November is Veterans and Military Families Month, so we connected with active duty and Veteran families to gain insights into their lives. Common themes emerged, such as how military life has aided in the development of stronger familial bonds, lifelong friendships, and, ironically, more stability. Next time you meet a Veteran or military family, don’t be afraid to stop and say “hello” and thank them for their service; you never know what you may learn by opening the door to a conversation.
1. What do you want people to know about life as a military family?
“It isn’t easy, but it is rewarding. You get to explore places you would never otherwise see, make friends that last a lifetime, and grow strong as a family unit as oftentimes all you have is each other. You have to be able to adapt quickly as life goes on no matter where you are sent/what the situation. There may be new customs to learn and the internet is your friend. I would do it all over again.” – Jan L., Virginia, 24-year spouse of a Veteran
“Military life is a good life, but it is a hard life. Over the last 24 and a half years that my husband has served in the military, we have had a roller coaster of a ride. From babies being born overseas to attaining the impossible all three kids get to graduate from the same high school. We have been blessed beyond what words can say.” – Beth F., Wyoming, 24-year military spouse
“The military has a lot of positive sides, but of course, it has some downfalls, too. You get to travel and see the world! But, you can’t forget that the job always comes first. So, sometimes you have to spend holidays alone while your spouse is working or you have to cancel that trip last-minute because he has to come into work. You will (most of the time) be at a duty station for four years and whenever you’ve finally found your tribe or your so called “family away from family,” it is very hard to leave and say your “see your laters” again.” – Paula R., Wyoming, 5-year military spouse
“Life as a military family is an amazing adventure and not for the faint of heart. The life of a military family is different for each family and we are all unique. My family has lived in Jacksonville, FL; Guam; Washington, D.C.; and now Naples, Italy. We have been fortunate to live in places where we can be together as much as possible, I have found employment, and we have been able to travel.” – Alysen W., Italy, 10-year military spouse
“Life as a military family is unpredictable, and it can be stressful. Deployments are hard and moving to places with no job opportunities for spouses can be tough! But, it is also an opportunity to experience different places and meet all sorts of people! I take it as a gift, and it has improved my adaptability skills.” – Margherita L., Alabama, 5-year military spouse
2. Do you have advice for military families new to military life?
“Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Try to get involved with the local community as there is a wealth of knowledge waiting to be shared. Don’t worry about the little things.” – Jan L., Virginia, 24-year spouse of a Veteran
“For those of you who are new, my favorite phrase for dependents is to be the independent dependent. Ask all the questions! Start that college course you have been wanting to take. Join the spouses’ club to make new friends. Build your tribe because you will need them. Start a new hobby or learn how to make that fancy dish you saw on Pioneer Woman. If you wait around to get things done, time will pass you by quickly and before you know it, there won’t be any time. Lastly, make the most of where you are. I completely understand, people from Florida may not like the mountains and altitude of Wyoming, but there is much to do and see. Find those little hidden treasures.” – Beth F., Wyoming, 24-year military spouse
“You have to be open to new experiences, new friends, new foods, new lifestyles. You need to have an open mind and positive attitude whenever you move or even when you have to stay! You should always try to make the best out of everything!” – Paula R., Wyoming, 5-year military spouse
“Change is inevitable with the military lifestyle, so be flexible, have realistic expectations, and communicate with your spouse/ family. Having open communication can help to strengthen your relationship. As a family, discuss the changes occurring in your family’s daily life, such as work schedules, school changes, moves, promotions, etc. It can help to ease tense times by being on the same page as a family and ensuring all voices in the family are heard and respected.” – Alysen W., Italy, 10-year military spouse
“I did not expect having no control over where we go and what we do with our careers. I expected it to be more like a regular job, at least when my husband does not deploy, but it is a 24 hours job. If they need him, he goes.” – Margherita L., Alabama, 5-year military spouse
3. How did you imagine military life before your partner joined (or before you were married to your Service member-partner)? How did your perceptions change upon your partner joining the forces (or you marrying your Service member-partner)?
