May is Hawaii Military Appreciation Month!

Not to be overshadowed by the historic events of May 1, 2011, May, is actually Hawaii Military Appreciation Month.  Activities for the month include Living History Day at the Hawaii Army Museum on May 21, USO Military Appreciation Day at the Honolulu Zoo and various other activities.  Sometimes, businesses will also offer military appreciation deals so always ask for a military discount where ever you go on the island this month! It never hurts to ask!

I Wanna Buy a House NOW!….. ahhhhh NO!

You wanna buy a house?  GREAT!  First time Buyer? GREAT!  You have to move in when????

In my practice, it’s not uncommon that some Buyers must find housing 30 days.

The pressure can be intense when military families are on the move, especially  to unfamiliar territory.   They must make quick decisions.  Consider this scenario:  A service member just received orders to another base.   Orders say report date is within 60 days, and deployment orders to a war zone is pending.  The spouse of the service member is five months pregnant with a 3-year-old in tow.   There’s only 60 days to get this done.  What to do?

First, you must sign out of the losing base, pack and ship household goods, if authorized, clean and ship POV (private vehicle), find temporary quarters on the arriving base, make sure travel authorization is squared away, ensure dislocation allowances are authorized, sign in at the arriving base, begin “in-processing” while getting the family adjusted, receive POV if it arrived to the new destination, locate household goods and start finding a house for the family to stay, sign in immediately to the local military obstetrics clinic, all while preparing to deploy to the Middle East.  Too much and unlikely? On the contrary.  It’s as common as it comes in the military.  I know because this because this scenario is my story and the story of families like mine.

It’s no wonder many military families feel more inclined to move into on-post housing.  For the service member, it’s a quick solution in order to quickly return back to the business of warrior duty.  A placeholder to keep the family safe until the service member return home to assist in taking care of family business.  For an assignment to Hawaii where there is an adjustment in pay for cost of living and where Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH)  and Veterans Administration (VA) loan limits are higher than majority of the nation, most folks have difficulty paying a landlord than their own mortgage. That’s understandable.

Buying a home in Hawaii or anywhere in the nation during current economic conditions will take more time than 30 days.  In fact, 50 to 60 days to close is a more realistic time frame once an offer is accepted by a Seller.  That time frame also does not include the home selection process.  With that in mind, military Buyers must do some serious research prior to arriving when considering purchasing in Hawaii.  If I can give any advice to incoming personnel contemplating the idea of buying a home in Hawaii, do some research and find a professional and knowledgeable real estate agent who works in the market you are considering.  Develop rapport with that person.  Having a great relationship with a real estate advisor is key.  If your agent understands the military PCS process, even better.

Find a local lender.  Your local agent can help connect you with the right loan officer depending on the type of loan program you are considering. Since Hawaii is in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, the different time zones makes the purchase challenging at times.  Most importantly, local mortgage professionals understand our unique market better than our mainland counterparts.

Homeownership still does matter and there is no other feeling like it when you own your home, not to mention the long term advantages of owning a piece of America.  If you suspect that you will be receiving PCS orders to Hawaii, start researching right away and find a professional who will work for your best interests in mind.

A Historic Day for this Army Wife!

My husband, after running the first annual North Shore Marathon in Haleiwa, came limping down the stairs to tell me to change the channel to CNN. The kids, very involved with a movie, was upset with me taking over the TV but I knew it must have been important if he would come down the stairs after running another grueling 26 miles.

Once he made it downstairs, I saw his eyes and saw the headlines, “Osama Bin Laden is Dead”. It finally was beginning to sink in what had just happened. I couldn’t believe it! Letting out a short scream, the news was still settling in. My husband I just embraced for a moment… absolutely flabbergasted at what we were witnessing, but we knew that it was a historic moment.

For my Soldier and I, it certainly was an emotional one. Our Army story began after the events of September 11, 2001. The economy was down, we felt a sense of loss in corporate America and that’s how it all began when he told me he wanted to join the military. Nuts! was what my immediate reaction. Nevertheless, I went along with the idea and my husband became a Soldier.

Eventually, he received an assignment that took us to Fort Hood Texas. In the wake of the first days of the War on Terror, we delivered our first child… quietly and without family. We felt that it would be best to keep the families safe and to avoid air travel. We saw plenty of movement at Fort Hood and we knew then that the war was real and there was no turning back.

Nine years and three year-long deployments later, we are in beautiful Hawaii and all the emotions we felt nearly 10 years ago when we witnessed the attacks on our country came back.  All the emotions we felt every single time my Soldier left on deployments, all the emotions we felt every single time we learned a Soldier lost their life, it all returned when we heard the news today that the leader of Al Qaeda, Osama Bin Laden was killed. When we heard, that the Central Intelligence Agency Director, Leon Panetta, a homegrown Monterey, California boy, where my husband and I originally call home, lead the attack where they ultimately found and killed a terrorist who eluded capture for so long.

