"The young spouses just don't care anymore."
That's what a friend told me last week as she related her problems with getting volunteers involved in the Family Readiness Group (FRG) in her husband's Army unit. Once upon a time everyone wanted to be involved, she said. And then, all of the sudden, they didn't.
As an FRG leader myself I've of course noticed that involvement is hesitant and low, at best. And I mean REALLY low. We needed a few volunteers to fill Points of Contact spots so that, in case someone died, we could follow installation protocol and read a script over the phone to other unit spouses and family members. I had one heck of a time finding five people for that super simple, very low time commitment job.
Getting anyone to show-up for an information meeting, even when the information is really need-to-know ("your husband is leaving at such-and-such a time and will get back on such-and-such a date") takes actual bribery.
So when my friend said the young spouses show up, I knew why she felt that way.
But I'm not sure it's because they don't care -- I think they just don't care in the way the pre-internet, pre-iPhone, pre-I-get-my-support-on-Facebook Army expects them to.
I know spouses who have found great value through the Army Family Team Building (AFTB) program, which brings spouses in for a series of classes on navigating the military life. By all accounts it's invaluable once you get through it.
But the problem is that you have to take off your jammie pants and go. And why would you do that if all of your relationships are online? Why would you go to an FRG meeting or spend time volunteering with the FRG if you've been perfectly fine up until now with Candy Crush and the "Wives of Fort Campbell" Facebook page to satisfy all of your pressing needs? Not going out isn't pathetic -- it's just logical.
(Editor's note: Some readers interpreted the above paragraph as being condescending and mocking -- that was not what I intended. While I have never played Candy Crush, I adore my jammie pants and hate meetings that waste my time ... and I feel most of them do. I meant this as a serious argument against being involved, and one that I have used in the past).
Except research shows us that to make it in this military life, in-person relationships are what matters.
From personal experience, I know that the FRG starts to be important and people start to show when the fire gets hot -- when things downrange start to go badly and joining fellow unit spouses in the fifth and sixth rows of the on base chapel for bi-weekly memorial services becomes the norm.
But shouldn't there be a way to foster that sort of buy-in before tragedy strikes?
I don't have The Answer for getting spouses involved. But I do have a far reaching community of experts in you, my SpouseBuzz readers. You have the expertise on this, I just know it.
So help us online foster some community offline. How do you get the young spouses to care?