ALBANY, N.Y. – Raising a family can be one of the most challenging endeavors. Couple that with being married to a Marine on recruiting duty and spouses end up having to practically raise their children on their own.
Although Marine spouses are capable of being heavily leaned on by their Marines, they are accustomed to living on bases and installations were they benefit from goods and services easily available there but harder to find off base.
“I’ve been married to my husband for eight years and during these eight years we have been through a lot,” said Ashley Gearhart, a Marine spouse and conference attendee. “He’s missed our son growing up and missed our daughter’s birth. This last year and half of recruiting duty has been one of the hardest times that we have gone through.”
To ensure spouses use every resource at their fingertips to help make raising a family a less daunting task, the 1st Marine Corps District, the unit in charge of Marine recruiting in the Northeastern United States, held its annual Family Readiness Conference at the Desmond Hotel, here, Aug. 29 through Sept. 1.
“You can’t get the mission accomplished if you don’t take care of your Marines,” said Col. J.J. Dill, the district’s commanding officer. “Taking care of your Marines means taking care of their families.”
Several subject matter experts with Marine Corps Family Team Building and other Department of Defense organizations gave presentations to educate the spouses on topics ranging from stress management, access to medical facilities and education resources for their children.
“Thanks to this conference I’ve learned a lot,” said Gearhart. “I’ve learned how to deal with medical, dental, and different things that are available to us that I had no idea existed.”
Mary Driscoll, 1 MCD’s family readiness officer, organized the conference in order to bring spouses from around the district together and foster a sense of community.
“I also learned that there are many spouses out there who are going through the same challenges I’m going through and it’s just opened up my mind to attending more of these conferences and taking advantage of what they have to offer,” Gearhart said.
The information presented at the conference demonstrated that the resources available can also help families with disabled or handicapped family members.
“I had no idea the Marine Corps had an Exceptional Family Member Program,” said Amber Robison, a family readiness advisor and Marine spouse. “I’m amazed the program offers respite care. I’m fortunate that I don’t need to use it but it’s nice to know that it’s available.”
Robison also learned that she was misinformed about what medical care was available to her off base.
“In the past, I’ve had to drive 45 minutes to get to a doctor’s appointment because Tricare told me as long as there was a doctor within 50 miles that accepted their insurance, that I had to use them,” Robison said. “I learned at the conference that it’s within 30 miles. Now I can make sure the families in my area know that before making appointments that are far out of their way.”
To maximize the time, funds, facilities and access to the family readiness information, the Single Marine and Sailor Program Conference was held in conjunction with the Family Readiness Conference.
“It’s gone really well and it’s been very productive,” said Sgt. Bryan G. Lett, the marketing and public affairs representative for Recruiting Station Portsmouth and the station’s SMP representative. “We’ve been doing a lot of brain storming and figuring out how we are going to put [our plans] together with the recruiting stations, and the family readiness information has just been icing on the cake.”
After two days of back-to-back classes, the spouses and Single Marine Program representatives left the conference with a greater wealth of knowledge.
“I was very pleased with the feedback I received,” Driscoll said. “I’ve been very pleased with the phone calls and questions I’ve received since the conference ended. They really did learn a lot about the programs that can help them better assist their Marines and their families.”