By Carla Olivo, USMC Spouse
“There goes Summer!” That was my 12 year old’s reaction when we got word that my husband, a Marine, had been selected for the Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. It was a surprise as we had only been living in Fredericksburg, Virginia for less than two years. We didn’t think we were due to move for at least a year. So when my daughter said, “There goes summer!” in reaction to hearing the PCS news, it got me thinking. How I could make our summer more about vacation, time off from school… more fun, rather than another summer lost to a PCS.
There Goes Summer!
The first thing I did, in addition to all the normal PCS research, was to look for summer camps and things to do at our new duty station. Today this is much easier given that almost every installation has a Facebook page as well as spouses’ pages for each area. PCSgrades.com has some valuable information in the neighborhood review section and the great thing is, you can ask the reviewers directly about possible summertime activities through the interactive messaging feature. Great places to check for classes, workshops and camps are:
- Local Libraries
- Boys & Girls Clubs
- YWCA & YMCA
- County Recreational Programs
- On Base/Post MWR or Child, Youth & Services
Ask for Help
I know it goes against our natural inclination as a military spouse or service member, but give it try. It’s not as hard as you think! Ask a friend, a sister or a grandparent to take your kids for a few days or come to your new home and take the kids on a few day trips. I had a single girlfriend who came to Carlisle with us and took the kids to the on-post pool, the library in town, and out for ice cream at the local dairy farm. My kids loved it and my husband and I got a lot of unpacking done without the kids around complaining about how bored they were!
Go Crazy and Think Outside the PCS Box!
After one of our moves, we took off on a 3 week road trip! The moving truck arrived at our new rental on a Wednesday while I was at the emergency room being diagnosed with strep throat. After two days in bed, with my husband overseeing the unloading (that is another article all on its own!), I was able to get the kitchen squared away and everyone had clean sheets on their bed.
So 12 days after our PCS, we took off on a 3 week road trip to Florida! My friends all thought I was crazy. But we had gotten what we had to unpacked: the kitchen, the bathrooms, and a place to sleep for everyone. The rest: the bookshelves, the game room, the basement, my photo albums, crafts, garden tools, it could all wait three weeks. While on the road I was able to research and make a list of all the things I needed to do when I got back: soccer league tryouts, the local Girl Scout troop, lists of school supplies and school open houses. In many ways I was more organized because on the road all I could do was research and make lists.
Another idea is the “Staycation”. Research some fun day trips in your new area and take a few days to explore before your spouse has to report to the new duty station. Again, the bulk of the unpacking can wait and your kids will appreciate the time off from the PCS.
Museums across the country offer FREE admission between Memorial Day and Labor Day through the Blue Star Museums initiative for active-duty, National Guard and reserve service members and their families.
The America the Beautiful military pass program allows military families to enjoy outdoor experiences in more than 2,000 federal recreation sites to include all national parks, wildlife refuges and national forests. Free admission is available to all active-duty, National Guard and all reserve members. Retired military and Veteran military families can enjoy access to the national parks at no cost on several dates throughout the year.
Another year we had a particularly brutal PCS where everything that could go wrong did, to include a broken leg and skin cancer diagnosis in the middle of the chaos. We unpacked what we could between June 29 and July 2, and headed to New York City where we celebrated The Fourth of July. Did the unpacking take longer? Absolutely! But did it matter? Not really. The important stuff was done and the rest, well, it got done eventually. What was important to me was that my kids no longer felt their summer was lost to another dreaded PCS.
If you have any creative ways you make sure your kids don’t miss out on summer during a PCS, please comment below.
PCSgrades Author: Carla Olivo, PCSgrades Strategic Communications Director, previously served as the Director of Communications for Operation Hug-A-Hero and as the Media/Community Relations Officer for the Delaware Department of Transportation. She has garnered numerous TV industry awards including the Associated Press award for Spot News Reporting, News Writing, Enterprise Reporting, and Documentary Reporting. She lives in Northern Virginia with her husband, a retired USMC Lt. Colonel, their two children.