Several organizations are helping to connect military spouses and families with similar backgrounds, offering support and enhancing readiness among diverse communities.
Chris Pape, founder of Macho Spouse, illustrated the necessity of creating an organization that focuses on members from a specific demographic.
“My utter lack of understanding and situational awareness, coupled with the non-existent support for male military spouses, is why I decided to start Macho Spouse, an educational video series and online resource for male military spouses,” Pape said.
Since Pape’s wife retired from the military, military spouse Taurus James runs Macho Spouses’ website. He also embodies the spirit of the organization, reflected in his dedication as a husband to Air Force Col. Trauna James since 1997, and as a father, musician, and minister. He also described the importance of supporting traditionally underrepresented people, like male spouses, who make up 9.1% of military spouses.
“Married life is a journey requiring love demonstrated through sacrifice, patience, and grace to navigate successfully … and regardless of their demographic background, all spouses are human, and being human is challenging,” he said. “Male spouses need help like everyone else. Whether we say it, look like it, or ask for help, needing assistance on this journey makes us no less human.”
Pape explains that Macho Spouse alleviates isolation by connecting men with each other and assisting them in discovering outlets for their passions. Moreover, he states how encouraging male spouses helps counter the break-up of families, especially critical for female service members who experience high divorce rates.
Furthermore, James and his group educate men on how their role “enhances the readiness of their active-duty partner” and is valuable to America’s national security.
APIAO brings together the Asian American Pacific Islander military community
Another organization serving minority populations in the military, Asian and Pacific Islander Army Officers (APIAO), mentors leaders, supports spouses, and practices community outreach.
Founded in August 2020 by Army infantry officer and first-generation Thai American Maj. Seth Varayon, APIAO has grown to more than 1,500 members. Varayon noticed a “gap in organization and networking within the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) military community and realized a conduit would be beneficial for their quality of life while also advancing individuals.
With 5.4% of the military of AAPI descent, the organization has grown since its inception. For example, Asian and Pacific Islanders on Pen, founded by a senior officer stationed on the Korean Peninsula (Pen), encourages in-person engagements of AAPIs and their spouses to further professional development and participate in civic service. Separately, another APIAO member organized a virtual run to counter Asian violence, earning over $30,000 to support New York city’s AAPI population.
However, Varayon emphasized, “APIAO is not a group of exclusion, [rather] a group of people with similar cultural upbringings. Through shared experiences, we understand one another and offer different perspectives.”
He added, “AAPI families and spouses are like other military families and spouses, having more in common than not … We are patriots, proud to serve our nation. We’re also proud of our heritage and the sacrifices our families and ancestors made coming to this great nation.”
MMAA provides a voice for LGBTQ+ military members
Modern Military Association of America (MMAA) is the voice of the LGBTQ+ military and veteran community, providing education, advocacy, support, and free legal services.
“We don’t want special treatment, just the same rights as everyone else,” said CEO and Executive Director Jennifer Dane. Formed after the 1993 policy “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT)” MMAA advocates for the over 114,000 veterans discharged because of their LGBTQ+ status, as well as supporting current active-duty families.
And though a decade has passed since DADT was repealed, service members still hesitate to serve openly, according to Blue Star Families surveys, with 4% of active-duty respondents identifying as LGBTQ+.
Dane, an Air Force Intelligence Analyst from 2010-2016, began her own work with MMAA after surviving a sexual assault and investigation into her background at the end of DADT.
She describes how MMAA focuses on family building for all military families. For example, it advocates for fertility rights for deployed service members, promotes outreach for spouses who may feel unwelcome in traditional groups, and protects the rights of transgender dependents.
Additionally, Dane mirrors James and Varayon, stating groups acknowledging the diversity of spouses and families while advocating for individuals’ unique needs helps military readiness.
“We are all humans, and we serve to protect national security,” Dane said. “And groups like ours help attract quality soldiers and keep soldiers, therefore making a better military.”