“Don’t worry, you won’t have to wait too long to join your husband over in Germany.”
That’s what the Army recruiter told me as my husband was signing up for the Army in 2005. I was 26 years old and we had been married for three years. A few weeks later I was dropping him off at the recruiter’s station in Lexington, Kentucky. He was headed for Germany and, while I knew better than to believe everything the recruiter said about how long it would take, I was hoping we wouldn’t be apart too long.
My 13-month-old son and I were going to be in Kentucky until it was time to join him. Going overseas takes a lot of paperwork. My husband was sent over first, and we had to wait until all the paperwork was completed…then we could join him. We had to submit paperwork for so many things: EFMP screenings, birth certificates for the passports, Command Sponsorship. It felt like it was never-ending.
We ran into a bit of trouble because of the holidays. My husband left right before Thanksgiving. This meant that everything should have been done within a few weeks but people had Christmas leave and paperwork took longer than things should have. (If we had to do everything over again, my husband should have joined in January, not right before the holidays.)
Christmas came and went.
I got mad.
I was so stressed out. I couldn’t sleep. I didn’t understand why everything was taking so long. I didn’t think all this paperwork shouldn’t have been that hard. Looking back, I can see this is the norm with the military. I didn’t know that back then and that made those months really stressful and frustrating.
My parents were so helpful during this time. My mom came out a couple of times and my son and I visited them and spent Christmas in California.
After about four months, things started happening. We were told that our Command Sponsorship had been approved. This meant that my son and I were legally allowed to be in Germany with my husband. The only problem was we still needed our no-fee or military passports. Those would get us the tickets from the military to fly there and allow us to stay longer than three months.
We decided that we couldn’t wait any longer. After talking to some people I found out that if we were willing to pay out of pocket for the tickets, we could fly over to Germany and they would send us the no-fee passports when they came in.
After we made that decision, a huge weight was lifted. There was the talk of a deployment coming up and I didn’t want to be away from my husband for any longer than I had to.
My son and I needed tourist passports in order to buy our own tickets and be able to fly. This was a good thing though because having tourist passports in addition to our no-fee ones was important. We ended up paying to have them expedited.
We also needed to have all our goods packed and shipped over to Germany. I was so thankful that my mom was there for that to watch my son while I watched the movers pack everything up.
We also needed to ship our car. The closest place to do that was St. Louis, so we would need to drive there to turn the car in. We ended up getting our passports the afternoon before we were going to leave for St. Louis. I remember sprinting across our apartment parking lot to make sure the mailman left them. Once we got them we knew we could go turn in the car.
I had been told shipping a car was tricky and a lot of people have to try a few times before they would take their car. I was prepared for this. To my shock, the man told me I was good to go after the first time.
It took me a minute to realize that now all I had to do was buy our tickets and we would be on our way to Germany, to be with my husband again.
We went back to the hotel we were staying at and I looked online to buy tickets. I assumed we would have to chill in St. Louis for the next week. What I found out was that it didn’t matter if we flew the next day or the next week– the prices were the same.
I booked our tickets for the next day.
My mom was able to be with me during this time and when I booked our ticket to Germany, she booked her ticket back home. We said goodbye at the airport and my son and I were on our way. Not only was I going to be with my husband, but I was flying to Europe for the very first time. Other than trips to Mexico, I had never been out of the country before.
We had a stop-over in Madrid and that was quite the experience in itself. About 12 hours after we left St. Louis, we landed in Frankfurt, Germany and I ran into the arms of my husband.
This was our first experience being away from each other, and we were so glad to be a family again. My son was now 18 months old, had grown a lot, and started walking in the time we had been apart. It was so great to see him with his dad again.
If you have to PCS without your spouse, see if a family or friend can help you. I am not sure what I would have done without my mom’s help. You should also keep track of everything, have a schedule, and try your best not to stress too much about the process. Know that you will eventually get to where you need to go and you will be a family again as well. The whole process will help you become more independent which is a vital skill to have as a military spouse.