Why I love being ordered around


Mayo-nnaise to Foley: “I got nowhere else to go! I got nowhere else to g… I got nothin’ else!”

To everyday civilians, “the pursuit of happiness” typically involves career, home, love, and family. It’s no different for military families, with one important exception: ORDERS.

Unlike their civilian counterparts, active duty servicepersons must pursue their happiness within the strict confines of written military orders, which are lengthy documents that appear to be written in alien code.

Military orders seem riddled with gibberish, and might be easily replicated as follows: Sit on a computer keyboard for about ten minutes, periodically shifting positions. Once enough “XXXXXXXXs” and “UUUUUUs” have been typed, print out about 15 pages; staple. Trust me, even the most seasoned soldier or sailor wouldn’t immediately notice the difference.

However, buried amongst the seemingly nonsensical verbiage are key phrases such as “Report no later than August 2013” and “Newport, Rhode Island,” which, although embedded in gobbledygook, are important mandatory instructions regarding the next couple of years in a serviceperson’s life.

We are a Navy family who’s seen our share of military orders. Our most recent written orders arrived a month ago. Besides “RTTUZYUW” and “UUUU–RHMCSUU” my husband’s orders indicate that this summer, he must report to a new job at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island.

The hidden message contained in the gobbledygook.

The hidden message contained in the gobbledygook.

Our last orders instructed my husband to report to Naval Station Mayport, Florida in March 2011, and before that to Africa Command, Stuttgart, Germany in July 2008. Before that Djibouti, East Africa. Before that Norfolk, Virginia. Before that Molesworth, England. Before that, Monterey California. And so on, and so on.

I can’t prove it without the assistance of an experienced cryptographer, but I think that our orders might also contain mandates such as “///GET OVER IT///” or “///NO WHINING–YOU’RE IN THE MILITARY///.” We must follow military orders regardless of inconvenience or hardship, like moving your son before his senior year, or leaving the church that you like so much, or separating your youngest after she finally made a new best friend. None of that matters. We are at the mercy of the U.S. Navy.

So why do we continue to let ourselves get ordered around?

In today’s unstable economic climate, one might think that mere job security is what motivates military families to keep following orders, and with all the news of “fiscal cliffs” and “sequestration” there is some truth to this.

However, regardless of job security, a deep attachment to a military culture develops. With each successive move, military families not only become more resilient, but also cultivate a strong identity and pride in their unique lifestyle. Believe it or not, we become so accustomed to being ordered to go somewhere new, we often look forward to it after being in one place for a couple of years.

I must admit, I’ve wondered if our affection for military life might be a twinge of Stockholm syndrome. Or maybe it’s rooted in fear of what’s on the outside, like long-term prisoners who are afraid to be released from prison life. Or maybe it’s a compulsion, like Pacino’s Michael Corleone in Godfather III (“Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!”)


Truly, I know our affinity for this lifestyle is rooted in honor, duty, courage, loyalty, patriotism, respect for authority, and sacrifice for others. These concepts have become muddled in today’s society, so we feel fortunate to be given the opportunity to raise our kids in a military environment where those virtues are emphasized. We live and work with other military families who have a common understanding of good and evil, right and wrong.  We don’t need a permanent hometown — it’s the similar sense of values and camaraderie with our fellow military families that makes us feel at home.

No doubt about it: non-military families are fortunate to put down roots in one place where they can make close friendships and foster stable school, family and community ties. They might not understand how a family like mine could be happy about moving to Rhode Island after less than two years in Florida.

But we are happy about our ninth move in 20 years, because it’s part and parcel of our military lifestyle. To quote a common saying which adorns many a sailor’s front door, “Home is where the Navy sends us.”

Purchase signs like these at www.signsofpatriotism.com.

Purchase signs like these at www.signsofpatriotism.com.

