When it comes to helping military spouses, we Military.com writers naturally believe in the ultimate cosmic power of the online connection. It’s our business model. It is our strength. It is our blindspot.
Although online ideas and information make milspouse life a whole lot easier to manage, it isn’t quite enough, is it? There is no replacement for the urge to help someone you actually meet in person.
That’s why Military.com gathered hundreds of military spouses and military family professionals at our annual Spouse Summit held this year in the Washington, D.C., area. They floored us with sharing what they want most now:
- Show us the driver. Medal of Honor recipient Sal Giunta usually gives a terrific talk about teamwork and leadership. But after reading his brilliant book Living With Honor, we asked him to talk about the relationships that drive our servicemembers. The guy was better than a rock star. We literally laughed and cried as Giunta showed us the loves that sustain and push and save us all. Absolutely profound.
- Serve a spouse ‘cocktail.’ Nearly 70 percent of all participants indicated that networking was the most important part of the conference for them. Yet meeting strangers does not come easily to most people -- even for those who were present in a professional capacity. So we purposely designed each session to create a spouse/provider/expert “cocktail” of people -- by branch, by age, by interest, by birthday, even by age of first child. Our goal was to leave everyone stirred, not shaken.
- Know that unit commanders are letting us down. The one moment of the conference that enflamed every table was the segment on how to get family members to participate in unit functions and basewide programs. Participants agreed that we can do social media all we want, but there is absolutely no replacement for the personal call or text with this generation. And from our SpouseBuzz readers, we know that family members do expect us to call. Yet everyone reported it was nearly impossible to get a list with spouse contact information from the command -- even when married to the commander. If the folks at the top do not collect the spouses' information during check in at the unit, we have lost those families. Do your part so we can do ours.
- Career is Queen. In this military crowd, love might always be King. Yet the segment on spouse career was consistently mentioned as being the most useful part of the conference. These participants and experts had a million ways to get around the difficulties of combining career with military life. There are inside secrets to spouse employment. We could not write fast enough to keep up with these innovative, resilient, persistent people.
- Steal from the rich. Military spouses are an audience that constantly renews itself. In our own way, we all go through deployments and moves and work decisions and the complications of loving someone in uniform. But so often our readers tell us that they feel they are coming up with their solutions alone. Coming together in person in working groups -- especially our sessions on career and raising happy kids -- participants said that they felt like were stealing ideas from the rich. Look for those great ideas in stories on Military.com and SpouseBuzz.com in the weeks to come.
We want to thank all the participants, providers and experts who attended our conference. You all gave us the kind of insider knowledge you can only share in person.
We military families might live and work in an online world, but you made us remember what is real, what counts and what matters. If you have questions and suggestions about our next live events, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.