As an active duty wife I often take for granted the resources available to my family and myself, and more importantly the instant connections that seem to happen between spouses near military posts. Even living 40 minutes from my husband’s current duty station, I still feel connected. I still recognize the familiar haircuts, the occasional yellow ribbons on cars, or more moms at sporting events than dads. While maybe more physically disconnected than I have ever been, I still feel that belonging, that “in this together” camaraderie.
Yesterday while catching up with a dear friend, I was reminded by just how fortunate I am to have those links.
I met Becky a handful of duty stations ago when our husbands worked together. She was and is by far one of the most knowledgeable spouses I have known since I’ve been in this life. She was the lead for the AFTB (Army Family Team Building) Program at ACS (Army Community Services), an involved member of the Spouses Club, and an intricate part of the unit’s FRG (Family Readiness Group). She briefed spouses, soldiers, commanders, and civilians on the importance of learning and knowing this community. She knew every resource, every program, and in the rare times that she didn’t, she knew where to find it. In one of our last months together, I sat beside her incredibly proud husband as she accepted the Volunteer of the Year Award for the installation. She thrives in this life.
Some time ago her husband transitioned from active duty to another uniform - the life of a law enforcement officer and a member of the Army Reserves. She became keenly aware of the differences between the lanes along the same road. As an active duty spouse, you are surrounded by people who get it almost at all times. Becky explained that nearly everyone around you understands “that weekends and holidays aren’t necessarily off days. That there is a chance they (the service member) may be called into work, that there are going to be early mornings/late nights/long days … that if something happens while your service member is in the field/deployed/TDY … these friends are here to help.”
For the National Guard and Reserve families, that community isn’t a given. It isn’t an automatic. You’re spread out. You aren’t thrust into each other’s lives. You are not physically beside each other as much as active spouses are. Becky understands deeply the good that comes from these relationships. She shared, “It’s important for the Reserve spouses to feel that sense of community … to have relationships with those that are going through the same thing.”
Building those relationships, building community within the National Guard and Reserve families takes a greater effort, a more determined intention, but the importance of it is just as dire, just as great as in the active duty world – quite possibly, even more so. We as military spouses, are made to build each other up, to lift and even carry one another when needed. Nothing can be lost when the opportunity to build those networks presents itself. We all notice the little tear in someone’s eye when the National Anthem rings out just as there is one in ours. We notice when children stand straight when a flag passes just like ours. We notice when someone takes a sharp inhale just as we do with an image of a folded flag between gloved hands.
Reserve and National Guard spouses notice and wonder and know when they see those things, “they are part of my community.” That is my community. That heart knows my heart, that sadness knows my sadness. That joy knows my joy. What a military community we would grow to be if we found a way to better connect.
The Association of the United States Army (AUSA) Family Readiness Directorate recognized the important of this need and joined forces with Homefront United Network, the New Jersey Nation Guard Family Programs, and others to host a Military Family Forum titled SpouseTalks. This is a free Military Family Forum specially built for the unique challenges the Reserve component spouses face in their daily lives. Spouses will have the chance to find impactful support, share coping tips, and create a network of people with similar experiences and challenges.
This event is open to all active duty, reserve, National Guard, retiree, veteran, and surviving military spouses, service members, and veterans. A complimentary lunch will be provided for those who attend and youth activities will be provided for children ages 3 and up.
Date: Thursday, September 22, 2016
Time: 9:30 AM – 2:00 PM
Location: New Jersey National Guard Armory, 1048 US Highway 206 South, Bordentown, NJ 08505
To get more information about this event and to register, go to: SpouseTalks
Megan is an Active Duty spouse currently living in the Southern Pines area outside of Fort Bragg. She dedicated her time to the volunteer community at previous duty stations serving as a lead instructor for Mobilization & Deployment, involved in FRG, and a key volunteer for military chapels. She has two "little giants" on the Autism Spectrum and now works to help foster an understanding of the struggles and triumphs facing ASD kids in the military community.