American flag out front, yellow ribbon around the tree, hands on hearts, eyes looking toward clear skies, smiles all around, a husband in uniform, a wife in a sundress, 2 kids–one boy and one girl, a dog and a picket white fence–the quintessential portrait of a military family, right?
Not the last time I checked.
As a community, today’s military family is long overdue for an identity rebrand.
If we are truly going to embrace the philosophy behind #OneMilFam, we must make sure that everyone has a seat at the table. That all stories are told. That everyone feels like they are part of our giant, amazing, loving military family community. We must challenge ourselves to break out and break away, not only from the outdated community and family policies of yesteryear, but from the images that perpetuate those policies.
If we want breakaway, if we want to break out of the 1950s mold, we have to ensure that our culture and traditions evolve along with our ever-changing and growing community landscape.
We cannot effectively meet the needs of our military community if the picture we use to inspire the policies, programs and support systems is out of date. It’s time to take a new picture and we better make sure we have room for our military community members who should not ever be overlooked or excluded.
12 Military Community Members We Can’t Afford to Overlook
Male Military Spouses
Our brother military spouses are most definitely out there, we just need to find them…and invite them to places and events they actually want to attend, which means we have to reach out to them, talk to them and find out the places and events they want to attend.
It’s time to put down the pearls, twinsets and tea cups and find new ways to socialize. If they’re down for Bunco, do it. If they’d like to have an informal firepit and happy hour event, do that. If they want to do a pub crawl followed by a spa day, invite me. Whatever we do, we cannot ignore the fact that nine-percent of our military spouse population is male.
Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Military Spouses
With the fall of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in 2011 followed by the repeal of section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013 our LGB military spouses could finally come out of the shadows. With the help of The American Military Partner Association‘s unyielding advocacy and genius social media campaign showcasing LGBT military partners as examples of today’s modern military family, straight allies began their own journeys out of their own closets. Despite the fact that progress is being made for our LGBT community members, there is a ton of work left to do.
It is imperative that military spouse allies continue to vocally stand up and extend hands to our LGBT military spouses to let them know that we are #OneMilFam.
Transgender Military Spouses
Despite the fact that our transgender service members continue to serve in silence, transgender military spouses are in our community; many hidden still as the transgender community fights for acceptance, inclusion and equal protection under the law. We must not forget those we cannot see because seeing isn’t requisite for existence.
The recent news about the controversial proposal to cut Basic Allowance for Housing for mil-to-mil families (and unmarried service members) brought out a very eye-opening statistic:
20 percent of women on active duty are in dual-military couples compared with only 3.7 percent of active-duty men.
Our mil-to-mil families often fly under the radar, particularly in the military spouse community. We cannot forget that just as much as our dual-couples are service members, they’re military spouses too.
Child-free Military Families
Child-free by choice or by circumstance military families can definitely be the odd-couple-out when it comes to family-related events for the military community. It sometimes seems as if the word “family” became our military community’s code word for “kid-friendly.”
Dual Income Military Families
We’ll say it again (you can read the full What Do Millennial Military Families Want article here):
As simple as it sounds, creating a dual-career inclusive environment requires base leadership and organizations to approach day-to-day operations with a dual-career military family in mind. Creating an inclusive environment includes not assuming married personnel have a stay-at-home spouse or even if they do have one, making sure that we foster an environment that goes beyond words when it comes to championing a healthy work-life blend.
Geo-bachelor Military Families
Split between 2 worlds, often part of our DIMFs (Dual Income Military Families) or our EFMP families (see below) our geo-baching families are balancing 2 home fronts over the long-haul or the short-term. Sometimes brought on by short-tours or school/training requirements or due to military spouse employment requirements, our geo-bachelor families need to feel supported, included and considered.
EFMP Military Families
Military families with members who fall under the Exceptional Military Family Program are our warrior-advocates when it comes to championing the cause of health care and education for military families, and in particular, military children. Like most superheroes, you never know they exist until you absolutely need them. We must be mindful that EFMP military families are at the tip of the spear when it comes to helping non-EFMP families get quality health care and educational support services for our entire community.
Guard and Reserve Military Families
It was the title of Rheanna Christine’s piece on NextGen that really drove it home for us: Am I a Military* Spouse? As #OneMilFam it is imperative that we recognize, celebrate and include our sisters and brothers serving in the National Guard and Reserves AND their families.
By the way, Rheanna, you and every other Guard and Reserve military family can dropkick that asterisk. You are a military family, no asterisk required.
Non-Christian Military Community Members
This is not news. As diverse as our military community is the way we give thanks isn’t so inclusive and the faith systems (or lack thereof due to choice) that are represented in our community are changing. Consider this a call to mix-it up a bit or try that thing called separation of church and state.
Foreign-Born Military Spouses
Our globe-spanning community is no stranger to a transoceanic love story, but language and culture barriers keep our foreign-born and ESL military spouses isolated. Thanks to groups like Janet Sanchez’s Esposas Militares Hispanas USA Armed Forces that strive to breakdown language barriers that often keep our foreign-born spouses isolated from support and resources for jumping into to fill the gap.
Committed But Not Married Military Couples
Significant other does not equal military spouse. Understood. We cannot forget that a significant other, however, is extremely significant to the service member in the relationship. Resources are limited for significant others, but that doesn’t mean we can’t reach out to them and make them feel supported. We might not understand, they might not be an “official” part of our community, but one day they might be. We have the power to bring in eager team players or bitter isolators.
Let’s retire that old military family photo and schedule up a new session. Consider this your invitation. It’s time for us to show America what today’s military families really look like and loudly proclaim for all to hear that we are strong, we are proud, we are #OneMilFam.