Less than a year from now, my husband Mark will retire from the Army after 26 years on active duty.

He was awarded a college ROTC scholarship shortly after we started dating in high school. He served in the National Guard and the Reserves and got commissioned as a second lieutenant while we were both attending Florida State University. Mark reported for active duty as an Infantry officer at Ft. Benning, Ga., in November 1990, a few months after he graduated from FSU. Six weeks later we were married.

Two-and-half decades on, Mark is a Green Beret-wearing Colonel. We’ve got two kids, ages 11 and 14. I’ve spent those years working off and on and as a journalist, social media writer and blogger. Now, here, I’ll chronicle our journey from Army life to real life.

It’s going to be one heck of a transition.

The Army has played a key role in my and Mark’s lives – both our lives – since we were 17 years old. In college the Army was only there part-time, but we knew at some point it would become a full-time commitment. Since that day, the Army has driven every decision we make, especially since we’ve spent most of that time overseas.

This has been our life for nearly half our lives. It’s what we know. It’s comforting. It’s our world and we know our place in it.

We’ve lived outside the continental United States for a total of 16 years now (in Hawaii, Japan, Korea, Canada and Germany). Next year we’ll leave our current home in Stuttgart, Germany, and head back to the U.S.

What will happen then? We’re not exactly sure. There are a lot of unknowns to consider. Where will we live? What will we do for jobs? We’ve always just kind of coasted along, figuring retirement was so far off we didn’t really need to worry about it. But time goes by, and all of a sudden a major life change you’ve thought about for years but never seriously talked about is staring you in the face.


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