Soldiers Are Not the Only Ones in the Military: A Family Perspective

soldier family

My youngest brother graduated from Army Basic Training this week, and I could not be more proud of him. He is an amazing and talented young man with a bright future. I have always had a heart for our military, but now more so than ever.

From a family systems perspective, the solider is not the only one in the military. The entire family serves our country and makes great sacrifices for our freedom. During our journey these past few months, I have been part of a military family support group on Facebook. I wanted to share a few thoughts that were helpful to my family and I.   Even with a PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy, I still have plenty to learn about military families.

american flag

Connection of Military Families

I was amazed to feel such an instant connection with complete strangers because of our common experience. When we endure hardships, like separation from a loved one, it is much easier when we can share and empathize with someone who really knows what we are feeling. I would recommend utilizing any number opportunities the military have to connect with other families.

Family Pride

We are a very proud group of people and with good reason. There are times when we cannot share specific details about our soldiers due to safety concerns. I had not considered until now that publicizing too many specifics could put our military and their families in danger. I understand it may not be not worth the risk, and there are many ways to show military pride. I will still proudly tell anyone that I am an Army Sister, but that is my choice.

Dealing with Separation

It is difficult to be separated from the solider you love. We are so connected with our technology that it feels strange to not be able to Skype, make a phone call, text, or send an email at a moments notice. For our family, it was helpful to write as many letters as we could. My kids drew lots of pictures and we had photos printed to send in the letters. We received some letters back, which was very exciting. I finally got to talk to him after his graduation. He informed me that he did 60 push ups due to the volume of letters he received! We were glad to have helped his workout regimen.

Staying busy also helped the time go by faster for us. With two children, ages three and one, our normal schedule is quite full already. We also prayed daily for our soldier’s safe return.

newborn and soldier

The Hardest Part

One of the hardest moments for me was when my son, age three, asked where his uncle was and why he was not coming to see him. I definitely had an emotional lump in my throat. I think it can be hard to explain to a child exactly what is going on in terms that they understand. We had a good conversation about how Uncle Jake was a solider and that he was keeping us safe. I also promised that he would come back and play trains with him later on. The first thing my son asks when we have a visitor is if they want to play trains. I am in awe of our military who have children. I do not know how you manage being away from your kids, but I am very grateful that you are there to protect all of our children.

Thanks for reading our update! I wonder if any other military families have experiences similar to ours. We would love to hear from you.

Check out Summit Family Therapy in Peoria, IL to learn more about Dr. Courtney Stivers’ professional work. 

About Courtney Stivers, PhD (25 Articles)
Courtney Stivers, PhD, LMFT, is a subject matter expert in Marriage and Family Therapy. Her professional experience includes residential addiction, school-based therapy, community mental health, teaching, research, public speaking, professional consultation, and several administrative roles. She is currently the Executive Director of Summit Family Therapy in Peoria, IL. Please learn more on her practice website,

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