If you are marrying a service member, congratulations. You are about to join an elite community of people who have committed to serve their country in a profound and meaningful way. You’re on track to grow stronger and more self-assured and meet remarkable people and lifelong friends.
Make no mistake, military spouses are a vital part of the military itself, playing a major role in keeping service members happy, healthy and ready to serve.
Here are some things to know as you begin your journey as a military spouse:
Military marriages come with benefits.
As a military spouse, you have access to career and education support, non-medical counseling, financial benefits and much more. All free and available 24/7.
Many military benefits and resources are available to spouses.
There is no military spouse pay or stipend, but the military offers a number of benefits to help service members and their families. Your first stop after the wedding should be the nearest military ID card issuing facility to enroll in DEERS, the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System.
Once enrolled, you can access military benefits, including health care and health insurance.
Other benefits include:
- Access to commissaries and exchanges
- Free gyms, libraries and other recreation opportunities
- Free tax services
- Free, confidential non-medical counseling services
- Help with education and career goals
- Military discounts
You will spend time apart from your new spouse.
The military is not a job in the traditional sense. Service members are honor-bound to complete their duty, even when their responsibilities conflict with family time.
- In addition to deployments, service members often are assigned to shift work, unconventional hours, temporary duty stations, training programs and other responsibilities that take them away from home.
- Service members often work on important holidays and life events; they may even miss the birth of their children or have to leave very soon after they are born.
Keep your service member’s feelings in mind as you begin your married life together. Striking a balance between duty and family may be more difficult than a new spouse expects. The call to duty is not personal; a military couple can grow stronger keeping that in mind.
Find out about military traditions, protocols and more.
The military is full of traditions, protocols and rules. Some military protocols are steeped in tradition and meaning; some are fun; and others keep your service member safe and ready for duty.
There are rules about public displays of affection, social media posts, base security, standing for the national anthem and taps, and more. Here are some examples:
- If you see a movie on base, be ready to stand for the national anthem before the previews.
- If you need to run errands at the commissary, you may have an armed guard check under your car with a mirror while on your way.
- You may learn something or take a picture that you cannot post on social media like Facebook.
There are also special ceremonies for promotion, branch- or rank-specific rites of passage, and lots of opportunities to show your military pride. As you plan your wedding, be sure to learn about military wedding traditions you may want to incorporate into the ceremony.
You can find funding for your education and career support.
Most military spouses work; and no matter where you are in your education or career path, support and scholarships are available for military spouses who want to find a job, get promoted or head back to school.
Many military spouses choose to pursue careers that can move with them if necessary. Making your career portable means developing the skills and training and getting the licenses, degrees and certifications that employers want in high-growth, high-demand fields and occupations. Popular “portable careers” include teaching and child care, nursing, event planning, engineering and customer service.
Military spouses qualify for programs that make it easier to find federal jobs and positions on military bases. Other programs also offer scholarships and financial help to pay for college, certifications and other trainings. The Spouse Education and Career Opportunities Program is a great place to learn about your options.
The military community has your back.
There are a number of official resources to help you achieve your best military life, including:
- On-installation Military and Family Support Center
- Branch-specific Family Readiness Groups
- Spouse Education and Career Opportunities program
- Military OneSource concierge-like support services
In addition, there are a number of unofficial support systems including Facebook groups, meetups and more. Some commands have very developed spouse networks, while others are less active. Either way, you must be proactive if you wish to meet people. Your new spouse will likely be your best resource as you look for ways to join their military community.
Your significant other has already made a major, life-altering commitment – to serve their country. Before you tie the knot, it’s important to understand some of the ways and available resources to help you embrace marriage, and military life.