By Sandi Gohn
It’s no secret that military spouses make incredible personal and professional sacrifices to support their service members’ careers. From uprooting their lives every few years to PCS (that is, move) to their spouse’s next duty station, to putting their career on hold, to being their family’s backbone of resiliency through all the ups and downs of military life, military spouses serve too.
Although the USO has always opened its doors to the spouses of active duty, Guard or Reserve service members, over the past decade the organization has focused particularly on offering in-person and virtual programs tailored to the unique needs of military spouses. Programs like USO Military Spouse Networking Events, USO Coffee Connections, Discovering Your Spark, USO Special Delivery presented by Johnson & Johnson Baby Showers and USO Coffee Connection Live, among others, are designed to help spouses tap into their local military communities and build meaningful connections.
Many of the USO’s military spouse programs regularly feature or are fueled by the generous support of USO partners that are eager to empower and thank military spouses for their service to the nation. Through these in-person or virtual touchpoints, military spouses can connect with their community, learn from their areas of subject matter expertise and enjoy a few moments of fun. Additionally, USO partners have also stepped in to provide broader support to military spouses as they navigate their life in the military, either through donations or unique opportunities via the USO, or through their own employee resource groups and communities.
In the past year alone, the USO has partnered with several corporate partners to entertain, educate and uplift military spouses. Here’s a look at just some of the recent highlights of USO partner support of the military spouse community:
Building Community at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU)’s Military Spouse Roundtable
Building connections and a system of support is vital to being a resilient member of the military spouse community. That’s why earlier this month, USO partner Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) hosted a virtual Military Spouse Roundtable event, which featured guided discussions in an intimate, online setting. Utilizing virtual breakout rooms, current and prospective military spouse SHNU students were able to share triumphs, feelings of gratitude for SNHU’s flexible online classes and foster a sense of community with members of their unique demographic. During the event, one participant even shared how after 20 years of supporting her husband and children in their endeavors, she now felt motivated to pursue her own educational goals.
Making PCSing a Little Easier with Radisson Hotels’ Radisson Military 1st Program
PCSing can be a challenging time for even the most experienced military spouses. However in 2020, military families heading to new duty stations had to overcome even greater hurdles due to shutdowns, delays and restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic. To support military spouses and families PCSing during this particularly challenging year, Radisson Hotels distributed 12 million Radisson Rewards points to 12 military families “caught in limbo” during a PCS because of COVID-19-related delays.
In many cases, the families had already sold their houses or left their rental properties and were unable to head to their new homes. Through the program, military families were able to cash in the points for complimentary hotel stays so they could rest easy during these moments of uncertainty.
Getting Financially Savvy With USO-Prudential Financial Readiness Seminars
Money can be a touchy subject; however, learning the ins-and-outs of personal finance is a lesson that few people can afford to miss, particularly in the military community where financial issues were a top stressor among military spouses and their service members in 2019. To help address these concerns, Prudential has partnered with the USO to host over 50 seminars for military members and their families since 2017.
These seminars, which have been attended by over 550 military members, spouses and family members across the country, are specially designed to educate attendees about personal finance best practices that are unique to the military community. As two attendees best put it, these well-received events “told you what to plan for in unexpected cases [and] forced you to think about the future” and served as a “reminder of our financial goals and re-focus point to continue our path.”
Tackling Home Projects Through Lowe’s DIY Workshops
When a service member deploys or heads into the field for extended training, many of their household responsibilities, like home improvement, fall to the military spouse they leave behind. While some home projects are simple enough, larger or more complicated tasks might feel too daunting for a military spouse to take on solo. To educate and inspire military spouses to tackle these types of home improvement tasks, the USO partnered with Lowe’s to host virtual DIY workshops throughout 2020.
These popular virtual events were hosted by 2019 Armed Forces Insurance Army Military Spouse of the Year Maria Reed and tackled three different projects: building a fire pit, customizing furniture and painting. Viewers representing every branch of the military tuned into the events and left with a new set of skills to help spruce up their home. Lowe’s has also hosted another virtual workshop series, “Transition to the Trades,” to introduce and educate service members and military spouses about pursuing a career in a skilled labor profession like HVAC, plumbing, appliance repair or electrical work.
Virtual Laughs and Lessons from Hallmark, Google and L’Oreal on USO Coffee Connection Live
In 2020, more than ever, military spouses (and the rest of the world) have relied on the power of technology to connect with each other, build community and enjoy a few safe moments of fun amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. For some military spouses, one of those special moments every few weeks was USO Coffee Connection Live.
During these hour-long virtual coffee chats, a USO military spouse hosts an influential guest and chats about a topic of interest in the global military spouse community. Over the past year, USO partners have stepped into the USO Coffee Connection Live spotlight to share information, tips and a bit of joy with the MilSpouse community:
- In June, Lindsay Hafner, a Google employee and military spouse, shared her tips about military life, geo-bacheloring and getting ready to transition out of the military.
- In August, SNHU’s Dr. Shanita Williams shared her personal story, tips about how to unlock your potential as a military spouse and how to process feedback “with a strainer, not a sponge.”
- In November, L’Oreal Make Up Artist Caroline Ashton shared makeup tips and tricks and talked about L’Oreal Beauty Advisor careers that move with you when you PCS
- In December, Hallmark Channel’s “The Bubbly Sesh” hosts, Jacks and Shawl, chatted with the USO about the movie premiere of “USS Christmas” and how they learned more about Navy “tiger cruises” while watching the film.
Whether in person or virtually, the USO and its dedicated partners are always there to support military spouses in all they do in service to the nation. For military spouses who want to learn more and receive a weekly email about upcoming events, they can register at: bit.ly/USOemail.
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