Is it September already? Lots of our friends have celebrated a spouse coming home from a 365 this summer or they’re in Month One (or Two) of the other end of that celebration. These are the moments that make up a military life. When people ask me about my life-and what advocacy work like mine means in the military spouse community-I can look back and see the moments that were turning points.
Learning By Doing
My advocacy started at Bethesda National Naval Medical Center. Until then, my wife and I had led a relatively charmed life: successful careers, lovely little Cape Cod house, first child on the way. Then Kate was born with significant medical issues (an APGAR of 3 was our first clue) and our lives changed.
In the NICU, we discovered the importance of advocating for our child. We learned a new language, suddenly talking about “Brady’s,” “attendings vs. residents” and “DNRs.” We learned that doctors know a lot, but parents are always the best (and sometimes the only) advo- cates for our children.
Our little family spent the next five or six years simply surviving. Therapy, surgery, PCS’s, deployments and training consumed our lives. We experienced the good, bad, and the ugly, not realizing those experiences were setting us up to advocate for others.
Your experiences may be preparing you to help others in ways you’ve yet to realize. If advocacy is in your future, I want to share some ideas that apply whether we’re talking about effecting change through a base’s Key Spouse program or FRG leadership, or improving the community as ombudsmen, PTA members or even as coach of your kid’s baseball team.
Let’s call these ideas, “Jeremy’s 6 Advocacy Rules of the Road.”
For the record, I don’t always follow my own rules… see rule No. 1:
1. Don’t Be a Lunatic
Professional, thoughtful, and concise is the order of the day. There’s a
time and place for escalation, but it should not be the first step. The media has its place, but for military spouses it’s almost never an option.
2. Know Your Party
If the people who are affected by a decision or policy change aren’t at the table, you’re doing something wrong. Making decisions without them inevitably ends in failure.
3. Take Everyone As They Are
We all have different skill sets. Appreciate everyone for what they’re doing, not for what you want them to do.
4. Sometimes Life is Simply Too Busy
If your advocacy involves just your own family, it’s fine if that’s all you can do right now. Others are at a different point right now, able to advocate outside their immediate family. Both sides should respect the other’s situation. We’ll all move in and out
of our capability levels over time.
5. Shine Some Light
When you meet a fellow military spouse who wants to learn or expand their repertoire, help them learn the ropes. You don’t need to do it all, nor should you. Allow the light to shine on other deserving spouses, too.
6. Senior Spouses Have Lots to Offer
So do junior spouses. (Please don’t ask me when one becomes a “senior spouse.”) Both can learn from each other, so always listen.