“I grew up near 2 USAF bases and was around military members from a young age. I don’t think I really had any preconceived ideas of what being a military spouse would be like. I did think that I would be able to travel home a lot more often. Homesickness is a real thing.” – Jan L., Virginia, 24-year spouse of a Veteran
“Our story is a little different. We were married and had a baby when my husband joined in 1996. He went to basic, tech school, and then we headed to Italy as our first duty. He worked long days and we had two more babies while we were there. I didn’t really have a preconceived notion of what to expect, I just jumped in with both feet. Since that time, I have learned much about how the service works and most definitely much about myself.” – Beth F., Wyoming, 24-year military spouse
“I am very happy and lucky to live this life with my family! I never imagined my life away from home but am happy to explore and see different cultures, cities, and countries. I never expected that military life could be so lonely; of course I have friends, family, and my daughter, but when your spouse is away for six-month deployments or weekly tours, it gets very lonely and it never gets easier.” – Paula R., Wyoming, 5-year military spouse
“Before marrying my husband, I imagined military life as long deployments overseas, separation from family, and honestly, that is about it. I didn’t really know much about military life or military families. My husband was already in the Navy when we met, so I had to learn quickly! My perception of military life now is unique, tough, fun, unexpected, rewarding, and full of pride and passion.” – Alysen W., Italy, 10-year military spouse
“Try not to stress too much about the future and enjoy the ride!” – Margherita L., Alabama, 5-year military spouse
4. How has being in a military family improved your life?
“The military provided a stable paycheck and healthcare. I am still in contact with military friends from nearly 40 years ago. Having to be independent as a family and having nobody else when first PCSing brought us very close together.” – Jan L., Virginia, 24-year spouse of a Veteran
“We have been afforded opportunities that not many people get. Not only have we always had a roof over our head and food on our table, but we have always been able to provide for our family. I have completed two Bachelor’s Degrees and am currently working on a Master’s. We have traveled all over the world and have seen and experienced many great things and cultures.” – Beth F., Wyoming, 24-year spouse military spouse
“Financially, our family is doing great, and the stability of the job is always nice! Because we are so far away from our families, we became closer as a family! You see, the most important thing is that 'it doesn’t matter where we are in the world, as long as we are together'.” – Paula R., Wyoming, 5-year military spouse
“I have learned to embrace change as it occurs daily in our lives now. Plans that we make always have an invisible asterisk beside them as they are understood as “subject to change.” I have made lifelong friends with people who are now a part of my family. I have traveled to places I never could have imagined! When we arrived in Italy last summer, we took a two-week road trip exploring central and northern Italy, France, and Monaco. I never would have imagined 15 years ago that this would be my amazing life today! Alysen W., Italy, 10-year military spouse Military life has improved my adaptability skills and has given me a chance to reinvent myself professionally very often.” – Margherita L., Alabama, 5-year military spouse
5. Is there anything else you would like to share about being in a military family?
“You are not alone. There is a big family willing to help, so just ask. Get a hobby as there will be many hours when your spouse will not be there. Join your base social media pages. It goes by faster than you can ever imagine, so take advantage of any and all opportunities that may present themselves.” – Jan L., Virginia, 24-year spouse of a Veteran
“Military life has made me the individual I am today, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. We raised three strong, independent girls. We grew stronger as a couple. Is it easy? No. But, is it worth it? Yes!” – Beth F., Wyoming, 24-year military spouse
“Be happy, make memories and whenever you feel down, you are not alone!” – Paula R., Wyoming, 5-year military spouse
“Being a military family can be very difficult and the only certain thing is change. If you know a military family, please be understanding of them. They are always trying to do what is best for their country, family, and themselves. If you have never talked to a military family, you should; I think we are pretty fun people to get to know!” – Alysen W., Italy, 10-year military spouse
“ Honestly, the Service member does the hard work. We [the spouses/families] are the support system, and it is hard at times. But, I always try to remember that he is the one sacrificing the most.” – Margherita L., Alabama, 5-year military spouse