Living overseas as a modern military family has been both a rewarding and challenging experience. My husband Kyle is stationed on the island of Guam, and I have been fortunate enough to accompany him for the past two years.
We feel Guam offers a fantastic overseas experience—an opportunity to live abroad, in a very different part of the world, while having the advantages of being a United States territory. By far the greatest advantage to being here—and the reason we selected this station—is travel. While on leave we have had the opportunity to visit a lifetime’s worth of Far East and Pacific Island nations. The memories we have made on our trips will serve as our foundation as we continue to build our family. The opportunity to experience this while still having the comforts of using American money, driving on the right side of the road, and having access to our “creature comforts” truly is the best of both worlds.
Though a U.S. territory, Guam often feels as much as a foreign country as many other overseas locations. The local language, food, and weather bear little resemblance to our homes in the states. Living in a place with a different culture also allows us to see LGBT culture as locals do. While several overseas duty stations may not benefit from complete liberty to express their LGBT pride, we have been very fortunate on Guam, with a thriving family-oriented culture that has held a special place for their “isa” (rainbow) members.
Modern military families living overseas also give the locals the opportunity to see how our relationships and families are received by Americans and the military. We work, we host parties, and we explore all the island has to offer. Spending the day at the beach, enjoying local cuisine with friends, or going to local “fiestas” have been great ways to embrace the local culture and see them embrace us as well.
It’s okay to be new to your surroundings and feel completely out of your comfort zone. You will undoubtedly make a few mistakes, like failing to get a local driver’s license when required by law, realizing that orange juice at the local market really does cost $12, and paying too much for shipping on a boat load of Amazon items. Sometimes it’s easier said than done to fully embrace your new lifestyle. However, seeing the beauty of a different way of life can be rewarding as you learn new tips and tricks to make your new duty station truly home.
We find ourselves taking advantage of military benefits more often while living overseas. We have quick access to several Exchanges and Commissaries, which we rarely visited when stationed in the states. We’ve also used the Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) programs nearly every week. More than anything, being so separated from our families, we’ve had the opportunity to build our Navy family—connecting with other military families of all types. The relationships we have made here, perhaps stronger due to the need to interdepend on others, will truly last our lifetimes.
If you’re fortunate enough to take a tour overseas, take full advantage of your new home: order surprise food items, take a new route home, and take up a local sport. Living overseas is what you make of it. Sure, you will have bad days. Family emergencies will happen, friends will get married, birthdays will be celebrated via webcam early in the morning before work, and you will make many sacrifices. But this is all a part of the adventure of living overseas that allows your family to grow together. I’ve met many families that have taken several continuous overseas tours and haven’t traveled back to the mainland in upwards of ten years. Their families are extremely well-cultured and aren’t afraid to try something new.
Though we greatly desired to be stationed overseas when we were up for orders two years ago, our family couldn’t just PCS anywhere. The Status of Forces Agreements (SOFA) limited our modern military family from serving together in some locations. Now thankfully, due to the advocacy of AMPA, we could be able to serve at these locations in the future. We’re looking forward to being stationed overseas again and hope you join us!