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Moving Overseas

Every person who has had to pick up their life and move from one place to another knows just how challenging and downright grueling the entire process is. And none more so than military children, as it seems we are constantly switching from place to place. My family’s moves have always been relatively average. Receive orders, pack up suitcases, pack up the house, ship the boxes out, then ship ourselves out to wherever we are headed for the next few months, or maybe years. The same story over and over. Moving overseas, however, was a different experience.

I remember being told by my parents that we would be moving to South Korea. A place all the way on the other side of the planet! I was shocked and confused. It was not that we would be living in a new place, or even that I would have to leave all my friends behind because my family and I have faced those challenges plenty of times before and come out even stronger together. The problem was it was glaringly obvious that this particular move would lead us into uncharted waters. Not just a new place, but a new country. Not just a new country, but a new continent. To many military brats out there, this transition may seem pretty normal. As someone who had never left the United States before, this was intimidating. The same predictable story I had come to rely on was changing.

To make matters worse, the move OCONUS (outside the continental US) had to be rushed. We received orders only a few weeks out of our departure date, and so had to scramble to get everything in order and done on time. My father had to leave early and fly to South Korea to start work, so he was unable to be present for packing and moving out our belongings. My younger sister was not looking forward to the move and went to spend the time before we went overseas with our extended family members. Which left my mother and me to take care of all the moving business.

First, organize everything in the house into three piles: staying, going soon, and going later. When Army families move OCONUS, they are only allowed to bring half of their belongings’ total weight. Meaning we could only bring items that together added up to equal or less than the total weight of everything we owned. Whatever we chose to take would be boxed up and shipped out, and whatever stayed would be kept in a storage container for the next few years. My mom and I walked through the house and picked out items that we decided needed to be taken with us overseas, like clothing and beds. The rest was deemed excess stuff we could live without for a few years, like large furniture. We were also able to send a shipment of goods that would reach South Korea ahead of the main shipment, allowing us to have essentials like kitchenware and blankets as soon as we moved into the new house. The movers loaded our boxes into two separate trucks, one going to storage and one going to a ship headed for South Korea.

My mom, our dog, and I traveled to pick up my sister, say goodbye to family, and go to the airport. Lugging around fourteen suitcases as well as several carry-on bags and taking care of an anxious dog while walking through a busy airport was not exactly the most ideal situation. We hopped on a two-hour flight to Seattle and stayed overnight. The next day, we got on a twelve-hour flight to South Korea with a stop at an airbase in Misawa, Japan. Somewhere over the Pacific, the pilot’s voice sounded over the intercom, informing us that one of the plane’s engines had stopped working and that we would be turning back to land in Alaska. Once in Alaska, we spent the night at a hotel, and my sister and I were surprised to find that it remained relatively light outside all through what was supposed to be nighttime. Our parents had been stationed at a base in Alaska years before we were born, so this was an exceptional opportunity for us to see at least a glimpse of a place my parents had once called home, as well as a chance for my mom to remember fond memories and tell us more about her time in this somewhat obscure, but intriguing, state. In the morning, we resumed our flight and made it to Japan. In Misawa, we had to get off the plane again and wait in a large seating area because we were told that bolts had fallen off a wing of the plane and needed to be fixed. In the end, we sat in a waiting room for three hours along with everyone else on our plane and all the people who had already been in Misawa waiting to board our plane. Babies were crying, dogs had to use the restroom, and Army, Navy, and Air Force service members and families alike laid all over the floor and chairs, just trying to get a little sleep. Eventually, we were all allowed back onto the plane for our (hopefully) final takeoff with a landing in South Korea. Luckily, the last two-hour stretch went just as planned and we landed safely at Osan Airbase in South Korea.

Finally, after over three days of traveling, we settled into our new home in Camp Humphreys. The entire experience has made me think about the harsh realities of moving when there are so many unknowns hanging around. During moves from one part of the U.S. to another, I always had a general idea of what life would be like in the new place as we would still be in the same country that I had grown up in and never left before. However, when moving overseas it felt like I was in the dark about what to expect my life to be like, and I quickly realized that I was. Living in a vastly different country was an obvious shock, but I ended up meeting some of the best people I have ever known and made the best friends I have ever had. I lived in a tight-knit neighborhood of exceptionally kind and amazing people who understood exactly what it was like to live and move around as a military brat. That kind of recognition isn’t something you can find everywhere.

I realized that I had been relying on and clinging to the words in the book I had been writing since the first move I could remember. I feel that every military brat has also been writing a book for themselves; one composed of happiness, loss, friendship, upheavals, and more all woven together in a beautiful, and sometimes messy, story. Personally, I was scared to turn the page on the life I had been living in the States. But as I flipped forward and set pen to paper, I came to learn that an even greater life was waiting just beyond the turmoil and hardship it took to get there.


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