The Blue Star Families 2017 Military Family Lifestyle Survey results were recently published. If you missed our release events, here’s what you can do to support.
You may recall Blue Star Families’ (BSF) call to action in late April asking you to take a 30-minute survey. On the evening of November 15th, the BSF team, along with supporting sponsors, partners, and admired guests gathered at the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, D.C. for the first of two release events around your responses shared in this year’s Blue Star Families 2017 Military Family Lifestyle Survey.
BSFs’ annual Military Family Lifestyle Survey (aMFLS) provides a comprehensive understanding of the experiences and challenges encountered by military families to help inform national leaders, local communities, and philanthropic actors. Most critically, the survey allows for increased dialogue between the military community and broader American society in order to minimize the civilian-military divide.
The event’s emcee, CNN Senior Washington Correspondent and new military spouse Brianna Keilar, addressed her experiences around this civilian-military divide during her remarks.
“Being a new military spouse, I am very aware of the civilian-military divide… Before, I did not know what military families endure. I didn’t know the worries they have until they were also my worries. I didn’t understand the sacrifices that they made, the frustration that they have until those sacrifices and frustrations were mine as well. And I also didn’t know the joys of being part of a military family.”
The modern American military family
The desires of men and women in uniform and their spouses are no different than the needs of any American family. Just as a strong defense requires diverse skills, strong military family support requires a comprehensive understanding of the diversity of today’s military families.
This year’s survey results identified three key topics central to improving support: opportunity costs that accompany service; civilian community integration; and diverse experiences of service.
The morning of November 16th, BSF and The Brookings Institution hosted a deep dive discussion on these key topic areas during our “Strengthening military readiness: The role of military families in 21st-century defense” panel. The panel consisted of Anthony Kurta (performing the duties of Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel & Readiness), BSF Senior Advisor for Research & Policy Cristin Orr Shiffer, and the Director of Applied Research and Analytics for the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University, Rosalinda Vasquez Maury.
“The strength of our military is drawn from the strength of our military families.”
Being a member of a military family can be a roller coaster. Some experiences are exciting, such as having the opportunity to live in faraway places, meet new and interesting people, and explore new cultures. But as the 16th consecutive year of war comes to a close, military families are increasingly concerned about the continued sacrifices that accompany this prolonged period of conflict, including:
- the impact of deployments and family separations;
- challenges around employment and childcare; and
- concerns around dependent children.
Military families are also looking for increased opportunities to improve local community integration and local support networks so they can feel a part of the civilian communities in which they live.
“Our force is getting smaller and the demands are getting larger.”
“How horrible is that feeling? Being disconnected from the community you live in? We need to fix that.”
What can we do?
Certainly, the Department of Defense has its fair share of responsibility in supporting service members and their families; however, there are many easy and identifiable solutions all around us which any of us can do. The first step is simply an updated understanding of military families and the support they need which can be better understood by reading this year’s comprehensive report, available for download here.
“The Blue Star Families annual survey is a call to action for everyone.”
Here are three other ways we can move the needle on some of these issues:
- Become a Blue Star Neighbor and support military families through local friendships and communication already in your neighborhood (or, if you are a military family, reach out and recognize your amazing neighbors).
- If you are a civilian business owner, seek out military spouses, veterans, transitioning service members and recognize the value of their experiences when they are applying for employment.
- Let local, state, and national leaders know of the challenges and barriers to needs of your local military community by sharing your or someone you knows experiences.
“Community is a solution to many of these issues.”
By working together to address the challenges facing American military families, our country will be stronger. How have you supported your military community today?