In a lifestyle known for frequent moves, choosing where to live will be a decision your family faces often. The good news is there will always be one constant option when it comes to shopping for a home: on base living. But, the answer to knowing if it’s right for you may also change location-to-location. As my husband and I near his final days in the Marine Corps, my reflections tell me it was the best choice I ever made.
We’re approaching the two-year anniversary of returning to the U.S. from an overseas assignment in Japan. When we found out PCS orders would be sending our family to Camp Lejeune, N.C., it was bittersweet. I first met my husband here 18 years ago, and we eloped two years later at the local justice of peace. I was a recent college graduate, he was Lance Cpl. “ballin,” and we had no kids at the time, so we found ourselves an expensive first apartment out in town.
After only two weeks of being newlyweds, he deployed for almost a year. He was off fighting a war in Iraq, and I was home pursuing my career and building lifelong friendships. I openly admit to freaking out at times during our first deployment together. The emotional cycle of deployment before, during and after war is draining. During this time, I spent most of my free time hanging out with close friends who lived on base. They were all neighbors except for me, and our husbands were all deployed together. I spent more time in their homes than I did in my fancy apartment.
Another move, another decision
A few years later, the Marine Corps sent us across the country to California. There, I was some 3,000+ miles away from all of my family and friends with a one-year-old and preparing for yet another deployment. This time, we chose to live on base. My job, childcare and everything I needed was within a 10-mile radius. Military bases are like a town within a town, with the added comfort of heightened security, safety and the amenities are priceless.
Now, with just months until retirement, we are enjoying our last few months in base housing. The decision to live on base after returning from Okinawa was a no-brainer for us. As business owners, we wanted to ease the burden of overhead expenses once we opened our brick-and-mortar boutique. Not having to worry about rent, utilities, home repairs, etc. gave us a piece of mind and allowed us to put more money towards the business and save for retirement.
At this moment, I realize the decision to live on base wasn’t just a monetary decision but also an emotional one. On base, your neighbors quickly become like family, and there are times when you will need them more than you realize. We all know the drill and understand what military life is like. We look out for one another and have each other’s backs. Sure, drama happens, but it’s not unique to the military community.
People often ask why we choose to live on base. Some even frown upon it. So, I asked my fellow neighbors in a Facebook group, why they chose to live on base. Overwhelmingly, the response was positive.
Here’s what they said:
“For us it was purely the Special Education services here on base versus off. We own a home out in town and continue to rent it out (which pains me) but we had to do what was best for our kids. We have done both on and off at separate times at each base we’ve been stationed at and for us school was 100% the deciding factor. Now that we are here, I do love being close to everything and my husband enjoys having a short commute, especially on long days.” – Amy J.
“We decided to live on base because you get much more house for your money, and it saves hubby time going to work since we’re only 3 miles away from his job now. Our townhome before this was more expensive and half the size of our on base house, and our on base house is nicer. Also hubby felt much better about me being left at home alone at night living on base since he works 24 hour shifts. Not to mention the yards were a huge bonus compared to our townhome before this since we have a big dog.” – Shelby R.
“The neighborhood we came from out in town wasn’t safe anymore. In the past 4-5 months we had teenagers shooting at houses, people walking up to neighbors’ windows with flashlights to look through them at 11:00 p.m., people throwing rocks at windshields and keying cars. They were mostly teenagers doing stupid stuff but it was getting to the point where it was a weekly occurrence.
The house itself had mold in the walls in the kitchen and the property management team didn’t care. The owner whom we know personally refused to fix certain things around the house because they thought it was a money pit.
We considered renting again out in town but base just seemed safer and the housing here is beautiful! We just didn’t want the hassle of renting anymore. We just moved in this month and are loving it so far!” – Jordan H.
“Since my husband is a marine he is away more than he is home. Living on base keeps me of sound mind when he is away because I feel safe. Another plus, they budget for us. Utilities and rent included in the bah. Makes life a little easier.” – Gabriella F.
“Schools are very good, easy access to the beach, playgrounds, close to the stores, and you don’t have to worry about selling or buying a house, when you know that he is going to deploy or get orders, having a community that can understands you. PS close to his work.” – Gladys S.
Deciding to live on a military base is a personal decision.
Be sure to ask questions and do your homework before you choose, but don’t rely solely on the opinions of others. Request a walk-through, talk to families in the neighborhood, and visit the schools. The option is one of the many benefits that complement military life, and everyone should experience on-base living at least once during their service member’s career. It is a great way to build those valuable connections with people who understand exactly what you got yourself into.