(StatePoint) The average military spouse moves eight to 12 times in the span of a 20-year military career. Each move results in starting over in the new location and dealing with the struggle of meeting new people, sustaining meaningful employment, and feeling a sense of community in each new location.
While the USO is most often thought of as an organization that entertains U.S. service members, their work extends to providing vital support to the entire military community, including these programs that directly support military spouses:
• Networking: In 2016, the USO launched its Military Spouse Networking Events. This worldwide initiative empowers military spouses by connecting them to their social, professional, and community networks. Offering opportunities to interact with other military spouses, attendees instantly connect with one another and to their communities.
The USO also invites local hiring employers, community and military leaders, and organizations to support military spouses. Spouses leave these networking events with customized business cards, a professional “elevator pitch,” and a collection of 15-25 new connections.
• Friendship: Each year, the USO hosts hundreds of monthly “Coffee Connections,” connecting thousands of military spouses in their local communities and networks. These gatherings are an opportunity to connect with old and new friends, share advice, and learn about local events.
In 2019, Coffee Connection Live launched in response to requests from those who didn’t have ready access to a USO location. These virtual “coffee chats” between USO military spouses and influential guests cover timely topics relevant to the military spouse community, such as employment and wellness. All episodes are recorded and available at uso.org/campaign/coffee-connection-live.
• Workshops: Feelings of loss, uncertain identity and a lack of purpose caused by the rigors of military life are common, according to USO research. However, a series of workshops launched in 2017 help fill that gap, including Brittany Bocher’s “Discovering Your Spark.” The purpose of the workshops is to help military spouses find their passion and help them approach life’s challenges with a positive and proactive outlook. “Discovering Your Spark” can be found at uso.org/programs/discovering-your-spark.
• Baby showers: Many military moms-to-be are often away from their families, friends and support networks during their pregnancies. The USO hosts virtual or hybrid baby showers for military families featuring baby shower games, local guest speakers, and drawings for gifts to provide a sense of home. In 2020, Johnson & Johnson proudly became the presenting partner, supporting the USO Special Delivery program for all expectant military families. More than 13,000 expectant service members and military spouse parents have been served through this program since it began in 2013.
Members of the military community -- service members and spouses -- can learn more about programs available in their area by downloading the USO mobile app. For those interested in learning more about how they can help the USO deliver these vital services to the military community, visit uso.org/programs.
Thanks to a range of programs and new support, military spouses are more empowered than ever to meet the many challenges associated with military life.
Photo Credit: (c) USO Photos