On May 16, 2013 I had the opportunity to attend the Blue Star Families’ Military Lifestyle Survey Results forum. This is my second survey, and it is something that is particularly dear to me. Attending the survey last year was the first important event I attended after we moved to the area. It was a stepping stone toward the opportunity to experience much more.
This year’s survey, conducted in November 2012, received input from more than 5, 000 military service members and families. Thirty-five percent surveyed stated that pay and benefits were their top concern, followed by 22 percent saying that their retirement benefits concerned them. Military spouse employment, issues pertaining to military children, and issues of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injury and suicide rounded out their main concerns. These issues tie directly to another issue touched on by the survey – the issue of a disconnect between the public and the military. Ninety-two percent of those surveyed stated they felt a disconnect between themselves and the general public.
My biggest concern was how this issue of disconnection relates to the military child, because this is where I am in my life. The school in which my oldest is enrolled is located in a densely populated military area. However, the school is completely unaware of the status of military children within their school. According to the survey, I’m not alone in my concerns. Thirty-eight percent reported a similar feeling, that their school was not aware of military related issues, and 39 percent felt their school wasn’t proactive enough, and I wonder how much of that is really the school’s responsibility.military
In my particular case I made the effort to involve the school counselor in developing a program for all of the military children at our school. We have never lived on a base before, because most of our career was spent remotely stationed. Never knowing what its like to have support in place forced me to seek it out for myself.
One of the panelists, a Navy spouse, shared her story of struggle when it came to the education of her eldest son. The programs in place to assist military families just didn’t work for their family, and they are not alone in this. According to the results of the survey this year, many families feel the same. But whose responsibility is it to fix this?
One of the problems unique to military families is transitioning from duty station to duty station, sometimes within a school year. Should the military figure out a way to move people less or should schools make the transition easier? The Interstate Compact was put into place to make it easier for children to transition, but 72 percent of those surveyed stated that their school does not adhere to the compact. Seventy-five percent stated that their schools did not use the Military School Liaison Officers. The problem is probably best solved with input from different sources. We need to seriously look at how the military deals with families, and the frequency of moves. We especially need to look inwardly on how we can be our child’s best advocate. When I discovered there was no help for my child I did something about it. Get involved, spread the word, do your research. By working together, the military and the civilian services, together we could accomplish great things.
I urge you all to check out the survey, read the highlights or the whole thing (its long, but I did it), find what topic is most important to you. Learn what other military families think about that topic and see if you can’t find a way to get involved and do something to change it. Issues with military children are only one part, an important one, but just the tip of the iceberg. As military service members and military connected individuals I firmly believe we are capable of being our best advocate. So get out there and do something!