Places We’ve Been Stationed, Ranked from Least to Most Favorite

Dave and I have been married for 8 years now, and have PCSd 6 different times. Most of our moves have been pretty great, but there’s a couple I have no interest in repeating. I organized everywhere we have been stationed and ranked them from least favorite to most, and included some life lessons and realizations I’ve had along the way. It’s mainly just me rambling, but then, I suppose that is what a blog is for.

#6. Los Alamos National Lab, New Mexico

I feel a little guilty ranking LANL as my least favorite because it’s #1 on Dave’s list. He absolutely loved his job there, and I admit we had a fantastic church and a solid group of friends. But ultimately, the housing shortage and our resulting living situation was a major downer for me. On top of that, Los Alamos is extremely isolated. Santa Fe and Albuquerque were the only real “day trippable” locations, anything beyond that we had to budget a full weekend for travel. After a while I started to feel like I had island fever — despite being freezing cold and surrounded by snow the majority of the time. But downsides aside, my year in New Mexico was a great exercise in contentment and not wrapping myself up in first-world problems. I have grown a lot as a person since our time there, so I think if we ever went back I’d be able to go in with a more positive mindset. But NM will never be somewhere I am eager to return to (except for the Balloon Fiesta — I’d happily go back for that).

#5. Fort Lee (First Time), Virginia

I should be clear that nothing horrible happened during our first stint in Virginia, it was just such a short assignment (barely 6 months) it doesn’t really fit anywhere else. Knowing we would only be there half a year made it difficult to really settle in. Why put down roots if you’re just going to pull them back up a few months later? Everything felt temporary. I never decorated the apartment. We settled on the closest Baptist church. When I wasn’t working, I spent most of my time driving back and forth to see my family in Virginia Beach. The whole assignment felt like a visit to your hometown that you haven’t been to in years, and you are trying to see as many people as possible and check off as many boxes as possible before you leave. It was good in its own right, and I learned how to maximize my time and make every second count. But man, it was exhausting and a bit sad because every hello felt like a goodbye. But even in the midst of this weird 6-month cycle, we got a lot of good quality family time, went flying with our friends, had tea parties, rode on rollercoasters, and ate a ridiculous amount of Indian food.

#4. Fort Carson, Colorado

Fort Carson was our very first duty station as a married couple. While Fort Carson is usually at the top of people’s wish lists, it was at the bottom of ours. We are both warm weather lovers, and I’m especially appreciative of humidity (what can I say, my hair and skin thrive in watery climates). We did a ton of exploring right off the bat: we hiked through cool caves and behind waterfalls, we went on murder mystery train rides, we relived our youth at Focus on the Family, and stayed at the hotel that inspired The Shining. Colorado is also where I got my first “big girl job,” and finally got to put food service behind me. A lot of good came from our time there, but I also struggled with making the right kinds of friends. Up until I got married, I’d been close to my family and high school/college friends. I didn’t ever have to go out of my way to meet new people, because everybody I needed was right there. Then when I got to Colorado, I realized I was starting from square one. Not only did I have to get over my social awkwardness and develop relationships with people, I also had to discern who was a friend worth hanging on to. There was definitely some trial and error, but I’m really grateful I did learn because it’s served me well ever since.

#3. Fort Polk, Louisiana

I bet you thought Fort Polk would be at the bottom of this list — it is, after all, the “armpit of the army.” But Polk was actually one of my favorite places (it was actually at the very top of my list for a long time). I’m an absolute sucker for warm weather year-round, and the close proximity to cool places like New Orleans and Houston made adventuring very convenient. We were also fortunate to develop a tight circle of friends that we are still close to. There was admittedly not a lot to do right in the Leesville area, but my friends and I made our own fun and created some of the most amazing memories. I know if we ever go back it won’t be the same — our friends aren’t there anymore, a lot of our favorite spots have closed down. But I still hold all of Louisiana in very high regard and wouldn’t be heartbroken at all to go back.

#2. Fort Lee (Second Time), Virginia

I have been very fortunate that (almost) every time I think to myself “it can’t get any better than this,” it somehow gets better. Our second stint at Fort Lee was one of those times. Even with a global pandemic going on, the almost two years I spent in VA were (what seemed like at the time) the absolute best life had to offer. I was close to family and got to see them often. We became members at an amazing church. I completed my master’s degree AND got my skydiving license. Skydiving, and the friends I made at the DZ, changed my life for the better. When it came time to leave, I was devastated because I thought that I was saying goodbye to the best time of my life. Fortunately, the second stint in Virginia was not the peak in my happiness — life has somehow managed to get even sweeter. But obviously, my time there made a huge positive impression on my life, and I’m so grateful for who I became while I was there. I’ve continued to change over the past year, so I know if we ever go back things won’t be exactly the same. But there’s still a strong pull and getting orders back “home” would definitely put a smile on my face.

#1. Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio

If you’d have told me a year ago that I’d be my absolute happiest living in Ohio, I’d have laughed in your face. And yet, here I am. I’m living in Ohio, and I can honestly say I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. Our community is so tight knit, I really feel like my neighbors are my family. I love every one of these people so much, and I can’t even imagine my life without them. How unbelievably lucky am I that so many of my closest friends all live right here, on my street? I’m also obsessed with Midwest kindness and hospitality. No matter where I go here, I feel like it’s so easy to meet people and strike up conversation and make friends. Everybody is just so happy and welcoming, there is absolutely 0 “clique” like behavior. I’ve made so many friends, and they’ve introduced me to their friends and family, and from there I develop even more relationships. I’ve never felt so loved and so connected — ever. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. We were devastated when the army didn’t extend us an extra 18 months, because we never want to leave here. But I have faith that our next assignment will be just as good, if not better.

Thinking through all the places we have lived and all the things we’ve done, I’ve finally come to a realization: it’s not about where I am; it’s about who I am while I’m there and who I become when it’s time to leave. I feel like I change radically every time we move, because I’m thrust into a new and unknown situation, and I just have to adapt and make it work. And with every year that goes by, with every move we make, with every life lesson I learn, I’m better equipped to make the most of where I am. And I think that’s why (for the most part) each move is better than the last. Because every time I’m a bit more resilient, a bit friendlier, a bit more confident, and a bit more hopeful. I like to think that I’m taking the best pieces of myself with me, and leaving some of the less desirable pieces behind each time we move.

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