We noted the other day that there is a growing split between the U.S. military and U.S. society. Here’s another example: there is now a magazine for military spouses called, believe it or not, Military Spouse. This tells us two things: military spousing has become almost a career-lifestyle thing, and advertisers believe military families are worth targeting.
“Think military wives are poor women on food stamps? Mass media may want you to believe that, but in fact, nothing is further from the truth,” the magazine’s pitch to advertisers says. “Just ask the companies who have chosen to market to them and have enjoyed the customer loyalty of a powerful group of 1.1 million strong, independent women of upper-middle class means!”
President Obama concedes military spouses are under pressure. “Across America and around the world, military spouses serve our country in their own special way, helping families and friends through the stress of a deployment, caring for our wounded warriors, and supporting each other when a loved one has made the ultimate sacrifice,” Obama said May 6 in honor of Military Spouse Appreciation Day. “They carry out their duties to family and country with the quiet courage and strength that has always exemplified the American spirit.”
Battleland chatted, via email, with Babette Maxwell, who founded Military Spouse in 2002 before selling it to Victory Media, Inc., in 2007. The monthly magazine has a circulation of 70,000. Maxwell, 40, is a Navy wife married for 15 years to Lieut. Commander David Maxwell, an F-18 pilot. She’s the daughter of an Army Ranger who pulled two tours in Vietnam and the mother of three boys. The family has followed their pilot to postings in California, Japan, Louisiana and Virginia (three times). Her next move — the final one, she insists — will be to Texas. It will be her 29th move as a military dependent.
How did Military Spouse begin?
Military Spouse magazine was started in response to a growing need for help and resources for military spouses and families following the events on 9/11. At a time when the military was in crisis and so much was unknown, there was little support and few information sources for service members’ families. OPTEMPO and deployment cycles were just being realized, military families were in limbo and our (the military) long-term involvement was starting to become a reality.
Who reads it?
Our readers range in age from 18-55. They are from all services and ranks of the military. Some have children and some live overseas. Some are 20-year-old new brides and others are 40-year-old, experienced mothers of several children. Some are serving or have served in the military themselves. They are a varied, but tight-knit community who believe in supporting each other.
Do you do controversial articles?
We do. We’ve tackled such topics as military families living on food stamps, sexual predators living on military installations, supporting the military versus not supporting the war, and other not-so-pretty topics. We don’t hide information from our readers. We address things head on with attention to real-life situations.
Who writes for Military Spouse?
Most of our writers are military spouses, and yes, some are professional writers. Spouses have an innate ability to bring the fundamental and emotional angles to the articles that they write for us. It is not something that usually be fabricated by an “outsider” to our community.
What, if anything, does the creation of Military Spouse tell us about the split between the nation’s civilian and military populations?
A very tricky question, indeed. In short, it tells us that the gap is there. I think the fact that the magazine is so well received, has become the flagship for the entire community and has led the way for other efforts (non-profits, DOD programs and studies, etc.) to be born says that there was a need waiting to be filled. I think it also underscores that mainstream, civilian publications and resources cannot provide the unique requirements of our community. In other words, what we need is different than what was available.
The Army likes to say they enlist the soldier and re-enlist the family…do you agree?
Absolutely. Keeping spouses and families happy is key to overall military retention.
How are military families faring after a decade of nonstop war?
Like with anything, you adjust. I think spouses and families have incrementally made modifications to their daily lives, what they are willing to tolerate, how they communicate and what they will do in order to accommodate longer and more frequent deployments. That being said, over time, anything can become too much.
Tell us some things about military spouses that most non-military spouses would be surprised to learn.
I think civilian spouses might be surprised to learn that we don’t travel for free and that our educations are not paid for — I get that a lot as a spouse of a Navy service member. On a serious note, I think civilians might be surprised that while the Internet does significantly allow for more communication between a family and a deployed service member, it is by no means the same as when people are stateside. Usually, phone calls and emails are limited to one or so a day on average, and even less often when a member is in a “hot zone”. Finally, I think civilians would find it interesting that as military, we all speak in acronyms and really only understand each other. Ha!
What is the biggest challenge in raising kids when Mom or Dad is away so much — and under such stressful conditions?
Children in the military are all so uniquely different in both age and how they cope with stress. I think by far, the biggest challenge faced is fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of a parent dying, fear of missing out. Fears can be mitigated with a balance of information-sharing between both parents and children: communicate often via webcam when allowed, use email to share daily details, and balance that with learning what NOT to share with a deployed service member.