By Danielle DeSimone
They’re known as “the backbone of the military”. They hold down the fort at home when their service member spouse is deployed, solo parenting and keeping spirits high despite the distance. They sacrifice stable careers and time with loved ones due to constant moves to new duty stations. And through it all, they do it with grit and grace, never faltering.
Although they don’t wear a uniform, our nation’s military spouses certainly serve too – and that is why, as members of the military community, they deserve our support. Here are 5 ways the USO supports military spouses.
1. The USO Supports Military Spouses by Fostering MilSpouse Connections
When it comes to maintaining relationships across multiple PCS moves to different cities, states or even countries, many military spouses struggle to forge friendships and support networks within their communities. In fact, according to the 2021 Blue Star Families’ Military Family Lifestyle Survey, 70% of active-duty military family members do not feel a sense of belonging to their local civilian community.
That’s why having the opportunity to build relationships with other military spouses is so important – and is why the USO creates opportunities for them to do so. Through USO Coffee Connections and other local military spouse-focused events, MilSpouses have the chance to meet and bond with fellow military spouses in their area.
These monthly gatherings allow spouses to relax in a comfortable setting, share advice, learn about local events, and make new friends over a cup of coffee. Spouses are encouraged to come as they are or bring other military spouses with them to join in on the friendly conversation.
Each USO Coffee Connections location puts their own spin on these events, allowing spouses to connect in a variety of ways through conversation, crafts, local community outings and more.
Forging friendships and a network of support at these events can be incredibly helpful, as only other military spouses can truly understand the ups and downs of life in the military and offer the unique support needed in the face of these challenges. Having this peer support can help military spouses deal with the stresses of military life and find solutions to dealing with these challenges.
2. Military Spouses Can Utilize USO Programs to Assist in Their Job Search and Career Development
Military spouses face unemployment rates that are four times the national average. Even those who are employed are still at a disadvantage, with 41% of military spouses identifying themselves as “underemployed” – that is, highly skilled workers who are working in low-paying or low-skill jobs below their qualifications. Many military spouses cite relocations and PCS moves as the reason for needing to search for a new job.
Active duty, Reserve and National Guard service members all list “military spouse employment” as one of their top issues of concern. C. Eddy Mentzer, associate director of military community support programs for the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Military Community and Family Policy, stated that ensuring the well-being of military spouses actually factors into service members’ decision of whether or not to reenlist, showing that issues such as military spouse employment can have a very real effect on our military’s operational readiness.
But most importantly, you should care about military spouse employment because MilSpouses are important members of the military community and they deserve to have fulfilling careers if they want them, all the while as they hold down the fort at home.
That’s why the USO supports military spouses through the USO Pathfinder® Transition Program. This program, which is also available to service members, offers professional development services by connecting and guiding MilSpouses to employment, education, financial readiness and mentorship opportunities. Military spouses who participate in the program receive customized action plans and one-on-one guidance with a USO Transition Specialist – all for free - so as to set them up for success.
Notably, the program assists military spouses earn certificates in fields of employment where remote work is the standard, such as IT or English language instruction - making it possible for military spouses to continue their careers from one duty station to the next.
3. The USO Supports Expectant Military Spouses Through USO Special Delivery®
Military spouses face unique challenges when building a family. For expecting service members and military spouses, military life can be exceptionally difficult during pregnancy and in the first few months – or even years – following birth, as these moms-to-be are often far from loved ones and support networks at their current duty station.
Through USO Special Delivery® presented by Johnson & Johnson, military parents-to-be around the globe can take advantage of these USO-hosted baby showers alongside other expectant military parents and military spouses. The events, hosted both virtually and in-person, include baby shower games, local guest speakers and raffle drawings for traditional baby shower gifts.
But for these military community members, USO Special Delivery is so much more than a baby shower. USO Special Delivery provides these parents with a touch of home during a challenging time, and also offers them the ability to bond with other soon-to-be parents who understand the unique difficulties they are facing. When military spouses – whether they be fathers or mothers – are supported by the USO and their local community, they can feel better equipped to face both military life and parent life.
4. MilSpouses Can Rely on the USO to Keep Them Connected to Their Military Loved One
The USO’s mission is one of connection. Above all else, the USO is committed to keeping service members connected to the things that give meaning to their service – that is, family, home and country.
That is why it is so important to ensure service members can remain connected to their loved ones back home while serving on the front lines. For military spouses, gone are the days of handwritten letters that take months to arrive to an aircraft carrier. Today, military families can turn to the USO to stay connected via high-speed internet, phone calls and even video calls.
After all, the USO “goes where they go,” which means that of the more than 275 USO locations around the globe, many of them are downrange in front-line locations such as Iraq, Poland, Korea and more. Service members deployed to these regions can rely on USO centers or expeditionary teams to provide free Wi-Fi and phones on secure networks, helping them call their military spouses waiting back home, desperate for an update on how they’re doing.
Keeping military spouses connected to their service members is an important aspect of the USO’s mission, ensuring that neither our nation’s MilSpouses nor our troops feel far from their loved ones, just when they need them most.
5. The USO Provides Military Spouses with a “Home Away from Home” at USO Centers
Life as a military spouse inevitably means living a life far from home. With most military families moved to a new duty station every two to three years, service members and their spouses must suddenly uproot themselves and settle in a new city, new state or sometimes even a new country just as they’ve settled in their current duty station. This also means that military spouses are often relocated to locations far from their extended family, friends and support networks, which can be extremely challenging. In fact, active-duty military families claim frequent PCS moves as one of their top five issues facing military families.
Because of this, military spouses lack a consistent feeling of “home.” It can make one feel unsettled in a new, unfamiliar location.
But luckily, as a member of the military community, “home” is only as far as the next USO center. With more than 275 locations around the world, USO centers provide service members, military spouses and military children with a home-like setting at military bases in every region that the U.S. military serves.
USO centers are designed to be home-like, with comfortable couches and chairs, televisions and shelves stocked with books for adults and children alike, a kitchen where military families can make homecooked meals, programs and activities for the whole family and so much more. Military spouse and military family-focused programs offered at USO centers provide military spouses with the chance to meet others in their community and bond together. It is a place of respite that they can turn to in order to find community, especially when military spouses’ service members are deployed. It is, above all else, a “home away from home.”
As our military spouses are the backbone of the military, the USO also has their backs. No matter where in the world their service takes them, our nation’s military spouses will always have the support of the USO.
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