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Comments: 16

  1. […] Why I love being ordered around By Lisa Smith Molinari … and interesting read on why we do what we do. […]

  2. […] Why I like being ordered around (themeatandpotatoesoflife.com) […]

  3. Erin March 2, 2013 at 8:35 pm Reply

    This is all incredibly true! I honestly could not imagine my life being in only one place anymore – in fact, I feel weird being anywhere longer than four years!

    My husband and I are both in the military, and every day I feel blessed to not only have a stable job, but also to live in a culture that holds itself to such a high standard (even when no one else might). It is truly a great culture to raise children in not only because of all of this, but also because it is a wonderful lesson in resilience and flexibility.

    And as a person who reads every line of her orders, you’re right – you practically need a translator to understand parts of them!

  4. Musings of a Marine's Mate February 19, 2013 at 7:49 pm Reply

    Eloquent and articulate, I am looking forward to our next move, if for no other reason than that we aren’t anywhere near a base, and I am lonely.
    People look at me in this small town as an outsider, and don’t seem interested in fostering friendships with someone who will just move again, and doesn’t have the other parent to help watch the kids for some girl time.

    • Lisa Smith Molinari February 19, 2013 at 10:28 pm Reply

      Been there, done that! When we lived in England, I was in a tiny village with just me and my baby all day long and into the night. The base was a half hour away, and I would get lonely and stir crazy. I used to go out in the rain and walk with the baby in the stroller – doing circles around the little town. Pathetic!

  5. John Messeder February 18, 2013 at 11:53 am Reply

    Ah yes, lines and lines of random capital letters with that all-import and phrase, REPORT NLT…

    And the part that’s both good and bad – when your kid goes to school and during Social Studies says, “Been there, done that, got the tee-shirt” – and can prove it!

    John Messeder, JAFPR, MBS http://johnmesseder.com/ Ph: 717.253.0605 Member, Society of Environmental Journalists Member, National Society of Newspaper Columnists On Feb 17, 2013 10:35 AM, “The Meat and Potatoes of Life” wrote:

    > ** > Lisa Smith Molinari posted: “[caption id="attachment_2599" > align="aligncenter" width="600"] Mayo-nnaise to Foley: “I got nowhere else > to go! I got nowhere else to g… I got nothin’ else!”[/caption] To > everyday civilians,

  6. energywriter February 17, 2013 at 5:59 pm Reply

    Oh, forgot to ask: since the orders say permanent change of duty station, does that mean your hubby will be teaching at the war college? sd

    • Lisa Smith Molinari February 19, 2013 at 10:26 pm Reply

      All PCS’s are “permanent change of station” so all moves are “permanent” for as long as the orders say. We are going for 2-3 years, and no, Francis is not teaching, but is the director of a training program. It’s too complicated to explain, like most of his jobs!

  7. energywriter February 17, 2013 at 5:58 pm Reply

    Great explanation of a difficult concept. You said it so well. Enjoy your new assignment. Newport promises to be a good posting. sd

  8. Sharon February 17, 2013 at 5:57 pm Reply

    Go up early for NSNC and spend the summer there, leaving hubby to handle the packers and housing inspection. You said it so well. Most in my family did not understand this concept.

  9. robakers February 17, 2013 at 2:05 pm Reply

    Thank you for your service, the sacrifice and all of the long deployments. I hope you find something suitable in RI.

    • Lisa Smith Molinari February 19, 2013 at 10:24 pm Reply

      Why thank you! It really doesn’t feel like sacrifice these days. We’ve been lucky and had great tours where it was an adventure for the whole family. We actually love military life and will be sad when it ends!

  10. Anonymous February 17, 2013 at 10:45 am Reply

    you and your orders…. we could TOTALLY get orders anytime we want ’em …. I SWEAR! lol 😉 Great article, neighbor!!!!!!

    • Lisa Smith Molinari February 17, 2013 at 10:56 am Reply

      You BETTER get orders! I must admit, I’m obsessed! There is nothing else I can think of right now except getting to RI — schools, housing, etc, etc!!!

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