Published: November 2, 2021
Making it Count: Blue Star Welcome Week Helps Fight the Isolation Felt Move After Move
While Blue Star Welcome Week 2021 is in the rearview mirror, there’s still important work to do to help turn this incredible moment into a movement! The reason is, military-connected families are serving and sacrificing daily, all year long. And, as a result, they’re facing unique challenges with big impacts on their well-being.
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.
Families like Crystal’s have lived, and are living, this harsh reality. She served 10 years in the military, so she thought she was more than prepared for the stressors that come with the territory. But when her husband deployed, being the one to stay behind to manage the responsibilities at home proved to be a difficult adjustment. “We have been blessed to have only experienced one deployment, but the timing was tough,” Crystal recalled. “I had a newborn at home, and I had just transitioned out of active duty. I had been employed since I was 15 years old, and all of a sudden, I had no income and was completely dependent on my husband. I was a new mom and was still building a relationship with my stepson. All while my husband was gone. I went through a life-changing experience and struggled with major self-doubt, insecurity, and a lack of confidence. We didn’t live on base at the time, so I felt disconnected from the military community and unsure of where to turn to for support.”
Since then, Crystal has found her footing as a military spouse and has learned to find resources and outlets to help her family when needed — resources and outlets such as those that Blue Star Families provides. “I learned about Blue Star Families when I moved here to Maryland,” Crystal shared. “It was really during the pandemic that I became even more interested and started signing up for opportunities they offered. This past summer, I saw the post about the virtual Blue Star Summer Camp and asked my 10-year-old if he would be interested. We signed him up, and when he received the package, he was so excited. The box was huge and had so many summer fun essentials. I was beyond impressed. He enjoyed the virtual field trips, which sparked dinner conversations about what he learned.”
But Crystal knows many military families continue to find themselves in the same position she was in all those years ago with a newborn at home, unsure of themselves and where to turn for help. “One of the best parts of being a military family is being able to experience different cultures while moving from state to state and around the world,” Crystal explained. “Just the same, one of the hardest parts about being a military family is moving every couple of years. You meet good people and get comfortable where you are, and then all of a sudden, you come up on orders and it’s time to leave. Especially for my kids, it’s hard to see them leave their friends and have good relationships eventually fade.”
With 600,000 military-connected families moving annually, facing similar experiences as Crystal and her children, we knew we needed to do something. Blue Star Welcome Week was designed to be a solution. This annual event uses a multipronged approach to welcome our military and Veteran families to their new communities. It’s an opportunity for neighbors, supporters, and businesses across the country to open their arms to those who’ve given so much in service to our country through invitations to volunteer and participate in events, To provide messages of support and appreciation, and more. All with the goal of easing their transition and creating a great sense of belonging in a big, meaningful way.
After experiencing firsthand the positive impacts of Blue Star Families’ resources, and upon the announcement of Blue Star Welcome Week 2021, Crystal felt called to join the organization as a Blue Star Volunteer. Not wanting any more military-connected family members to struggle as she has, she’s made a point to find service and fundraising projects each year, like this welcome initiative, that allow her to give back to her community.
“I was so excited to get involved with Blue Star Welcome Week,” Crystal shared. “I signed up right away to host a Coffee Connect event at Starbucks because I thought it would be such a great opportunity to make others feel welcomed to the area. I also attended the National Capital Region Chapter’s events so I could connect with other military and civilian families. While I was so excited to get involved with those events, I love to fundraise for a project each year, so the virtual challenge really stood out to me. Originally, I planned to sign up just as a runner and fundraise individually, but for some reason, I decided to sign up as a team. While at work one day, I overheard the HR team talking about getting more involved with team-building and events, and everything fell into place. I interrupted their conversation and told them about Blue Star Welcome Week. They were immediately on board and ready to help in any way they could. So, we made a plan and went from there. I quickly had my nine teammates and started generating support within the company.”
That support secured Crystal the opportunity to have her company, Golden Key Group, match its fundraising efforts, up to $2,000. And that benchmark became Crystal’s ambitious goal. Through outreach to colleagues and the incredible support of the company’s CEO, Gretchen McCracken — who has family ties to the military herself, Crystal and her team surpassed their goal, raising $2,100, which was doubled through Golden Key Group’s generous match.
Crystal doesn’t plan to stop with this incredible accomplishment to help military-connected families! She hopes to continue to be involved in as many volunteer efforts as she can and that her work inspires others, so Blue Star Families’ Chapter footprint grows even more. “I hope that others continue to get involved and I hope that my efforts help at least one family feel welcomed, alleviating any isolation or sense of not belonging,” Crystal said. “I know just how important that is from my own experience, and it means so much to me to help make a difference for others.”
Military-connected families are always on duty, so we are, too. We hope Blue Star Welcome Week 2021 introduced you to families you’ve never met before, opened your eyes and heart to the unique experiences military and Veteran families face, and inspired you to continue to connect with your neighbors all year long.
Learn how you can continue to support our military and Veteran community at www.bluestarwelcomeweek.org.