Family Forum / By Paula Lundy: As a newly retired military spouse, I’ve recently had time to reflect on both my own experiences with volunteering and what I’ve learned from other spouses throughout our 33 ½ year Army adventure.
Fort Leavenworth Spouse’s Club volunteered for the “Cav Bar” at a 2 day downtown “Camp Leavenworth” Street Festival celebrating its rich history with the military, September 2019. Pictured are: (L-R) Heather Cipperly, Carolyn Crissman, author Paula Lundy, Kim Formica, Anne Kilgore, and Lauren Bolen./ PHOTO BY ANGELA MYERS, FLSC PRESIDENT
As a newly retired military spouse, I’ve recently had time to reflect on both my own experiences with volunteering and what I’ve learned from other spouses throughout our 33 ½ year Army adventure. Volunteering much like being a military spouse in general, is full of ups, downs, and surprises. Mostly, however, volunteering was how I felt I made a positive impact on the units and organizations my husband and I were a part of. By cultivating inclusion, fostering support, and encouraging team pride, I made amazing friends that I consider to be my greatest mentors and peers. I learned so much about myself and how to be a part of a team.
I want everyone to have the positive experience with volunteering that I was able to have, but I know that deciding how to best volunteer for your unit or organization can be challenging and looks different for all. I’ve heard from many spouses that they hold back from volunteering because they feel like they won’t be able to give enough time or that the expectations exceed their capabilities. As you’re thinking through how you want to volunteer, there are some things I learned over the years.
1. Volunteer because you want to. It helps when you can volunteer in an area you’re passionate about or an area you have always been interested in. If numbers are your thing, you may be interested in being a Treasurer for your Spouse club or your Soldier and Family Readiness Groups (SFRG). If you’re asked to volunteer in an area that isn’t for you, then say no without guilt! You can even ask someone else or recommend a person you know that has the passion for that specific area. It’s always acceptable to ask about other areas to volunteer in or to let them know your interests or strengths to help you find the right fit for you.
2. Remember that your volunteerism can help while you’re awaiting a new employment opportunity. Volunteer hours look great on a resume. They can certainly fill gaps, and your volunteer role may even be something you can continue to do once you have that new job. This is a win for you in gaining more experience or learning something new and a win for the organization you’re helping by giving your time.
3. A team of volunteers makes volunteering doable for all. Working outside the home full time or working at home with little ones can make it challenging to volunteer. There were times I had lots of time to give and seasons where I didn’t have much time at all. During the stages I didn’t have the time, I depended on other volunteers. There are a lot of other spouses with passions and strengths that can help too-you are not on your own. Seeking out other spouses and celebrating their passions will help create a holistic team that can bring inclusion and support to the organization. Especially when you’re at a new duty station, grab a new friend and volunteer together.
Lots of things have changed since I started my journey as a military spouse. But the goal of creating an inclusive community and building comradery amongst Soldiers and families within a unit or organizations are the same. Volunteering, whatever time you can in whatever manner works best for you, will make a positive impact. As a military spouse, you don’t have to volunteer in any capacity, but I encourage you to do so. It’s small acts of kindness, not necessarily the grand gestures, from volunteers that will change someone’s outlook on wanting to be an active part of the team. It is truly a blessing to be a part of such a wonderful group of intelligent, talented, and diverse spouses.
Paula Lundy has been a dedicated advocate for Army spouses for 32 years. She and spouse LTG Michael Lundy, a former U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence CG officially retired Feb 2020 and live in Blanco, TX. The Lundys have two daughters.