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Beyond The Bumper Sticker: 10 Ways Americans Can Support the Military Family

Erin Whitehead
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tagged: support, coping
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Yesterday, many Americans paused to honor those who have served and continue serving in our nation’s military. Flags were flown and prayers were said in civilian homes and backyards around the country.

But because of the nature of our lives, the military spouse community has a special understanding of the meaning behind Memorial Day. For us, it is not simply another day off work, a chance to BBQ, or the opportunity to save big bucks on a mattress or new car. It is about honoring those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country… a sacrifice that can keep us awake at night with worry. 

Sometimes, it feels as though the “civilian” community just does not get what the holiday is really about, which can feel frustrating and make us feel like we are in this alone. But the reality is that many Americans do understand the true meaning of Memorial Day. They do want to support our troops and understand, on some level, the hardships that they and their families have endured over the past 10 years of war. 

But unless they’ve actually served or been a member of a military family, it’s really hard to truly “get it.”  They want to do something to make sure our troops and families know how much they are appreciated… but how do they help when they don’t know what is needed?

It’s a two-way street. We have to be willing to share in what areas we can use support. We asked our social media community to share what things they think Americans could do to help out or simply show their appreciation for the sacrifices of service members and their families. We hope you will share this list with those civilians who want to show their support…because there really are a lot of them out there.

10 Ways Americans Can Support the Military Family

10) Take the time to learn what our life is really like.

There are many misconceptions about our lifestyle. The list is a mile long. Some of the most frustrating are that our spouses can return home for important events (holidays, births, all family emergencies), that once they return from deployment everything goes back to normal, and that we make a lot of money. But unless you know a family and can ask for their perspective, how do you learn more? There is no shortage of blogs written by military spouses, and they’re easy to find with a simple Google search. There are also many organizations that service military families—again, very easy to find online.  And of course, you can visit www.baseguide.com to read our articles, follow us on social media, or subscribe to the magazine.

9) Leave politics out of it.

Our troops serve and put their lives on the line, despite their own personal political beliefs. Support for them should be the same. And please, when you learn that someone is military, or married to a service man or woman… don’t ask us what we think of the war. Don’t ask us who we’re voting for in the upcoming election. And please don’t give us your personal opinion on either topic.  Please remember that the President, like him or not, is our spouses’ boss. Hearing an opinion that the wars have been a huge waste of money and lives can really anger a spouse. I’m not saying you shouldn’t have your own personal beliefs on these topics, but unless we are already very close friends or family, we would just rather not talk about it with you.

8) Hire Us

According to The Department of Labor, military spouse unemployment rates are 26%, way above the national average. Many times spouses follow their service member to a duty station where they are either over or under qualified for most available employment. They often do not have the same network of contacts that may help a native of the area find a job, and often times when an employer finds out someone is a military spouse, they are reluctant to hire them. We get it. Who wants to hire someone who will only be here for 2 or 3 years? The thing is, you may only have a military spouse working at your business for a few years… but the skills and life experience we bring to the table are often times outstanding. We have learned to be flexible and make the best of complicated situations, we can handle tasks on our own, and we are used to working with people from all walks of life… just to name a few.  Employing the spouse of a service member isn’t just for the benefit of the spouse. Easing the financial burden for a military family reduces the stress for the person serving… making it easier for them to focus on their job. And when our service member retires, or transitions out of the military, hire them too. Military service instills a sense of loyalty, a hard work ethic, and strength of character. Veterans have proven time and time again to be very valuable employees.

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