Fionna Schoener and her Marine husband, Jay, celebrated their first year of marriage in December 2023. The two met during college through friends. “Jay did his first year at the Naval Academy,” Fionna explains. “I was at Penn State. Friends introduced us. Jay ended up transferring to Penn State after that first year.” Though Jay’s year at the Naval Academy gave Fionna “a taste” of military life, she had no experience with the military prior to marrying him. “I think maybe a great, great-grandparent or someone may have served, but no one in my memory.”

Currently, Jay and Fionna are enjoying their first duty station, where Fionna works as an architectural designer at a firm that designs K-12 schools. “I love it,” she says, referring to both her chosen profession and the firm she currently calls her work home. Remote work isn’t really an option in her field, and she’s dreading the day they PCS. “I don’t want to leave my firm,” Fionna says, “but I know I’ll have to find a new firm. And it will be a great opportunity, too.”

That attitude, one where she embraces the challenges of military life, has already seen her through Jay’s first deployment. “Nothing can prepare you for that first deployment,” Fionna says. “The missing communication during deployment is so hard. You’re used to sharing everything about your day with this person. Sure, we have texts and things, but nothing replaces that everyday communication you’re used to.”

Even with all the challenges that come with deployment, Fionna focuses on the positives. “When Jay deployed, we hadn’t been where we are for very long,” she says. “I didn’t know a lot of people, but during his deployment so many people came to check on me and now we are close friends. I wasn’t alone one weekend of his deployment.” In fact, if she had to offer a piece of advice to new military spouses it would be this: “Say yes to everything. Put yourself out there.” It’s advice that didn’t come naturally to her, but Fionna stands by it. “It wasn’t exactly comfortable, but I would accept any offers to hang out, go with someone to something,” she says. “Now, Jay and I just hosted our first Friendsgiving with our new friends. That wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t been open to trying new things.”

Speaking of trying new things, a new hobby ranks among Fionna’s favorite memories as a military spouse so far. “We’re in southern California,” Fionna says, “So Jay and I decided to try surfing. It’s not something either one of us had done before and we never would have had this opportunity if not for the military. Now, it’s one of our favorite things to do together.” In addition to creating the memories that each duty station affords them, Fionna and Jay are committed to settle into each place they’ll be stationed no matter how long they’ll be there. “It’s important to settle in,” Fionna stresses, “no matter how long we’ll be there.” How does she do that? “I find a church,” she says. “That’s important to us. Once we have a church, we start to make friends. But whatever helps you make a place a home, focus on making that among your first priorities when you move.”

As for reflecting on her first year as a military spouse, Fionna says there’s one thing she wishes new military spouses knew before becoming a military spouse. “It’s a job!” she says. “In addition to your relationship, especially as you’re starting out and learning what that looks like for the two of you, being a military spouse is a lot of work. It’s worth it, but it’s a job.” Just in the first year, Fionna has made lifelong friends, taken up a new hobby, survived her husband’s first deployment, found a rewarding job at a firm she loves, and is already looking toward what comes next. As she says, if military spouses had a motto, it’d probably be, “We’ll make it work!” One year in, Fionna is living proof of that.

Did you enjoy this article? Read the full e-magazine, here.