Two years after my husband and I were married, we faced our first deployment. We didn’t have any children yet, so it was just him and me. At the time, we were living in Chicago with no family nearby.
After he left, I remember feeling very lonely. Despite working full time and hanging out with friends and doing all I could to distract myself, the loneliness was still there hanging over my head.
Not that long after, I began receiving monthly calls from my husband’s unit’s Key Spouse. She would call to check in and see how I was doing and if there was anything I needed. Even though she was someone I didn’t know that well and didn’t see very much, it was still nice to have that person who understood what I was going through and who I could connect with.
Here we are now 10 years later, and I’m the one making those phone calls. I currently serve as the Key Spouse for my husband’s Air Force Reserves unit, and we are in the midst of a deployment. I now know more than ever why the Key Spouse is so important.
Many military families, even Reservists families, don’t live near family. They don’t have that comforting connection they need when their spouse is deployed. Sure, they may have friends around, but if those friends aren’t military, they can’t fully understand what military life is like; what a deployment is like for the spouse left at home. This is where those monthly phone calls from the Key Spouse come in handy. The Key Spouse has been there. She or he understands all the circumstances and emotions that occur during a deployment. If you’re feeling lonely, they are there to talk and help bring comfort. They can be your sounding board and a shoulder to cry on; someone who will just listen when you need an ear to hear. And if you feel like you need a little more, the Key Spouse can connect you with the resources to receive free counseling.
There are so many things to take care of when you are the lone spouse at home during a deployment — and even before the deployment. Bills need to be paid, health insurance updated, children to take care of, school paperwork and events, wills to be put in place and/or updated, finances to be put in order, power of attorney paperwork, etc. There is a LOT, and it can be very overwhelming – especially when it’s your first deployment and you’ve never gone through it before. Your Key Spouse is there to answer your questions and help you as best as she or he can. They can point you in the right direction and give you the resources you need to get everything figured out and put in place.
Individual, Unit & Family Readiness
It’s difficult to really be “ready” for a deployment. You’re never really ready for all it entails, but you can at least be prepared. This is one way the Key Spouse can help support the unit. The Key Spouse works with the unit leadership to relay information to families in order to prepare for any deployments. On top of that, the Key Spouse also can provide information on other events and different situations that may arise when the unit is not deployed.
Links to Leadership
Sometimes there are situations that arise that a family member may not be sure how to deal with or who to contact. In this situation, the Key Spouse is an important link between family members and unit leadership. The Key Spouse works closely with the First Sergeant and, therefore, has access to a variety of resources. The First Sergeant is there to assist the Key Spouse in helping families when a variety of situations arise.
My husband’s unit has only been on its deployment for about two months now. Yet, we’ve already had a variety of challenges for the spouses on the home front. We’ve had difficult job situations, health insurance questions, military ID problems, a spouse needing to run her husband’s business, children struggling with their parent being gone, and most recently, Hurricane Irma. This is why the job of a Key Spouse is so important. You are there to offer support for the people of your unit when they may not have it otherwise. You are that connection, source of information, sounding board, help in difficult times, and so much more.
For all you Key Spouses out there, keep up the good work! Know that what you do is important and appreciated.
**Interested in being a Key Spouse for your husband or wife’s Air Force unit? Speak with his or her First Sergeant or Squadron Commander and see how you can help. The Army and Navy have similar programs as well. Check with your spouse to see how you can get involved as an FRG (Army) or Ombudsman (Navy).***