PC: Amanda Bailey Photography
Military Spouse note: Brianna Keilar is a military spouse and was featured in our February 2018 issue of Military Spouse Magazine!
Washington (CNN) – Meghan Wieten-Scott, an Army spouse of 14 years, recounted her family’s posting to Anchorage, Alaska, as one of the best times in her life.
Like 70% of military families, they lived off base in a civilian community.
She remembered a neighbor offering to watch her son, then a baby, to give her a short reprieve.
“Pass Matthew over,” she recalled her saying. “Go take a shower.”
“It’s amazing what a 15 minute break will do for you,” Wieten-Scott said.
In Anchorage, Wieten-Scott and her husband found connections with a young adult group at a local church as well as with her civilian neighbors.
“They were amazing,” she recalled.
There were dinner invitations and running partners. One neighbor even plowed the snow from her driveway.
But now she and her family are assigned to a base in New Jersey where they have had a very different experience.
“It has been hellacious. I finally have one friend 18 months later who I can call and ask to pick up my child at school,” she says. “One.”
More than a third of military families who participated in Blue Star Families’ tenth annual Military Family Lifestyle Survey said they have no one to ask for a favor. The poll — the largest and most comprehensive of its kind — found that isolation from family and friends has grown as a key stressor, ranked even higher by military families than deployments.
The survey provides a yearly snapshot of the challenges and experiences military families encounter in order to inform local communities, national policymakers and philanthropies. It also aims to minimize the civilian-military divide.
Last year, over 11,000 respondents told Blue Star Families their top stressors were financial issues and relocation stress. As in past surveys, respondents listed their major concerns as time away from family, military spouse employment, education for their children and lack of control over their military career. But the increasing struggle with isolation stood out.
Even as advocates view military family isolation as a drag on military readiness and national security, solutions to this problem are evident.
Employment provides a social connection to military spouses as much as a much needed second income.
But as the nation enjoys a 3.6% unemployment rate, 24% of military spouses are unemployed and as many as 32% may be underemployed, according to the most recent statistics from the Defense Department’s Office of People Analytics.
Leticia Limbo works at a Starbucks near her husband’s current duty station close to San Diego, after transferring from another location of the coffee giant at his last posting, Port Hueneme, farther up the California coast.She wears an apron that says “Navy Spouse” on it.
“I wear that apron with so much pride because it’s a conversation starter,” she says. Civilians would go out of their way to talk to her, she says, and it’s an open invitation for other military spouses to make a connection with her.
Brittney Allen, an Army spouse of 13 years who left the military herself in 2007 to pursue social work, has experienced gaps in her employment, encountering agencies that don’t want to hire a military spouse who could be on the move in a couple years.
“I love to work. I truly love to work. I like to have my work friends and a sense of purpose,” she said, insisting that employers should see opportunity in hiring military spouses.
Read the full article here