My husband is Army Reserves. For the last 18 months, we have been on active duty orders and stationed in Fort Rucker, Alabama. What came as a shock to me was how quickly we built a great community and how much Fort Rucker really felt like home.
We knew that our time in Alabama would come to an end this summer, and we had grand plans: a huge graduation party for my husband, a night at the ball, a graduation dinner with all our people, goodbye cookouts, snuggling all of our sweet friends who became family, and visiting our favorite places for the last time.
But what I looked forward to the most -like I do every time we move- was to sit in the living room on our last night, surrounded by boxes, and soak in all the memories of our home that would soon become someone else’s.
At least that was our plan before COVID-19 pandemic came crashing in around us.
During this whole virus situation, the military across all branches issued a stop-move order; this means that travel for military members and families is halted. That includes troops in TDY and PCS orders for an uncertain amount of time.
For hundreds of thousands of troops, this was and is a huge ordeal, leaving many families in limbo or stuck in their current duty stations. But it is especially troublesome when you’ve been planning a PCS for months, and your plans are changed last minute for an undefined time. Unfortunately, our family was one of those that were affected.
A few things that military families have learned to adapt to are indecision from higher up, short-notice moves, surprise deployments, and constant changes. One of the byproducts of this stop-move order (and also a byproduct of being a military family) is that nothing is ever final until it’s final. In a matter of one month, our move orders were changed three times before the fourth decision finally stuck.
The final decision about the stop-move order for us was that Guard and Reserves were needed by their states, so that meant the move was still a go.
They canceled graduation and the ball, closed the restaurants, and restricted visitors; at the end of the day, we were told we had two weeks to move. We had to rent a house sight unseen, in a city we’d never been to, and arrange all of the moving details and out processing that we thought we had weeks to finish.
Moving with a family is always stressful, but the added stress of moving during a pandemic makes it exponentially harder. Our time was up in Alabama, and we were ready to start our new adventure. But it’s hard to feel closure when we really didn’t get any. Being pushed to make this move meant that we didn’t get to do any of the lasts that we had planned.
And it also was downright terrifying.
Moving during COVID-19 and simultaneously trying to stay safe and keep your family safe is scary. We scavenged for cleaning supplies and stressed about safety. No matter what, we kept our family the first priority. There was no way for us to know if our rental agent, maintenance guys, packers, movers, and new neighbors could potentially expose us to this virus.
We decided that it was safest for the kids and me to leave a week early to avoid being in the house with the packers and movers, which meant our time was cut even shorter than anticipated. So the boys and I headed for a house we had only seen in pictures and what could fit in the back of the car. We waited a week for household goods to come and ate our food on the floor, but the boys are resilient.
While everyone across the country was having to adjust to daily life under stay-at-home orders and financial uncertainty, we were trying to do all of that and then some.
We moved to a new house, in a new city, in a new state where we didn’t know anyone. We might all be in this together, but we’re also all dealing with different circumstances. It was difficult to move and anticipate what the future looks like when nobody really knows what will happen once all of this is over.
On a brighter note, this move has been really good for us. It’s stretched us and taught us about flexibility and perseverance. I’m glad that four walls don’t make a home and that most importantly, we all have to keep moving, even if for us this time that meant a physical move. We can’t wait for this to all be over and welcome our family and friends to our new home. We are yearning to embrace them all a little longer and tighter than we probably would have before COVID-19.