Survey results are clarion call to support military families — it’s national security priority

The results of the most recent Military Family Outlook Survey by Blue Star Families reveal that the issues facing the men and women in our military have worrisome long-term implications for our nation.

It should be noted that Blue Star Family surveys have a long history of providing an authoritative perspective on military life and the issues involved with it.

Its latest survey results clearly show many military families are struggling financially for several reasons — most prominently because pay scales have not kept up with inflation and because the frequency of relocation inherent in military life (on average, one move every two to three years) is exceedingly disruptive.

As a result of these issues, military families feel disconnected from the communities in which they live, and this sense of isolation leads to a lesser quality of life.

This disconnection is also the source of a very worrisome trend revealed in the survey — only 32% of respondents said they would be likely to recommend military service to others. Five years ago, 55% said they would recommend it.

The mood among military families might be best summed up by these verbatim comments made by military spouses in the survey:

  • “After 10 moves, with the 11th coming up this month, I’ve given up making anything more than acquaintances.”
  • “Ugh, I still don’t feel like I have connected and found ‘my people’ yet after living here for nearly two years. Still searching for those relationships, unfortunately.”

The precipitous drop in enthusiasm for recommending military life comes at a very inopportune time for the nation.

In December, Department of Defense officials testified before Congress that the armed services had collectively missed their recruiting goals by 41,000 — a very significant gap.

Yet, over the years, as the survey notes in its summary, the best ambassadors for military life has been military families:

  • “Military families are a key solution to the recruiting crisis. (They) are critical influencers for young adults. Military and veteran families have the ability to expand the pool of potential recruits by exposing civilian acquaintances to military life, promoting their positive experiences and countering negative narratives about the military lifestyle.”

The survey reported that active-duty families who said they feel a sense of belonging in their communities were more likely to recommend military service to others, by a 48% to 39% margin.

It is certainly in the national interest that we reverse the downward trend in military recruitment. An effective way to do this is to elevate the quality of life for military families.

That is exactly the mission of organizations such as Blue Star Families and the Military Support Alliance of New Jersey — along with many other excellent organizations — and that is why these organizations are vitally important.

Speaking specifically about the Military Support Alliance of New Jersey, we will do whatever it takes to help our service members.

There is a wide variety of things we can do to repair the disconnect between military and civilian families. All it takes is a little commitment of time — and maybe an occasional donation of a few dollars here and there, if you can afford it.

For instance, on any given day, we collect donations to buy food for military families dealing with food insecurity, or we host military families at one of New Jersey’s great minor league ballparks, or we organize outdoor activities at one of New Jersey’s beaches or forests or farms.

Sometimes, our activities are as simple as providing a directory of places of worship or a list of shopping centers. At other times, we speak with our elected officials to advocate for important legislation such as license reciprocity so military spouses can find work more quickly after relocating to New Jersey.

What the Blue Star Families survey confirms is that these actions we take to help our service members are not simply feel-good exercises but national imperatives and worthy of your support.

Gino Sciorilli is the president of the board of directors for the Military Support Alliance of New Jersey and the president of Ocean Salon Systems in Lakewood.