Published: January 14, 2022
Blue Star Welcome Week Helps Empower a #MilKid Blue Star Volunteer
Belonging is a basic human need. And without a sense of belonging, we humans can quickly experience isolation and a host of other negative outcomes including loneliness, depression and, in some cases, even suicide. Our military families often feel a lack of belonging and this issue can quickly spiral into problems that impact military families and jeopardize force readiness. Eliana, a Navy spouse, and her daughter Briana have experienced the hardships of five moves and endured five deployments and long-term separations in just 11 years—leaving them vulnerable to great levels of isolation each and every year. “It hasn’t been easy PCSing [moving with the military] and trying to adjust to a new place,” Eliana shared. “Not knowing anyone can feel really lonely.
Military-connected families face countless hurdles along their journey. Their determination to weather these challenges (no matter how difficult)—AKA their resilience—makes them a force to be reckoned with. And we wanted to learn more about this acquired skill. So, nearly five years ago, Blue Star Families, in partnership with USAA, developed a Military Family Resilience (MFR) Metric, and we determined that Military Family Resilience has three components: individual resilience, family resilience, and community capacity.
Did you know that community is the most important factor in determining belonging and the resilience of military families? When we discovered this, a lightbulb went off because the demands of military life make it difficult to establish community and belonging; 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. If our families don’t feel like they belong, life is a little more lonely and a lot more difficult.
While many impactful military support organizations were addressing the first two components of Military Family Resilience, there was a gap when it came to connecting military families to the local communities where they live, work, and go to school. So we knew there was work to do to bridge the civil-military divide and accomplish the goal of creating a world where military families feel connected, empowered, and a strong sense of belonging that allows them to thrive. That’s why the notion of community connectedness forms the basis of our local Chapters, programming, and one of our largest initiatives: Blue Star Welcome Week.
Eliana knows how important community connections can be. “As my daughter gets older, it has been difficult for her to find new friends and be welcomed,” Eliana shared. “As a parent, it’s painful to see our military children be affected. Finding those connections within your community means a lot, especially when you don’t have immediate family around. For our family, it’s important to meet other families, so that we can help each other and not feel so lonely. Blue Star Families has been an incredible support and resource when it comes to helping us create those connections and find our people.”
Her connection to Blue Star Families began with the START (Serving, Thriving, and Reading Together) Book Club. She was hoping to find reading and comprehension support for her daughter, but she found so much more. “The book club gave her so much confidence in herself,” Eliana recalled. “She started participating so much more and interacting with the other kids and families. I knew then that this was only the beginning of our participation with Blue Star Families. Briana has such a loving, kind, helpful heart. I started looking for volunteer opportunities with Blue Star Families that would allow us to connect with the community while also giving back and spending time together.”
That desire to give back led Eliana and Briana to become Blue Star Volunteers during Blue Star Welcome Week. Karissa Poe, Chapter Director for Blue Star Families of Tennessee, organized a Community Connect Fest to celebrate the week, and Briana excitedly took on the role of issuing welcome gifts to all of the kids in attendance. “It has been a pleasure having her [Briana] and her whole family participate with Blue Star Families over the last few years,” Karissa shared. “I have seen incredible growth. It was a joy to watch Briana at Blue Star Welcome Week, serving in a capacity of welcoming families and issuing them their stuffed animals. I am happy to see this [Blue Star Families] member family turn into a volunteer family.”
Through Blue Star Welcome Week, Briana, Eliana, and their entire family can feel more empowered than ever before knowing that local supporters, including the entire Clarksville-Montgomery County School System, are behind them. And we want to ensure that same level of support is extended to all military-connected families. Why? Because when military families at home feel supported, their service members can focus on the mission, thus creating a stronger military force.
Blue Star Welcome Week may have ended, but we’re excited to turn this moment of welcome into a movement in support of military and Veteran families. They still need your gestures of welcome and to know their communities stand ready to accept them with open arms. Join us! Together, we can create real and lasting change.
Learn more at www.bluestarwelcomeweek.org.