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Unspoken Heroes of our Military Families

“Change is the one constant in military life.”

Many people, even if they haven’t experienced it themselves, are familiar with the daily hardships our military servicemembers face. No matter what branch they are part of, civilians acknowledge and support both active and retired military members’ dedication and sacrifices for our country.

However, many people don’t realize that the families of servicemembers face just as many hardships. They are routinely left alone during deployments, they have to constantly move and start over careers and friendships each time their loved one is reassigned to a new base, and they end up sacrificing just as much as those in uniforms.

Last month, we highlighted military children and the lessons they’ve learned from growing up with the military as a prominent fixture in their lives. This month, we are hoping to bring awareness to the strength and courage military spouses must exude to overcome the challenges of being part of a military family.

With the help of articles, blogs, and first-hand experience from military families, we have composed a list of challenges that many servicemember’s spouses may face during their partner’s time in service. Many of the hardships we’ve chosen to highlight are a constant in a military spouse’s life, illustrating just how tenacious and resilient they are.

In most cases, the life of a servicemember’s spouse will be turned upside down every few years, so the ability to “roll with the punches,” be flexible, and adapt to constant change is a necessity.

That being said, here are some of the challenges military spouses face:

Employment:

This is a significant one.

Imagine having to find a new job every few years (as military families move every 2-3 years on average). That means having to update and submit a resume, going through numerous interviews, and landing a job. Once you’ve finally secured a job and have begun to make headway at the company, your spouse informs you they have to move across the country and the cycle begins anew. That is a lot of change and instability in your career – should you even choose to have one. One military spouse we got the opportunity to speak with said that in the 23 years her husband was in the military they moved 17 times!

If constant relocating wasn’t hard enough, the COVID-19 pandemic has also wreaked havoc on the job market. Hiring Our Heroes recently conducted a Military Spouse Employment Summit that outlined the positive and negative effects the novel coronavirus has had on military spouses’ employment and what the future holds for employment in general.

It was stated that due to COVID-19, 38% of military spouses are currently unemployed with 43% of that group having lost their job as a direct result of the pandemic. With an increasing rate of unemployment, this raised the question of what can be done to help this community recover.

One positive impact of the pandemic is that many corporations were forced to work remotely. This afforded companies the unique opportunity of experiencing the benefits of working virtually for the first time. Many have even decided to maintain certain aspects of the remote workplace permanently in their future hiring efforts. These remote positions will allow military spouses the flexibility of taking their work with them wherever their family is stationed while also providing peace of mind knowing they will not have to choose between their spouse and a rewarding career.

There are many steps being taken to help military spouses get jobs at both corporate and legislative levels. Perhaps one of the biggest advances is the development of multiple fellowship programs available across various industries. Not only are these fellowships a great way for military spouses to develop skills, but they also provide a great platform to show hiring managers the talents they have acquired.

 

Childcare:

As many know, when a military servicemember leaves for their deployments, trainings, or missions, they not only leave their spouse, but also their children. This results in their spouse having to take on the full responsibility of keeping the household in order and running smoothly – though this will also depend on how much they can lean on their family’s support system for help. Regardless, this can place a significant strain on that individual, especially if they have a fulltime job.

There are many different options for military families depending on the type of childcare they require. However, in selecting a suitable facility, families must take into consideration the affordability, availability, and quality of care provided. That being said, few families have the luxury of finding their ideal childcare service due to limited finance, locations, or odd work hours.

 

Holding Strong:

Though this has already been mentioned in passing, there is a substantial amount of pressure put on a servicemember’s spouse during deployments. They not only have to keep everything in order at home and at their jobs, but they also have to continue on with their lives, even if they don’t always feel like it.

Deployments, or being away from home for multiple extended periods in general, can put a lot of stress on both sides of a relationship. The servicemember is away focusing on their mission or training, but is also constantly missing their loved ones back home. Meanwhile, their spouse is at home continually worrying about their loved one, sometimes wondering if they will even come home, but must carry on with their life like nothing has changed. Constantly having to worry if a servicemember will return home, not only alive but unchanged – both mentally and physically, from their experiences is a constant worry among military spouses.

Once the servicemember returns, in many instances, the spouse is the one helping to re-integrate their partner back into the household and civilian life. With military spouses who have servicemembers that return home with PTSD or physical injuries, there can be additional strains on the relationship until a suitable treatment plan is found, and all their spouse can do is be patient and support their loved one as they relearn how to navigate the world.

 

Giving Up Opportunities:

The spouse of a senior level Army veteran once said: “You can never rely on staying in one spot for the rest of your servicemembers career.” Moving is part of the job, and if you decide to be part of a military family, moving is more than likely what you will be doing – and you’ll be doing it a lot.

Many spouses have to leave jobs they absolutely loved because their company doesn’t allow remote work opportunities. Others end up leaving family and friends they have known their whole lives because they must move to the other side of the country with their military spouses. This can be emotionally taxing as many individuals lose their support systems with each move, whether that support was from a job, family, or friends made at your last duty station.

The military lifestyle is one of constant change and many spouses sacrifice a lot in order to see their servicemembers’ career flourish. Whether you are in a dual military relationship or a single military relationship, one of you will inevitably have to give up an opportunity so the other can progress in their career.

 

These are only a few of the hardships that military spouses face daily. By improving awareness of these daily challenges, we can begin to make strides towards helping the individuals who face them. We can work to decrease the unemployment rate of military spouses, to create additional support groups and networks for military spouses and families, and so much more.

For those that are interested in giving back to our servicemembers, please do not forget about the spouses and family members that are also sacrificing as well.

 

Fellowships:

Dog Tag Inc. Fellowship

Hire Our Heroes Fellowship

USSA Fellowship

Prudential Fellowship

 

References:

https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_briefs/RB9056.html

https://www.secnav.navy.mil/donhr/How-To-Apply/Military-Spouses/Pages/Default.aspx

https://www.militaryonesource.mil/family-relationships/spouse/military-life-for-spouses/managing-your-emotions-when-your-spouse-is-deployed/

https://www.nap.edu/read/25380/chapter/6#135

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