With the Help of USO Coffee Connections, Military Spouses in Naples, Italy, are Creating a Second Family Overseas

By Kayla Clark

For many, moving overseas might seem like an exciting opportunity, filled with hopes and dreams of experiencing a new culture, exploring new cities and indulging in delicious food – but for military families, it can also be an extremely challenging time.

Being stationed overseas is often an inevitable part of military life for many military families, who also are leaving behind the comforts and convenience of their home country, family and friends – all while removing their support system, typical life schedule and career opportunities.

Photo credit USO Photo

Military spouses often feel as if they have no sense of home or community, after so many moves throughout their service member’s career. Here at USO Naples, Italy, MilSpouses gather for a USO Coffee Connections event where they can connect and build a community with one another.

The average military spouse can move anywhere between 8-12 times in the span of a 20-year military career. Constantly packing up your life and starting over again every few years can take its toll on all members of military families, but on MilSpouses in particular, as this constant uprooting can leave them with no true sense of home or community.

In fact, according to the 2021 Blue Star Families’ Lifestyle Survey, 70% of military family members do not feel a sense of belonging to their local community.

Additionally, for many military spouses, employment opportunities may be hard to come by – especially overseas – and during a normal week while their service members and kids are at work and school, being overseas can leave a lot to desire.

Photo credit USO Photo

Constant relocations can make it challenging for military spouses to pursue consistent employment. USO military spouse networking events help these MilSpouses connect with resources and job opportunities in their local communities to help mitigate these challenges.

Military spouses are often referred to as the “backbone of the military.” They serve in their own way, as they are largely responsible for holding down the fort at home while their service member is deployed or working long hours. No matter what, they remain resilient amidst all the changes and challenges that come with military life. Military spouses, like all members of the military community, deserve and need support as their lives are sometimes made more challenging in service to our nation.

And they always have a place and a friendly face to turn to at the USO.

At USO Naples, Italy, where all the USO staff members and many of the volunteers are military spouses themselves, the team personally knows and understands MilSpouse life challenges well, and that is why USO Naples focused on providing support to military spouses on a more regular basis, making it the first USO center in the world to launch and implement a weekly USO Coffee Connections program.

USO Coffee Connections is geared toward getting military spouses together to address the challenges that military spouses face, while providing them with an environment that allows them to make new friends and feel a sense of community.

Photo credit USO Photo

Every Friday morning at USO Naples, MilSpouses can gather together to enjoy activities such as holiday bingo, bath bomb-making and wine glass painting.

Every Friday morning, military spouses from around the Naples area gather together for freshly brewed coffee, sweet Italian pastries and different types of engaging activities. These activities can range in style from holiday bingo, to bath bomb-making, to wine glass painting, and while the activities themselves are fun and exciting, the more important and impactful meaning behind the program is that of connection.

As spouses flood into each event, upbeat music fills the air as they enjoy some treats and mingle with one another. Once everyone has arrived and gets settled, the USO team facilitates some kind of conversation starter or icebreaker to encourage participants to introduce themselves and meet new attendees.

The USO team in Naples has previously hosted “speed-friending” events and military spouse bingo, encouraging attendees to interact and speak with each participant and get to know them a bit more. They’re able to discover commonalities in life, such as where they’re from and activities they like to do – all of which helps these men and woman build everlasting friendships, connections and a strong community in Naples, Italy.

A USO Volunteer and MilSpouse bond with each other during a USO Coffee Connections event at USO Naples. | Photo credit USO Photo

“Thank you so much for having this event today. I look forward to it every week. I really enjoy the activities, but most importantly,” one military spouse shared. “I am grateful for the opportunity to get out of the house, meet others, and build a community here.”

This kind of response is a common one after every event, and one that is so truly important to the USO. While some USO activities and events may seem simple at first glance, the gift of friendship, community and connection that the USO provides is enormous in terms of impact for these military spouses.

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Every day, America’s service members selflessly put their lives on the line to keep us safe and free. Please take a moment to let our troops know how much we appreciate their service and sacrifice.


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