By Laura Schofield, USMC Spouse

The last time our family was waiting for orders, we had three possibilities: Camp Lejeune, Miramar, or Kaneohe Bay. I’m originally from the West Coast, and I was so ready to be stationed back on the Pacific Ocean after two years in Florida.

And then, we got orders up to North Carolina. I was devastated.

Love Camp Lejeune

But after three years spent here on Camp Lejeune, I have learned to love this place that I once thought I would never even like.

Sure, I don’t think I’ll ever get used to the hot, humid summers, or the bugs, but Camp Lejeune has been the place that we’ve embraced this crazy military life as our own.

Here are my top three reasons why I love Camp Lejeune.

Community

When we first arrived at Camp Lejeune, I thought that involvement in the local Marine Corps community would be the last thing I would want. It turns out; it’s my absolute favorite thing. We chose to live on base for the first time in our career. I can honestly say it was one of the best decisions we have ever made.

From the day we first moved in and a neighbor popped over to see if we needed anything, the “we’re all in this together” motto has been put into action. We have made some of our closest family friends here on base. And even though they’ve moved away, we still meet up for holidays and vacations.

The base itself is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever been on. My home dates back to World War II, which my retro-loving heart adores. There is a barn for boarding horses just a half-mile up the road. It always makes me feel like I’ve left base completely when I see them grazing. Multiple playgrounds all over the base have provided friendship for both my children and myself and often serve as meeting places after school and on the weekends.

Access to History

I grew up in the Pacific Northwest, where school field trips mostly involve the life cycle of a salmon. So moving to a state that has historical sites from the Revolutionary War, Civil War, and even earlier parts of history is just plain exciting!

Within a 2-hour drive from base, there are two forts from the Civil War that have been converted into state parks. Both Fort Macon and Fort Fisher have static displays of cannons and other weapons, brick architecture, and beautiful grounds to admire.

One of our family’s favorite day trips is heading to Beaufort where Blackbeard infamously ran his ship, Queen Anne’s Revenge, aground. There is a small maritime museum there where they are actively preserving artifacts from the many shipwrecks that dot the shores of North Carolina. Wild ponies also run free on small islands, and ferries run families out to see them up close.

If you’re looking to take a long weekend vacation, the options seem almost endless. We’ve taken a trip up to Williamsburg, VA, every year we’ve lived here and explored the great Revolutionary War history there. Also within driving distance is Richmond, VA, which was once the capitol of the Confederacy, and still has many historical buildings to visit. The Biltmore in Asheville, NC, is also within a day’s drive, and although we haven’t visited yet, it’s on my list of places to go before we leave!

Family Life

It took a while for me to be able to appreciate the quality of life that moving to Camp Lejeune gave to our family. At first, all I could focus on was how small the mall was, how the area seems to lack multicultural opportunities, and how, once again, we were stationed near a regional airport with pricey tickets home.

But, the positives of living in a small town on the Southern East Coast have slowly persuaded me that maybe this is a great place to raise a young family.

The cost of living here is very much on the low end. Embarrassingly, when we first moved into our home here, we were paying the same amount for our three bedroom, single-family home as we paid for our very first 400 square foot, studio apartment ten years ago. Rent has gone up a bit in the past three years. But we’re still paying less here than any other place we’ve lived in our marriage.

The slow pace that seems to define the small-town South also exists here. While sometimes my Northern self just wants to do something fast, I don’t miss the traffic and constant bustle of a busy city. It is possible here to be on a first-name basis with employees of establishments you visit a lot. Our family happens to know one of the managers at the local Krispy Kreme.

Love Camp Lejeune

I came to Camp Lejeune with tears in my eyes expecting to hate it. But I don’t. I love it.
I love my 1940s home here on-base, the friendships we’ve made, and the pace of life this place offers.
We are once again up for orders this year, and I know that this place I had cried about coming to, I will now cry leaving.

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PCSgrades Author: Laura Schofield is a native of the Pacific Northwest currently living in the South. She has been married to a Marine her entire adult life and is now a mother to two boys and a little girl, living this adventure of a lifetime!