By: Michelle Brito, Military Spouse and JPMorgan Chase Military and Veterans Affairs Executive Advisory Council Member stationed in Fort Polk, Louisiana
I grew up in the military. My father made a career of the Air Force and when I met my then future husband in college, he was in ROTC and proceeded to join the Army after graduation.
We’ll be married 30 years this spring and coincidentally, honoring 30 years in the military as well.
While it hasn’t always been an easy life in any traditional sense, being a military family is a unique and rewarding experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything.
Like many military families, moving around is a constant. We’ve lived in 15 different places in 30 years, which is not without its challenges. My husband and I are currently stationed in Louisiana and are hoping to settle in for at least a little while and get to experience the Cajun and Creole cultures of the Mardi Gras state.
As a military family, it’s hard to keep up with extended family; to find and maintain jobs for military spouses like me, and difficult for children like our two sons to make long-lasting friendships. For others still, financial hardship and educational advancement become critical issues. Many who have served have missed some of life’s most special moments – the births of their children, holidays, birthdays and graduation celebrations, to name a few.
And while our loved ones are sometimes off in a foreign land, we military spouses and our children spend those holidays and at times every day waiting for the next phone call.
In the absence of relatives, the military families support one another: bringing cookies to welcome a new neighbor, filling in for a deployed husband when his wife goes into labor, comforting a family when they learn that their loved one won’t be making it home. It’s an incredible support network that we’ve informally built to fill in the gaps; support that others who live near family may take for granted.
Despite the challenges of spending my whole life in a military family, I have benefitted from the unique experience of having lived on three different continents. I watched the Berlin Wall come down and witnessed history in the making. My sons have had the privilege to travel and to learn at an early age one of life’s most important lessons – that there are many different cultures in the world and that we are stronger as a people because of our diversity.
Our military service members are the personification of patriotism. They care about their country and they want to protect the freedoms and liberties we have in these great United States. Not many soldiers want to go to war, but they care deeply about our democracy. They have chosen to serve their country, knowing that it could one day mean putting their own lives on the line.
As military families, we sacrifice personal moments in order to defend something much larger than ourselves. Our loved ones are often away and we support them as they protect our nation and the freedoms that we all enjoy.
That’s why I work with organizations and companies that are extending a helping hand to service members and veterans and their families. From helping to hire veterans and military spouses, to providing capital for veterans starting small businesses, subsidized or free educational opportunities and even mortgage-free housing for severely wounded veterans and their families, there are many out there who are generously extending their resources to assist the military community.
I love my soldier with all of my heart. On this Valentine’s Day and throughout the year, I call on you to embrace the servicemember or veteran in your life. Whether it’s a loved one, a friend, a neighbor or a colleague at work, behind that seemingly average person is an extraordinary human being who has seen places and people and circumstances that we can only imagine, and who is committed to something much larger than themselves. We owe it to them to show some love and support the resources that aid their success in civilian life.