Standing in the freezing, windy weather waiting for their photograph to be taken, they laughed, giggled and conversed; it was almost as if they’d known each other for a lifetime. It’s evident that Brittany Boccher, Shaun Beal, and Lauren Klempel have many different things in common, but one very significant detail stands out: they’ve all received a Military Spouse of the Year title.
Having three spouses that are all connected to the same base, in one way or another, receive this title is very rare. Brittney received the overall Military Spouse of the Year title in 2017, Shaun was recognized for the 2018 Little Rock Air Force Base Military Spouse of the Year, and Lauren received the nod for the 2018 Osan Air Base Military Spouse of the Year and also made the Top 18 Base Level Spouses of the Year.
With these spouses, three very important subjects are notable to them as a military spouse: finding your place, your voice, and your identity.
Life as a military spouse can be difficult. It’s not like there’s a training course that’s available on how to handle every military-style curve ball thrown at you. It can be tempting to get lost in the noise and be “just a military spouse”. “We get in this cycle where we feel like we’re ‘just something’. We all struggle with it and we all have our downfalls. We’re all going to have good days and bad days,” Lauren encouraged. With the use of her new title, she wants to show spouses that even if you feel like you’re “just a spouse”, you have the opportunity to make an impact on your community. “One small voice can make a large change,” she explained.
Asking questions and saying what you feel are two challenges that come into play in this military spouse life. There are so many incredible resources and organizations that are out there and are able to help with virtually any problem or situation that may be faced.
Shaun, being a male military spouse, says finding your place comes with a slightly different set of challenges. “The male population is larger than what everyone thinks,” he said. “The process is providing an incentive of friendship and comradery, an opportunity for us to share with one another, but also educate other members of the community.” Getting the male military spouse community involved consists mainly of community outreach. It encompasses encouraging them to do the things that they are good at, allowing them to show their individual talents and doing things together rather than being competitive against each other.
There is a certain level of difficulty associated with stepping into a new environment. When you open yourself up and allow people to get to know you, it may help you let your guard down. Be comfortable with who you are and don’t be afraid to be yourself.
As the 2017 Military Spouse of the Year, Brittany was able to be a voice for the masses. She was able to take the concerns, recommendations, and improvements, as expressed by military spouses across the world and bring them to those who hold positions to make changes happen. There will be a time when you realize there is something that you would like to see changed. Many military spouses often feel like their voice is not important or it isn’t worth expressing their opinion. It is. You never know how far one suggestion to a problem can go.
Breaking out of your comfort zone can definitely be a challenge. Many military spouses who struggle with finding their place also struggle with having their voice heard. This includes speaking on behalf of problems they face on a daily basis. That is what these Military Spouses of the Year are working for: to help those who think they do not have a voice, find it and allow it to be heard loud and clear.
For quite some time, Lauren struggled to find her identity in something that wasn’t just a military spouse or a mother. Of course, she adores having those two roles, but she didn’t want them to be her only identity. “I decided that I was tired of staying at home and I was tired of just being something. I didn’t want to just be anything.” Through finding a job and becoming more involved in her community, it really helped her to find her identity.
Through recognizing many military spouses were facing a true identity crisis, Brittany knew she needed to do something. “The longer they are a military spouse, the more they allow their location in the military life to dictate what they do and what they don’t do and they forget who they are. They forget what they’re passionate about and they’re not living their life with purpose.” To aid military spouses struggling with finding themselves, Brittany coauthored a workbook specifically for military spouses that will release in the coming months.
“Identify exactly what you’re passionate about, what you want to have as your platform, and know that it’s ok to not know every subject area,” Brittany explained. “Just focus on what you’re good at and stay in that lane and know that you can make huge improvements in that area.”
“Give the base a chance, give the community a chance, give people a chance,” Brittany advised. As we move from location to location, it is often easy for your identity to get lost in transition. Constant change is not an easy feat to contend with. When you find your place, your voice, and your identity and learn to embrace the adjustments, change is conquered.
To check out the entire May/June 2018 issue of Rockin' at the Rock, pick up a free copy in any FSS facility or view it digitally here.