I married my high school sweetheart in Washington, D.C. in May of 2014. I packed up all of my belongings and moved across the country to our first duty station. As I flew into El Paso, known as the Sun City, I took in the landscape of rugged mountains and vast desert. I remember getting off the plane and the temperature was a stark 115 degrees. And I thought, “I’m not in Kansas anymore.” 


My grandfathers had served in the Navy and Army respectively. Yet, other than my husband Brian, I had never had any real connection to the military. I found myself completely unprepared for the adjustments to military life. Everything seemed foreign to me. I felt like I was learning a new language. Even the basic acronyms other military spouses used were unfamiliar to me. I did not have a built-in support system of friends, family, or community in Texas. This was my first experience recreating my life from the ground up. A big adjustment and culture shock.  

My husband had selected housing off post—at the time he was a single bachelor and thinking primarily about what was most affordable and had the best biking routes to work. The townhouse was roughly thirty minutes away from Fort Bliss. What was I supposed to be doing? What was my role? How could I serve and contribute in some way?

I felt lonely. I felt isolated. I felt discouraged. And honestly, I felt like something had gone wrong. I spent hundreds of hours applying for jobs. The career I had built in Washington D.C. was somehow not translating to my current location. I networked. I researched. I brainstormed. I tried to think outside the box. Despite all of my efforts, I was unable to make traction on any concrete job opportunities at this particular duty station. 


I found myself seeking solace in group fitness classes on post. I started attending spinning classes with instructor Stacey Lehr. I showed up for the exercise. I showed up for the community. I showed up for Stacey’s leadership, positivity, and influence for good. 

Stacey invited me to join a USTA tennis league at Fort Bliss. I met women of all different backgrounds, races, ethnicities, and religions. Enlisted spouses and officer spouses. Despite our many differences, this was a safe place we could socialize and learn from each other. 

This community welcomed me with open arms. They shared their experiences, their struggles, and their victories. In the six months I spent with this group of women, I learned more about the military and myself than any other time in my life. I cherish each of these friendships and still stay in touch with these women. They mentored and served me at a time when I needed it most. And now when I think of El Paso, I truly know why it is the Sun City.




Sarah Shiozawa began her professional career working in Washington D.C. as a consultant with Homeland Security and a staffer in the U.S. Senate. She holds certifications in program management. Sarah loves marathon training, tennis, and high fitness. Travel is a deep passion, and she loves to explore new destinations domestically and internationally. Sarah married her high school sweetheart and soldier ten years after graduation. As a mom of three kiddos under three, she started juicing and following a plant-based lifestyle. Sarah’s wellness journey transformed her from the inside out. She loves to interact with the InDependent community and connect with other military spouses.