The discussion about Joining Forces, what it’s doing and what it’s not doing, continues to swirl through the military spouse world. One thing I hear people say is that some programs highlighted as Joining Forces initiatives are programs that were already in place, that they just jumped on the bandwagon of this visible national program for exposure.
Well, to me it’s sort of like when all the food products that have always been low fat suddenly added “Low Fat” to their labels. I was choosing pretzels for a long time over chips because I knew they had no fat. The fact that they added a “Low Fat” label when that became a national trend didn’t change their benefit to me. I just thought, “Good, now more people will know and will be able to make better choices.”
It’s the same with Joining Forces.
If a program has been in existence that helps military families and now it’s getting more national attention by being labeled a Joining Forces program, I say “GREAT!” It doesn’t change the good work it does. Those programs deserve to get more national attention and also need to be more visible to the military families they can benefit.
For example, the Army Spouse Employment Partnership program began in 2003. After adding 50 corporations to their list of partners, the program morphed into the Military Spouse Employment Partnership program, the one that is highlighted through Joining Forces. With 96 partners currently, the program is expanding to additional national corporations, to regional/local companies, to professional associations, all committing to hiring military spouses.
I am excited that more companies AND more military spouses will now know about this program because of the national publicity provided by Joining Forces. Now more spouses will know to sign up at the Military Spouse Employment Partnership Program portal.
My thinking is this. The more professional spouse resumes available, the more benefit the corporations will see, resulting in more hires, and potentially more companies involved, increasing employment possibilities for all of us.
One of the biggest problems Holly Scherer and I see as we do our Follow Your Dreams While You Follow the Military™ workshops for military spouses worldwide is the number of good resources available that people don’t access because they don’t know about them.
We get contacted frequently when someone Googles “help for a military spouse,” find our website, militaryspousehelp.com, and email us, often with very basic questions. We share resources that have been around for a long time, but these new spouses or sometimes more seasoned spouses don’t know about them.
Quite frankly, there are many resources WE don’t know about. When Holly and I were researching for our new book, 1001 Things to Love About Military Life, with fellow authors Tara Crooks and Star Henderson, all four authors were surprised to find resources we weren’t aware of. And we live and breathe this stuff!
I applaud Joining Forces for encouraging new programs but I also applaud them for anything they can do to highlight current worthy programs. With their national PR I’d love to see them truly maximize their website and social media to include links to valuable military family resources, all in one place. Two great lists that could be pulled in are those at Army Wife Network’s Resource database and Operation We are Here.
I’ve just heard about another today as I write this -- MilitaryOneClick. One more example of military spouses stepping up to help other military families find the resources they need.
Unfortunately, there is so much duplication of effort here. I worry about the many already too busy military spouses spending so much time reinventing the wheel. Why not have all these resources in one very visible place? Collaborate rather than duplicate.
Why not partner with these groups of military spouses who’ve done the work…to get the information out to a wider audience? That would be a great example of Joining Forces!
Kathie Hightower is a longtime military spouse. With her cohort Holly Scherer she’s presented Follow Your Dreams While You Follow the Military™ workshops for military spouses worldwide. Coauthor of Help! I’m a Military Spouse: I Get a Life Too! 2d Ed., and 1001 Things to Love About Military Life, along with many columns and articles.