I’ve been hesitant to share updates on what’s coming next in our military journey because of how uncertain these things are. But now that we actually have orders in hand, I guess it’s as good a time as any to spill the beans!
Since Summer 2015, Curtis has been going through the Navy’s training pipeline. We thought we knew where this training would be and how long it would take, and so far this adventure has been…well, just that: An adventure, and not all what we were expecting! It’s been 5 cross-country moves between 5 different states, 5 different sets of orders and assignments, 18 months of post-college training, and 6 months of being on hold. I think the biggest surprise out of this was all that time on hold, waiting for the next step. We thought we would go from one training to the next, and that our commitment was a very set amount of time. Through this we’ve had to learn to be patient and flexible over and over. The advantage to being “on hold” though is having a lot of time together, which we have loved and enjoyed to the fullest!
Now, we’re finally getting to the point we’ve been looking forward to since the start of our military life: Curtis’ first boat assignment! Since this port is where we will be stationed for 3 years, it’s been the big move we have been most anticipating. 3 years is longer than we’ve ever lived in one place since getting married nearly 4 years ago, and for Curtis, since graduating from high school 6 years ago. 3 years seems like a long time — long enough to really settle down. Therefore, we put a lot of thought into where we wanted to end up.
Last fall, Curtis finally received the “Dream Sheet,” the paper on which we’d list our picks for home ports in order from most to least preferred, then wait to see where they’d send us. When he brought home the form, there wasn’t a doubt in our minds where we wanted to go: Washington State. The rest of the list basically reflected our motto of “West Coast Best Coast,” with the East Coast being dead last (Sorry Georgia…). All our family is in the Midwest, so no base is necessarily “close to home,” so we might as well live somewhere fun for our families to visit! Curtis turned in the form, and the real waiting began.
On March 28, we finally received our orders: We got our first choice! We were moving to Washington! Not only that, but Curtis was going to be stationed on literally the coolest boat in the US Navy. We shared the good news with our family and friends, set up Pod delivery and pick up dates for the move, began researching home buying and looking into Washington real estate, and most importantly, researching all the cool hikes and attractions we had to visit while living there! We have never been to the Pacific Northwest, and it seemed like an outdoor lover’s paradise. We had no doubt that we were going to love this assignment.
Fast forward a month and a half: We were driving home from a camping trip in the Adirondacks, having just finished the Fire Tower Hiking Challenge. Everything was just perfect: Curtis was finished with training and had over a month off before his final training assignment in Connecticut, we had gone hiking almost every day that week, everything was scheduled and ready for our cross-country move, we had a trip planned to visit our families, and we were so excited for the future. What could be better than that? Chipolte for dinner, of course! I went in to grab dinner while Curtis and Charlotte waited in the car. When I returned, Curtis told me he had received a voicemail from a Navy Detailer (one of the guys who assigns orders). It sounded like he was getting an order modification to a different boat. “Still in Washington?” I asked.
“Yep,” Curtis replied. He started the car, and we began to head home.
We passed by a Uhaul moving truck, one of those that feature different states on the side. This one in particular had a picture for Hawaii on it — the image was of a giant spider. “Yikes!” I remarked, “I am never moving to Hawaii.”
We arrived home, ate our burritos, then Curtis went to his office and called the detailer back. He came back a few minutes later and said it was official, he had to give up that awesome boat for another one because of manning reasons. But on the plus side, this one would have better deployment schedules (supposedly optimal for married couples), and we’d still be going to Washington.
20 minutes later, the detailer called him back. “Actually…” Curtis was in his office and I was downstairs, but could hear the surprise in Curtis’ voice. “Oh wow, that’s a lot to take in…mind if I talk it over with my wife first?” I braced myself as I heard Curtis descending the steps.
“They want to move us to Hawaii.”
We both laughed nervously, and started discussing it casually. I mean, that would be really fun…but we’d have to give up our first choice, and all these dreams and plans we had made. We knew there were a lot more logistics that went into moving to Hawaii. So while we took the next 24 hours to talk it over, we knew we weren’t going to change our minds. We had our hearts set on Washington.
When Curtis called back to share our “decision,” it turned out that this wasn’t really our choice. Unless we had a legitimate reason, we would be moving to Hawaii. We don’t have a reason not to, and anything we could make up might be hurting ourselves in the future — what if one day we want to be stationed in Hawaii, or somewhere else overseas? It was time to accept our new reality: We are moving to Hawaii!
It may not have been our first choice, but honestly it’s pretty hard to complain. Who wouldn’t want to live in Hawaii short term on the government’s dime? We know there’s still hiking opportunities there, not to mention perfect weather year-round to enjoy the outdoors. The hardest part was the transitioning from the mindset of ourselves living in and exploring the PNW to the island life — two completely different states and lifestyles. We are determined to make the most of this move, step outside our comfort zone and try new things.
The part about this whole thing that astounds me is that so many people request Hawaii as their #1 choice, and don’t get it. Hawaii wasn’t at the top of our list, and yet for some reason the detailer said that Curtis was the only person he could send to this ship. All this reminds me of one truth: God is behind this, and His plan is for us to go to Hawaii.
If I could be honest though, this past month has literally been the most stressful we’ve faced in our military journey. This move is a logistic nightmare. We have faced hurdle after hurdle, and each one comes with multiple steps. Medical overseas screening, starting the long (and expensive) process to allow Charlotte to move with us, learning rules and restrictions, figuring out what to do with belongings. We have felt inconvenienced, discouraged, frustrated, and overwhelmed. The biggest challenge faced was that we literally received our official orders a whole month after finding out they were modifying our previous ones, and a week before Curtis was due to report for his next training in Connecticut. We weren’t able to do anything, like schedule the movers to come when we needed them. We still don’t have things figured out! Our whole ideal schedule and plans for this summer have gone out the window. With orders to Washington, we were able to do everything basically on our own. Now, we have to rely on the military for everything.
But as challenging as this time has been for us, we have seen God at work and have been leaning on Him in our time of need. We know it’s not really the military that’s sending us, it is God working through them to place us where He wants us to be. We have always gotten away with feeling like we’re in control for all of our previous moves: we schedule the Pod, we pack the Pod, we drive to our new hometown, we unpack the Pod, and we make ourselves at home. Now, this isn’t an option. The Navy won’t reimburse us for moving ourselves outside the continental US. We can’t drive to Hawaii. We have to rely on God and trust that every need to be met, and that all these things will come together. This journey is one about giving up control, giving up our wants, and trusting that God will provide.
Recently, we heard the tragic news about the USS Fitzgerald out of Japan, and it put everything into perspective. Our stressful moments and inconveniences mean so little compared to the devastating loss of life. May we never become so obsessed with our struggles that we fail to realize what a gift it is to be alive, safe, healthy, and together.
So that’s our life right now — we have one last summer living on the mainland while Curtis completes training in Connecticut, then it’s off to Hawaii, Lord willing! Is it possible that our orders will change again? Not likely, but we’ve learned to expect the unexpected. We covet your prayers as we sort through all the details and logistics of moving, and that we’d continue to keep our minds focused on God’s will rather than be consumed by our trials. I can’t wait to watch this adventure unfold, but more importantly, I’m looking forward to seeing God’s hand at work and discovering why He wants us in Hawaii.