Published: September 21, 2021
#MilSpouse Builds Connections Through Volunteer Opportunities
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. The reality is that the uncertainty of military life can be overwhelming — from moving every two to three years, to deployments and extended separations, and being away from family and friends. It can all feel really isolating. In fact, according to the 2020 Military Family Lifestyle Survey, only one in four (27%) active-duty family respondents feel a sense of belonging to their local civilian community. Misty, a Coast Guard spouse and mother of two, understands those feelings firsthand.
Misty didn’t have any experience with the military before becoming a military spouse and, admittedly, didn’t really know what being a military family looked like. She wasn’t alone. In response 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. Misty had to quickly learn what being a military spouse meant; the challenges and the opportunities. Now, after eight years of marriage, six deployments and long-term separations, and three cross country moves, Misty fully understands how crucial it is to find your people and a place where you belong within your community, so you can survive the ups and downs of military life. For her, connecting to her community reduces her stress and anxiety as a wife, and now a parent, too. Why is that so important? Because we know when family members are happy at home, service members can focus on the mission.
But creating those connections isn’t always easy. “Some of the hardest things about being a military family is the uncertainty of everything,” Misty shared. “Moving and adjusting to a new place where you don’t know anyone can be intimidating.” Most active-duty family respondents (57%) to the 2020 Military Family Lifestyle Survey have moved four or more times as a result of their service member’s orders, with 600,000 military-connected families moving every single year. Adjusting can be especially difficult when you find yourself in a non-military town or live in a civilian neighborhood. Fortunately for Misty, she knew Blue Star Families had the programs and resources available to help.
When Misty and her family arrived in South Carolina, there wasn’t a Blue Star Chapter there (yet!). Having participated in Blue Star Families’ programming in other communities, Misty knew it was essential for herself and others to have opportunities to connect with one another, as well as with civilian neighbors and businesses. “Not long after arriving in Charleston, I realized there was a need for Blue Star Families’ programming in the area,” Misty said. “I registered to become a volunteer and was able to bring events to the area ever since. The response from businesses was amazing. I worked with amazing civilians and businesses in the community who wanted to be a part of welcoming these families.”
Over the last two years, Misty has hosted many Coffee Connect events at different Starbucks locations within her community. Even through the pandemic, she moved the gatherings to a virtual platform, while still receiving support from Starbucks for her efforts. Why be motivated to continue them when they were no longer in person due to social distancing guidelines? Because the relationships created are vital to combating isolation within the military spouse community.
“I have met so many wonderful people through Blue Star Families events that I have volunteered at, and I have been able to see now firsthand the effect it has had on these individuals,” Misty recalled. “The connections have been amazing! I have seen strangers become best friends, the joy of a spouse winning a gift card feeling so thankful that she will finally be able to go on a date night, and even a spouse being comforted while dealing with the uncertainty of her husband’s condition after reports of air strikes at his base overseas. All of these and many more happened at our local gatherings!”
Now, Misty and her family have made another cross country move, this time landing in Monterey, California. She feels more prepared than ever to tackle the challenges military life brings. “Being a part of Blue Star Families, with all of the programs and resources available, and bringing spouses together at these Coffee Connect events, has truly changed my life,” she shared. “It has given me confidence for myself and in helping others through our journeys as military families.”
We want all military-connected individuals to feel connected and empowered like Misty. With that in mind, Blue Star Welcome Week was born. “Blue Star Welcome Week is an annual event, 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.”
Blue Star Welcome Week 2021 kicks off today! From September 25th – October 3rd we will be honoring the military families in your neighborhood. We hope you’ll join us in recognizing them. Participate in a local event, introduce yourself to your new neighbor, and connect with us. It doesn’t take much to make a big difference for those who sacrifice in service to our great country. Learn more about ways you can get involved at www.bluestarwelcomeweek.org.