I never really looked forward to a military spouse coffee get together. After 20+ years as a military spouse that has included service in the Army and now Air Force, I always felt that twinge of anxiety when the invite arrived for a spouse event. Now that I think have earned the badge of a more “senior” spouse, I have determined the reason many of us feel uneasy about those events is because the relationships with other milspouses can take work.
It’s not always easy because we are an incredibly diverse group that cover the spectrum of age, race, religion, and education levels. That’s a lot of diversity right there.
So when my volunteer coordinator reached out to say that headquarters wanted to plan a More than a Spouse meeting in my backyard of Annapolis, I was actually excited because there was a common purpose and objective that unified all milspouses regardless of our differences. I had read about the inaugural pop-up event in Quantico, VA, and was eager to promote something similar in my area.
The More Than A Spouse networking event is an outreach tool to connect diverse, professional milspouses in their own communities and provide a comfortable outlet that would allow talented spouses to share, encourage, and empower their peers. This type of personal empowerment has always been something I have been determined to maintain for myself, despite how incredibly hard that can be as a milspouse. I was thrilled at the prospect of participating in a local event.
Annapolis is a unique location in terms of military affiliation. Of course, you will hear it described as a ‘Navy town’ because it is home to the Naval Academy, but that has a very different mission from your usual military installation. Ft. Meade is only 25 minutes away; Andrews AFB and Washington, DC are a short 30 minutes in the other direction. If you live in this area, your neighbors will absolutely represent every branch of the military and Department of Defense. So it was expected that the More than a Spouse-Annapolis event brought out spouses from every branch and service status of active duty, guard, and retiree.
Tucked in a cozy back room of a local favorite coffeehouse, about 15 milspouses gathered to share their story, network, and learn about new opportunities. A contingent from the Naval Academy Spouses and Civilians Club attended and shared information about some upcoming fundraisers they were hosting, as well as the president sharing their challenge of connecting with the younger, active duty spouses. This seemed to be a challenge for many groups.
Another spouse spoke of the difficult transition her husband went through after retirement, but they are now proud business owners of Chesapeake Brewing Company located on West Street in Annapolis! A new Army wife explained the unique perspective of her past experience of working on Capitol Hill before becoming a spouse, and the roadblocks she has encountered now trying to find employment in the political arena when the perception is she will “just be moving in a couple of years.” Unfortunately, that is a comment many of us have heard during the job-hunting process.
Although some spouses that attended said they were newlyweds, others were proud grandmothers–which provided a fantastic range of viewpoints. Despite all the diversity, the common theme that brought everyone there that morning was the desire to find a way to stay involved and be part of something personal to each of us and would help us grow as individuals.
You can be More than a Spouse in many different ways, and we can help each other to find that project, job, or opportunity that ignites a passion for each of us. For those in the DC/MD/VA area that missed the event: stay tuned for a Ft. Meade More Than a Spouse pop-up event in the near future!
Now that I’m thinking about it, I think my apprehension about milspouse get-togethers in the past also had something to do with the fact that I never learned how to play Bunco?! #buncofail on my part!
Would your local milspouse community benefit from hosting a More Than A Spouse networking event? Tell us where you live and we’ll make it happen!
By Rene Campo, military spouse and NMFA Volunteer