How You Can Commit to Being a Neighbor Military Families Can Count On

September 26, 2020

By: Constance Milstein

The resiliency of our nation’s service members and their families never ceases to amaze me. I feel close to military families, particularly through my association with Blue Star Families, where I am the Founding Board Member. Blue Star Families, a national nonprofit organization committed to empowering military families, is here to serve as the connector between military families and those of us in the local community.

Summer after summer, hundreds of thousands of military families move to a new duty station, uprooting to an often unfamiliar destination where they have no choice but to find creative ways to integrate themselves into a new neighborhood, new school, and new friendships. As you can imagine, this year, those duties have become even more of a challenge to navigate due to COVID-19 social distancing measures. For that reason, military families need our support—today more than ever.

Why do military families need the support of their communities, especially now?

Since its launch in 2009, Blue Star Families has produced an annual Military Family Lifestyle Survey (MFLS) to raise the nation’s awareness of the unique challenges of military family life. In 2019, more than 11,000 respondents participated in the survey, making it the largest and most comprehensive of its kind.

Military families’ shared stories from the survey illustrated that many of our families feel isolated from their friends and family—the support structures they lean on in times of need.1 I learned most military families don’t live on bases. They live in our neighborhoods, which makes the isolation more keen.

Not to mention, military families worry about the impact of frequent moves on their children’s education. Wouldn’t you? The average military child moves three times as often as their civilian peers. (1)

Because of all these moves, it can be hard for military families to feel a sense of belonging to their local civilian community. (2)

Now, you can imagine how much COVID-19 has only exacerbated these stressors of military life. Delayed moves due to the stop movement order created uncertainty and financial stress for military families. Canceled move orders may have displaced many military families; some might even find themselves temporarily displaced and living in a hotel because they sold their home or gave up a lease in anticipation of relocations that are postponed indefinitely.

All that to say, there’s one common, constant thread here: due to frequent moves, as well as the pandemic, establishing a sense of belonging to a community is difficult for the families of those who serve our country. That’s why the work Blue Star Families does to increase civilian neighbors’ understanding, appreciation, and respect for the sacrifices military families make is so important. That increased understanding leads them to feel a greater sense of belonging to their local community. (3)

Here’s how you can help:

First, I invite you to participate in the inaugural Blue Star Welcome Week, from Monday, September 28th – Friday, October 2nd. This event unites Blue Star Families with local businesses and partners in Blue Star Families Chapter locations across the country to safely and efficiently empower military families who recently moved to their new communities to feel connected and welcomed.

Whether you live near a Chapter location or not, there are plenty of ways you can make an impact.

  • Check out events happening in a Chapter location near you here.
  • Share or explore local favorites in your community in Blue Star Families’ virtual guide here, which was created in partnership with Starbucks, a Blue Star Neighbor.
  • Donate to support specific Blue Star Families programming here.

Second, know that our military families need and deserve our support year-round. Beyond this event, I hope you’ll join your fellow neighbors and me to create community and a sense of belonging for all who serve—right here in D.C. and across the country.

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Endnotes

1. Blue Star Families. (2020). 2019 Blue Star Families annual Military Family Lifestyle Survey Comprehensive Report. Retrieved from bluestarfam.org/survey

2. Department of Defense Education Activity. (2019) All About DoDEA Partnership. Department of Defense Education. Retrieved from https://www.dodea.edu/Partnership/about.cfm

3. Blue Star Families. (2020). 2019 Blue Star Families annual Military Family Lifestyle Survey Comprehensive Report. Retrieved from bluestarfam.org/survey

4. Ibid.

 

This article first appeared on LinkedIn.

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