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Mar 15

A Minority Within the Military Community

Marine Corps Reserve 300x300 A Minority Within the Military CommunityNo, I’m not discussing my thoughts on being a minority woman, small business owner today. Frankly, very few people care that much about my race anymore and even fewer want to hear about how I was never really discriminated against and grew up feeling rather welcomed and normal. I may not have been your standard Caucasian kid, but I was just another kid, for the most part. No, I’m here to talk to you today about being a minority in the military world.

I am the wife of a reservist. There are more of us than most realize, but we still do not make up a large percentage of the military spouse community. Reserve, National Guard, whatever branch you might be, be it Marines or Army, we are here. Reserve spouses. We get all the same struggles that comes with being a milspouse, but with significantly less representation and an even smaller amount of understanding.

I’ve written time and time again about our benefits, the common misconceptions from both civilian and active duty spouses alike and just about every other facet of our life and how it is the same and/or different from that of our Active Duty counterparts. But today, I’m here to talk about how sensitive I used to be and the realization I had that I might be arrogant. Ok, I am arrogant.

I rarely encounter the negative attitude that so many reserve and guard spouses encounter. Very few people have tried to make me feel like I didn’t belong to the milspouse club and the few who did were probably (ok I know for a fact that they were) equally rude to other active duty spouses. But it doesn’t change the fact that we are an often overlooked and left out group. We don’t qualify for most programs and even ones that don’t exclude us have created content or requirements that exclude us in their very nature.

Case in point, I was recently made aware a few groups that want to help military spouses advance their careers or network for their small businesses. I was thrilled! That is, I was thrilled until I went to all the websites I was offered and saw in big bold letters that every single one of them had the words PCS in big, bold letters on their main pages and that their programs and content were very clearly meant for active duty spouses. That would be me, a military spouse once again feeling excluded.

Marine Reserve 130x300 A Minority Within the Military Community

But it’s a funny thing, this constant reminder that I am not really completely a military spouse. My husband went to the same boot camp as his active duty counter parts, the same MOS school, he does the same training, completes and competes in the same training exercises and deploys just like the rest of the Marine Corps. But we don’t PCS and I am very much aware that the higher his rank gets, the more obvious it is that I don’t fit the standard military spouse definition.

And yet, I’m arrogant. Why? Because while I have spent years wishing I felt more included. There is an even more exclusively small group of military spouses out there: Male military spouses.

I have made the adjustment in my vernacular and have worked hard to say “spouse” instead of “wife” but the reality is, I still consider the milspouse group to be women. I still refer to fellow millies as “one of the wives” or some other gender specific term and my Pinterest account has a board that is labeled “Loving a Military Man.” I did not use “service member.” So, try as I might to use those terms on my blog, and even on my Facebook page, the truth is, I have never met a male military spouse in person. All of the spouses I know through the blogging community, save one, are female. And thus, for all my arrogant whining about feeling excluded, I have excluded others.

I am part of a minority group in this military life, but I’m not a member of the most excluded minority group. And I’m just as guilty of accidentally making someone feel excluded as all of those people and groups I tell my husband about. For all of my frustrations, I have failed, until very recently, to recognize my own sins in this matter.

I guess I don’t really have as much cause to feel excluded as I would have liked. And I’m kind of a jerk for not reminding myself that catering to the majority isn’t bad. It helps a lot of people. Military spouses, in general, are a minority compared to the US as large and I think it’s wonderful that there are groups out there who want to help, whether it be scholarships for college or just helping a spouse find a more portable career and how to succeed at it, those are noble intentions in and of themselves.

Reserve and Guard spouses may feel like a minority, but we are a minority within a minority. And there are so many ways to group military spouses that it’s foolish to forget that. There may not be a ton of programs for us or help available, but what is out there is a community of SPOUSES waiting to support us no matter what. And isn’t that the most important need that we ALL have?

7 comments

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  1. Rob

    I really know what you’re talking about.

    I was on active duty as a Marine, then I got out and spent a few years in the Reserves. I really appreciate both sides now.

    My wife is in the Navy, so that makes me a male military spouse now. I’m also a stay-at-home-dad, which puts me in the minority because most manspouses are active duty.

    On top of that, my wife is pretty high in rank, which is another ‘minority’. Just because of the nature of the military you tend not to socialize with service members significantly lower or higher in rank. I get along great with my wife’s friends and their spouses, but they are all at other commands, and not on the same deployment schedule, for example.

  2. Nicole

    Thank you for this article! My husband is going to be an I&I of Marine reservists. We are being sent to a Commanders and Commander Spouse conference in May but I think the focus will probably be on active duty. I would love to hear ideas of how we can best support reservist families. When we get to our next place, I plan on setting up a facebook page for the reservist spouses as a starting point, but if you have specific ideas of ways to offer support, I would love to hear from you. Thanks!

    1. Rob

      Nicole,
      There are so many things to talk about and consider. The biggest thing is the wider degree of experiences Reservists have. Some are college students, some are small business owners. Some rely on the USMCR paycheck, and some lose money by coming to drill. I knew Marines who went from E-2 to E-9 in the same unit, totally unheard of on active duty. I knew one guy who joined the unit as an E-2, went on active duty, had a wide and varied career, and eventually retired as an active O-5 at the same unit.

      The difference between AD and Reserves is that the Reservists have 2 stories. On active duty, when I met a Marine, if he/she had been in for more than 4 years, then we could compare duty stations and if we took long enough we could find someone we knew in common.

      With Reservists, when you meet someone new you compare duty stations, deployments, people you might know in common. And then there is the SECOND story of what his/her civilian career is. And I can’t tell you how varied and interesting those stories are. Students, lawyers, pilots, cops, teachers, bouncers, home inspectors, judges, deputies, veterinarians, truck drivers, engineers, CrossFit instructors, etc., etc., etc. And a whole lot of small business owners.

      Another consideration is what part of the country you will be in. Many Reservists all over the country travel hours to drill. Out West it can be worse because many of your Marines will live hundreds of miles away.

      Overall I am sure you will find the duty rewarding and enjoyable.

  3. Nicole

    Thank you Rob! Great perspective. My husband is active duty and has been for almost 19 years but has worked with many reservist along the years. We will be at Buckley AFB so not a huge active duty Marine community. I personally have a ton to learn and suspect there will be a lot of travel for the reservists to get to the base as you suggested. Just trying to find ways for spouses to connect and feel supported…Not a ton of models out there but maybe we can set up a good system. To you or anyone reading this, I’m open to suggestions!

    1. Rob

      I like Buckley. We have family near the base, so we’ve been there many times.
      There are a few units at that Reserve center, which can be good and bad. Good, because there are dozens of I-I Marines there, rather than just 9 or 10; bad because your husband won’t be ‘king’ as the only I-I.
      Take a look at Google Groups. We are part of one for our (civilian) neighborhood here. It’s great for asking for advice on plumbers, letting the neighbors know you have free firewood available, seeing if anyone could lend a tent for the weekend, and stuff like that.

  4. Nicole

    Thanks again Rob. I appreciate it.

  5. A Girl

    I’m sorry for not replying sooner, I had a family emergency and have been away from my laptop for ages!

    I am happy to speak with you and answer any questions you might have and to work with you in any way that I can. You can email me at aboyagirlandthemarinecorps @ gmail dot com.

    I think it’s great that you are so interested in uniting the spouses and supporting them. :)

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