARE representative to help you understand how your health care benefits will cover you and your family.
- Notify installation housing or your landlord that you will be moving out.
- Change your address at the post office. Otherwise your mail won't be forwarded.
- Keep in touch with the Family Readiness Group. Be sure they have your contact information. You may want to visit the units website to stay connected.
- Look for ways to connect with other military spouses or support programs. Your local Red Cross chapter or the State Family Program at the Joint Forces Headquarters is a good place to start.