Executive Director and CEO, National Military Family Association
Supporting military service members is vitally important, but the families they leave behind need community support as well.
November is National Military Families Month. It’s also college application season. Natasha White, a mother of three, is balancing night classes with her family’s schedule, her husband’s military service, and his college classes. Their eldest son, a high school senior, is working on his college applications.
Juggling it all as a military spouse can be tough.
“Ultimately, my husband’s career trumps anything I do,” Natasha said. When military members serve, their families serve, too. For many spouses, that often means sacrificing educational and professional aspirations to support their families through deployments and training missions.
And the demands of military life don’t stop there. Most military families move every two to three years, and in the last 20 years, Natasha’s family has moved seven times. “You meet these great people, and people start leaving,” she explained. “You leave. Someone is always leaving.”
So much change requires that spouses be resourceful and resilient, skilled at navigating last-minute changes of plans, expectations, and transitions in high-stress situations. At the same time, they need to be welcoming neighbors, solo parents, and serial career artists who can pursue school and work while facing staggering unemployment rates in an increasingly two-income world.
It’s a lot to ask. But military spouses deliver — especially when they have the right support. For Natasha, that support came in two forms: community groups where she became friends with other military spouses, and a scholarship from the National Military Family Association, the leading nonprofit dedicated to serving the families who stand behind the uniform.
“I hadn’t gone to college before, partially due to the cost,” she said. Finding affordable and accessible, high-quality childcare far from family was also a concern. “Sometimes, this is when we wish we had our parents or siblings nearby. You know the saying, ‘It takes a village?’ It’s true.”
Today’s military families need support: To make education and careers more attainable for spouses who want them. To guarantee that every military family can afford to put nutritious food on the table. To ensure healthcare services provided are of the best quality. And to make sure that if the worst happens, the family left behind is properly cared for.
“I wouldn’t trade my experience of being a military spouse for any other,” Natasha said.
More can and should be done for families like Natasha’s because supporting them means supporting the military.