Published: December 10, 2021
When Facing Time Apart, Blue Star Families is There to Bring Families Together
Imagine being separated from your spouse for nearly two years because your job demanded it. Most couldn’t imagine doing so, but our military families endure these separations regularly. It’s hard on spouses who become single parents and can be excruciating for the kids. It’s why our military families need our support.
Time apart is an inevitable circumstance of military life. Between deployments, temporary assignments, and field time, service members can end up spending much of the year away, leaving family members on the home front to cope and manage day-to-day life in their absence. In fact, according to the 2020 Military Family Lifestyle Survey (MFLS), more than a quarter (27%) of active-duty family member respondents have been separated for 6 to 12 months out of the last 18 months. That amount of time away can leave military spouses and children feeling isolated and lonely.
Why should that matter to you? When service members are concerned about the well-being of the family members they’ve left behind, mission readiness suffers. And that concern has far-reaching impacts. In particular, one in three (36%) active-duty respondents to the 2020 MFLS say, outside of retirement or medical/administrative discharge, a reason they would leave service is “concerns about the impact of military life on their family.” If we can’t retain good service members, the strength of our All-Volunteer Force will decline.
Therefore, it’s important we support military families like Shelly’s at every juncture of their journey. Shelly, a proud Army spouse and mother of three, comes from a long line of military service dating back to the Revolutionary War. She and her family endured two back-to-back year-long deployments along with time apart for training and schooling. “The first time in our relationship that we have spent a full consecutive year together without any separation was 2020 due to COVID-19 slowing the country down,” Shelly recalled. “But we try to focus on the positives. One of my favorite things comes after a separation. It’s the gift of the ‘first kiss.’ We continue to be blessed with getting to experience a first kiss over and over. I also love the fact that with each separation, we find and learn a little more about ourselves. But it can be hard, especially having to see my children struggle with the time away as well.”
When things get hard, however, Shelly knows she has support in her corner. She turns to Blue Star Families for resources and programming to empower her kids. “As a parent, I look for those small moments that allow our kiddos to feel special, unique, and importantly, loved,” Shelly shared. “Little things that bring the biggest smiles. Those moments where they receive a book in the mail, an invite to a special event, or a care package that says thanks for being a military family. Those moments make my kids feel recognized and amazing, and in those moments, as a parent, you feel like all is right in their world. Blue Star Families is consistently providing those beautiful moments. Each time we move, once we settle in, I look for our nearest Blue Star Chapter. For over a decade, this has been my go-to move. Because of that, we have been blessed many times over to find events and programs to help us. For that, I am forever grateful.”
Over the years, to help manage those stretches apart, Shelly and her kids have enjoyed Blue Star Books, a Disney movie premiere of “Big Hero 6,” and Concert for Valor, among other special programs. They’ve also utilized the Blue Star Museums Program to meet other military-connected families, sometimes using a museum as a meeting point when traveling from different states. Not to mention, Shelly built her network of friends after each move — friends who are critical outlets and allies when your spouse is away, by attending Coffee Connect gatherings. She’s even played Sesame Street for Military Families videos for her kids to help them understand and process the unique emotions that come with life as a military family.
All that to say, we want to continue to be there for each and every military-connected family like Shelly’s. But we can’t do it without your support! If you’re a civilian neighbor or government leader, you can make a difference this holiday season for the families who may not be able to spend as much time together as they might like. Learn how you can get involved at www.bluestarfam.org. And if you’re a military or Veteran family, we invite you to find a Chapter near you, and join us for an event or access resources designed to empower your family.