The Heart of an Omaha Military Spouse: Welcoming Military Families

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Military Families in Nebraska

It wasn’t a surprise when my husband signed his contract to join the military. Growing up, he joined the Civil Air Patrol, ROTC, and always had a dream to fly. We are high school sweethearts, so I got to experience much of this journey with him. We got married, graduated from college, he commissioned, and we moved to our first duty station all in the same month. I’d lived in the same house my whole life until my wedding day, but off into the wild blue yonder, we went—like many other military families.

We’ve moved, as a military family, six times in the past thirteen years.

We have three sons born in different places. I earned teaching certificates in five different states. I teach online now so that I can be a stay-at-home-mom. He’s been on countless temporary duty assignments, training, worked long hours, and deployed—just like most military members. The only thing sure in the military is uncertainty.

And still.

The most common thing any military family will hear is, “but you knew what you were getting into.” That’s like telling a new parent who needs help and is stressed out, “you knew what you were getting into when you decided to have kids.” You don’t know until you’re living your own story.

Military families move every few years.

That means every few years we’re uprooting our family, changing jobs, houses, schools, in-person friends, neighbors, where we shop, activities we’re involved in, medical providers—so many changes. There is little choice where we get to move. Whenever a “dream sheet” has ten options, I caution spouses not to forget the eleventh choice…wherever the military wants to send you, even if it’s not on “the list.” Expect the unexpected. Do you know my friend Murphy? He shows up every time my spouse is away. Something always goes wrong.

I have felt my highest of highs and the lowest of lows being a military spouse. There are so many wonderful things about this way of life. I am incredibly proud to be a military spouse, and I consider it a major part of my identity. We traveled to unlikely places, met the kindest people from all different backgrounds, and made lifelong friends all over the world.

“You knew what you were getting into.”

Dream: We’ll travel the world!
Reality: You’ve got orders to a remote location you’ve never heard of before.

Dream: I’m successful in my career field and the bread-winner of our family.
Reality: You’re moving to a remote location where they haven’t heard of your career field, or you’ll be taking a demotion/drastic pay cut.

Dream: The romantic homecoming scene from the movies.
Reality: Behind-the-scenes managing the home front.  Cereal for dinner, kids?

Nebraska Nice for Military Families

Military Families in Nebraska

Offutt Air Force Base was high on our dream sheet list for this past move, and we consider ourselves lucky to be stationed here. We’ve always heard great things about Omaha, and we have found that it is the perfect spot for our family. It is an excellent mix of urban and rural areas, and within just a few months, I could see why so many families choose to retire here.

It was helpful that we knew a few other military families stationed here before we moved here, including one of my dearest friends.  The Air Force family becomes smaller and smaller, the longer we stay apart of the community; therefore, we cross paths occasionally. It was great to ask friends and acquaintances that were already here about the schools, housing areas, recommended babysitters, churches, and I got connected to Omaha Mom through one of my former neighbors who was living here and wrote for them as well!

How can you bring out the Nebraska Nice and make new military families feel more welcomed?

  1. Say hello. Say hello. Say hello. Come to say hello; we want to get to know you. Welcome us and our kids to the neighborhood (we also never turn down treats). Leave a little note with your names and contact information so we can get in touch with you.
  2. Invite our kids to play with your kids. When we’re in the middle of the moving process, we are missing friends, toys, and “normal” life. Kids make friends almost instantly, so it’s great when your kids ask ours to play.
  3. Tell new military families about your favorite local restaurants, places to go, annual events. All those hidden gems that make a place special, we want to find them.
  4. Don’t immediately dismiss our friendship because we may only live here for a few years. Make horseshoes, not circles, and recognize new faces in the crowd. Our house has an open fire pit policy. We want you to join us—the s’ more the merrier.
  5. Invite us to join you in community events/groups/churches. A woman on my street started up a conversation with me because we both walked our kids the same route to school each day. She invited me to her MOPS group in Papillion. I was nervous/excited to check it out, and I’m so glad I did because I’ve made great friends I wouldn’t have otherwise met.
  6. Not all military spouses are female. Make sure to be inclusive of all military families. Invite the stay-at-home dads to playgroup, don’t assume male spouses are there to be Mr. Fix-It.
  7. Our kids are along for the ride we chose for them. We feel so thankful when you invite them to birthday parties, let your kids play with ours, and when you love on them.
  8. Using the phrase “just like last year” can be hard for us. Don’t assume everyone knows everything about your organization/club/how things were done in the past.
  9. Our schedules are always changing, and we may have to change plans last minute, but we also thrive on schedules, rosters, and calendars!
  10. Say hello. Say hello. Say hello.

We don’t really know what we are getting into when we choose this military life, but it’s a good life. It’s our life, and we want you to be part of it.

Nebraska may not be for everyone, but we love, as a military family, the Nebraska-nice good life! 

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Ellen Kehs was born and raised in Evanston, Illinois where she met and later married her high school sweetheart, Mason. Together they’ve traveled the world, most recently touching down in Omaha in June 2019. She’s a mom to three little boys, Theodore (eight), Woodrow (seven), and Maximus (three). Life is never boring with her boys! Ellen loves being a military spouse and she embodies the “bloom where you are planted” mentality. In addition to soaking up whatever current city she’s living in, she is passionate about reading and getting books in the hands of children, as well as helping other mamas connect with each other. She has a bachelor’s degree in secondary English education, a master’s degree in adolescent literacy and technology, and she teaches part-time online, but is primarily as stay-at-home mom. Her hobbies include, exploring, reading, swimming, napping, snapping pictures, playing games, baking, and loving on the little men in her life.

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