National Guard families are facing a variety of issues that can add weight to their lives. Guard members serve both their civilian and military communities, which means they must conform to deal with the obstacles both roles bring, leaving their families to face many dilemmas and learning how to cope on their own. While we have come a long way since the start of the war and National Guard families are receiving more attention and resources, the needs of the Guard family are still current and a major topic of concern.
The Needs of the National Guard Family
- Separation and Transitioning: National Guard members all have different requirements based on their job; however, one thing that is certain is that families are often separated more than they used to be. With constant deployments, training, weekend drills, and other state-side missions, this creates the possibility of being away for days, weeks, months and sometimes longer. With any separation, there are difficulties for the families as well as transitioning back into civilian life. This can cause a strain on marriages as well as relationships with other family members.National Guard families need healthy communication with each other as well as transitioning and conflict resolution techniques as playing the role of both service member and civilian can be quite challenging. Organizations such as the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program, help National Guard and Reserve members, their families and communities, by connecting them with resources throughout the deployment cycle.
- Employment/Re-employment: Even though military service comes first in the eyes of the government, National Guard members are “citizens first,” so they maintain full-time jobs. The demands of their military roles can take away from the ability to fully commit to their civilian jobs, which may affect their attendance and ability to be eligible for work advancement opportunities. While there are laws set to protect National Guard members such as the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), it does not mean employers can’t find another reason to terminate employment. National Guard members can be left without a job after following a deployment or even laid off due to the demands of the employer needing to fill their role. This affects the overall family and can cause stress due to the financial burden of being out of work. A helpful resource for servicemembers is the National Guard Employment Network.
- Finances: As mentioned above, if a National Guard member is out of work, it could cause a huge burden for the family. Even though service does come with pay and benefits during weekend drills, training and deployments, many times the service member will take a huge pay cut from their civilian job to serve. Now think about what a financial strain this causes a family if the service member is deployed for a year. Families need to have a financial plan in place, and preparing well in advance can help lessen the strain on the family.
- Children: Many National Guard families include children, and with the same idea behind separations and transitioning, children can develop emotional or behavioral problems because of these frequent separations. Helping families to strengthen relationships as well as coping mechanisms for the children is crucial. Many times, the military child will simply not understand why frequent separations occur and are also having difficulties transitioning back. Joint Child and Youth Services is a program that offers various activities to foster positive youth development and support the unique strengths and challenges of National Guard children.
- Overall well-being: Military life is a roller coaster of emotions, whether good or bad, high or low. While National Guard families take an immense amount of pride for our service member and their dedication serving their country, we deal with the constant fears, worries, stress, happiness, love, and burden of family responsibilities just as any other military family would. A majority of National families live off base and far from other military families; therefore it can be hard for them to adjust to what they are currently going through. It is imperative that National Guard families reach out for support as well as services available to them. If you know a Guard family, reach out and ensure they are doing well.
Are you a National Guard family member? What issues do you face? Share with us in the comments below.