How Community and Volunteerism Can Be the Perfect Outlet for Military Spouses
Wherever you are in the military family journey, there is an outlet to plug into when seeking a sense of belonging and purpose. Community engagement and volunteer opportunities can positively impact your mental health and well-being because it taps into a wide range of human emotions such as kindness, happiness, and worthiness. Take it from two military spouses who braved the fear of being a ‘new spouse on the block’ and allowed themselves to open their hearts to service and find meaningful connections.
A Circle of Support Awaits You
It is no secret that a time period of infancy exists with every military move. Each family member navigates a new neighborhood, command unit, and, if overseas, a cultural way of life. Add in time zones and waiting on household goods, and you’re at a sensory overload.
But all this can be remedied, according to Eileen Huck, a retired Navy spouse whose family has settled in Virginia after duty stations on the east and west coast.
“It’s so important to put down roots and connect to your community, even if you’re only going to be there for a short time,” Eileen shared. “Finding a way to get involved in your community can feel overwhelming; however, our most rewarding duty stations were the ones where we made a point of reaching out and getting involved.”
Army spouse and mother of two, Aspen Bergmann, agrees.
“Volunteering and community involvement is the fastest way to meet people. Before I was working, it also gave me a sense of purpose outside my home and opportunities to explore different career paths.”
For Eileen and Aspen, choosing to connect with an organization helped in more ways than one. It provided situations and opportunities to self-reflect and reignite personal goals.
“Think about your goals and spend your time volunteering strategically because not every opportunity is the right one for you,” Aspen said. “If you’re looking for work, choose opportunities that help build your resume. If you’re looking for friends, find opportunities that represent who you want to spend your time with.”
Unite Your Interests and Passions with Volunteer Work
It’s true! Your passions and interests can serve a greater purpose. As Eileen’s family prepared for retirement and her children prepared for college, she found herself thinking about what lit her soul up before the military family life.
“As my children approached their graduation from high school, I started looking for a new way to become involved in our community. I had sung in choirs and participated in high school and college theater, but I hadn’t done anything like that in years,” Eileen recalled. “However, I decided to push myself outside my comfort zone and joined a local pop chorus, the Alexandria Singers. It’s been wonderful to rediscover the joy of performing with friends who share my love of music.”
Aspen, who recently volunteered at the White House for its 2022 holiday season, shared that her favorite volunteer opportunity was right up her alley—being a mom!
“I saw on Facebook that the Fort Belvoir’s Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) group needed officers, and even though I wasn’t yet a member, I decided to jump in with both feet,” she shared. “I spent three years volunteering with them—first as the Speaker Coordinator and ultimately as the Lead Coordinator. It built my confidence as a leader and allowed me to form friendships I carry with me today.”
As Eileen and Aspen shared their experiences, it also opened the discussion on the unique aspects of military life and how it can benefit community work.
In closing, Aspen exclaimed, “As military spouses, we bring fresh ideas, perspective, and renewed energy to the communities we become involved in.”
Eileen added, “We’re lucky as military families to have our military community as a source of friendship and support. But as you look ahead to the end of your time in the military, it’s important to find connections in your civilian community as well.”
Ready to Volunteer and Engage with Your Community?
There is a multitude of opportunities for the military community to take part in—whether active duty, guard, reserve, or retired status—there is an opportunity to share your talents and explore new ones. A great start is within your military installation or the closest one to you. Military OneSource provides an installation directory for volunteer and community engagement with contact information and lists of opportunities.
And if you’re still in doubt about how much volunteer and community engagement can go, remember the National Military Family Association. We are in our 54th year of serving military families, and it all started with like-minded military spouses who volunteered their time and talents to break glass ceilings and knock down doors to influence positive changes for service members and their families.
Ultimately, action quiets the doubt, so choose action and go full speed ahead.
By: Angela Sablan Tenorio, Content Manager