By Brenna Berger
We finally parted with the 220-volt German Christmas lights we've been toting around for a decade. We had kept them in hopes of another assignment to Germany. Alas, with the drawdown of U.S. forces in Europe, it seemed silly to keep them any longer.
No offense to Fayetteville or my current city of Washington, D.C., but I'm lamenting the loss of all of the cool duty locations. You used to be able to join (or marry into) the Army and see the world. Now, you're just going to see North Carolina, Texas or Washington state as we consolidate our forces onto large joint bases.
I know we were never promised a 20-year vacation in exotic locales, but there were some duty stations that were dangled like carrots in exchange for accepting a posting at a less desirable location. Hawaii is still an option, and if you are really lucky, you can still eat and drink your way through an assignment in Italy. But it's more reasonable these days to plan on dining on green chile enchiladas and cerveza in El Paso.
Have we lost the romance that used to be associated with military service? I remember my grandmother regaling me with stories of their tour in Panama Canal Zone. The whole family took a ship out of New York City and lived in a large house on stilts that came with its own housekeeper. For a woman who grew up in a crowded Irish enclave of Boston, it must have seemed like dropping into a Hollywood movie.
But was military life ever really that glamorous? As I listened to my grandmother, I pictured a large, luxury cruise ship a la The Love Boat whisking them off to the tropics. In reality, it was a bare-bones troop transport that had her at sea with four small kids for days.
But as any military family who has served more than a few years knows, any assignment is what you make of it. While Clarksville, Tenn., Leavenworth, Kan., and yes, even, Fayetteville may not have the same cache as Garmisch or Berlin, we greatly enjoyed our time at each post.
My husband has already received his next assignment. After 20 years, he's finally getting stationed at the Pentagon. For us, there will be no skiing in the Alps, no Kristkindlmarkts, and no weekends in Paris. But he'll have a whopping two-mile commute, our kids won't have to switch schools, and I can keep my job.
For our modern military family, it's our version of paradise.
Brenna Berger can be reached at email@example.com.