Having been in the Army Reserve from 2000-2008, in 2012 I began taking a serious look into the chaplaincy. At that time my kids were around 3, 5, and 7. Even so, I knew that if we took the plunge it would affect their future drastically. I also knew the decision could even have generational impact if perhaps one of them ended up in the military, or marrying a service member. So it was one we did not take lightly. I tracked down some grown kids who were raised in a chaplain's house and asked them about their experience. I heard a trend: moving around got harder the older the kids grew, but they were thankful to have had so many unique experiences.
After only a few years on active duty (at the time of this writing), my kids are certainly on their way to having many amazing opportunities, but also painful goodbyes. The day we moved from West Virginia to Missouri to earn the required seminary degree, I remember 5 year-old Anna crying just before we walked out of our empty house. It was the first time I recall seeing one of my kids grieving. It would not be the last.
In civilian circles, once in a while a family moves away. In the active-duty Army, nearly EVERYONE moves...and pretty often. "How much longer will you be here?" "Where are you going next?" "Have you ever lived overseas?" These are commonplace questions for military families. In civilian jobs, (yes even in church ministry), a person may have to keep any job hunting quiet. When an employee is thinking about changing companies or churches, it can prove quite a delicate process. That's one thing we don't have to worry about as an Army family because everyone knows that everyone is going to move. It's expected. There are special communities in the Army that keep their people around for many years at a time, but that is the exception and not the norm. At this point we all know that the Army will move us at an estimated time. However, the kids are old enough now to understand that even when we say we're moving somewhere, there's always a chance that the Army will change its mind and send us somewhere else.
Up to this time, we have moved three times in seven years and expect to move again in less than a year. When we were on the plane from Washington to Korea, I remember thinking, "We're not going back." It's a strange and sad feeling to look back in the metaphorical and literal rear-view mirror and realize that a chapter is officially closed. We are leaving friends, my unit, our house, and memories back there and launching forward into the great unknown of the next duty station. I tell my kids often, "You have to enjoy special people while you have them." We're all beginning to understand just how important that is.
But moving also affords many new experiences for the family. My work as a chaplain gives them even more access to special events and places. My wife even got to travel to China, a place she said she HAD to visit while we live in Korea. (How could I say no?) What costs $500 to do from here would cost $5,000 from the States. So every place provides opportunities to enjoy. I believe I will look back on these years as some of the best of my life. Even though it's not always fun or easy, we're doing our best to enjoy the ride.