November 30, 2018
“My first child was born with a life-threatening hole in her heart,” said Kathy Roth-Douquet, veteran spouse and Blue Star Families CEO. “As I was looking for doctors and arranging her imminent surgery, my husband was coordinating our move to Okinawa. When she was two months, she had open-heart surgery in Boston. By the time she was three months, my husband had already moved to Japan. I was a new mother with a very sick infant moving to a new country. I was leaving behind family and friends. I had lost my job and my career. I was overwhelmed. I was scared.”
To civilians, this story is shocking. To military folks, it’s familiar.
We casually swap stories like Kathy’s at a new friends’ house over coffee or privately in a milspouse Facebook group. We laugh, roll our eyes, and nod… because, seriously, we all have a story to tell.
Stories are badges of honor. We wear them loud and proud… but just because we can laugh about it now, doesn’t mean it wasn’t hard.
Our stories make us stronger, resilient, or whatever the buzzword is, but truthfully, many military spouses suffer in silence. Kathy saw it and her friends did, too. Concerned, they banned together and did something about it. Within weeks, they formed Blue Star Families to help mitigate isolation and lend support.
Ten years later, with help from the annual Military Families Lifestyle Survey, Kathy and her team have spotlighted several military life challenges and have used Blue Star Families as a platform for change.
One of Blue Star Families’ primary concerns is decreasing the military and civilian divide. Through our research, we’ve found a national disconnect. Most Americans do not serve and so they don’t know what military life is really like.
Larger society still envisions a military made for the Cold War; one where 75 percent of service members are young, single males living on base. That’s not the case anymore. The average service member today is older, married, and has kids. They mostly live off-base, deploy often, and move their families every two to four years.
But most civilians don’t know this. They don’t realize military families move into their neighborhoods with zero support and scarce job prospects for military spouses. Most concerning, though, is that 53 percent of military families want opportunities to build local relationships… but don’t feel they belong.
Luckily, some companies recognize the issue and have raised their hand to help. One of them is CSX, our friend in the transportation industry. CSX is showing their support by helping Blue Star Families build CSX Blue Star Communities across the country, where we co-exist to give milfams more significant opportunities to integrate and engage in their local communities. Together, we envision a standard where civilian neighbors do more than just wave; they become our mentors, employers, volunteers, and friends.
Partnering with companies like CSX is a game changer for military families because they’re helping us connect and receive more support than ever before, which means friendship and people who really care – no matter where we go.
If Kathy would have had this type of local support when caring for a newborn with a hole in her heart,her story may have looked different. So, here at Blue Star Families, we’re changing the game and narrative so you never feel alone again.
Join Blue Star Families and learn how you can connect to a CSX Blue Star Community coming to your area soon.