Thursday, September 15, 2011

Guest post: The Meaning of Home to a Military Family

My brother sent another guest post, and I think you'll really enjoy it:

Since we grew up as a military family and all of us kids joined the military ourselves after becoming adults, our family has had the chance to meet a lot of different people and is often invited to their houses for dinner, coffee, or what have you. One thing that seems rather common with military families is their house is often full of seemingly random items from wherever they have been stationed or traveled to in the world. Because this hodgepodge is usually not a unified collection of things, such as a collection of thimbles or porcelain dolls, it often makes their houses feel slightly cluttered and chaotic. One could almost call the collections dissonant. You might encounter a number of beer steins from an assignment to Germany, some Japanese artwork from a tour in the orient, pictures of the family riding horses in Montana from when they were stationed up there… the list goes on and on. In most civilian homes (those not associated with the military), items are much more homogenous. You might see pictures of the family and their extended relatives taken at the same location over a number of years, or a collection of pennants for the local little league that the kids in the family built up over time. Yes, I have seen Hoarders but in general, civilian houses do not seem to collect as much random stuff over the years. Stuff, yes. Random and eclectic, not so much.

I have given a lot of thought about why military families collect so much random “clutter” as they travel and I must admit I have done the same. I am also loath to get rid of worthless knick-knacks even though they cause the same clutter in my house or fill boxes in my attic. I think the reason for this is that military families are not normally able to put down roots in any one location. Military families are expected to pack everything up and relocate regularly. This means kids leave their friends, parents have to learn to navigate their new duty station, jobs change, and it could even mean having to stumble their way through another language and eat foods that are not only unrecognizable, but also unpronounceable. It’s tough. The contents of their house are what make that new location feel like “home” when they are thousands of miles away from their families. Those cheap souvenirs bind the family together because each represents a memory and a bond that the family shared with each other at some point in time, sometimes in seeming isolation, far from the familiar. Together, they become our comfort zone and are our link to the familiar in an unfamiliar world.

As I write this, I am sitting in my new house in Germany. We have a few pieces of loaner furniture that the Air Force has been kind enough to provide until our household goods shipment arrives (hopefully soon!). I and my family are rapidly adapting to our new environment. I love it here and having lived in this country a couple times before we know a lot of what lies ahead. When I leave work at night I come back to the house we found to live in while we are here. But it will not be home until our stuff gets here. When it does, I will finally be home again.

By the way, I would like to point out that our military overseas can use your outdated coupons. Go to THIS site to find out more.

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