Thursday, July 24, 2008

Thoughts on the military family.

The network of military spouses is unique. We are a population of amazing and diverse women and men. In our community, it’s not surprising to also find what some might call significant others. Our common thread, we love and support a member of the military. It’s that simple. Of course, it’s also that complex because with this community comes a sense of family. Just as our servicemembers look out for one another in the field, on the ship or in the air, so do we on the homefront. When one is hurting, often many more hurt and empathize with them. When one is in need, we reach out. When one is elated, we celebrate with them. You get the point.

As of late, I’ve read stories of spouses going through some difficult situations. What has amazed me the most is that I feel (and perhaps I’m wrong) that they don’t use the resources available to them. I will say that in my experience, I have met many spouses who were oblivious to what was out there. They had no idea they could call EAP and many others have never heard of Work Life. Surely that has a lot to do with their spouse not sharing this information with them (for whatever reason), but my biggest gripe is that people aren’t resourceful. I know these spouses are intelligent, but they need some more initiative. Then there are those that are gung ho about writing to the media and First Lady even to get attention to their issue. As much as we may not like how things should be done, there are better and more appropriate ways to find resolutions.

Time and again I hear and read people talking about how their spouse’s job is like any other job. We separate his/her work from our family life., or even, I don’t even have his work number. Alright, let’s think about this. The military is not your average job. This is a lifestyle. You need to be informed. That’s not saying you have to go to every military affair and change of command to rub elbows with the higher ups or subordinates. That’s not even saying you need to know everything your spouse does in the scope of their employment. Still, get the phone number. You don’t have to call him/her at work, but what if there is an emergency and that cell phone doesn’t work? You need to reach someone and at least a supervisor could relay a message if your spouse is unavailable. To me, this is just common sense. Alright, I’m getting ahead of myself a bit.

What I’m trying to say is that some spouses might want to think about being a tad more in the know. Educate yourself, talk to others or get familiar with the ins and outs of this lifestyle. I once met a wife who had been married for four years and had never seen her husband’s LES. Yikes! It’s your household, I urge you to work together and communicate, if you can’t, it may be a sign of things you need to address. What you don’t know and don’t understand could potentially hurt you. It can also help you. If you see your spouse isn’t contributing to TSP or even the GI Bill, talk to them about the options and find out their reasoning behind it.

As far as the members of your family in this military community, they can be an asset. Reach out, if you need to. Find someone you can trust and who has knowledge. If you find yourself in a position that warrants serious attention, there may be a spouse who’s been in your position and can tell you how to navigate the channels to find a remedy. Ombudsmen are trained to address any variety of serious issues that could affect family members and spouses. Anonymous assistance is also available to you as is CG Legal Assistance.

Be smart about how you handle things but know that you are not alone. Even if you find yourself in an odd situation that is like none other you’ve ever heard, chances are someone else has been there before. Join a military community online if you want. You can be fairly anonymous. Chaplains are another resource as is your state’s legal assistance for guidance on any variety of matters. Beware though because military justice is not something many civilian lawyers are familiar with; however, there are many who are well versed in military and maritime law.

My point, I swear there is just one amidst all this rambling: reach out. Reach out and be helpful to your fellow spouses or reach out when you are in need. Taking care of each other: that’s what family is all about anyway, isn’t it? Don’t be the one that cries wolf though. Be truthful and honest (even if nothing else in the world seems right) and good things and help will come to you.


Amber said...

I absolutely agree with everything you've written. I am living proof of learning from the more experienced wives/members.

The thing is this...if you never ask for help, you can't cry when no one helps you. There are too many resources available to us, and no one expects every military member, spouse, etc to keep track of everything all the time, BUT asking for direction is an easy thing to do. That is, once you push pride out of the way.

...and who knows? Your willingness to show vulnerability, concern, stress, or overwhelm might help another person in your shoes.

We are one big family, after all. ;)

Peter A. Stinson said...

One of the things that I have come to realize lately, in addition to all the great points you raise, is that spouses of reservists are at a double disadvantage, particularly when the member is recalled to active duty.

I wonder if we couldn't build a website to help spouses navigate the various support elements and stuff they ought to know.

Perhaps we could built is on the CGBlog wiki site... thoughts?

Just a Girl in a Port said...

Peter we have been mulling over that very thing here. In fact, I'm friends with a number of reservist families and this has been a big concern for me. They are so far removed that the community we use so often is foreign to them.

Amber and I are in the works on various things already and the reserve component is one area I intend on addressing and providing resources for. However, do you feel that the a reserve website should be separate? My intention was to devote a few pages for this population. Thoughts?

Peter A. Stinson said...

Perhaps one page or two specifically for reservists, but generally, most of the stuff ought to be the same, particularly when the member is serving on some form of active duty. And, it's those times when the member is serving on active duty that seem to be the most trying.

I think of the domestic violence thing we've been covering, and I think that if the spouse had been more hooked in, it wouldn't have gotten as bad as it did... at least with regard to the issue of support. She and her daughter have gone a full year or two without receiving any support from the member...

I offer up the CGBlog wiki site as a place to start building the resource list, etc.