(Photo courtesy of Service Women's Action Network)

When Your Priorities—and Your Calling—Change

June 17, 2019 - 9:40 am

Trish Alegre-Smith was well on her way to continuing her military career as an Air Force Maintenance Officer transitioning to the Acquisitions career field when she met and got engaged to a fellow Air Force Officer while deployed. It was the last thing she or her husband expected to happen. They dated less than six months and had been apart for some time since she had left for the deployment ahead of him. But they met up after one of their shifts and started talking about the future—sharing a rare moment of clarity and certainty where they could see where their lives were going, and they knew it was together.

Being dual military had its challenges, but it was when they grew from a couple to a family of four that Trish walked away from her military career. She and her husband were in different career fields and they knew it would become difficult if not nearly impossible to be stationed together. The writing was on the wall that the sacrifice required to continue the dual military life and raise a family would only continue to increase as their careers continued. They made the choice for her to leave active duty and serve in the Reserves, while her husband continued his career on active duty. The Reserves gave her more flexibility to get stationed with her husband and continue both of their military careers.

But that move only allowed their family to flex so far. The tipping point came after their second child was born. They encountered an assignment where childcare options were few or unavailable during their time on station. This forced them to relook at their options to make the best choice for their family. With over 13 years of military service, she decided to leave the military behind. Because of Trish’s background in program management, she expected to have opportunities for an easier transition to employment in the civilian sector.

(Photo courtesy of Service Women's Action Network)

What they didn’t expect was how difficult that transition would be for her. It would take four years for Trish to find a stable yet portable career. A career that led her to start her own personal branding and photography business, Photography by Trish Alegre-Smith, that allowed her to have the flexibility to work and follow her husband’s military career.

Dual military relationships often lead to challenges—with childcare, making difficult career decisions, working to get stationed together, deploying at the same time or back to back, having to rely on friends or family members to take care of children, and more. Because of these challenges, there are female service members who leave the military behind and become a military spouse. While military women are less likely than their male counterparts to be married (46% vs. 58%), those women who do marry are much more likely than men to marry someone who is also in the active-duty military (48% vs. 7%). This means Trish’s story isn’t the only one of tough choices dual military families must often make.

In collaboration with the Service Women’s Action Network, we are featuring an inspiring woman veteran each month.

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