3 Postwar Challenges That Military Families Continue To Face

Family & Relationships
Members of the 133rd Airlift Wing recently say goodbye to family and friends in St. Paul, Minnesota, prior to departing for a deployment.
U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Lynette Olivares

America has emerged from the longest war in U.S. history. Our soldiers are wounded, both physically and psychologically. The effects of war on our brave men and women in uniform are becoming more and more evident, with post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, and multiple other wounds of war affecting our returning military population.

Veteran organizations and military publications are giving more and more attention to this ever growing epidemic of health concerns with our veterans, as they should, but few are addressing the effects of war on the military family, specifically that of the military spouse.

Here are three postwar challenges many military spouses currently face.

There is limited access to caregiver resources.

There are few feelings as frustrating as knowing your loved one needs medical care, but is denied access to such. My family encountered waiting lists backed up more than eight months to see a doctor at a VA hospital.

When we did get in see someone, I informed the VA case manager that my decorated combat veteran spouse was suicidal.

Her response: “Have you checked out our caregiver resource directory pdf online? You should really download that and call the suicide help numbers next time he has a gun to his head.”

The “help numbers” were far from “helpful.”

Family members have limited influence in advocating for their veterans’ timely receipt of medical care, and are often left in the dark, fighting mounds of slow-turning government bureaucracy alone. The resources available to caregivers are extremely limited, and in my experience, ineffective.

There aren’t enough employers who offer flexible opportunities that fit the military lifestyle.

Following graduation, I accepted a job as nonprofit director for youth organization. Applying for the position, I provided a four-page cover letter, one page detailing my professional experience and three pages describing my scheduling and work availability as a caregiver.

Six weeks into the new position, my spouse was admitted to the VA for emergency medical care.

I informed my supervisor and rushed to my spouse’s side.

Three days later, I returned only to find out I no longer had a job.

Turns out it’s completely legal to fire a military spouse for missing three days of work due to caregiver responsibilities. The Family Medical Leave Act only applies to employees who have been employed for a minimum of 12 months as a full-time employee.

More broadly, a 2014 study sponsored by Military Officers Association of America and The Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University reported that 90% of female military spouses were jobless or underemployed. Additionally, those spouses who were employed earned an average of 38% less than their civilian counterparts. The inability to financially provide for their families presents very real challenges to today’s military spouses, especially when compounded by caregiver responsibilities.

Finding military family support groups is incredibly challenging.

For me, postwar life was lonely.

The majority of my family’s veteran buddies had gone “off the grid.”

Others were extremely focused on their civilian lives and not looking to be bogged down with “messed up vets.”  

Forging friendships with civilians was nearly impossible, given the often overwhelming disconnect between civilians and military evident in today’s society.

Like thousands of other post-9/11 military families, we had very limited access to a strong support groups. Recognizing the war had changed our demographic classification from accomplished young professionals to combat veteran family (with all the “glorious” stats such a term conjures), my family struggled to find the social support we needed to succeed in postwar life.

After months of “going at it alone,” we ended up finding immense support from our local Vietnam Veterans of America and Veterans of Modern Warfare chapters — two organizations I highly recommend.

The military lifestyle demands a lot of flexibility from the military family: extended periods of absence, discouraging employment statistics, frequent relocation, and much, much, more. Military life isn’t “normal” — you don’t have the hometown advantage, closeness of high school best friends, or momma right down the road to lend a shoulder. Instead, “normal” for military families may look more like a constantly changing, sometimes exciting, always isolating, adventure.

War affects everyone, the service member and the people he or she loves. The effects of war continue to demand continual sacrifice of military spouses’ financial security, professional opportunities, and mental well-being.

The realities of postwar life tax even the strongest of us.

Whether you’re a military spouse going toe to toe with government bureaucracy to get your veteran medical treatment, or facing rejection letter after rejection letter as you try to provide for your family, know you are not alone.

Our military community needs to recognize the effects wartime military service has on the spouse, and should address these challenges with increased support via effective initiatives. Open, accepting conversation should characterize acknowledgement of today’s spouses’ needs, and the taboo of reality should be eliminated from our mindsets. Let’s start the dialogue, so we can start implementing solutions. The war is over.

It’s time we support those who continue to pay the price.

(Air Force photo / Tech Sgt. Oneika Banks)

Kirtland Air Force Base isn't much different from the world beyond its gates when it comes to dealing with mental illnesses, a base clinical psychologist says.

Maj. Benjamin Carter told the Journal the most frequent diagnosis on the base is an anxiety disorder.

"It's not a surprise, but I anticipate about anytime in the population in America, about 20% of the population has some form of diagnosable anxiety disorder, and it's no different in the military," he said.

Leading the way among the anxiety disorders, he said, were post-traumatic stress disorder "or something like panic disorder or generalized anxiety disorder."

Read More
(National Archives / Marine Corps Photo / WO Obie Newcomb, Jr., November 1943)

The DNA of a niece and nephew, who never met their uncle, has helped identify the remains of the Kansas Marine who died in WWII.

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency announced that 21-year-old U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Pfc. Raymond Warren was identified using DNA and circumstantial evidence. Warren had been buried in a cemetery in the Gilbert Islands, where he was killed when U.S. forces tried to take secure one of the islands from the Japanese.

The Battle of Tarawa lasted from Nov. 20 to Nov. 23, 1943, and claimed the lives of 1,021 U.S. marines and sailors, more than 3,000 Japanese soldiers and an estimated 1,000 Korean laborers before the U.S. troops seized control, the agency said.

Read More
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff. Sgt. Daniel Snider)

Arizona lawmakers are vowing to fight a plan by the Air Force to start retiring some of the nation's fleet of A-10 Thunderbolt II ground-attack jets — a major operation at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base — as part of a plan to drop some older, legacy weapon systems to help pay for new programs.

U.S. Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., a former A-10 pilot, and U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Ariz., both vowed to fight the move to retire 44 of the oldest A-10s starting this year.

During a press briefing last week, Air Force officials unveiled plans to start mothballing several older platforms, including retiring some A-10s even as it refits others with new wings.

Read More

MOSCOW/SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea, whose leader Kim Jong Un was filmed riding through the snow on a white stallion last year, has spent tens of thousands of dollars on 12 purebred horses from Russia, according to Russian customs data.

Accompanied by senior North Korean figures, Kim took two well-publicized rides on the snowy slopes of the sacred Paektu Mountain in October and December.

State media heralded the jaunts as important displays of strength in the face of international pressure and the photos of Kim astride a galloping white steed were seen around the world.

North Korea has a long history of buying pricey horses from Russia and customs data first reported by Seoul-based NK News suggests that North Korea may have bolstered its herd in October.

Read More
Screenshot of a propaganda video featuring former Pakistani Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - A high-profile local Taliban figure who announced and justified the 2012 attack on teenage Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai has escaped detention, Pakistan's interior minister confirmed a few days after the militant announced his breakout on social media.

Former Pakistani Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan, who claimed responsibility on behalf of his group for scores of Taliban attacks, proclaimed his escape on Twitter and then in an audio message sent to Pakistani media earlier this month.

The Pakistani military, which had kept Ehsan in detention for three years, has declined to comment but, asked by reporters about the report, Interior Minister Ijaz Shah, said: "That is correct, that is correct."

Shah, a retired brigadier general, added that "you will hear good news" in response to questions about whether there had been progress in hunting down Ehsan.

Read More