It may surprise you, but the Military allows for a balance between work and personal life. In fact, service members enjoy many opportunities to relax with their friends and family, including 30 days of paid vacation a year. In this section, learn about social life in the Military, housing, paying for college, health insurance, travel perks and more.
From fitness to volunteering to intramural sports, how you spend your free time is up to you. Air Force Staff Sergeant Jose Guevara Cortez interviews service members to learn more about rewarding extracurricular activities.
GUEVARA CORTEZ: My name is Jose Guevara Cortez and I’m an Air Force staff sergeant, stationed at Joint Base, San Antonio. I’m looking to find out what life in the military is really like and how it may be different than what you think. Today I’m going to meet up with two people who have made sports a big part of their lives. First I meet up on base with one of my colleagues in the dental field, Vanessa Powelldavis. Vanessa coaches a youth basketball team on the weekends. And from what I hear, she’s got some serious game on the court.
GUEVARA CORTEZ: Can you tell me a little bit about your transition, coming from California all the way to San Antonio?
POWELLDAVIS: I really like how Lackland is stationed in a big city, in San Antonio. There are so many things to do. Finding sports teams to get on is not hard. I just go into the gym and, you know, if I see people in there, just ask them if they know of any girls’ sports teams.
GUEVARA CORTEZ: Sure, yeah.
POWELLDAVIS: -- that’s how I kind of joined my first base team that I was on.
GUEVARA CORTEZ: I know you coached in California. What made you want to start coaching here, in San Antonio?
POWELLDAVIS: Yeah. I coach kids grades preschool to about sixth grade. And I teach them the fundamentals of basketball, so shooting, dribbling, passing, things like that -- that I just like how happy the kids get and that I’m able to teach them something that I love to do.
GUEVARA CORTEZ: After the game, we head downtown to meet up with Army Staff Sergeant Joshua Grether, also from Joint Base, San Antonio. He and Vanessa have a few things in common, with their love of sports, so I wanted to see how their stories might intersect.
GUEVARA CORTEZ: Thanks for meeting Vanessa and I, man. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? And you’re in the Army. We’re in the Air Force. Tell us about like what are some of the things that you do.
GRETHER: I get together with some of the guys that I’ve met at the gym and stuff. We meet once a week and play basketball.
GUEVARA CORTEZ: What else do you play? Do you play any other sport?
GRETHER: I played flag football for... There’s a San Antonio flag football league here.
GUEVARA CORTEZ: OK. Let’s hear...
GRETHER: And one of the guys that I met at the gym introduced me to the league.
GRETHER: Do you guys have post teams, like the Army? Like we have -- where pretty much you can try out for the post team. And they compete against other posts and stuff, around the area.
POWELLDAVIS: Oh, yeah.
GUEVARA CORTEZ: We do.
POWELLDAVIS: Like the base team. When I got stationed in Japan, they didn’t have a base team. It was an all‑‑ like ‑‑forces league. So we had Marines, Navy, Air Force.
GUEVARA CORTEZ: Everybody.
POWELLDAVIS: And there’s everybody on the team. And we kind of set all that like rivalry aside.
GUEVARA CORTEZ: Yeah, like I was telling Vanessa earlier that that’s kind of one of the benefits of, you know, having a sport in your life --
GUEVARA CORTEZ: -- that you can kind of make some friends, you know, and just meet up like that and have a good time.
GRETHER: Do you guys -- have you guys played flag football before? Or is this something you guys ever thought about?
POWELlDAVIS: I played in eighth grade.
GRETHER: So you got some experience, then.
POWELLDAVIS: Yeah, a little bit, when I was faster.
GRETHER: So are you down for a scrimmage tomorrow? I mean...
POWELLDAVIS: Yeah, yeah, definitely.
GRETHER: OK. What about you, Jose?
GUEVARA CORTEZ: You’re pretty competitive. I’m in. I’m in. Let’s do this.
GUEVARA CORTEZ: The next day, we all met up again, this time for some flag football. Joshua brought along some of his Army buddies and I had my squad from the Air Force. We used one of the sports fields located on base that are available for us to use whenever we need them.
