Volunteers at workBecoming part of the outside the gate community is often very difficult for military members and their families. We PCS often, have different interests, go to unit functions and with young families, it just seems like we are too busy to really connect. But there are so many good reasons to find a connection in your local community.
1 – Participation makes you feel good and is good for your mental health
2- Connections with civilian friends might be critical for that spouse employment search or maybe a retirement or separation job for the military member
3- Getting to know the parents of your child or children’s friends could be critical to providing them with a safe environment
4- Providing resources such as your time and effort will make the area around your military installation a better place to live
5- Pride in your community will make it more fun to live there.
6- The holidays will be more fun and exciting for you with civilian friends to share them with if your own family lives a distance from you.
7 – The civilians know the area and can share some of the must see spots or local attractions to visit
8- Sharing the military story! There are so many misunderstandings about the military community (did you know food was free in the commissary is one of my favorites) and you can be a quiet listening ear to correct some of the misunderstandings
Where you can join in and be part of the local community around your military installation:
1- Your church can be a great way to connect but just being in a pew does not make it happen! Join in, be a part of a program, teach, find a small group to be part of, etc
2- Volunteer at your child’s school or child care if they have a program. Teachers are always looking for readers, special event help, crafty folks
3- Your civilian job will connect you with a new group as well. Be part of a group and get out with them for a relax time after work someday.
4- The neighborhood (65% of military personnel do live off the installation) will be teaming with activity. Be brave and get out and talk to the neighbors. Many will not take that first step, you might be surprised how nice they are if you open the door.
5- Sports! Yep, we can watch our own kids and coach even (let’s be good citizens while doing that as well) but maybe there is a local minor league team or college? Even high school teams can provide a night out for the family and be another fun community connection.
6- A hobby that takes you into the local stores, garage, etc can be a way to make new friends and contacts.
7- Military associations are just not for retirees! Find one that is active in your area and join in the fun. We have had many fish dinners on Friday night at an American Legion, VFW, USO, etc.
You may have your own reasons to join in and even different activities but the key is that you are being a part of your community and this wonderful country! Citizenship is being part of, caring for and having pride in your country! Start local and go big.
PS: A moment of laughter: Deb and I agreed to help clean up and rehab a city park near McChord Air Force Base/ Field a few years back. The Lakewood city chamber of commerce and Rotary were building a new piece of the park and we joined an early group on a Saturday morning to make the outside gate area nicer looking. As we took our first break, one of the other workers, asked us what we had done to earn community service hours? We smiled and told him that we were volunteering, but I am not sure he really believed us. Apparently, a group of “volunteers” from a local court room had joined us in the effort.