For those who grew up in civilian families, military life may be a bit mysterious. We may have an idea of what life is like for our military service members and the value of the work they do – but what is it like to be married to someone in the military? Unless we’ve experienced it, we may not realize that being a military spouse involves pride, resilience, community – and a lot of work.

Life as a military spouse comes with a unique set of adventures and challenges. We may be up at 1 AM helping our partners pack for a sudden mission, and we may not be able to ask any questions or know when our spouses are returning. Preparing for a deployment means making sure everything on the home front is squared away, including caregiving responsibilities, and vacation plans can be scrapped a day before. Global political events lead to greater uncertainties, but even something close to home such as night training exercises can turn the family schedule upside down.

Through the ups and downs, we have learned much about flexibility, patience, support, and teamwork.

A supportive employer is a huge asset.

Navigating our careers as military spouses begins with accommodating our partners’ active-duty military careers and the mobility, uncertainty, and responsibilities that go with it. Our careers are impacted when we move, especially when moving out of state means changing companies, losing state-specific licensures and certifications, and starting at square one with a new organization. Being stationed overseas creates time zone challenges for client meetings and collaboration, and  sudden orders or deployments require flexibility for spouses to be able to prepare in a hurry.

For military spouses with kids, the career challenges are even more complex. During times of deployment, we are sole caregivers for long (and sometimes unpredictable) stretches; this makes it difficult for us to participate in networking events, happy hours, or internal groups because we simply don’t have the time or the balance as we work full-time jobs and care for our families.

Working at a firm that understands and supports military families has been incredible. LS3P has been a true champion of our military spouses, both professionally and personally. Our supervisors and colleagues have made it possible for us to relocate with our partners to overseas bases, take a day off (during our first week with the firm) to welcome a returning partner home after a deployment, change office locations when a sudden Permanent Change of Station (PCS) order came through, or care for three (very) small children while our service member is deployed. A leadership culture that values military service and military families is instrumental to our ability to grow our careers and care for our families. Likewise, the enthusiastic support of our colleagues enables us to participate fully in the life of the firm, keep projects running smoothly, and feel like an integral part of our teams even as we juggle other responsibilities.

Flexibility is a huge part of this support, and the general trend towards more hybrid or remote work opportunities has been a game changer for the military community. Companies have learned that remote work can be just as productive as working from the office, allowing military spouses to retain jobs and grow in their careers instead of starting over with each move. Recent years have also highlighted the need for greater flexibility in hours, work/life balance, online learning, and mental health; these changes benefit not only the military community, but all employees.

Relationships and outside interests keep us anchored.

The mobility that comes with a military life means that we are continuously making friends, moving, and starting again in a new place. Our service member walks into a new squadron and has a built-in group of new friends, but spouses have to work a little harder to find and build community. Most military spouses at some point will live hundreds of miles from their families and support systems, so we are adept at building support networks among the military community and our coworkers. Having teams we enjoy and depend upon at work is extremely comforting, and those of us working in different time zones look forward to the moment the rest of the team wakes up and logs on to make the day immediately brighter.

Life in the military can be all-consuming if you let it. People outside the military may see our spouses only as soldiers, or our families only as “military families.” People inside the military community, likewise, often default to centering conversation about the most recent training exercise or what flight upgrade they have next week. It can be challenging to dig deeper, get to know what makes other people tick, find friends outside the military world, discover new hobbies, and be proud of “what makes you, you.”  At some point, our spouses are going to leave for deployment or training and it’s just going to be us for a while; that’s when it’s important to have our own interests. This was even more challenging for those who moved with spouses during major Covid lockdowns, adding to the challenges of building lives outside of our immediate community. It’s taken time for us to find our footing, make new friends, return to pre-pandemic hobbies, and find our sense of self again.

We learn, we grow, and we practice gratitude.

Nothing captures life in the military for us better than the phrase “hurry up and wait.”  Military life has made us more patient, flexible, and adaptable. We help our spouses pack duffel bags to be ready at a moment’s notice and then the call doesn’t come; we keep our “welcome home outfits” ready for three weeks straight because equipment delays a homecoming; we drop everything and head to the base when our service member learns that they’ll be deployed in a few hours. We adapt, we pivot, we problem solve, and military folks are successful at this because we are conditioned for it. This practice in living with uncertainty translates into graceful problem solving at the office, and we are well equipped to handle a shifting deadline or an urgent call from a contractor.

