Military life can sometimes feel like a never-ending series of puddle jumps. Two years here, one year there—even less, sometimes. Making the effort to ingratiate oneself in a new community often feels pointless. And there’s no denying the barrage of negativity that attaches itself to nearly every duty station.
There’s something different about Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, though—something special.
Although it hosts plenty of long-term residents, its claim to fame is its Command and General Staff College: a revolving door that molds Captains into Majors in less than a year. Fort Leavenworth’s high turnover rate should render it a mere blip on the radar for seasoned military families; a quick move with little emotional investment.
And yet, that’s not what happens.
Not for us. Not for our friends. Not for most who get to enjoy its charms; its history; its simplicity.
Fort Leavenworth is a Mayberry in a world of metropolises. It’s a reminder to slow down during a year that flies by. And for military families who rarely get such a pleasure, Fort Leavenworth is more than a puddle jump: it’s an honest-to-goodness home.
This place pulls you in the moment you arrive. People are friendly and warm. Friendships form seemingly overnight as moving-truck nightmares and housing kerfuffles force neighbors to lean on one another: for air mattresses, for sugar, for a much-needed drink. And nobody ever disappoints.
Kids greet each other—one moment timid and unsure, the next, joyful and confident. Time is short. They’ve done this before. So off they run; forever friendships born of a shared ice cream cone.
They spend weeks crisscrossing every inch of their new neighborhood, darting across streets with reckless excitement. Parents yell at them to pay attention! and look both ways! Eventually, they figure it out. Most of them, at least.
There are wine nights and block parties, bunco games and baby showers. Neighborhoods here are tight-knit but not exclusionary. No favor goes undone, no act of giving goes unappreciated.
Its sticky summer harkens back to the innocence of childhood—all lightning bugs and bare feet.
Autumn arrives in a flash of brilliance—leaves ablaze with the kind of color and crunch one might expect from a Kinkade painting. These are porch days, where the kids never once ask for an ipad and the cleaning can wait.
Winter is cold and sometimes dreary, but the promise of snow is ever-present. It is peppered with snowball fights and carefully-crafted forts. Soon enough, the ice gives way to warmth and spring emerges. Deer scamper across post, wild turkeys appear, and children begin darting into the street, once again.
It’s all so idyllic—a place rich in history and surrounded by nature. The basements full of toys go untouched and technology feels a little less omnipresent. There’s a sense here that’s both familiar and intangible, a simplicity that feels lost outside its gates.
Fort Leavenworth takes me back to summers spent playing kick-the-can and neighbors who were like family, calling to mind a time when everything felt safe. I’m glad my own children will know that feeling, however fleeting it might be.
This sweet little town, this patch of Midwestern goodness, is an experience everyone deserves. And yet, it’s more than some black-and-white nostalgia. It’s inclusive and welcoming; the multitude of flags dotting our street speak to a more modern Mayberry—one that both looks to the past and forges ahead.
This is a colorful place, alive with culture and new experiences. It means your kids will make friends who don’t speak their language. It means you might find yourself drinking a margarita on Cinco de Mayo while wishing your neighbor a happy Ramadan. It means sharing laughs and memories with people who come from all over the globe.
And it will be amazing.
When I look back on this place, I’ll see my daughter twirling on a tree swing and my son on an imaginary tiger hunt with his best friend. Every November, I’ll think of the blizzard that welcomed our last little bundle into the world. We’ve imprinted ourselves here, like many before and many to come.
I’m sorry to say goodbye to this special place. And though our time here was brief, it was invaluable.
The magic of this particular Mayberry is that, unlike its television counterpart, this town’s story remains unscripted and unending—each season bringing with it a new, exciting cast of characters.
So as the moving trucks begin to fight over valuable curb space in the days ahead—indeed, as I sit amongst a pile of cardboard boxes ready to be loaded in mere hours—let me be the first to say, ‘welcome home.’ You will absolutely love it here. Just be sure to invest in a good back-up camera.