There’s a time in every military career that inevitably comes around at least once. It is a time of life-altering decisions, a time to reflect on the past and look forward to the future. That time is the end of the active duty member’s enlistment. As their end of enlistment date approaches both they and their families have a tough decision to make. Do they take the oath and sign the papers committing themselves to another few years of service – or do they go their separate ways from the military and start a new life?
For some, like my husband and I, the reenlistment decision is an easy one. We knew from the day he first joined that he would be at least a 20-year career. Basically, he is what is referred to as a lifer among the members. There was never really any discussion for us about it being any different. He always figured he would put in his 20 and then retire, still young enough to start a second career. The benefits are good and the lifestyle, while challenging, is highly rewarding. To top it off, he truly loves his job. When you combine all of those together it is kind of makes the decision for you.
Others do not feel the same way. Many people join the military and plan to put in only one enlistment period and then moving on to something else. Some simply want a change and want to see what happens. For these, the decision of whether to reenlist or not is much more difficult. There are so many variables when it comes to choosing whether or not to reenlist that it is nearly impossible to write them all down or even think of every single one of them. The decision is overwhelming.
For members with families, the choice is even harder. They have to think about the fact that it is not just themselves making the commitment. Their families have to commit to the life for the length of their enlistment as well. This is one reason why it is important to keep an open dialogue about military life and their career throughout their enlistment, not just when the time comes to an end. It is not a decision that can be made lightly.
When it comes to making this decision, you have to weigh the pros with cons. You have to ask yourself:
- Do the health benefits make the time apart worthwhile?
- Does the life experience make moving every few years any easier?
- Most importantly, is it the right thing for your family? You have to ultimately decide what is best for you and yours.
The military life is not easy and it is not for everybody. The best thing you can do when deciding whether or not to reenlist is be completely honest with yourself and with your spouse. If you have fears or concerns, then voice them. Honesty is the only way to make an informed decision. What’s best for the person next to you, may not be what’s best for you, and that is okay.