“Time Away”: The Not-So-Secret Battle on the Home Front

April 5, 2019

Life as a military family is downright unpredictable. One minute, you get a little inkling that you should just go ahead and make those plans for a few months into the future. And the next minute, your service member spouse comes home from work, asks you to sit down much to your dismay because he or she has something to tell you, and then, voilá.

Those plans you made? Well, they vanished into thin air because duty calls and the military needs your person back for either a training or long deployment. It’s truly an up and down roller coaster ride, and we’re often forced to spend more time away from one another than time together.

But, we’re not alone in this. After all, our civilian friends understand because their spouse frequently “travels for work” too, right?

I wish. Unfortunately, the two aren’t exactly synonymous—especially when our service member is living somewhere dangerous for six, nine, or even twelve months. Combat zones and a week-long business trip to Chicago are two different things.

Maybe that dichotomy is caused in part by something we, as military families, experience once the amount of time has passed between when we last saw our spouse and the day we’ll see them again—aka homecoming day. Such an event is often publicized heavily across the pages of social media and the news. It’s a glorious moment of relief, anxiousness, and happiness all rolled into one.

What many civilians watching don’t get to see, however?

The in-between moments such as sleepless nights. Communication issues and not being able to get ahold of your spouse while your mind starts running through a list of reasons why. Murphy’s Law rearing its ugly head. Filling care package after care package and trying to embrace the holidays apart. And simply holding down the home front with often sleep-deprived kiddos who miss their hero. Not to mention, the ripple effects when attempting to come back together as a family after months of separation.

It’s these messy and trying moments that come with military family life that civilians don’t often get to see or hear about. And that helps paint a clearer picture as to why on Blue Star Families’ 2018 Military Family Lifestyle Survey (MFLS), the most commonly-cited recommendation for DoD to improve civilian understanding of military service was to have honest messaging about military families’ realities and sacrifices.


respondents perceptions of civilian understanding and appreciation of military service and sacrifice

Source: Blue Star Families. (n.d.). Blue Star Families Military Family Lifestyle Survey: Summary of Trends & Resulting Impact. Retrieved from bluestarfam.org/survey


We want the DoD to be honest about what our lives are really like – the good, the great, the bad, and the ugly. Only then can civilians truly start to grasp what this lifestyle entails.

So, what action is being taken to positively improve in that arena? For starters, Blue Star Families has focused on strengthening civilians’ understanding of military families for ten years. And as a result of findings of low perceived civilian appreciation and support of military families, BSFin collaboration with key partnershosted the inaugural America Joins Forces with Military Families (White Oak) Retreat in 2010.

Since then, White Oak has served as a regularly occurring venue for harnessing the power of collaboration and formulating cross-sector solutions in areas such as military children’s education, mental health, and veteran and military spouse unemployment. And, most importantly, White Oak and the Joining Forces initiative advanced civil-military discourse nationally and had a tangible impact on civilian understanding and appreciation.

But, the work doesn’t end there. We know that the general population’s ability to understand and appreciate the sacrifices our families make is essential. It’s equally, if not more important, however, that our local communities understand how to support us.

Share the Story of Your Military Family

We want to know what it’s like to be a military family in YOUR community. Mark your calendar and get ready to share your storythe good, the great, the bad, and the uglyby taking the 2019 Military Family Lifestyle Survey between May 6th through June 14th, and encourage your military friends to do so, too.

Last but not least, April is the Month of the Military Child! While we honor and celebrate the sacrifices made by MilKids worldwide on a regular basis, this month is even more of a special time for us to further support them. So, if your family is currently experiencing a separation due to a training or deployment, be sure to check out the free resources we have that aim to help #BlueStarKids (MilKids), in particular. Also, tell your MilKid they’re awesome with this certificate!