The Military Family Voice: Let’s Talk

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Since I spend a huge amount of my time speaking, listening and interacting with the Canadian military family community (more than any sane person not employed to do so really should), I hear their voices.

I hear anger and complaints, hurts and frustrations.

Sometimes they’re worded well. Sometimes they come out like a snarl. Sometimes you have to read between the lines to see what’s really wrong.

There are so many great ideas. So many smart people with amazing stories and struggles and insight into improvement.

Sadly, most of them won’t be heard.

Friends in the military community…. we need to use our voice.

And not just in the “bitching about everything” way because, while that’s cathartic and every likes to scream at a brick wall now and again, it’s not really getting us anywhere.

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We need to use our voice to make for change.

We often seem to underestimate the power of our words.
I mean, She Is Fierce was just me, writing crap on the internet. Suddenly, it was noticed and I’m all of a sudden painting my nails in the uber to speak in front of the Governor General…. 
We all have unique stories that everyone can learn from. That’s the beauty of storytelling. But our voices get hidden a lot, and sometimes it’s because of how we use them (myself included).

1. Sometimes we let our anger overpower our reason.

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We all know that when we are approached with a douchy tone, even if they have a point we tune the person out, or get angry back. This happens when we do the same. Sometimes we have legitimate complaints, but we are too busy yelling curse words at a brick wall to be heard.

Sometimes, we let anger fight the wrong battles.
All of a sudden, we are tired of speaking up because we used all our energy fighting Christmas lights in November, or boycotting Target.
Pick something you truely believe needs change, something you want to use your valuable time on, and leave the rest behind.
We need our non-military community to have our back, not be terrified they might wear their poppy wrong. 


2. Sometimes, we only want to BE heard.

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And this isn’t a bad thing. Sometimes we need validation, we just want someone to hear us and acknowledge something sucks. We don’t want to find a solution, we just want to have our moment. And that’s cool. Some days you want the pillow to really understand that shit isn’t fair. Then tomorrow, you’re ready to deal. 

3. We refuse to be part of the solution.

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We don’t like something, but we aren’t sure how that should be fixed. We only have a list of things that don’t work, and don’t have any suggestions on how to improve. We can’t expect someone to read our mind and know what we want just because they know what we don’t want.
Real complaints, the ones that are heard, come with suggestions.
And not “I think everyone should have access to 100% free childcare 24 hours a day, and also get our lawns mowed (no euphemism intended) every week during a spouse’s absence.”
Real, actual, workable suggestions. Maybe even bullet points. If you really want the military to listen, Powerpoint.

4. We go to the wrong place.

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MFS/MFRCs can’t change military policy. Brookfield can’t change entitlements. The unit Chain of Command can’t do anything about the Member Assistance Program.
We need to find the right outlet to bring our voice to.


5. We give up.

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We hit a wall and we stop. But if enough of us hit a wall, then we can keep hitting it until there’s so many of us doing it, it falls over. Sometimes we refuse to have anything to do with a service if we don’t think it’s relevent to us, but that only allows us to be silenced. Change takes time, and work and voices that keep speaking up.
And finally

6. We are too busy tearing each other down.

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“everyone knows those spouse groups are always awful”
“I won’t go to that, because those groups are always gossipy.”
“stay home mom’s don’t understand.” “families without kids don’t get it.” “reserve families wouldn’t really count.”
“*no offense* but I don’t want to hang out with military spouses, they’re not really my people.” < really said by someone who was hanging out with me.
Let’s not waste our words tearing down each other. We have bigger fights and are stronger together. 

So what CAN we do?

Well, we can start by taking a deep breath, coming up with workable suggestions, finding the right outlet to listen and approaching it as a group.

Think of the things our community accomplishes every day. Someone out there this month is giving birth while their spouse is deployed. Someone is at the hospital with their child while another runs circles in the waiting room. Someone is graduating college without their partner cheering them on. Someone is taking their kids to the new school in the town they just moved to. Someone is killing it at work and then going home to handle it all there, too. Someone is on the job hunt, someone is supporting a friend, someone is just drinking a glass of wine and thanking baby Jesus for another day down. 

Imagine what we can accomplish if we use our voice then to facilitate change. To speak up and keep speaking up.

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We can make a difference, friends, if we use our voice together.  




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