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Say "Hello" to Military Spouses

Learning Objectives

After completing this unit, you’ll be able to:

  • Name some valuable experiences inherent to life as a military spouse.
  • Name some of the common traits of military spouses associated with military family life.

Introduction

There are approximately 650,000 military spouses married to someone serving in the United States armed forces. Every region, race, religion, sexual orientation, socioeconomic background, and education level is represented in this group. When combined as a group, this diverse population is among some of the most skilled, educated, resilient, and loyal members of society.

Largely unknown to most are the details of the unique military-spouse lifestyle, their common traits, and the issues they face—such as a high level of unemployment and underemployed. 

Note

Note

An estimated 16% of military spouses are unemployed. That number rises significantly in studies by organizations such as Blue Star Families (28% unemployment). A staggering 70% of military spouses are underemployed, which means they were not able to find a job that meets their education and qualifications. That’s right, 70%.

Here at Salesforce, we believe that businesses are the platform for change. By shining a light on these capable people who are looking for work, we introduce organizations to an untapped talent pool that offers valuable soft skills. By hiring a military spouse, businesses gain a valuable employee and help solve a critical national issue.

The Military Spouse Experience

Military spouses bear many responsibilities and make many sacrifices in support of voluntary military service. These can include:

  • Frequent and long periods of family separation (impact on parenting, marriage, and childcare)
  • Frequent geographic relocation, often managed by the spouses themselves
  • Career stability challenges due to moves
  • Support networks instability
  • Tight or inadequate financial resources
  • Inadequate support for acute financial and mental health stressors
  • High amounts of change and uncertainty due to military life
  • Loss of personal identity due to the service member’s career demands
  • Becoming a caretaker for a wounded service member
  • Preparing for the abrupt and difficult transition to subsequent civilian life

And finally, but not less significantly:

  • Risking the loss of a family member—and likely the primary provider—during the course of military duty

A child hugging a veteran with the American flag.

For all that they endure during their spouse’s time in service, military spouses also enjoy tremendous opportunities for growth in ways the average American may never experience. For example:

  • Those frequent moves often lead to global travel with plenty of cultural exposure.
  • Being plunked down in a new community every 1 to 3 years makes them experts at quickly adapting and connecting to the community in which they find themselves.
  • Following in a long line of military spouses gives them a tradition to uphold and a deep respect for history. They also know they must evolve to meet (and forecast) the demands of today’s modern military families. They live with a foot in the past and a foot in the future at all times.

These challenges and opportunities uniquely equip military spouses to contribute to their workplaces and communities in impactful ways. Former First Lady of the U.S. Marine Corps Bonnie Amos said, “Military spouses have to get it done or we fail. And we refuse to fail.” 

Meet the Military Spouse Population

There is no cookie-cutter definition of a military spouse. But there are some statistics that can help us understand who we’re talking about and the challenges they face. 

A photo of a group of people meeting.

Common Demographics

92% of military spouses are female. The average age is 31. The military spouse community boasts a higher education rate than most Americans—49% have a college degree and 39% have some college experience.

Diversity

Similar to the diversity of service members, the military spouse population boasts a high rate of racial and ethnic diversity. According to research performed by the USO, 45% of military spouses are racially or ethnically diverse. Military spouses come from every state, every region, and from around the world. 

This diversity expands to socioeconomic status, political viewpoint, and education level. The population becomes more diverse with the rising number of male military spouses and spouses from the LGBTQ community.

Resiliency

Yearlong deployments can pop up unexpectedly. A newly assigned duty station can change mid-move. Support systems can be thousands of miles away. Careers can change dramatically. 

The career demands and uncertain schedules of military members can also place an extra weight of responsibility on a military spouse. Because of all of these changes and events that come with the military lifestyle, military spouses thrive in an environment of change. 

Community

As a consequence of their nomadic lifestyle and need for connection, military spouses learn to foster and depend upon community for survival. This community-centric view becomes integral to their nature and professional practice in the workplace. Looking out for and taking care of each other in times of need makes them sensitive to the needs of others. They are motivated to take initiative in solving problems and meeting the needs of others.

Note

Note

Within the military community, there often exists Family Support Group leadership structures. This structure is separate from but parallel to military leadership structures. The goal of these groups is to care for each other. The product is a cohesive and collaborative community that intends for no person or family to be left behind. Leadership duties can range from informal (listening to problems and referring people to helpful resources) to very demanding (planning major fundraising events, or giving formal presentations to military leaders).

It’s not uncommon for military spouses to have friends all around the country, and the world, to call on in a moment’s notice.

Volunteerism

Military spouses volunteer at an astounding rate compared to their civilian counterparts, 70% versus 27%. This high rate of volunteerism represents a trait of strong civic engagement and community involvement that is unmatched in the general population. Volunteering is so prevalent because it provides a way to keep career skills current when unemployed, is a great way to meet people in a new area, provides personal satisfaction from giving back to others, and is a tradition among the military family support structure.

Resources

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