Military life is hard. Not just for the service member but also for the family. And while many of those hard things make for the best memories from your time connected to military service, it doesn’t change the fact that military families face a lot of challenges. And so often, those challenges are things people who have no military connection do not understand.
5 Things Military Families Wish America Understood
I have felt the challenges while serving in the military, and I’ve felt them as a military spouse. It’s challenging to sum up some of the biggest challenges that military families face, but here are five that often surface.
1. Moving is always hard.
One of the most common myths I have heard is, “You move a lot so you must be used to it.” And it is true my family has picked up and moved multiple times. And while it has given us an opportunity to downsize, build checklists and have a general process for moving, it is never easy. Besides the hard work and preparation that goes into preparing for and moving, there is also the emotional challenge of having to say goodbye to friends, our home, favorite places to visit we may never see again and so much more.
Moving out of the local area has a lot more to it than moving across town. And the saying goodbye has only gotten harder with each move, instead of easier.
2. We are lonely.
Because of all the moving, a lot of military families are lonely. Depending on how close or far away from family we are, we might not be able to travel for the holidays. And even if we are a few hours away, we still miss out on things. We have our military friends that we make as quickly as we can. But they too are also in this military life and may be moving on to the next adventure too. Military life has so many great memories filled with the people you meet. But starting over and saying goodbye lead to a lot of loneliness as well.
If you know a military family, don’t be afraid to invite them over. It doesn’t have to be for a holiday, but holiday invites are a special gift. Anytime will be appreciated, especially when we have just moved and are working to build our community again.
3. The end of the war in Afghanistan didn’t stop deployments.
After over twenty years of war, the talk of deployments has disappeared from non-military circles. And now with the wars being over, people might believe that deployments within the military are now gone. And while the tempo for deployments has decreased it hasn’t stopped. Military families still are navigating their spouse being deployed for long durations and having to find ways to cope with one member (or both) overseas.
4. Deployments are not the only time military families are separated.
Speaking of deployments, they are not the only time military families feel the separation pinch. Military members still have requirements taking them away from their families. It could be for a remote tour (one year) somewhere in the world where families cannot go. Or regular business trips (we call them TDYs) that take military members away from their families. And there is always training. Sometimes these trainings are short and in the local area, but require long hours or possibly out in the field. Other trainings last weeks or months and require a separation from family. Military families spend a lot of time apart. And this can be hard on both the member and the family left behind.
5. The benefits are good, but they often don’t outweigh the sacrifice
Sometimes people point to the benefits of military life and say those benefits justify the hardship. And the benefits are definitely a great perk of military service. But with forced moves and the changing economy, being a military family has changed in ways that have made it harder. Being forced to move to a new location and having to deal with limited on-base housing and high home prices and rental rates in the community have put a lot of financial pressure on military families.
Add to the fact, many military families are dealing with food insecurity. In 2019, a national military survey found 1 in 8 of respondents were dealing with food insecurity. That number has jumped to 1 in 6 after a pandemic, rising home prices, and a potential recession.
In addition, military spouse unemployment is 22% and underemployment tells a bigger problem. 88% of survey participants said military life impacted their ability to get a job with their experience or education level. With so many families in America having both families working. The employment challenge continues to be one of the hardest challenges military families faces.
Military life has so many great things to offer. But it doesn’t mean there are not sacrifices involved not only from the service member, but also from the family as well. And while the military community is proud of the work being done to support the community, we also feel that so many people don’t understand how much the work being done actually costs not just from the people doing the work, but the families that are supporting the military as well.