Military life is a 24/7 commitment that comes with ups and downs, hardships, unknowns, and surprises. We learn quickly that support in the small details like preparing a uniform, or the big things like a deployment extension, is critical. Being a military spouse also reminds us to appreciate each moment. When we’re separated from our spouses by deployments and trainings, we enjoy the time we do get to spend together all the more. When we move, we savor the little gems we find in each new place. Uncertainty is a constant, so we can choose to enjoy the spontaneity that comes with it. We commit with our spouses  to make the most out of every situation and always look for the bright side of things. When we’re knee-deep in the day-to-day frustrations of a government job, we can lose sight of the profound impact our spouses have during their years of service. We’re so grateful for the resilience and strength our time in the military community has given us, and .grateful to have a front row seat to support and appreciate our spouses’ service to our country.

About Ashley, Emily, Jen, and Kyle

Ashley Roberts

Marketing Specialist Ashley Roberts has a passion for public relations, strategic marketing, and content management. A summa cum laude graduate of Auburn University at Montgomery with a Bachelor of Science in Marketing, Ashley is adept in analytics, website management, and social media strategy; she also enjoys graphic design and video production. Her previous professional experience includes serving as a Marketing Coordinator for businesses in both San Antonio, TX and Columbia, SC. She also volunteers and provides marketing services for Camp Cole, a nonprofit organization in Columbia, SC for individuals facing serious illnesses and other physical, mental, and emotional health or life challenges.  Her fiancé Paul is a Captain in the Air Force; he has served five years and is an F-16 Fighter Pilot

Emily Nelson

Construction Contract Administrator Emily Nelson is excited to work side by side with clients, designers, and contractors on a wide variety of projects. Emily holds a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from Iowa State University with a focus on structural design. She brings previous professional experience working with general contractors in Colorado and the Carolinas in project management and pre-construction roles.

Emily enjoys working at the intersection of the design and construction industry, and is passionate about diversity and inclusion efforts in the firm and in the profession. She served as a member of LS3P’s inaugural Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) group in 2021. Her husband Chris is a 1st Lieutenant in the Army; he has served for three years and is a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division.

Jennifer Boyles

Associate Jennifer Boyles brings significant expertise in Experiential Graphic Design (EGD) including interactive wall graphics, wayfinding, and signage integrating with the architecture and interior design. A graduate of Appalachian State in 2012 with a Bachelor of Science in Interior Design, Jennifer’s portfolio includes extensive graphic design experience as well as previous professional experience in retail display design/installation and project management for an international general contractor.

Jennifer, a member of the Society of Experiential Graphic Design (SEGD), also serves as a Marketing Coordinator in LS3P’s Charleston office as an instrumental member of the firm’s marketing and graphic team. Her husband Travis is a Master Sergeant in the Air Force; he’s served for 15 years (wooo five years until retirement!) and is a Crew Chief by trade.

Kyle Novak

Senior Associate Kyle Novak, Assoc. AIA, brings design and project management experience at all phases of design and construction from schematic design through construction administration. A graduate of Tulane University with a Master of Architecture and Clemson University with Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics and minor in Education, Kyle is a passionate advocate for justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion, and is a member of LS3P’s Diversity + Inclusion Advisory Group.

Since joining the firm in 2017, Kyle has developed a significant portfolio of designs for aviation, commercial, and K-12 education clients. Her recent work includes a middle school for the Mooresville Graded School District, a rental car canopy array for Myrtle Beach International Airport, and an elementary and high school for Union County Public Schools. Her experience also includes aviation logistics analysis, concourse expansions, corporate commercial buildings, and multi-family housing. Her wife Pender is a Specialist in the Army; she has served for 2.5 years and is a Nodal Network Operations Controller specializing in Baseband Operations. (Basically, she makes sure everyone out on mission and deployment has internet!)