While the Blue Star Families annual Military Family Lifestyle Survey may show that benefits are the number one topic on the MilFam mind, another issue from the survey stuck out to me: the civilian-military divide.
The survey, which is expected to be released at a press conference later today, takes a look at a host of military family issues including benefits, spouse employment, spouse education, military child support, combat stress and the use of social media by military families.
According to the survey’s results, 88 percent of respondents disagreed with the statement, “The general public is aware of the impacts of military service on military families.” In short, military families feel that the civilian community does not understand or sympathize with them. That number is down only 10 points from 2009 when the same question was asked.
Over 5,000 people responded to the 2013 survey, which was conducted online in November, 2012.
This isn’t the only study that shows these results. And while I don’t know of a study of civilians and their sympathy to military families, I suspect that they would report it as being generally high.
Which means that the programs — such as Joining Forces — are only making a small dent in how we feel about our relationships with our neighbors.
This is particularly interesting when you pair it with the survey finding that respondents have a high rate of community involvement. Sixty-six percent, for example, said they have volunteered with a formal organization within the past year. Fifty-five percent said they trust “all or most” of the people in their neighborhoods.
But we know from personal experience that the military community is very insular. we volunteer with organizations that serve us. We live in communities where our neighbors are also military families.
Maybe the problem with the civilian-military divide isn’t that the community isn’t doing enough to understand us — but they we aren’t doing enough to connect with them? If I really wanted to bridge the gap with non-military members, I’d volunteer at the local library. I’d shop somewhere other than the commissary. I’d join a local community book club.