Some say "Home is where the heart is.". Some say "there's no place like home". And certain few say "home is where the Army sends us.". For me, it is all three of those things.
When we left our Florida "home", it was tough. We invested a lot in that home. Not only was it a fixer upper at the height of the real estate bubble(we took a lickin'), but it was a house we made a "home". It was the home where our lives as a family began. It was where our youngest son was born. It was where our then 9 year old had dozens of friends within a few short miles. It was in a small picturesque rural/beach/booming community where both my wife and I lived for over 20 years; which was rare in that area seeing how our county population grew 10 times over in those 20 years.
That home was so much more than a house. But we had to go where the Army sent us so our family could avoid financial despair. The Army pay sure isn't glamorous, but by golly, it is a "living wage".
A quick 4 month stop in San Antonio began the adventure, followed by 2+ AWESOME years in Kansas.
The thing I will remember most about Kansas is the conversation with my wife when she was still in AIT in San Antonio. This is how it went.
Me: Of all the places you can be stationed, where do you want to go?
Her: I don't care. Just not Fort Drum. Because that's where they send the soldiers from Alaska for "cold weather training".
Me: Ya. Definitely not there.
And then at nearly the same time we both said: And not in the middle of the United States hundreds(if not thousands) of miles from salt water.
OK, so we didn't say a complete sentence at the same time, but we did both agree being so far from the water would not be fun for us, the folks who always have a pair of sunglasses and flip flops in foots reach. Other than those 2 places, we were good with wherever we were told to go.
*Not a geography buff? Fort Riley is within 100 miles of the geographical center of the contiguous United States.*
Fort Riley may get a bad rap, but we loved it there. And I can honestly say that because of the community(on post and off) it felt like "home". It felt like home right from the get go. It felt like home even though my wife was deployed for 12 of our first 14 months there. Why did it feel like home? Because it was "where the heart is/was". It was "where the Army sent us". And according to the folks in Wamego, it was where there really is "no place like home". But it was missing something.
Being our first duty station, we didn't know what to expect regarding how long we would be there. Our first "home" was a rental that we found within 3 days of us arriving in Kansas for the first time. It worked for us. It was where me and the boys called "home" for my wife's deployment.
Soon after she returned from her deployment we were able to move on post. Moving in to a new house 30 days after she returned allowed our family to make a new "home" in Kansas. Together.
That first house in Kansas was a "home" for me and the boys to create in Kansas since she was deployed, so the new house on post was a place for all of us to make a new home in our new life. Together as a family.
Two months ago we PCS'd. Wishfully thinking that sequestration won't totally kill the life we now love, we bought a house here. Even if we are here on the bare minimum 2-3 years the Army gives at a duty assignment, we want to call this place home too. But this "home" will be more like our Florida home. A home that means something just a little different because it is "ours"(well the banks, but you know what I mean). We are once again able to paint walls, make improvements or whatever else we want because this is our house.
If you were nosey, errr.... I mean..... If you clicked on the link to our Florida house, you would see the improvements we made to it. The customization and personalization. It wasn't a spectacular home. But it was a place where I could "hang my hat".
In the gallery of pictures on Zillow, you would see my garden. Just before my wife enlisted I built a beautiful garden. Sadly, I didn't make it through a full growing season before we moved. I did get a sample of what it would be like to grow my own veggies, and I wanted little more than to have that feeling again from the day I left that house. So here in Washington I am building a greenhouse.
I love the feelings that come with home ownership, but I don't much care for the body soreness and reminder of how battered my body is from constantly "personalizing and customizing" our home. Honestly though, the feeling of having a place to hang my hat. To hang my weed wacker. To hang my pruners. To hang the reminders of the places I have called home.