Editor’s Note: The article was written by Kylee Durant, a military spouse and vice president transition technology & innovation programs for USO.
As an Army spouse, change is not only inevitable, it’s par for the course. After 10 years of moving across the globe as a military family in support of my husband’s service to this country, we are in the middle of experiencing the biggest change of them all: transitioning back to civilian life. Suddenly, our family realizes that we may actually stay in the same town for the rest of our lives, such a foreign concept to a military family. My husband is realizing that the world is his oyster when it comes to his next career, but also faced with the scary reality that finding the right fit isn’t as easy as putting on his combat boots anymore. My children are filled with excitement at the thought of not having to say goodbye to friends at the end of the school year, but also faced with the sad reality that we may never see some of their dear military friends again. I am faced with the relief of not having to give up my job, again, because we had to move, but also face a résumé that has a six-year workforce gap due to moving three times in five years.
The most challenging part of being a military spouse was establishing a career and maintaining it throughout the chaotic adventure of military life. My husband and I always looked at my career as the “long game”: We knew if I had a stable job when it was time for him to leave the military then we would have more freedom for him to find the right fit in his next career. We also knew that stability would help with the inevitable stress and uncertainty that comes with transitioning out of the military. So, I worked hard to get a plan put into full effect. And boy was it hard! Local companies saw me as a risk, as my departure to another place in the country, or world, was a true reality. National companies didn’t care for how much I moved either. Virtual work, the pie in the sky job for any military spouse, was like finding a needle in a haystack. My path toward a career was full of obstacles, closed doors, and defeat…or was it?
In reality, amid the challenges, I learned to have grit, exercise sheer determination, take every opportunity, and seize the moment to truly showcase my skills and abilities. Military spouses are Americans: We can equally pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and create our own futures in this amazing country that our spouses work so hard to defend. I learned it only takes one opportunity to start the path toward a successful career, and that there are organizations out there who are ready and able to support you.
Transition from the military is exciting and scary all at the same time — and it affects the entire family. Uncertainty, the stress of the unknown and the drastic shift in culture and identity pepper the tactical details: finding a job, deciding where you are going to live, finding health care, working through the VA process, and adjusting to a civilian community where you often feel like an outsider. What if you didn’t have to do this alone, or someone could help you navigate the sea of resources available as you make your plan for the future? I’m lucky because I didn’t have to do it alone and my “long game” came when I started working with USO PathfinderSM at the very beginning of the program. I know a lot of military spouses who don’t think of the USO when they think of transition services and support for military-spouse employment throughout their military journey. The good news is you don’t have to do it alone, thanks to the USO PathfinderSM program. The even better news is USO PathfinderSM serves military spouses throughout their transition from installation to installations well as while their service member is transitioning back to civilian life!
The USO PathfinderSM program extends the USO’s mission of connection by assisting service members and their families in achieving their personal and professional goals as they transition from military service and return home to their new communities. The USO PathfinderSM mission is executed by USO Scouts, who offer one-on-one support to active-duty, Reserve, National Guard, military spouses, and military dependents at the beginning of their transition and ensure a continuity of care by extending support up to a year beyond the service member’s date of separation. Scouts guide people to success by creating a personalized action plan and providing direct connections to the services and resources in their community that are the best fit for them.
Our family is thankful for a program like USO PathfinderSM. We know transitioning back to our new civilian community will still come with its challenges, but now we don’t have to face this period in our life alone or without support to create the best plan for our future. As a military spouse, I encourage you to connect into the PathfinderSM network of networks across the country – it’s the ultimate support throughout the patriotic roller coaster we call military life!