Published: September 23, 2021
Marine Corps Vet, Spouse, and Mom Shares Her #MilLife Experience and the Need for Welcoming Communities
When you think about the sacrifices military members make, your first thought might be of those on the frontlines―service members deployed overseas to defend and protect the freedoms we all enjoy. What most Americans don’t understand is that our military families are serving and sacrificing alongside their service members. Frequent moves, deployments, and long work hours make military life unpredictable. Military families are a strong and resilient bunch, but they need support from their neighbors, communities, and businesses.
According to the 2020 Military Family Lifestyle Survey, 79% of active-duty military families feel the general public is largely unaware of the daily challenges they face. The truth is that military life is hard. That’s especially true for dual military families. With both spouses managing long work hours and time away for training and deployments, balancing the demands at home without the support of family nearby can be extremely stressful. And when there’s stress on the service member, it jeopardizes their readiness and the military as a whole.
Lisa, a Marine Corps Veteran, was used to the unpredictable nature of military life and navigating the frequent changes. When she met her husband, who was also serving in the Marine Corps, and they started their family, the changes became more difficult to handle. “After we had kids, each move and deployment became so much harder,” Lisa shared. “Every move is exciting, but it’s also scary and sad. We lose close friends and any structure we created, and we have to start over. The first holidays in a new area are always really hard. We haven’t established friendships yet and can’t always travel home to family. It can feel really lonely.”
Another major challenge Lisa faced: finding quality child care as a dual military family. Uprooting to new communities, far from family, meant Lisa often had to find a new daycare for her children. Ask anyone who has endured the daycare hunt—it’s never easy. Add in long, unpredictable work hours, and things can quickly become impossible. “I had always wanted to be a mom, but during the 90s and early 2000s when I was serving, there were not many resources available to help our family,” Lisa explained. “Looking back, I hardly remember my oldest being a baby because I worked so much. My kids were the first and last ones in the daycare daily, and sometimes, even that wasn’t enough. One boss wanted me to find a daycare that was open after the regular daycare closed. Without family to lean on or close friendships when we were new to the area, it became really hard to manage. Trying to navigate it all was a big reason why I chose not to re-enlist when my contract was up.”
Unfortunately, Lisa’s experience isn’t unique, and the difficulties with child care don’t just affect dual military families. In fact, according to the 2020 Military Family Lifestyle Survey, less than a quarter (23%) of active-duty families report being able to find child care that works for their situation. And the challenges don’t stop once the kids enter school. In many ways, the obstacles only intensify. Lisa’s children are all adults now, but all of them remain connected to the military. Her middle child serves in the Marine Corps, while her other two are married to Marine Corps service members. That’s why it means even more now for Lisa to speak up and encourage the civilian community to connect with military families, and offer support and resources. As her children move every few years, she hopes they’ll find welcoming communities, empowering them to connect to the area and provide friendships to lean on through the good and bad.
Given the importance of belonging amid the frequent moves our military-connected community experience, Blue Star Families was on a mission to change the narrative and shine a light on the military community’s needs nationwide. What emerged was Blue Star Welcome Week. “Blue Star Welcome Week is an annual event, piloted and designed to welcome our military-connected families to their new communities,” said Kathy Roth-Douquet, Founder and CEO of Blue Star Families. “It’s an opportunity for communities across the country to open their arms to military families by inviting military and civilian members alike to participate in events, provide messages of support and appreciation, and simply engage with military members. Our goal is to ease the transition and create a great sense of belonging for military families in a big, meaningful way.”
Tomorrow we’re wrapping up Blue Star Welcome Week 2021, but there’s still time to participate now and in the future. While we are celebrating Blue Star Welcome Week until October 3, the goal is that we’re setting the stage to welcome and honor the military families in your neighborhood all year long. You can participate in a local event, introduce yourself to your new neighbor, and even reach out and connect with us. It doesn’t take much to make a big difference for those who sacrifice so much in service to our great country. Learn more about ways you can get involved at www.bluestarwelcomeweek.org.