Serving overseas: An often overlooked benefit of military service

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Cary Hatzinger
  • 62nd Mission Support Group chief enlisted manager
Wow, what a wonderful two weeks we just had. My family and I just returned from leave in Germany, and I don't think we've ever had a better vacation. 

We took long peaceful walks through thick forests, had coffee in a 700-year-old village, cruised on the Rhine River and crawled through tunnels under what was once one of the mightiest castles in Europe. 

Our recent vacation was really just an extension of our assignment to Ramstein Air Force Base, Germany. We were stationed there for five years and lived in a small village called Schopp. 

One of the greatest benefits of being in the military is that we have the opportunity to serve overseas. 

While many people have the opportunity to take vacations in a foreign land, the experience pales in comparison to actually living there. 

The biggest difference between visiting somewhere and living there is that you have the opportunity to make new friends and the time to really experience the culture. 

As soon as we moved to the village we tried to fit into the German culture. My wife immediately set about learning the language. 

I made it a point to sweep the street every Saturday, and we tried to learn and respect the customs of our German neighbors. 

All of this paid huge dividends because we were soon accepted and welcomed by our German neighbors. 

We were invited to barbecues, birthday parties, Christmas dinners and Easter celebrations. We did what no one on vacation could ever do; we became part of the village. 

As I said earlier, one of our best and often most overlooked benefits is that we have the opportunity to serve overseas. 

Whether you are in Japan, Korea, Italy or Germany, the fact is that you will have the opportunity to see and do things that most people will never do.

Most importantly, you will have the opportunity to make friends that could last a lifetime. 

As I look back on my life and career, I have to say that one of the most rewarding experiences I ever had was serving overseas. 

Whether you are civilian, active duty or in the Reserves, I would encourage you to volunteer and take advantage of one of the greatest benefits we have in the military.