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Everett Lopez is an exception within the exception.
He's a male military spouse, whose ranks account for just 7 percent of all military spouses. Beyond that, he's a male military spouse with a private sector career, an even rarer combination.
While he's proud of his wife and of his role, his 11-year journey as a military spouse has been marked at times by stereotypes, insufficient support and isolation.
I got the chance to interview Everett, who is active at Military Spouse Central, about his experiences as a military husband. After hearing his story, it became clear that military and civilian readers alike can perhaps gain a new perspective about what it means to be a military spouse.
Everett has been a military husband for 11 years and has experienced the best and worst of marrying into the military. Everett, his wife and 3-year-old daughter currently live in Jacksonville, Fla., where his wife is in a Medical Enlisted Commissioning Program.
Right now, I'm running into a problem with the lack of support toward male spouses.
Many military spouses will tell you the most important thing to do when joining the military is to find a friend or a community to get involved with. Unfortunately for many male military spouses, these communities are either exclusively for women or generally uncomfortable with having a military husband added to the mix.
It's even a problem here, with living between two bases it's hard to find anything. I even went to a mom's group at the church we attend and I got asked to leave. I understand the church's stance on that as strictly mothers, but I was like, 'Man, really?' There's hardly anything out there and it's few and far between.
Because military husband groups are very rare, Everett has tried to reach out and connect to the military spouse community in general.
That's why I want to connect with basically anyone right now. Anyone who has traveled the roads I've traveled in regards to being a male spouse or even a female spouse. Most of the time I just hang out with the wives, and they're OK with that because their husbands are on the same ship as my wife or they're at least at the same hospital. So that isn't a problem, but sometimes it's hard.
While stationed in North Carolina, Everett ran into some problems joining up with a group of Marine wives who felt unsure about his intentions.
It was knocking down that barrier and saying, 'Hey, I'm not here for drama, I just want to hang out and have friends, period. It's taken some time to knock down that barrier everywhere.'
In addition to institutionalized ideas about military husbands, Everett faces many negative stereotypes as a man working in childcare. Starting out as a high school marching band instructor back in Southern California, he moved to childcare when his wife PCSed to Gaeta, Italy, with the Navy. He has worked at child development centers on bases everywhere from Italy to California during four different moves.
I get a lot of 'He's gay, he's a pedophile' and all of those negative things. It's hard to get people to understand that I'm just here to hang out with the kids. It's interesting though, because all of the sudden when I'm ready to PCS, a lot of those same people are the ones most sad to see me go and I'm thinking, 'Oh yeah, so the story changes once I'm leaving.'
Despite the difficulties in finding open communities, Everett hasn't given up and looks for new groups all the time. When I asked how he goes about looking for groups, he said it's as easy as searching keywords like male military spouse, your base and branch and seeing what comes up. Everett has also taken an active role in trying to form a group in Jacksonville.
It's more starting a fresh new group. The other thing we're trying to encompass is dads overall. Military dads, stay-at-home dads, divorced dads -- a dad's group.
Although attempts to form groups often fall through, the hope is to emulate one of the most successful military dad's groups Everett has come across, MANning The Homefront. Everett is currently in talks with the group to start a Jacksonville branch. The group is based at Fort Riley, Ks. and gets together from time to time to play paintball, have barbecues or just hang out. Groups like this make finding friends easier, which is important for male military spouses who can be excluded from support groups.
Although Everett has experienced more than his fair share of hardships marrying into the military, the best part about talking with him is his great attitude. Through the setbacks and stigmas he continues to look for new ways to connect.
Once my wife finishes her schooling, I'll go back to finish my child development degree. Right now it's on hold for her to finish up schooling. My wife and I are both getting what we need to be happy where we're at, and that's always my number one priority.
As always, our military spouse and family Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest communities are open to everyone. We encourage military husbands, wives, parents, children, friends and loved ones to join in with their questions, answers, advice and support.