By Sydney Johnson
The military spouse community is tight-knit and unique, so when it comes to serving it, there’s no one better suited to make a substantial difference in the community than military spouses themselves.
Meet three members of the community advocating and looking out for their fellow military spouses.
Approximately 12 years ago, Corie Weather’s husband, a member of the Army Reserve, was called up for active duty. Suddenly, their family’s life turned into a one of deployments, relocations and constant readjusting. Luckily, Weathers’ two decades as a licensed counselor, helping families, couples and individuals work through a wide range of personal issues, not only assisted her through life as a military spouse, but has also allowed her to help others.
Her experience as a military spouse and her ability to apply these experiences to her work have made her an asset to her local military community. She has worked with both civilian and military clients through marriage troubles, trauma, substance abuse and other issues. She especially loves working with military couples and spouses and has been successful in helping many overcome what they commonly tend to struggle with most – infidelity, resentment and a lost sense of identity.
In the midst of military life and this work, Weathers identified a frustrating realization: it can be very difficult for military spouses and families to find counselors who understand military culture and the unique struggles that come along with it. She knew what it was like to be on both sides of a counseling session, as both counselor and client herself, and was determined to find a solution.
In 2018, Weathers turned her frustrations into advocacy, creating “The Life Giver Clinician Directory.” This online tool is a worldwide master list of almost 200 “culturally competent” licensed clinicians with experience with the military community. It makes these uniquely talented therapists more easily discoverable and accessible to the members of the community who need their specialized guidance most.
“I wanted to create a hub where it’s a win-win-win for everybody involved,” Weathers said. “Sometimes the most amazing things that bring you a lot of joy are birthed out of frustration, and when you feel like something is not working and something’s not right and you’ve done your due diligence, it’s an opportunity to be excellent and build a solution and advocate. It’s been a lot of hard work, but it’s been a joy to help alleviate some of the stress from other people.”
Weathers is also no stranger to the USO community. She and her husband now guest host a new video series that is part of USO Military Virtual Programming (MVP) called “You’re Leaving … Again?” in which they discuss various realities military couples face during deployments and throughout military life.
With the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, Weathers saw a drastic increase in the need for telehealth counseling within the community. After an exhausting year, she’s decided to take some time away from directly counseling clients. Weathers – who is also an author, speaker and podcast host – is dedicated to perfecting and expanding her directory and supervising other military spouse clinicians.
“I’m really trying to invest in those military spouse clinicians to help them learn and develop the career that I did,” Weathers said. “Who would I be doing all this advocacy work if I weren’t raising up the next generation of culturally competent clinicians that are also military spouses?”
When David Carrera’s wife was stationed in Washington, D.C., and the couple relocated, he couldn’t find work right away, so he decided to attend a military spouse meet-up. Though everyone was welcoming and they served donuts, he didn’t stay long, as he wasn’t quite interested in the romance novel they were discussing. Luckily, he found a job—but then his wife got orders to go overseas.
When the Navy relocated them to Okinawa, Japan, Carrera realized things would be very different from his life in the states. Walking around on base and shopping in the commissary, he knew there were other male military spouses in the community, but he wasn’t sure how to connect with them, as there was no platform for them to really share their experiences with each other. Although there were Facebook groups for male military spouses, they didn’t offer what Carrera was looking for.
“I didn’t see anybody extending an arm, I didn’t see anybody saying, ‘hey we’re gonna meet up here,’ I didn’t see any social gatherings happening,” Carrera said.
Then, he learned that a few of his new friends had just created “Manpendent,” a Facebook group for male military spouses to connect, chat and coordinate hangouts on the island.
The Manpendent group has spent a lot of time together going to restaurants, ice skating, camping, hiking and even throwing a baby shower for one of the soon-to-be dads. And now, despite the restrictions on social gatherings put in place due to COVID-19, the group continues to serve as a socially distant support system.
As one of the managers of the group and the person responsible for spreading the word about the group’s presence, Carrera noticed a need for this platform all over the world, not just in Okinawa. So, he started a second Manpendent page, which acts as starting point for other male military spouses who want to start a local Manpendent group on their own bases. From this central page, they can get ideas and guidance on how to build and foster a new group.
For some male military spouses, overcoming the sexist stigma that comes from being at home while your spouse is away working in the military can take a toll. Some sink into depression and find a hard time adjusting to their new reality.
“There’s a bunch of guys, most of us have kids, and it’s not easy,” Carrera said. “In women’s military spouse groups, you can see the comradery between them. [Men] know how to be friends, but what we don’t know how to do is introduce each other to each other. That’s the tough part. If we can get over that hump, then it’s all good.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has halted Manpendent’s in-person meet-ups, but the group provides more than social opportunities. Carrera even posts about job openings he comes across and other content that can potentially be helpful for members.
“I tell guys all the time, ‘Make your own Facebook page and call it whatever you want. It doesn’t matter, just make sure people on your base know where you are so you can get together,’” Carrera said. “It’s only going to help and then we can create a stronger community.”
In 2013, InDependent was founded by five military spouses determined to make wellness accessible to the members of the military spouse community. These women were all facing isolation while their husbands were deployed when they recognized a common need for a one-stop wellness shop tailored to individuals like them.
Military spouse Evie King stumbled upon the international organization in 2015, and a few months later, she was volunteering for them as an ambassador. Then, in 2018, she was promoted to Board Vice President and Executive Director.
King has been a military spouse for nearly a decade and has been both a military spouse in search of wellness support and is now a provider of that service. She is passionate about making the wellness space a wholistic one, so she and her team are constantly coming up with content about all forms of self-care.
InDependent puts a unique spin on topics that might seem to be relatively simple at first. For example, King specifically recalls members’ reactions to an online interview they hosted with an expert about gardening and how to foster the hobby as it relates to mental health and military life. It was very well-received, despite some skepticism. Several years after said interview, the organization still gets tagged in social media posts about how they helped someone find a love for the outdoor activity. Knowing her work has such a positive impact on her fellow military spouses keeps King going as she strives to support them.
In partnership with the USO, the organization hosts its annual InDependent Wellness Summit, at which they offer attendees a week of free virtual sessions including interviews, workouts and cooking demonstrations. Some of the topics they tap into are lighthearted, while others are more serious, such as miscarriage and sobriety.
“It’s something that I’m really proud of,” King said. “We’re moving towards talking about these topics and connecting people to resources and meeting with experts that don’t just talk about the ‘what,’ but [also] practical applications and steps that we can take to improve our lives or connect with each other.”
These military spouses know exactly what their fellow military spouses go through and are alleviating stress and helping as best they can.
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