Fifteen years after we last saw each other in person, my face lit up as an old friend walked through the door of a quaint restaurant in Virginia. She was the first Marine Corps spouse who ever took me under her wing. Back then I was a newly married spouse with two little kids, eager to learn but afraid to fail. She handed me the reins to a small family readiness volunteer team and she had faith in me, even when I didn’t have faith in myself. She helped me overcome my fear and I’ve been thankful ever since.
A week or so later, another one of my early mentors hugged me tightly in a different restaurant. We’d met more than a decade earlier when we volunteered together during one of the toughest deployments either of us had ever experienced. We stayed in touch from duty station to duty station, but our lunch date was the first time we had seen each other in five years.
I wanted to thank them both, in person, for their mentorship—especially the past two years, when they stood by me as I mourned the loss of one of my children. These women, and others like them, taught me what it means to show up for someone when they need you the most, even if you are separated by distance.
Until recently, I thought that mentorship in the military community meant volunteerism— lead by example and participate in activities. Be the change you want to see in the world. So that’s how I operated for 15 years. Unit functions, trainings, family days—you name it and I was usually there. But it wasn’t until my life was turned upside down in 2015 that I realized what true mentorship looks like. My mentors closed ranks around me when the worst possible thing I could ever imagine happening, happened.
I didn’t know when I met these women we would stay in touch through the years. I couldn’t have predicted that one of them would give me the courage to switch careers, another would become one of my closest friends, and another would later turn to me for support when her own family was faced with devastating news. At the time, I just saw these women as kind and full of wisdom—and that was enough. Ask yourself these questions:
Who in your life has been your mentor? What are the qualities they have shown that resonate with you? What would you do if you had the chance to be that for someone else?
Mentors are trusted advisors. They listen without judgement but are not afraid to tell you what you need to hear. They see your worth when you can’t – and most importantly, they lead by example.
I’ve learned from these women that mentorship is about meeting people where they are and being willing to open your heart to someone who needs to hear from somebody who has been there. It’s having coffee with a new spouse who has a million questions about driver’s license rules and permanent change of station orders. It’s leading a volunteer team when no one else will. It’s coaching someone through work-life balance. And sometimes it’s having the courage to stand with someone in their pain. But more than anything, mentorship is about showing up.
By mentoring one another, we create a legacy of camaraderie and friendship that transcends time and geography. We create a new generation of kind, open-hearted military spouses willing to see each other through the hard stuff. And together, we’ve got this.