The Military Family
When a veteran comes home, s/he returns with honor amid fanfare and celebration. The concentration is normally on that soldier, with yellow ribbons, balloons, and dreams of having Mom or Dad around to attend soccer games, school plays, and Sunday family dinners. When we talk about the service of a veteran, we often stay silent about the great service that that soldier’s family has given simultaneously.
The families left behind during extended tours and deployments are responsible for holding down the proverbial fort, including the costs of every day living. For many families, a military salary is simply not enough, leaving the family members left behind in need of jobs of their own. But the military life is not one that dovetails well with our country’s philosophy of employment. Employers want employees who will invest in their company, and rightly so; after months of training, it can be frustrating to have a good new employee quit. Military families often have no choice, however, as they are transferred and reassigned hundreds of miles away. The uprooted nature of this lifestyle has even created a clichéd term, “army brat,” to describe a child who has seen as many schools as years of life. For a spouse who is trying to keep food on the table and bills paid, these transfers can often mean under or unemployment because employers see “job hopping” as a negative character trait rather than a fact of military life. Military spouses are much more likely to be underemployed, far below their level of education and experience, than their civilian counterparts.
The financial burdens for a military family are not limited to their employment, or lack thereof. Many military families, who have purchased homes in an attempt to both build their personal assets and plant roots in a community, may find themselves both victims of predatory lending and an inability to sell those homes when they are transferred to a new assignment. They may have fallen victim, like so many other civilians, to lenders who promised easy access to real estate. With sub-prime loans and impossible balloon payments, these families may now find themselves unable to make their payments. They may also find themselves the victim of a slow housing market in their communities, where too many empty foreclosures and short sales prevent the easy and quick sale of homes when military assignments come calling.
So what can you do? We’ve talked before about the benefits that a veteran can offer your company, with a whole set of qualities and skills that are built during military service. Think now about how hiring military family members can similarly support that veteran. Military family members are dedicated, hard working, and loyal. They stay behind and build the community while their loved ones fight battles far from home. Their resumes may not look as polished or as developed as you might like, but they are assets to any employer.
The next time you have a military spouse or child in front of you, take a moment to consider how you can help bridge the gap between underemployment and financial freedom for these families. You have the power to make a true difference in the lives of the veteran and his family, simply by offering them the chance at employment.