Anna Larson’s husband left the Army on April 1, 2021, April Fool’s Day.
Anna was not in a joking mood, though.
“I had a meltdown,” the military spouse of 16 years shares. “A complete meltdown.”
Chief Warrant Officer 3 John Larson left their home near Fort Hood, Texas, to pick up his DD214, the paperwork signifying his separation from the Army after 22 years. Anna stayed home and panicked about books.
“My best friend consoled me as all I could think of was ‘I forgot to call and see if I could still go to the on-post library,’” Anna says. “We live in the United States. There are plenty of libraries, but that thought was the little, tiny straw that made me break, made me feel, ‘We’re not ready yet. We’re not prepared yet!’”
Now, as an ambassador for SpouseLink, a sister organization created by American Armed Forces Mutual Aid Association (AAFMAA), Anna educates fellow military spouses on military transitions. AAFMAA, the longest-standing nonprofit association exclusively serving the military community with life insurance, mortgages and wealth management, launched SpouseLink in 2012 to offer a community for military spouses to connect, share experiences and get advice and resources.
Anna’s first piece of advice? Prioritize yourself.
Before her husband’s transition, Anna rushed around thinking of paperwork and processes, not emotions and expectations. They hit hard on that final day, whereas a slower release of excitement, fear, happiness and sorrow might have been more manageable.
“You cannot be solely focused on the service member,” Anna advised. “You have to take some time to think about how you feel. I hadn’t stopped and hadn’t said, ‘Okay, Anna, this is stressful for you.’”
Anna’s second recommendation: don’t rush anything.
The Army gives you a year, she says. For 365 days, they’ll store your household goods if you’re still figuring out where you want to go next — be it a forever home or a pitstop.
“‘Forever home’ feels very final for someone who has moved every two to three years of their life for the last almost two decades,” Anna says.
The Larson family is staying in Texas … for now.
While a military spouse navigates a transition away from service, children often do as well. Remember them, and ask their thoughts, Anna urges. She turned to her and John’s daughter, Bella, 13, and their son, Jax, 9.
“If they’re old enough to have an opinion,” she says, “ask them what they want to do. There might be a place they absolutely loved, or they have fond memories or there might be things that are important to them that you can’t even think about as an adult. Our kids said, ‘We like it here. We have good friends here. We want to stay.’”
SpouseLink Ambassador Anna Larson livestreams on LinkedIn, YouTube and Facebook and blogs about issues affecting transitioning military spouses. Learn more about her and her fellow AAFMAA spouse ambassadors at spouselink.aafmaa.com.
For more resources for transitioning families, including life insurance, wealth management and mortgage, visit AAFMAA.com.