â€œIt takes a villageâ€¦â€ is an old African proverb that mirrors exactly what life in the military is like. It might seem dramatic to say so, but having a village, a community of support is essential to enduring life in the military. A lifeline, if you will, to sustaining our emotional and mental health and even physical well-being. For me, it is one of the highest priorities when I move to a new duty station. I want to be sure that in the absence of family, I have a support system that not only can be of help with my children but can also be there for me and I for them.
I entered this life in 2013. At 28 and 27, Norman and I were an older â€œnewâ€ military couple. With us were our two young children who werenâ€™t even out of diapers yet. Our first orders were across the country and the sea to an island in the Pacific. I hadnâ€™t even been west of Minnesota and here I was about to make a home on a tropical island. I didnâ€™t know what to expect; I was happy for our new adventure, donâ€™t get me wrong. But I also was nervous, fearful that I would struggle with making friends. My husband, Norman, wasnâ€™t an officer, and so most of the families in his rank were significantly younger than us. We also both had college degrees and had lived a decent portion of adult life outside of the military. So I was nervous that I wouldnâ€™t have anything in common with anyone.
One of the things that helped calm my nerves was an online forum dedicated to military spouses
After Norman had gone off to basic training, I received a link to an online resource for new military spouses. The name of the site escapes me now (but you should most differently check out MilSpouse Conversations community and connect with us NOW!!), but it is where I â€œmetâ€ a lot of other spouses, all new to this life. There were areas for discussions about children and childcare, special needs services, spousal benefits, and anything and everything about potential duty stations. It was there where the foundation for my military village was laid. One day, a woman who happened to live just 15 minutes from me reached out to me. Our husbands were in the same training! We learned we had grown up close to each other and while she was a couple years my junior, we both had children around the same age. Sometime later, I met another woman whose husband was about my age. We shared a lot of the same interests, excitement, and trepidation. We also had children around the same age. And once we found out we were going to be heading to the same military installation, we knew this was a friendship we had to make work.
It was in Hawaii where my greatest friendships within the military were made
Neighborhoods were filled with families, many like mine, and we all relied upon each other for childcare, resources, support, and guidance. There was always something to do on post, whether it was an activity at the library or a grand carnival in the field to celebrate the Fourth. Schools were within walking distance and many of us often walked together to drop off and pick up kids. The gym and pool were within walking distance too where many a pool day was shared with friends. In a place that is designed to foster and uplift the soldier, they rarely dismissed how important their home life was to their development. Spouses and families were celebrated and treated as though they were seen. And on this small island in the middle of the Pacific, I had found a home.
A few weeks back, I extended a hand of friendship to a military spouse new to this duty station and whom I met through the magic of social media
A few weeks back, I extended a hand of friendship to a military spouse new to this duty station and whom I met through the magic of social media. Her familyâ€™s situation mirrored how ours looked just a few years back. They too were new to a place foreign to them, finding themselves looking for schools for their children and a home of which to call their own. As I spoke to my new friend, I learned that she, like many of us spouses, had prioritized finding her community, a support system that she could rely upon in moments of both celebration and crisis. I shared with her the resources that have helped my family, the secrets of school choice for the military, and the shortcuts and backroads to avoid all the crazy traffic. We went to 90s Con together, the first of many girls’ days out that will shape her experience in her new home. I introduced her to another spouse who will be here long after I move away and who I hope can become part of her community.
Creating a community, a village, is paramount to the well-being of every military spouse
Military life is hard, and many cannot withstand it for very long. Creating a community, a village is paramount to the well-being of every military spouse. It ensures a support system composed of individuals dedicated to taking care of each other, looking after one another, and at least one other person, who gets us, to fellowship with.
- A good community makes an otherwise crappy assignment so much more enjoyable.
- A good community comes and keeps you company during your spouseâ€™s first night away.
- A good community gathers for Thanksgiving when families are kept away by an oceanâ€™s length.
- A good community comes together to put hurricane shutters on each othersâ€™ houses before a big one is about to hit.
- A good community takes your kids for the night while youâ€™re sick and your spouse is away so that you can maybe get a good nightâ€™s rest and get to a doctor.
- A good community is a lifeline in a world where it can be very easy to be alone.
Prioritize finding yours.
For more on how I have made and maintained my military friendships, check out this post.
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