Aspiration & Struggle

Military Families: Two Wives Tell Their Stories

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Each year, U.S. citizens celebrate Armed Forces Day to honor members of the military who have served or are currently serving. “Thank you for your service,” is the phrase heard throughout the day. This gratitude is in response to the sacrifices that military families make, including frequent relocations, making career changes, and dealing with long-distance relationships.

Elizabeth Colegrove and Kim Robertson know this all too well. As the wives of active duty military members, both women and their families have had to make sacrifices in terms of their relationships, careers, and overall lifestyles.

Elizabeth Colegrove: The Mobile Landlord

Elizabeth met her husband in Maryland while in high school. “We met in ninth-grade biology class,” she said. “He tutored me and we fell in love.”

Shortly after she graduated college, the couple married and moved to Texas. They rented a home while her husband completed flight school, and they soon received orders that moved them to Virginia. “My first duty station was really hard. I was unable to find work close to home even as an MBA candidate,” says Elizabeth. “It made it very clear [what] the difficulties [were that] I, as a military wife, was going to come across at the age of 22 and beyond.”

Elizabeth and her husband decided to start investing in real estate, and she now blogs about her business on The Reluctant Landlord. “While I didn’t know what the plan was going to be, I knew that when I had children, due to my husband’s job, I wanted the flexibility to have a home-based business.”

The couple has slowly built up a portfolio of homes by buying at each duty station they live on, and then renting them out when they move on to the next station. For Elizabeth, being a landlord is preferable to making the difficult choice between her career and her husband’s career. As a military spouse, Elizabeth handles the business from each new duty station. “I knew I wanted to create my own job that allowed me to control my destiny,” she says.

Kim Robertson: The Long-Distance Spouse

For some spouses, choosing to stay in one location seems to be a simpler option. When Kim Robertson’s active duty husband received orders for a move to California, she decided to stay in Colorado. “Schools [are] just better in Colorado for our daughter, and we had just bought a house a mere three months before we found out about the orders.”

Kim decided not to rent out their home, and has instead decided to stay put for the four years her husband will be stationed in California. “I’m contemplating moving out there, but only if my current employer will make accommodations for me or if I find a new career where he is,” says Kim. But for now, she manages the long-distance relationship the same way she would if her husband was deployed to a different country. “We speak often through Google Talk or Skype and [by] email and phone. Right now, we take it day by day and try to see each other every month or two.”

Being a member of the military, or a member’s family member, comes with its share of hardships. Whether it’s the distance moved or distance apart, both Elizabeth and Kim remind us how much must be sacrificed for military families. So on May 16, Armed Forces Day, make sure you thank a member of the military for making those sacrifices in order to successfully serve our country.

LaTisha Styles is a motivational speaker, millennial money expert, and spokesperson specializing in simple finance for millennials. LaTisha is the producer and host of Young Finances TV, a weekly series featuring funny, insightful videos on the basics of personal finance. LaTisha has been quoted in Forbes and Mainstreet, featured in The Economist, and mentioned in US News as a top personal finance expert to follow on Twitter. You can follow LaTisha on Twitter for daily millennial money tips to budget, invest and achieve success!