The military lifestyle may be full of adventure, but it may also be stressful and hectic. For overall wellness and emotional health, it’s important to take some time to relax and recharge.
Everyone has their preferred method of respite, whether it be laughing with friends, creating family memories or finding time for your favorite hobby. There is one very special organization in Washington DC that is dedicated to helping military spouses do just that: the USO Metro.
Whether a spouse has just PCS’d and is in search of new friends, is a parent looking for a break and some sanity, or is navigating the journey as a caregiver, the USO Metro has developed programs designed to bring military spouses together to foster friendships and to provide a unique environment of support.
One of their favorite services is called Me Time. This is a craft therapy time where spouses can just relax and enjoy one another’s company. After all, some quiet adult talk can go a long way for a stressed out parent or a new spouse. The hope is that holding these events quite frequently encourages spouses that are new to the post to come out and meet new friends. During Me Time, “military spouses are invited for a morning of friendship and learning featuring topics such as staying active, crafts, relationships and area attractions,” shares Elaine Rogers, President and CEO of USO-Metro.
Inclusivity is tantamount to USO Metro. Shawn Sabia, a male military spouse who runs the USO-Metro Center at Fort George G. Meade, speaks highly about the once a month military spouse breakfast. “There aren’t a great deal of events just for spouses. There are tons for kids and tons for single soldiers, but there’s not a lot for just spouses. So we wanted to dedicate something just for them.”
The USO Metro also has programs designed to cater to the entire family. For example, the Family Programs BBQ brings soldiers, spouses and kids together for a day of fun. “It’s just having a good time–providing them with some fun and entertainment to enjoy together,” says Shawn.
Part of the reason Shawn is so passionate about the many events he and the USO Metro coordinate is because he understands it on a personal level. “A lot of us are connected to the military in one way or another, myself included. I’ve been a military spouse for 10 years. My wife is in the Navy and I’ve seen both sides of it. I’ve deployed– I was never in the military– but I’ve deployed as a civilian. So I can unequivocally say that the hardest part is being the one at home. It is the worst thing to be stuck at home by yourself. I know how tough it is. So when I come up with programs I keep them in mind.”
Perhaps nowhere else is this more evident than in their popular Belvoir Babies events. In this, the USO-Metro brings soon-to-be mothers together from their area and throws them a baby shower to show them that they are not alone, even though they are far from home. “Being stationed far from family can make this exciting time a bit scary, and we are hoping to provide expectant mothers with a supportive community, camaraderie and assistance in caring for a newborn child through celebration, gifts and TONS of fun! Operation Belvoir Babies invites 30 mothers-to-be (15 active duty and 15 dependents) to enjoy traditional baby shower games, fun baby-themed crafts and an information showcase of area resources and programs. After a delicious lunch and exciting prize ceremony, each mother-to-be receives a gift basket containing homemade blankets, baby clothes, toys and other assorted items needed for the baby’s arrival,” shares Elaine Rogers.
USO-Metro offers other programs that aren’t necessarily social events, but have been developed to provide valuable resources to military families. One program, called Holding Down the Homefront, teaches spouses skills for success: resume building, interview skills and accounting. “Holding Down the Homefront events were established to make families aware of the community resources, programs and activities available to them through the USO. They aim to relieve financial stress, create opportunities and build networks for spouses while serving as a forum to share ideas, provide social opportunities to boost morale and improve the overall appreciation for their communities, both on and off the installation,” shares Elaine Rogers, President and CEO of USO-Metro.
While these programs are specific to the USO Metro, your local USO may carry similar programs designed just for you. So if you are looking to get connected in a new post or maybe you just would like a new to-do, go to your local USO and see what programs they may have to bring you closer with military spouses in your area. PCS is temporary, but bonds can last a lifetime.
Food for Thought
Every third Thursday of the month Fort Meade offers a Supermarket Sweep. Provided by the Maryland Food Bank and a grant from USAA, food products such as canned goods and fresh produce are brought in and donated to military families. “The program starts at 11:00 am but they line up at nine and the line is as far as you can see. It is so popular,” shares Shawn.