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4 Important Things I’ve Learned from Military Families

4 Important Things I've Learned from Military Families Appreciation for Veterans and Military Families

On November 11th, we thank military veterans for their service to our country by celebrating Veterans Day. We acknowledge the sacrifices that they made (and continue to make) to protect our country. They truly make our country great, and all of us owe them more gratitude than can be conveyed in a single day. Let’s face it – one day to thank our veterans isn’t enough. Thankfully, the month of November is also Military Family Month. On paper, the term “military family” describes active duty, their spouses, and their children. In my opinion, veterans and their families should be included in Military Family Month as well. They may not be active duty any longer, but they understand the sacrifices of military life just as well as active duty military families.

Being a military spouse, I’ve learned a few things about both military life and life, in general. Sometimes it’s really difficult to live the military life, especially for someone who needs stability. However, I’ve met some absolutely incredible military families who have taught me what it means to be resilient, supportive, loving, and adaptable. Because of them, I am better equipped in my roles as a military spouse, father, and human being. I am a greater person for what they have taught me.

4 Things I’ve Learned from Military Families

#1 – Be adaptable in life.

Military families are the definition of “adaptable.” They move to brand new cities every few years (sometimes to less-than-desirable places to live), their children are constantly the new kid at school, and active duty members leave their families for months at a time during deployments. Despite the constant changes that military families endure, they always find a way to adapt. And generally speaking, they don’t complain about these interruptions to their lives. They embrace them and approach every change with an “I can do this!” attitude.

Regardless of the routine in your life, change is inevitable for us all. Being adaptable is an important life skill and it helps us to remain positive in times of unwelcome transition. Rather than dwell on the fact that things are changing, try to adapt and learn from the experience. It’ll help you see the beauty of your new environment and allow you to thrive as much as possible.

#2 – Welcome newcomers with open arms.

It’s tough to be the new person, and I think it’s safe to assume that we’ve all been there. You don’t know anyone, you’re kind of bitter that your friends aren’t around, and staying at home sounds way easier than trying to make new friends. Military families do the “new person” song and dance every time they move.

Having experienced three military moves in five years, I can tell you it’s difficult. But every time we move, I never feel excluded because the other military families are instantly welcoming. They know what it’s like to be the new person, and they don’t wish that feeling upon anyone. My family and I feel welcome at each new assignment immediately. Consequently, I’ve learned to welcome new people and embrace them with open arms.

#3 – Don’t ask, “How can I help?” Just help.

One of my friends in Cheyenne illustrated this lesson perfectly! She was a new mom to a two-month-old baby boy,  and she and her husband (who recently deployed) were new to the air base. She was attending a holiday party at another military family’s house when her son started crying. She sat herself on the stairs and tried to calm him, despite wanting to cry herself. Another spouse made eye contact with her, smiled, walked over, took her son out of her arms, and began to calm him while talking to my friend. She didn’t ask how she could help – she just helped.

When someone needs help, it’s a knee-jerk reaction to ask, “How can I help?” Too often, though, the person isn’t sure what they need. Or they know what they need, but they don’t want to be a burden to anyone so they say, “I’m fine, thanks!” If you see someone who needs help, do your best to just help them. If you don’t know how to help, put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself,  “What would I want someone to do for me?” I guarantee they want the same thing. 

#4 – You are stronger than you give yourself credit for.

I never thought about moving away from Santa Rosa. I knew that moving from my entire support group of friends and family that I’d built over the past three decades would absolutely break my heart. And then I experienced my first military move, and I was right – it broke my heart. However, it also showed me that I’m capable of much more than I previously thought.

Military families find themselves in difficult situations and foreign circumstances often. It may be a move only three weeks after a new baby is born, or it could be a deployment that lasts nine months longer than it was supposed to. However, every military family member digs deep and finds the strength to persevere and carry on. They understand their circumstances will make them stronger and more capable of turning life’s lemons into lemonade.

If you know any military families or veterans, share what you’ve learned from them in the comments. And don’t forget to thank them all month long.

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