Military spouse resiliency

  • Published
  • By Linda Ambard
  • Community Support Coordinator
Military spouses are some of the strongest and most resilient people I know. By the virtue of loving a servicemember wearing a uniform and combat boots, they agree to living the life of a nomad. This nomadic existence can be fraught with loneliness, single parenting and few established long term support systems.

As a military wife, I followed my spouse all over the word for 26 years. I was often a single parent to our five children who at one time ranged from one to10 years of age because Phil was deployed six months a year the first half of our marriage. My job was to be the positive spin master and to make all of the moves fun even when I was giving up a job, friends or a community I had grown to love.

I was reminded at the Airman and Family Readiness Center's Hearts Apart event just what spouses bring to the table. Hearts Apart bring families of deployed military members together to connect with other families and share resources. At the event, we laughed talking about how difficult it is when the spouse is gone and there are little ones at home.

School conferences, events and medical appointments are events that military spouses often juggle seamlessly. I went through pregnancies, one birth, surgeries, graduation, two Permanent Change of Stations, or PCS moves, as well as many key events alone because my husband was deployed. There never seemed to be enough of me and even though the children knew what their dad did for a living, it wasn't always easy to understand.

Military spouses often have to take that deep breath, put on a smile and somehow make it all right even when they are miles from their own families and long-term friends. .

Often, this can be a lonely role.

The spouses and I joked at the Hearts Apart event about talking the maintenance men ears off when something is being worked on in the house. After weeks of talking to housebound children due to the weather or the child's age or school vacations, adult talk--any talk--is something that is craved, even if it is about the broken faucet.

We live for phone calls, e-mails or cards. Those small tokens can keep us going for days.

By attending this event, I was reminded how much little things matter in recharging the resiliency batteries for families in terms of community outreach.

One woman shared that although housing does shovel the walks during deployment, this winter there have been times they haven't been able to keep up. Her neighbor has come over and snow-blown her walks for her so that she didn't have to. Another woman shared that her neighbors have been great at checking in on her and helping out occasionally.

My guess is that like I did, these women on the receiving end of community outreach are the very ones doing the outreach when their spouses are home. It works that way.

Together, there is shared strength - in the knowing smiles, these people have to roll with the punches, keep a sense of humor and be the strength for children and the mooring for their servicemember spouse.

Community outreach is part of building stronger resiliency in the face of the storms. The Integrated Delivery System, which is comprised of base supporting agencies, provide programs, classes, support and activities during stressful times such as deployment, PCS moves, Force Shaping or real world events.

With more frequent and lengthier deployments, relationships are critical. Reaching out to a neighbor may seem like a small thing or maybe an inconvenience, but sometimes the smallest gesture can have the biggest impact on a day when the struggles are the most.

I will never forget coming home at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M. I had all five children with me and there at my doorstep was a meal and a simple note that said, "Thinking of you." I do not know who made that meal, but 20 years later I can tell you that act has touched me for years and that act has compelled me to pay it forward many times.

In the winter months when people are stuck inside even more, these acts can foster sparks of joy and give a spouse a small hand. In the military, we are family and it does take a village to create these strong family ties that give us what I like about my military family--a sense of belonging, a sense of pride and a sense of purpose.