I have spoken to more military spouses in the past six months than I think I have in my lifetime up to this point – and that’s a good thing.
As I reach the halfway point of my time as the 2013 AFI Coast Guard Spouse of the Year, what comes to mind is those personal stories people have shared, and the generosity of spirit they have shown in allowing me to understand and learn from their experiences in military life.
My platform is connecting military spouses through communication, and ensuring that no spouse feels isolated. I think all of us have experienced the loneliness of military life, and we know that it can be devastating. My goal at the outset was to find a way to hear from as many spouses as possible, no matter the branch, to understand you and to provide help when you need it.
Something I am most proud of is my column, From the Homefront which I write every other week about Coast Guard family life. We have tackled some tough topics, like the top 10 issues that worry Coastie families, which led to a response interview with Linda Kapral Papp, Coast Guard ombudsman-at-large and wife of the commandant. We have shown how military IDs have changed the lives of same-sex families. We have also done some fun things like talked about holiday celebrations among Coasties. But the most important thing the column does is show who Coast Guard families are – and we are just like the families from the other military branches. We have the same hopes and concerns as any military family.
During this first six months, I have also become an inaugural advisor in the Military Family Advisory Network. We are a group of military spouses from all branches who have come together as conveners to help military families find the support resources they need in the areas of employment, education and wellness. As a group we went to the White House to attend the Joining Forces Veterans and Military Family Summit. We left reinvigorated and ready to help tackle the challenges military families face. We have some phenomenal projects we are working on for the coming months, so keep an eye on us.
I have continued my research into military family life. Not only have I completed a project on how military spouses communicate about the military, but I am beginning my second year as a research analyst on the Blue Star Families Military Lifestyle Survey. Our Blue Star Families research team presented our results last spring in the U.S. Capitol Building to the Congressional Military Family Caucus. This is a document you can use, too. It’s filled with information and quotes from military families just like yours. Watch for the Blue Star Families survey launch in February – it is a chance for you to share your voice and experiences. We promise we will carry it to the ones who need to hear you.
A great honor for me this year was being appointed by the U.S. senator who serves my area to help choose his candidate for military service academies. I listened to high school students discuss why they want to devote their lives to military service. I came away deeply moved by their ideals and their commitments to make a difference in honor of our country. Whether they were military kids or civilian, they saw our lives and our families’ choices as a life to which they aspire.
I don’t think I’ve gone a day as the Coast Guard SOY in which I haven’t heard from a military spouse in one form or another. I take to heart my goal to make your voices and experiences count. I talked about you all when I gave a Veteran’s Day speech in my community this past fall. I explained how, though we are a deeply resilient, honor-bound group of men and women, one of things we need most is community. I mean that about the actual city I live in, but also in this virtual community we rely on, too.
So I will continue to try link us all, whether it’s through writing about you, researching you, or more importantly, just plain listening to you. You honor me with every word you share, every moment you spend explaining your life to me. So keep talking and keep connecting. You are my community – the ones who inspire me every day.