What an eventful day for my husband and I. Although one life was lost, this one particular life had claimed war on innocent people in our country and caused terror for everyone. Justice, I believe, has been served.  I am proud, as always, of being an American and proud of my husband and every person who hasand continue to serve in our military.

Another Reason Why I Love Being an Army Wife!

Yesterday, I had another opportunity to fly in an Army UH-60 Blackhawk.  As the Officer-in-Charge was briefing us, he said it was a once in a lifetime opportunity for most.  Right then I knew that I was lucky.  It was the third time in an Army helicopter and the second time doing so in Hawaii.  and oh what a beautiful day it was to fly.

Good thing we were provided ear protection!  Riding inside a Blackhawk is the loudest of all Army aircraft.  We climbed to 2,000 feet and flew with the doors open for an unforgettable experience.

We flew from Wheeler Army Airfield following Kunia Road down to H-1.  Had an bird’s eye view of the Waianae mountain range.  Only a handful of people would ever see it from this height.  Once we reached H-1, we flew towards Pearl Harbor and Ford Island, turned around and flew back the same route.  It was a very short flight, the shortest out of my previous ones.  Nonetheless, I was a very happy passenger! One of the perks of being an Army Wife!

Just wanted to thank EVERYONE (2-25) involved for a well organized event!  Everyone was absolutely professional at every stage and it just made the experience ever so sweet!

A Government-Wide Initiative focuses on Military Families

Strengthening Our Military Families: Meeting America’s Commitment, dated January 2011

As a former military brat and now a military spouse, I was pleasantly surprised to hear of First Lady Michelle Obama and the Obama Administration’s unprecedented commitment to support military families.  Matters regarding service members and their families traditionally have been spearheaded by the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs and the Department of Defense.  As far as this current report strategizes, a government-wide call to pool resources in order to better improve quality of life for military families.  Unprecedented, indeed.

The report, released by the White House on January 24, 2011, details four priorities, its challenges, and commitments to improve:

  1. Enhance the overall well-being and psychological health of the military family
  2. Ensure excellence in military children’s education and their development
  3. Developing career and educational opportunities for military spouses
  4. Increasing child care availability and quality within the Armed Forces

Thanks to Mrs. Obama, the voice of military families are finally heard, where the voice traditionally remains without complaint as military families have always moved forward to the needs of the Armed Forces. It’s ingrained into the families to “just buckle down” and “keep on moving on”.  As the American population becomes more educated and the dependency on a secondary income increases, families like mine are finding it tougher to keep up with their civilian counterparts.

I can certainly see that this initiative can have dramatic affect on military families on O’ahu.  For one, military children once thought to be resilient to frequent changes will finally have a better and stronger commitment towards their education and welfare.  Increased child care availability especially for families with a deployed service member would be extremely valuable for the parent/guardian left behind to care for them.  For military spouses, a focus on bettering career and educational opportunities will alleviate the challenges they face every new post they move to.   Finally, a focus on the specific needs of my family and many more military families like mine.

There is no doubt military families face unique challenges.  As far as what this report and review plan to accomplish, it will definitely be interesting to follow.

A Super Bowl Sunday Memory

I used to love Super Bowl Sundays.  It used to be an annual way for our family to spend some time together.  Later in my adult life, Super Bowl Sundays became an excuse to have a party with friends.  Over time however, as my Soldier was somewhere else in the world, the interest in Super Bowl Sundays cease to exist.  I just didn’t care about football anymore.

Most football fanatics would just scoff at the thought of someone not having interest in football!  I know!  What a crazy thought!  This year was different.  My Soldier is home.  Although I wasn’t “into” the festivities, the hubby went to the store to pick up some hot dogs and buns so he can prepare for his time in front of the TV…. after all, it’s broadcasted in HD.  No other snacks, just hot dogs. Once one o’clock Hawaii time rolled around, I sat down with my Soldier and started watching the opening ceremonies and coin toss.

So it began.  I was amazed by the quality of the broadcast and I forgot how much fun a sporting event like the Super Bowl could be!  I especially loved the commercials.  My favorite, by the way, is the VW commercial featuring little Darth Vader.  The Super Bowl halftime show was reminiscent of Chinese theatrics we saw in the opening ceremonies of the last Summer Olympics.  Fantastic, and entertaining. Today, I added another sweet memory.  Quality time with plenty of laughter with my Soldier…. because next year, he just may be in another part of the world again.