When we speak about military spouses, people often assume the conversation is about women. We, as readers and conversationalist must undertake a shift in our societal norms because many of our fighting service members are women, therefore, the husbands and/or significant other remaining behind becomes the sole care taker of the day-to-day affairs of the home. Our military spouses, female and male, are so under appreciated by society when our service members are deployed, stationed in remote locations and placed in harms way.
When a spouse is left to take care of the home in the absence of the service member they often find themselves as the “Total Force”. Care giving moves from normal duties around the house to full time “everything” duties to include, in many cases, full time employment. They find themselves truly involved in a 24/7 total commitment. These spouses, in a lot of situations born out of necessity became independent; thus, creating an atmosphere difficult to relinquish when the service member returned home. Military installations have implemented programs to help family’s coupe with the stress of separation and reunification; but are these programs effective, do they really address the issues when the service members are gone and later returned home? A report by Gregg Zoraya from USA Today found that the military divorce rate is at the highest level since 1999. He discovered that nearly 30,000 marriages ended in fiscal year 2011 with the Air Force having the highest divorce rate of any other services with 3.9%. This is an alarming discovery as it shows that installation programs in the Family Readiness & the Chapels might not really be working, these programs need to be retooled and studied to see if they are affective.
Studies have shown to make a difference with military families enduring this type of separation—the Family Readiness Programs must have a combined effort with the local community to match the needs of these families both on and off military installations. They need to ask questions, prepare spouses to deal with the absence of the service member prior to departure while preparing the spouses to live on, maintain and be ready for reunification upon their return. Commanders must never lose their sight pictures on the unsung hero’s and heroins remaining behind. They must be creative and inclusive, don’t just call periodically, develop social gatherings, have squadron members mingling events etc. Commanders, Chaplains, Social Group leaders must instruct the service members on their roles and responsibilities upon returning home, remember their “unsung hero and heroin” by making them feel so very special. Some will say spoil them—you will be rewarded with riches beyond your belief! So, when any reader of this blog, know of a family that has service members deployed; or stationed in in harms way take time to just tell them thanks for what they do. A thank you can go a long way in the absence of the service member and when the family unit is back together. Military spouses are what keep our troops focused on the mission, so appreciate them.