When each of us began our role as military spouse, some of us might have had a vision of what our purpose would be, and others might not have had the slightest idea.
Not being active duty ourselves, how would we fit into this new world? How would we strike a balance between the military culture and civilian culture? Would there be a balance at all? Would the military life be something that’s checked at the door – just a job, not a mindset?
What sort of relationship would we have with the military?
Our expectations more than likely evolved as we became more experienced. Eventually (hopefully), we developed a sense of our individual roles in the military’s midst, a place and purpose where we felt most comfortable.
As I prepared for this article, I read and thought a lot, reflecting on the many different kinds of relationships I’ve seen military spouses strike with the military.
None have fascinated me quite so much as those who seem to approach their role as if they are called to serve.
What Does “Called to Serve” Mean?
You might say that those who are called to serve see the world around them with unusually keen eyes. They sense need more deeply and feel a strong compulsion to take action.
And when they take action, they sincerely believe they are fulfilling an important purpose. They are solving a problem that affects people not only in the present, but in the future, too. They look at the “big picture,” decide if they are satisfied, and act with a sense of mission.
Being called to serve can be done through small or large means, with spiritual or practical aims. Regardless, those who feel called answer with dedication, determination and a sincere desire to make life better for others.
How Do Military Spouses Serve?
Probably the most obvious way that military spouses serve is through organized volunteer work.
In fact, according to the 2017 Blue Star Families Military Lifestyle Survey, 71% of military families volunteer, which is three times the rate of civilian families.
Evidence of this is all over military installations, as military spouse volunteers are behind the counters at hospitals, community centers and thrift shops. They are engaged in youth programs, holiday events and care package-stuffing parties for deployed service members. These military spouses dedicate themselves to the morale and well-being of veterans, active duty members and families. Many of them make it their life’s work to volunteer for the military community.
2. Just Being There
Many answer the call to serve their community informally, simply by being present for fellow spouses in times of need. When another family experiences an extreme trauma or loss, military spouses rally together to provide support. Without delay, they serve families in need by organizing a network of people to provide food, transportation, childcare and emotional support. Still others serve each other in smaller ways, with simple but sincere signs of fellowship, welcome and compassion.
A sense of vocation is apparent in the way many military spouses balance their service members’ roles by purposefully maintaining a sense of normalcy in their homes.
In fact, several months ago, while researching for another article, I read a study conducted by Jacey Eckhart, who found that in many military marriages, military spouses deliberately created a home life of structure and calm. This environment became “the bedrock” of the family, something they could rely on and expect in an otherwise chaotic and unpredictable life.
In this framework, you might say that the role of the military spouse embodies the essence of being called to serve. They are dedicated and determined. By recognizing their families’ need for stability, they answer their families’ call, and find the way to cast the anchor.
Finally, many military spouses take action to fill voids in their communities, in effort to make life better for all. As some of the most resourceful people you’ve ever met, military spouses identify needs, design strategies, pool resources and put their plans into action.
- Nonprofits like the Military Spouse Advocacy Network and InDependent were founded because military spouses saw a need, devised a plan and set it in motion.
- Organizations like Milspousepreneur, Macho Spouse, Operation Deploy Your Dress and Hire Mad Skills were started because military spouses heard their communities’ calls for more. They figured out a way and set to work.
- Books like Sacred Spaces, Mommy Retailing, Finding Joy and more were written because military spouses learned something valuable and wanted to share their story with others.
- Numerous other spouses write blogs, speak on podcasts and contribute to online content because they have something important, uncommon, helpful or just plain uplifting to share with the rest.
- This very brand, Military Spouse, is an outgrowth of a military spouse’s response to her community’s call.
Yes, We Can.
Military spouses might view their role in a number of ways. Not every spouse will look at his or her role as a calling to serve, as a vocation, and that’s okay.
But when I see the remarkable imprints we make on each other’s hearts and the imprints we’ve made on the history books, I realize that, yes – yes – we can be called to serve.
We might not see a poster with Uncle Sam, but perhaps we’ll hear a rumble beneath the surface steadily gain power.
And perhaps we’ll say, “I’ll go.”