Patriotism runs high in military families throughout our nation, and as the United States mobilizes for possible war overseas, a special breed of people—wives and husbands of service members—finds itself loyally supportive, fiercely proud, but also intensely anxious about the weeks and months to come. Fear of the unknown and coming to terms with the dedication a military spouse has to our country are powerful emotions for those "married to the military."
In war and peacetime, military families understand the value of precious time together; they also know that separations are largely an unavoidable and often difficult aspect of military life.
Taking Care of Business: Planning Ahead
While it's natural to focus on the emotional upheaval of your loved one leaving, getting your affairs in order is vital to successful separation, providing increased peace of mind for you and your spouse.
Money Matters: Allow plenty of time to review your finances. Do you have joint access to your savings and checking accounts? Do you know locations of and account numbers for your savings, checking, loans and investments?
Set a family budget and agree on an amount your spouse will take from the account monthly. Discuss when and how bills should be paid. You may also consider establishing an allotment to your savings specifically to cover emergency expenses. If a deployment is over the tax season, go over info needed to finish taxes.
If you run into financial trouble, the following organizations can help:
- Army: Army Emergency Relief
- Air Force: Air Force Aid Society
- Navy and Marine Corps: Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society
- Coast Guard: Coast Guard Mutual Assistance
Create a Will: While nobody likes the premise behind creating a will, it is vital for a military family. A will ensures your estate is handled by people you designate and that your children will be cared for by someone you choose. Without a will, the state makes these decisions for you. Be sure you have completed and filed wills before deployment.
Power of Attorney: These documents enable spouses to move from government housing, sell cars, or conduct other business requiring legal authorization and are often necessary when a husband or wife is deployed. Children's caregivers may need power of attorney to enroll children in school or to authorize medical care in a parent's absence. A "general power of attorney" gives the person holding it the ability to conduct most business in the service member's name, while a "special power of attorney" can only be used in instances specified by the service member.
A lawyer at your military installation's legal assistance office can answer your legal questions and provide free wills and powers of attorney.
Know Locations: Discuss the whereabouts of important documents with your spouse. Be sure the following are up to date and accessible:
- Marriage certificate
- Birth certificates
- Social Security numbers
- Power of Attorney
- Most recent LES (Leave and Earning Statement)
- Insurance policies
- Car titles and registrations, base or post decals
- Housing documents (leases, deeds, mortgages)
- Medical records
- Citizenship papers
- Adoption papers
- Military ID cards (check expiration dates)
- List of credit cards and account numbers
In Case of Emergency: You may have to tackle household maintenance, the lawn, auto care, or other situations you may not be familiar with while your spouse is gone. Review these things together. Do you know who to call if the car breaks down? How to change a tire? Where to put gas in the lawn mower? Shut off the water valve for the house? The more you know, the more confidence you will have in your ability to handle situations without your mate.
Know the Support Systems: The military often provides family support briefings before major deployments, exercises or missions. Talks and literature given during these meetings can provide much of the necessary information and skills a military spouse needs to better handle separation, encouraging self-sufficiency and self-reliance. You will likely receive a list of support organizations such as: an ombudsman/key wife/family readiness leader/family support leader; a base or post chaplain, or rabbi; and the American Red Cross. Familiarize yourself with these organizations and how they can help you, and don't hesitate to use them if needed.