10. Family memories are compromised in the interest of National Security. Missed births, first days of school, graduations, anniversaries, mother’s days, father’s days, Christmases and Chanukahs, Ramadans, Easters and Passovers, illnesses and funerals are too numerous to count.
9. Communication is good but not perfect. Yes, the internet makes communication much easier now than it was “back in the day,” but we still endure long stretches without any communication whatsoever due to security issues.
8. Mental Health Issues are Common. Military kids sometimes develop crippling anxieties directly related to, but not obviously so, the military service member parent’s absence.
7. Relocations are frequent. Some military kids don’t spend more than two years in one place during their entire childhood.
6. Some military families fall apart but most are very strong. With the right guidance and support, military families can be more resilient than civilian families.
5. Deployments can really suck the soul out of a person. Long separations become routine but they never get easier.
4. Reconnecting is hard. Reuniting with the family after deployment can be as difficult as the separation for the servicemember, spouse and children, as the deployment itself.
3. Moving is very expensive. Military families get a relocation allowance when they change duty stations, but it does not come close to covering the costs of relocation, which can include but are not limited to: passport photos and passports, visa fees, the cost of moving anything over the weight allowance per family (including the family pets), security deposit or down payment on housing, lodging until the housing becomes available, shipment or purchase of one or two vehicles, cleaning and kitchen supplies Every Time, and meals out until the family is settled in the new home.
2. Servicemembers are away from their families for much more time than you see on the news. In addition to the well publicized year long deployments, there are countless weeks-long and months-long deployments and time away in preparation for deployments which lead to even more separations of families.
The Number 1 thing that most civilian families do not know about military families is that we live much of our life in limbo. We are always wondering what will happen next. Whether waiting for orders for our next duty station, the date of the next deployment, the return from a current deployment that has already been extended many times, to worrying about being a target of terrorism for being affiliated with the US military, uncertainty looms over us every day, and it is unsettling.
1 more for good measure: Mrs. Murphy’s Law is omnipresent in our lives. Mrs. Murphy is Murphy’s wife and her law is, if it can go wrong, it will go wrong and Mr. Murphy will be away when it happens. (gender labels not intended to trigger emotions. I had to pick one. I’m very aware that women serve our country and men can be spouses.) You know, when one kid is sick, one kid is freaking out over school stresses, one kid is facing college application deadlines, the car gets a flat tire and the dog makes a mess all over the house and your spouse is away for the week… Multiply that by 52, or 78 weeks and you might be able to imagine what it’s like to be a military spouse.
The struggle is real, but it’s worth it. Our servicemembers work hard to keep America and the world safer. As family members, we might not appreciate the day to day balancing act, but we are truly grateful and honored to be a part of the great efforts for our country.