September 15 is Military Family Appreciation Day, a day when family members of those who serve are honored. Military families often face unique challenges when carrying out their duties or supporting those who perform them.
Eleanor Millar is a military spouse and government relations officer for Together We Stand (TWS), an organization that provides support to military families. She has been part of a military family for almost 20 years.
Her husband, combat infantry warrant officer and trained paratrooper Tom Millar, has been deployed four times during their marriage so far: twice to Afghanistan, once to Poland and once to the Middle East.
“He was gone six to eight months while he was on active duty. During deployment, I talk to him once every two weeks,” Millar said.
Being separated is a common thing in a military marriage. Millar had a long-distance relationship with her husband for 10 years before she was finally able to live in the same city, and even that was hard for her.
“They are constantly going through a training cycle, which can be very unpredictable. It’s not the kind of job where you’re home at five o’clock after dinner every day. I wasn’t prepared for this. Tom was often absent even when we were supposed to be living under the same roof.
The hardest thing for Millar was changing a*signments. At that time, she and her husband had been living together in Edmonton for six years. It was very hard for her:
“We had lived there for six years, so you start to expect to live there for six or ten more years, but all of a sudden you get the message that you have to move. Leaving so much behind after you have started to put down roots is a real challenge.
According to TWS statistics, more than 10,000 families in Canada move each year due to transfers. Millar says her family has been lucky because they’ve only had to move a few times. She knows families who are on their 11th or 12th move.
“It really gets your family moving. If you have older children, they might end up going to five different schools,” she said.
When moving, some spouses may have difficulty finding a new job because certain credentials do not transfer.
“Perhaps you are certified as a teacher in British Columbia, but that is no longer valid for New Brunswick, or you are a lawyer and you only pa*sed the bar in the province you are in, but not in where you will move. . It can be difficult to adapt and find meaningful employment for spouses,” Millar explained. Her job allowed her to work remotely, so she was able to keep her job after the move.
Although the challenges are many, Millar says she and other military spouses she has encountered have always tried to make the best of the situation and, for the most part, it has worked.
“Very occasionally, people choose to stay apart for an extended period of time. Your career might be important or your children want to finish high school in the same place,” she said.
“It puts a different kind of strain on a marriage. For us, trust and communication were the key to the success of this project.
Military personnel are often willing to make the ultimate sacrifice, but many smaller, more personal sacrifices are made along the way.
“Tom must have missed our son’s first step and word. I remember when our son was two years old. Tom was returning from a deployment after several months. I had this big plan to meet him at the airport and bring our boy,” Millar said.
“In my head, our son was running to his father and they could finally hug after so long, but our son didn’t recognize his father when he returned. I know it was very painful for Tom. Of course, after a few days everything was back to normal. »
Although it may be difficult, Millar wouldn’t consider asking her husband to change jobs.
“He loves it so much and the army is just the perfect place for him.” He’s not the type of guy to sit behind a desk all day. He wants to go out and feel the wind on his face.
Millar was also proud to be a military wife. She feels she is also serving her country in this way.
“On a day like Military Family Appreciation Day, I want to ask everyone to thank their military friends and family, but also to remind them that they are not alone. There aren’t many of us, so you may feel like you’re going through some things alone. This is why Together We Stand exists.
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