GRETHER: I mean, for us, in the Army, man, l‑‑ you know, when you do PT together and then, you know, you do it four or five times a week, and to be able to go out and play some sports and stuff.
GUEVARA CORTEZ: Yeah, exactly.
GRETHER: -- once in a while kind of -- I think it brings your team together, in a way. A lot of people that I’ve talked to that’s had no ties to the military itself, they think that we’re like, 24/7, soldiers.
GUEVARA CORTEZ: Yeah.
GRETHER: And the perception, you know, should be thrown out the window. Us as soldiers, of course, we have to go through training, just like any other establishment. But it might be a little longer than some. But, you know, in the end, we still have our normal life, you can say, on our off-time. My son, he’s only one years old but, you know -- he only says a couple words but touchdown’s one of them. It’s good to have, you know, the family support and stuff.
GUEVARA CORTEZ: Absolutely.
GRETHER: And the whole like -- just the respect thing, man, when you guys are coming out with us and just giving us the outmost respect.
GUEVARA CORTEZ: Yeah, but, I mean, we’re all what we call sister services, you know.
GUEVARA CORTEZ: So we’re all in this thing together. It’s just different branches.
GUEVARA CORTEZ: After hearing so much from Vanessa and Joshua about playing sports and making friends, it was great to see that come to life on the field tonight, and I’m definitely looking forward to our next pickup game.
Senior Airman Vanessa Powelldavis and Army Staff Sergeant Joshua Grether make new friends by playing intramural sports.
Airman First Class Abby Roetzel spends her weekends volunteering at a local animal shelter.
Senior Airman Michael Stennis is a physical training leader who hosts fun workout sessions to help service members stay in shape.
Service members get to live out their passion at work and build strong relationships with family and friends. And with the wide range of recreational on-base amenities and expanding support programs like child care, financial guidance, affordable housing and more, service members have the resources to care for their families and enjoy life.
Many factors come into play when determining housing for a military service member. Some of these include where a service member is stationed, whether they’re an active-duty member, Guardsmen or reservist and if they have a spouse or kids. Plus, qualified service members can live off base in civilian neighborhoods using an allowance they receive for housing.
Beyond their salary, service members enjoy an exceptional quality of life while serving. Benefits include full medical coverage, tuition support and discounts at Military shopping centers. Explore these benefits below.
The Military offers multiple programs for helping service members receive a college education. They can be used both during and after service.
Service members receive free medical and dental care, and family members are covered as well. The Military also offers life insurance, retirement plans and VA benefits.
Service members can shop for groceries and personal goods at on-base exchanges, which offer deep discounts on the same products and services you'd find at a civilian store. There are also a wide variety of free on-base activities, such as gyms, sports leagues and parks. On-base entertainment also includes movie theaters, bowling alleys and visiting musicians.
Service members receive 30 days of paid vacation each year, and the Military offers free travel on military aircraft for off-duty excursions depending on availability. Traveling personnel can stay for free at bases located in multiple countries outside the U.S. and use amenities such as outdoor parks and swimming pools.
See the variety of ways service members enjoy their free time with highlights from our Living Videos page.
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Narrator: What does it mean to live a Military life? It means whatever you make of it. It means plenty of free time with friends and family that's relaxing, or energizing. It means knowing that time was earned doing something that matters.
Because the Military understands that throughout our lives, it's the good times we share with family and friends — the people we care about the most — we remember best. The bonds you form here will last a lifetime — camaraderie is an essential part of service.
And it's not just about “how” you live, but “where.” In the U.S., you can be stationed in places like California, Colorado and Hawaii. Then there are the 16 countries across the world where the Military has bases.
We also know making a good living is an important part of any life. Hard work is rewarded, with direct career advancements. It's a clear process with great results. Then there's the benefits beyond your paycheck, like paying for college. It all comes down to getting exactly what you want out of life.
So what does it mean to live in the Military? It's up to you to decide.closeX