AAAA Family Forum / By Paula Lundy: When we reflect on what life was like for past military spouses, our concerns now really aren’t much different than the concerns of spouses from many years ago. We all want to feel supported and connected to our military community – that is how we truly create the sense of being “home,” despite being far away from where we’re from.
The author, Paula Lundy (left), wife of MG Michael D. Lundy, heads the receiving line at a farewell event March 1, 2016 for (l to r) Samantha Thom and Deborah Godfrey, spouses of the Branch CSM and Chief Warrant Officer of the Branch, respectively./ PHOTO BY MELISSA VONESCHENBACH
As spouses, leaders, and mentors, our ways of creating that closeness and connectedness have evolved over the years. While so much of this is good (Skype during deployments, anyone?), there are still benefits to pairing new progress with older traditions.
In the movie He’s Just Not That Into You, Drew Barrymore’s character says something that so many of us technology-inundated military spouses can relate to: “[…] I miss the days when you had one phone number and one answering machine and that one answering machine has one cassette tape and that one cassette tape either had a message from a guy or it didn’t. Now you have to go around checking all these different portals just to get rejected by seven different technologies.” Even if some of us may not be old enough to remember the days of answering machines with cassette tapes, we can all relate to the idea of feeling overwhelmed by all of the different modes of communication that are used to push out information.
While it’s easy for us to want to embrace all of the many methods of communication at our disposal when trying to get spouses connected with their family readiness group (FRG) or current post, we never want spouses to feel overwhelmed by too many information sources or distanced by too few personal touches. Social media is fun and useful, but we need to ensure that it’s used efficiently and in conjunction with in-person or otherwise more personalized methods. Traditions such as welcoming spouses and families into an FRG, a coffee group, or a neighborhood group give us all a sense of belonging. Can this be accomplished over social media? Sure! But does it really make the spouse or family feel as welcome as meeting a friendly face in person or carpooling to their first FRG meeting?
Furthermore, true connectedness goes beyond simply welcoming families into our communities. We still need to foster a common ground for spouses that come from all different backgrounds and are pursuing diverse life paths. This may mean varying our meeting times so that spouses with irregular career hours or childcare challenges can connect with us more effectively. It may mean choosing our social activities more conscientiously to make certain that all different kinds of families and individuals feel welcome and included. It may mean going the extra mile to communicate with our neighbor who may speak a different language than we do. In this way, traditional welcoming takes on an expanded and more inclusive definition.
If there’s anything that I’ve learned in my years as a spouse, it’s that making people feel supported and connected is so much easier when someone else has done the same for you. When Mike was a second lieutenant, I remember a captain’s wife who, by example, inspired me to reach out to others and make a difference. We can all be that person for someone else. Age and experience level doesn’t matter in mentoring. We all have something to share with each other. Together, we can create the kind of community that we’re proud to be connected to and confident in being supported by.
Paula Lundy is the spouse of MG Michael D. Lundy, the immediate past commanding general of the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker, AL and the Army Aviation Branch Chief.