Article by: Carla Olivo
To Join or NOT to Join…That is the Question!
For some, it is a no brainer. They no sooner pcs, sign the kids up for soccer, find a new church and look for a new spouse club. For others, no amount of sweet talk or bribing with fantastic luncheons or terrific road trips is enough for them to join their local group of military spouses. Some join at every duty station because they feel it’s the quickest way to meet new people; others because they enjoy finding new friends with similar interests.
Air Force spouse Sarah says she was hesitant at first. “I think whether you love or hate the spouses’ club depends on the base and the people involved. When I was a girlfriend and fiancé, I heard about all the drama in the spouses’ club at my husband’s last base. Thus, when we got married I didn’t join.”
And that is it in a nutshell for some. Some just want to avoid the perceived DRAMA! A Navy spouse won’t even discuss her ordeal. She raises her hand and says, “Never again!” An Air Force spouse admits that it is not always easy. “Yes there can be a drama queen or two, but I don’t let them damper my adventure.”
There is certainly a lot to be gained from joining the right club; finding instant friends, the chance to explore your new location through lunch bunch, wine club or road trip groups or pursuing a hobby with the Bingo/Bunco group, quilting, sewing or knitting clubs.
Maggie, an Army wife for the last 14 years, joined her first spouse club just last year. “I wish I had done it sooner. I met so many wonderful people, and learned the ins and outs of the post faster. Truly, the friendships I made have been the best part.”
Some spouses like to give back to the community through the philanthropic side of the club. “My current spouses’ club is very active in community service activities which are very important to me,” says AF spouse Sarah. “It gives you a chance to get to know other spouses who also value giving back.”
Military families often move far from family and friends and depending on the duty station, it can be difficult to meet new people. Air Force wife KaCee says, “I like to get involved and (a Spouse club) is a great way to do it!” Army wife Laura didn’t join a spouse club until she left the workforce to stay at home with her daughter. She values the chance to bond with other military wives and mothers throughout the day. “I am a fan of military spouse clubs because of the possibility it provides to build friendships.”
Tristan, an introverted Army spouse who was once on active duty herself, says leaving the Army made her feel lost. “I overheard a woman at the gym talking about the spouses club. She invited me to a luncheon. I made some great friends and felt so welcomed I joined then and there. I knew that this would take me out of my comfort zone and help me meet new people.”
On the flip side, a Marine spouse says she enjoys getting to know her civilian neighbors as well as fellow military spouses. “I had a disappointing experience while serving on the board of a spouse club. And while I know that doesn’t necessarily mean the next club will be as bad, I prefer to broaden my circle of friends to include both military and civilian friends.” Another spouse says while her last spouse club had a lot of social activities, they were not very active on the fundraising/philanthropy side, so she lends her event planning/fundraising skills to her kids’ schools and athletic teams.
Army spouse Mandi says she made the mistake of asking around about the Fort Hood Spouses’ Club before the pcs. “I got all negative comments about the leadership so I decided to not to join.” After being there a year she says she met some really nice women who encouraged her to attend a luncheon as their guest and she was presently surprised. “The leadership that had gotten a bad rap was not two years past and the ‘new group’ of ladies were wonderful. Now I love it and don’t miss a luncheon and try to go to as many events as I can!”
AF Spouse Sarah enjoys her club. “When we arrived at our current base, my neighbor came over the first day, introduced herself, and invited me to a bingo event with the spouses’ club. Once there I met an incredible group of women who welcomed me and made sure the newbie wasn’t sitting home alone bored. The group not only provided instant friends who truly meant their invitations, it provided great advice and fun activities.”
As with most other aspects of military life, it makes sense to keep an open mind and once the boxes are unpacked, the kids are busy with school and activities, and you have left your moving company review on PCSgrades.com, check out your local spouse club. It may or may not be your cup of tea but you could be pleasantly surprised.
Author: Carla Olivo, PCSgrades Strategic Communications Coordinator, is a freelance journalist and event planner. She previously served as the Director of Communications for Operation Hug-A-Hero and as the Media Relations Officer for the Delaware Department of Transportation. She has garnered numerous industry awards including the Associated Press award for Spot News Reporting, News Writing, Enterprise Reporting, Documentary Reporting and Society of Professional Journalist awards in News Writing and Spot News Reporting. During her career as a television journalist, Carla covered the search for Manuel Noriega in Panama, Operation Desert Storm, The Gulf War, the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew. She lives in Northern Virginia with her husband, a retired USMC Lt. Colonel, and their two children. You can follow her on Twitter @olivowriter.