Saturday, May 7, 2016

So, we're a Military Family. So what?

Example 1 of a military family...with 1 child missing.
Photo by Jimmy Sadler
I follow a lot of online magazines and bloggers that write about life as a military family, and I live the lifestyle, so sometimes I forget that a lot of people don't understand how different life is for people whose life revolves around the military.

To gain a little perspective, it is important to realize that less than 1% of Americans serve in the military.  In 2013, that meant that there were 3.1 million military personnel.  Attached to those personnel are 2,988,895 family members (spouses and children), as well as about 12,000 other adult dependents (usually parents or siblings for whom the service member provides).  (source)

Suffice to say that the 1% of Americans that we are still are made up of a LOT of individual lives influenced.

So what, you ask?  What is so different about a military family's life?  I'm so glad you asked.

WE ARE DIVERSE:
I know this seems like a given.  Of course, we're diverse...military members come from every state in the Union and ALSO include people who are not citizens yet, but are working toward that goal.  We don't eat the same things (well, most of the time...), we don't all talk the same way, or think the same way, or vote the same way, or drive the same way.  Our backgrounds and experiences are all different.

WE MOVE A LOT (or not):
One thing military people can USUALLY count on is regular moves.  How often and where is dependent on the military member's job, and where they are needed next.  Our family has lived in 5 different states, in 8 different houses, in 16 years.  That doesn't mean that every military family will have that number of moves.  I know families who have spent 20 years in one location, and I know families who have moved MANY more times than we have.

LIVING ARRANGEMENTS:
Some live ON a military installation, some life OFF of military installations.  On-base/on-post living feels safe, and secure, and is often more affordable for a family than housing off-base/post may be. Some military families prefer to be in the community, away from the people they work with.

Our family has been in "base housing" in 3 different locations, but only one of those has actually be within the gates of the local military installation.  We have rented, we have bought, and we have been in housing provided by the military.  Where we are currently, it is MUCH less expensive to be in on-base housing.

I joke that we live in a "gated community"...it IS gated, and there ARE armed guards.  But when there are scary people targeting "gated communities" such as ours, the reason is because it is affiliated with the military, and the particular targets are military members or their families...which is when things get really strict in our neighborhood.

Our children appreciate living among other military families, attending schools where the unique challenges of military children are understood, and having many friends who are living the same experience.

SOME FURTHER THOUGHTS:
As someone who is immersed in military life, it is difficult for me to look at my life and clearly see what makes it so different from others who are not attached to the military in some way.

I see our healthcare and insurance as pretty similar to other healthcare and insurance plans.
I see that we cannot afford *not* to have two incomes...oh, we can survive on one...but it is HARD...for many it is often close to or below the poverty line.  Many military families are on WIC and food stamps...not because they are poor managers of their money, or because they have large families, but because they have to be in order to survive, to feed their families.

Think about the young military family, just starting out...which is already hard...and then they are moved FAR away from the comforts of home, and the ready support of immediate family.  Then the military member is deployed, or off on one training after another, and what is the other spouse supposed to do?  How are they supposed to care for their young children and work when they know NO ONE, and are new to the area, and can't find a job that will allow them to be the on-call parent 24-hours-per-day?

So, what are your questions about the lifestyle of the military family?  Maybe I can answer some of them....

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