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New Military Spouses Need Seat Around The Table

What’s the first thing you do when you meet a brand new military spouse -- young and in love? Struggling to make ends meet? Brave in that way only the young are truly brave?

If you are like longtime military author and publisher Karen Pavlicin-Fragnito, your gut tells you to invite ‘em for coffee, sit ‘em down and your kitchen table, and share stories until they feel ready to take on the world.

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We know that kind of personal connection works. If you live near that young spouse. If that spouse has any way to meet you. If that spouse summons the will and the courage to reach out and ask.

How do you create that kind of ‘around the table’ feeling with the million military spouses around the world--and the millions more to come?

Karen envisioned a book written by dozens of military spouse authors all sharing stories that would ensure every reader had a reason not to feel alone. But how?

This, of course, is my favorite part of the story. When Karen got the invitation to our 2013 Military.com Spouse Summit, she decided that she would attend. “I woke up at 3 a.m. with the idea that I had to go there and talk to people about this,” Karen told me in a recent phone interview. “My husband used to say that those are the best ideas and the worst ideas.”

This turned out to be one of her best ideas. She already knew a handful of writers who would be there. “I knew of them. I knew their work. I never met them in person,” she said. “I came there specifically to sit around the table and see what they thought.’”

At the event, Karen first talked to Terri Barnes from the Stars and Stripes Spouse Calls column and Holly Shearer author of Military Spouse Journey. They were on board right away.

Karen talked to my managing editor Amy Bushatz and me. She talked to Direction Diva Judy Davis and Macho Spouse Chris Pape and Lori Hensic from the American Military Partner’s Association.

“Everybody I talked to at the Summit said, ‘I love it I’m in!’ said Karen. “I think that is a great testament to people who come to Summit, and to people in this book. Everyone wanted to share and be part of it.”

It was an easy "yes." Everyone she talked to was the kind of person with the gut instinct to sit down with a young spouse and share. That kind of sharing is better in person, of course. But it is awfully good in Stories Around The Table: Laughter, Wisdom, and Strength in Military Life.

Reading the book written by more than 40 military spouses, it is amazing the breadth of experience represented. Yes, we all did the moves and deployments that characterize military life but these stories show that those things simply color the most essential moments of our lives.

More importantly, I think that it demonstrates the best way to come to the military community. You have to show up in person. You show up around the table knowing that the others are nothing like you. And instead of holding back you share your stories and you hear the stories of others and you stand up from that table a better human being.

“There is a lot of love in this book,” said Karen.

Darn right. And there is a lot of love in this community for all the spouses we have known along the way and all the ones we look forward to meeting around the table.

Photo of authors at 2013 Military.com Spouse Summit compliments of Karen Pavlicin-Fragnito.

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