How to Start a PCS Time Capsule Tradition

How to start a PCS time capsule tradition

Somewhere in the short weeks after we moved to the desert, between field training and my husband leaving for a year-long deployment, we found time to take our eldest son on his first camping trip.

He was such a little guy back then (only seven months old), but, knowing we wouldn’t have many opportunities to make family memories before Daddy left, we wanted to make the most of the time we had while we were together.

I’ll never forget hiking the trails with our baby boy snuggled up in a pouch on my husband’s chest.

While making plans for our trip, we came up with the idea to put together a duty station time capsule.

The plan was to fill it with things that represented us at that particular moment, bury it out in the desert somewhere, then return to dig it up someday when it was time for us to go some place new.

Heart shaped cactus

We wrote letters to each other and put them in an air-tight plastic container, along with little mementos like family photos, one of our son’s favorite toys, a onesie, one of his tiny baby shoes and cultural facts and statistics of the year.

Then, we chose an area off the beaten path with a tree as a landmark (making sure it wasn’t against some kind of regulation we could be fined for first), and buried our time capsule beneath it.

After marking it with a large rock, we plotted the spot in our GPS and left it there, hoping the next year and deployment would fly by, and we’d be back to get it before we knew it.

Fast forward two-and-a-half years…

When my husband received orders to PCS, and our time in the desert had come to an end, we decided to finally make the trip back to dig up our time capsule.

One Saturday morning, we drove back to have a picnic, do some hiking and make new family memories.

Family hiking in the desert

That time, we were a family of four.

Family in the desert

My husband carried our littlest in his pouch, while our big boy jumped on and over all of the rocks as we walked the trails.

Family in the desert

Thanks to the GPS, it didn’t take us long to find the rock we’d left beneath the tree.

Time capsule on GPS

rock and cactus flowers


Big Brother was so excited to help Daddy dig up the “buried treasure”!

Boy and father digging up time capsule

It was so much fun to watch his face as the soil shifted, revealing our time capsule – right where we’d left it!

His reaction was priceless when my husband cracked it open and began to pull out what was inside.

Boy opening up time capsule

They boys’ favorite blast from the past was the little toy airplane, but mine had to be the letters.

Boy with toy airplane

Boy opening up time capsule

After two-and-a-half years, we’d forgotten what we’d written each other, and, as we exchanged our notes, memories came flooding back.

This is definitely the start of a new tradition for our family, and one we hope to take with us from duty station to duty station wherever we go.

Next time, Little Brother will be a little older, and he’ll be able to join in the fun, too.

How to Start a PCS Time Capsule Tradition

What You’ll Need

  • A container for your capsule (air-tight and waterproof, if you’re burying it).
  • Recent photographs of your family.
  • A list of things going on in the world at the time (news headlines, statistics, etc.).
  • Letters to your family members (or your future self).
  • Mementos that are representative of your life at the present time.

What You’ll Do

  1. Making sure to include each member of your family, fill your container with the keepsakes you’ve chosen.
  2. Pick a good spot to bury your time capsule in (or hide it somewhere in your home).
  3. If the location you’ve picked is outside, make sure to plot it on a GPS, mark it and/or write down any identifying landmarks so you you’ll be able to find it when the time comes to dig it up.
  4. When it’s time to head to your next duty station, plan a day to open your time capsule.
  5. Go back to where you’ve hidden or buried your container.
  6. Ceremoniously open your time capsule, and enjoy going back in time and seeing how much you and your family have grown and changed over the years.
  7. Have each family member share their thoughts and experiences of the past, and talk about your plans and goals for your upcoming PCS.

Do you have any PCS or duty station traditions?

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  1. Jennifer Lambert

    OH.MY. What a neat idea! I wish I could go back and do this at all our locations now!


    1. Courtney

      Thank you, Jennifer! It was a lot of fun!


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