Published: July 8, 2021
Military families often struggle with time apart not just when service members are deployed or away for training. The day-to-day job demands and schedule can make it difficult for families to find time to connect. In fact, 47% of active-duty family respondents to the 2020 Military Family Lifestyle Survey reported “time away from family” as a top issue, and 33% of unemployed active-duty spouses report their service members’ daily work schedule being unpredictable as the top reason they were not employed. The struggle to find time together gets even more difficult for dual-military families.
Cheree and James have both served in the Army for over 18 years. They married 15 years ago and have two wonderfully resilient children. “Being married to another service member in the military is definitely a unique and uncommon experience,” Cheree shared. “James and I have been very fortunate to have had a positive dual military experience. Our superiors worked hard to keep our family together and minimize separations. But the day-to-day is always a balancing act. Sometimes ‘the job’ must come first. We have been very fortunate to have help in the way of babysitters, family friends, nannies, grandparents, and other military families to help us manage.”
Even through trying circumstances, Cheree and her family maintain a positive outlook. They focus on why they continue to make service a priority and why they must make military life work for their family.
Their ability to stay positive and tackle any obstacle became more important than ever when the COVID-19 pandemic hit home. Stationed in New York, a state hit hard by the coronavirus, Cheree looked for the silver linings. “We are so fortunate that so many programs adapted to the circumstances,” Cheree said. “The kids and I were able to watch movies online with our other family members. We utilized arts programs online and toured museums through Blue Star Families. The kids slowed down for a moment and took the time to talk to their grandparents two to three times a week. The reaction of the military community, in general, was really inspiring. That’s the lovely part about being in a military community; everyone rolled up their sleeves and pitched in. There were phone trees for food runs to the grocery store for families who had to quarantine or were recovering from COVID, [and] nurse phone lines at the hospital were set up for families who were scared or had questions.”
But Cheree and her kids know that not everyone has been so fortunate. So many families continue to struggle to get by and, while recovery is happening, the progress can feel painfully slow.
“James and I have been a part of an organization that emphasizes selflessness, community, and honor for almost 20 years,” Cheree said. “Giving back to others and helping your fellow human is a trait that is ingrained in our family. It felt natural to want to help in any way we could during the pandemic. We want our kids to be able to recognize how blessed they are and to always remember to be kind, caring, and generous.”
To encourage that love of service and support her children’s passion for social justice, Cheree looked for opportunities for her family to get involved and give back. With so many suffering financially and food insecurity on the rise, Cheree found a local food bank still allowing volunteers, with safety precautions. The entire family was able to go and put together food boxes for local families in need.
This family, who has given so much already through their service to this country, continues to give and to inspire and encourage their children to give. That’s why it’s so important to Blue Star Families that military families, like Cheree’s, can find support in return when they need it most. For Cheree and James, with hectic work schedules and time away for training, what matters most is having opportunities to connect as a family when they get the chance. Over the years, they have been able to come together for several Blue Star Families events to help them focus on their relationships. From family game night to the New York City Veterans Day Parade, they have been able to have valuable family time. Even through the pandemic, they created lasting memories through Blue Star Families’ programming and events.
Now, in partnership with Macy’s, you can empower military families, like Cheree’s, and ensure that they can always find the support they need to thrive. This July, head to macys.com or shop in-store to round up your purchase and donate your extra change up to $0.99 to Blue Star Families and Bunker Labs. Together, let’s salute those who serve. Learn more at macys.com/macysgives.