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Create memories and adventures with your soldier

The long goodbyes are hard, but the memories from your time together are amazing and last forever....

When your soldier embarks on their military career, life changes and a new journey begins for both of you. Your soldier may be shipped across the country during basic training or across the world for their first duty station.

When I learned of my soldier’s first duty station, my first reaction was one of sadness because he would be so far away.

My second reaction, however, was one of excitement as I thought about the adventures and experiences we could have when I would visit him around the world.

We have the good fortune to be able to visit our soldiers in various locations stateside and around the world. Back in 1944 during World War II, mothers didn’t have such opportunities. Many had several sons serving and waited for months with heavy hearts just to get a letter.

Most soldiers in World War II didn’t return home for many years. Fast forward to now, where our soldiers can come home for visits and we can also visit them in many cases.

If your soldier is stateside, you can visit their military base. You can also visit many military installations in other countries. It’s a given that you cannot visit combat areas or military bases that exist to support defensive postures. 

What to expect on a military base

memories with your soldier, the entrance to Fort Campbell, KY
A photo of the entrance sign outside of Gate 3 at Fort Campbell, Ky., on June 4, 2015. Fort Campbell is home to the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) “Screaming Eagles”. (U.S. Army Photo by Sam Shore/Released)

The best way to learn more about life on a military base is to visit. Depending on the base, there are rules and policies that you must abide by to get on post. Your soldier should check ahead to find out what those protocols are so you can be prepared.

If you visit an overseas military installation, you’ll be processed at the visitor center, which may take some time. 

When I visited Camp Humphreys in South Korea, my soldier had to submit paperwork about a month ahead of time to get approval for me to enter the base and I had to be accompanied by my soldier. 

A funny story happened while I was there. My soldier and his wife accompanied me onto the base. My soldier left and when I tried to leave a couple of hours later with my daughter-in-law, I was not allowed to leave with her. I could only leave with my soldier. I had to wait by myself in the visitor center while my daughter-in-law drove home (they lived off-post) to get my soldier and bring him back to set me free!

Meanwhile, I was handed documents with a list of the rules for visitors on post! These also included not being allowed to purchase anything in the Commissary. Only military servicemembers and their spouses with military IDs could purchase items. 

Know the protocols before you go and bring all required identification with you. Be patient and know that it may take time to be processed before entry.

Related: 12 badass women who could get US Military bases named after them

Be excited about the adventures ahead

General Christopher Cavoli serves Thanksgiving dinner in Grafenwoehr, Germany
Then Brig. Gen. Christopher Cavoli, commander of the 7th Army Joint Multinational Training Command, serves Thanksgiving Dinner to soldiers with the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division Nov. 27, 2014, in Grafenwoehr, Germany. General Cavoli is now the commander of United States European Command (EUCOM) and Supreme Allied Commander Europe. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Marcus Floyd, 7th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, attached to 1st BCT Public Affairs, 1st Cav. Div./Released)

When my soldier graduated from Advanced Individual Training (AIT), his first duty station was Germany. I was excited to plan my visit.

During my visit, we had a grand time together. We were like race car drivers on the German Autobahn as we navigated to a couple of nearby countries, and for some countries, we either took the train or a short airplane ride. It was easy to get around from Germany, as it shares a border with nine countries.

Driving along the Autobahn was a new experience! It had two lanes in each direction and no traffic. Cars were zipping by at a minimum of 80 MPH and sometimes as fast as they wanted in de-restricted areas. I was impressed with the efficient road system and strict rules that make it work well for drivers.  

We had so much fun experiencing other cultures together and creating memories that last a lifetime. I think about those times now and the memories bring me so much joy.

We have beautiful photos atop Mount Pilatus in Switzerland. We had outstanding views of the Swiss Alps that served as spectacular backdrops for our photos.

In South Korea, the military installation was very much a small city. There were restaurants, a bowling alley, fitness centers, elementary and high schools, and much more.

Related: Letters in the Forgotten War: Memories of mail on the front lines of Korea

Osan Air Base, Earth Day flower planting
Senior Airman Julien Miranda, 51st Civil Engineer Squadron engineering technician, assists students planting flowers in front of Osan Elementary School, 22 April, 2022 at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea. Students and Airman volunteers planted trees and flowers in front of the school in recognition of the 52nd annual Earth Day celebration. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Skyler Combs)

We got to experience the efficient train and bus systems in Pyeongtaek and Seoul, which made it easy to get around. If you visit during the Cherry Blossoms season, you won’t be disappointed at the beauty that surrounds you.

And the foods we got to experience together! Simply divine. 

You can expect your soldier to PCS (Permanent Change of Station) every two to three years during their career. 

If you’re able to visit your soldier at their PDS (Permanent Duty Station), I highly recommend it, as you’ll have a chance to learn more about life on a military installation.

Let the adventure begin! Keep an open mind about the places you can visit and explore with your soldier. 

Related: How to find joy in your military-mom journey

Long goodbyes make great memories

memories with soldiers and long goodbyes
Command Sgt. Maj. Danny Day, senior enlisted adviser for 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division says goodbye to the many Soldiers he has worked with in attendance at his change of responsibility ceremony, Feb. 11, 2015. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Nelson Robles, 4th IBCT, 4th Inf. Div. PAO)

I’ve been blessed to meet other military moms on a plane headed overseas to visit their military children. Such a crazy coincidence but it happens! I’ve also run into soldiers who are sons or daughters of moms that I know, who boarded the same flight as me. I recognized them from photos posted by their moms and introduced myself.

After visits with my soldier, there were always long goodbyes. Even though we hugged tightly before leaving, I still had the entire trip home on my own in goodbye mode. One time I cried the entire way home on the plane. Bring lots of tissues.

I tear up now just thinking about those feelings. It’s part of the emotional rollercoaster of military moms.

The long goodbyes are hard but the memories are amazing and last forever. 

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