A recent report from a major military support organization highlights a few surprises about our military and veteran community -- and could help spouses and military advocates have a better idea of just how to best aid their communities.
The report, released by the Military Family Advocacy Network early this month, broke down the results of a survey of over 5,600 military veterans, active duty members and families conducted last year.
So what did the report tell us about military families and veterans that we don't already know? Here are a few of the findings.
Money is the main thing
Although respondents reported some big subjects are their top concerns, like healthcare and frequent moves, when MFAN dialed down into the report, the found the real issue under each of those subjects was money.
A top problem for healthcare was paying for mental health help. A top issue for military moves was having the cash to make it through financially. Anyone who has lived a military life knows that there are hidden costs to every aspect and challenge that the military's entitlements like Tricare, BAH or DLA don't fully address. This report showed that to be true.
Base housing is OK ... sort of
While the report found that the vast majority of those surveyed live off base -- almost 80 percent -- those who choose to live on base have generally positive experiences.
The greatest challenge? Maintenance and upkeep (of course!), followed by "unfair" fees and costs.
Those who choose to live off base pointed to "personal reasons," like having a bigger house or owning a home as the primary reason to live in the civilian community.
We really like the military
The vast majority of military families, veterans and troops -- about 77 percent -- said in the survey that they would overwhelmingly recommend a military career to someone they care about.
And here's what was even more remarkable about that finding: they answered that even even though the question was asked at the very end of the survey during which they'd explored all sorts of things about military life, not all of them positive.
"Given the chance to consider and review all aspects of military family life, the response rate remained high," the report says.
Our LGBTQ members feel fairly supported
Human nature makes change hard. If you'd listened to many of the pundits and naysayers a decade ago, you would never have believe that today the men and women of the U.S. military, families and veterans would be able to handle serving side by side with members of the LGTBQ community.
And although the report shows that members of the LGBTQ community who took the survey feel more supported by the civilian community than the military community, 55 percent feel that the military community does support them.
That's nowhere near perfect, but it's definitely a great start.
We want to lean more on our civilian communities
The survey showed that military families turn to civilian based communities for support -- but that we want to do it even more.
"When respondents described the support they most appreciate, family, friends, and faith-based communities rose to the top. When they described the support they needed, they called for more networking, communication, and support groups," the report states. "Families said that when leaving service they feel as though they do not fit into the civilian world. Forging partnerships between military and civilian support systems will encourage pathways of understanding."
Hear that? Military families want community support, but they don't think they have it to the extent they need it.
To me that's a huge opportunity for spouses. With one foot in the civilian world thanks to jobs or hobbies, and one foot in the military world thanks to our lifestyle, we can be the perfect bridge.