It was just over a year ago when my husband officially retired and we moved to a non-military area. Losing our military community felt like I had lost a piece of me. My husband and I both felt adrift. But I knew I had to regain that connection…somehow.
Even though I wasn’t in a military area anymore, I continued my volunteer work with the National Military Family Association (NMFA). I may no longer know from personal experience what’s going on at this base, or that base, but I’m still a member of numerous military spouse Facebook groups, and have many friends who are still active duty. I keep an eye and ear out for questions I can help answer, and stay on top of issues that NMFA might need to know about. And I’ve been able to support military families through numerous remote volunteer projects, too! It’s been a gift to be able to continue serving my beloved military community in this manner, and be connected virtually.
Knowing there were probably others like us in our new non-military community, even Reserve and National Guard families, I started a local Facebook group for spouses of Marines. I posted about it in our local area Facebook groups (moms’ networks, neighborhood groups, etc.) and was excited when spouses would speak up from the crowd and say, “Yes! My husband is a Marine veteran,” or “This is great! We’re in the area on recruiting duty and would love to connect with other Marine families!”
The group now has 56 members and we’re planning our first get-together! I’m thrilled about the prospect of going out to dinner with some fellow military spouses and enjoying that ‘sisterhood’ again!
Interested in keeping or regaining that connection to the military community? Here are some suggestions:
- Be open to sharing your story. You never know if that other mom or dad sitting two rows down in the bleachers at your child’s game is currently serving, a veteran, or military spouse. Share your story; you just might hear, “Me too!”
- Volunteer for, or get involved with a military-related organization, like the National Military Family Association, your local VFW or VA, or even some of the unique organizations out there, like a local chapter of Team Red, White & Blue.
- Start a Facebook group for other local military families. Spread the word about it through your neighborhood, school, place of worship, and other networks. Seek out other transitioned families, as well as those in the Guard or Reserves, and the “onesies and twosies” out there, like those on recruiting duty, or the ROTC staff at local colleges.
- Teach your kids’ school about military life. Schools in non-military areas need to be enlightened on the life of a military kid, and how to best support them. I’ve heard from several families whose kids say their teachers and fellow students think it’s weird they’ve lived in so many places, including overseas, and as a result, their kids feel like outsiders. Take things into your hands and meet with the administrators, teachers, guidance counselors, coaches, and other important people involved with your child. Share what your child has been through, and how they can best relate with him or her. Provide them resources so they can educate themselves on military families. If there are several current or former military kids at the school, consider suggesting the formation of a club for them.
- Encourage your local governments, Chambers of Commerce, and visitors’ bureaus to include information on their websites, and in welcome packets, for inbound transitioning families. This can be a list of resources, like the contact information for local veterans’ groups, the closest military ID center, the VA, and other pieces of information valuable to military families.
- If you become active in a place of worship, suggest they ask new members if they are a military family, and link them with other military families in the congregation. A former church of ours actively sought to identify military families and assigned a deacon who had been a military spouse to those families so they would always have a point of contact and support.
One of the greatest things about being a military family is the closeness of the military community; it’s truly a remarkable thing. I viewed it as a second family. Unfortunately, one of the hardest things about transitioning out of the military is losing that closeness and having the feeling of almost being catapulted out of that community into civilian life. If you’re a civilian family and know someone transitioning out of the military, take some time out of your day to help them through by welcoming them into your community!
Are you a transitioned family? How have you stayed connected to your military community?