We strive to make our home and family as healthy and natural as possible every day. This journey is different for every family, and as we learn and incorporate new aspects of natural living into our every day lifestyle new challenges are uncovered. These challenges are even more unique for military families including health care decisions, child care decisions, and even nutritional decisions. By encouraging supportive and resourceful relationships among military families we can continue to promote natural living in the military and influence the future of policies and procedures in our own areas.
Military families can find obstacles to pursuing a holistic and natural lifestyle in several key areas including medical care, child care and nutrition. First, as military families we are blessed by having very good medical coverage through Tricare. This insurance plan has several benefits and covers most medical needs for the average American military family. However, it does not cover naturopath doctor visits, chiropractic care, acupuncture or many other aspects of medical care that can enhance our lives through natural remedies and a pursuit of true health. For example, I’m interested in trying acupuncture in the treatment of my Plantar Fasciitus (a common ailment in runners as well as military) but I am responsible for the monetary costs of treatment as that is not covered by Tricare. Military members themselves are also subject to strict rules of medical readiness that ensures our deployability. This rules include receiving routine vaccinations each year to ensure the overall medical readiness of the fighting force. Therefore, if you do not want to vaccinate this can pose a personal dilemma. At this time, there is no way for a military member to obtain a philosophical or religious exemption to vaccines that is permanent and does not jeopardize their career. There are rare cases of medical exemptions based upon allergies to vaccine components.
Another challenge for military families pursuing a natural life style is child care decisions. Most child development centers on military bases require children to be up to date on vaccinations and do not accept waivers, do not permit cloth diapering without a doctor’s note that is difficult to obtain, and do not allow breast milk to be served to children past the age of one. These policies force some families to choose between their healthy choice and their financial choices. On post day care is often less expensive than off post, but if you have to then purchase disposable diapers and stop breastfeeding (causing and increase in food purchases) is it really a cost saving method?
The third area that can pose challenges for natural minded military families is nutrition because they are transient over time and also have fewer options available during military missions. Military families can expect to have a major move every 2-4 years. Due to these recent moves, they have fewer opportunities to be self-sufficient. Although some families are able to buy and rent homes and are able to have a family garden as well as small livestock like chickens, it is a rarity. As a result, we are more dependant upon purchasing produce from farmers markets and grocery stores. Many of the sources available may not be reliable and could be hard to find depending on how specialized of a diet you have. Military service members can also have nutritional challenges while on training and deployment missions with fewer options available for meals including the highly calorized Meal Ready to Eat (MRE).
As a result of these challenges, we have a unique opportunity to encourage and support each other through social networking. We are able to share our experiences at different military bases including locations of farmers markets, where good meat/poultry coops are, what pediatricians will respect our parenting decisions and many more. There are several natural parenting pages on Facebook that focus on specific geographical areas surrounding military bases, and even a national page for crunchy parents. Discussions on those pages range from where the best local spot for amber teething necklaces are, to how to find a supportive doula and midwife team that will do a home birth (even though Tricare doesn’t cover it). Sharing our experiences and resources is absolutely key to encouraging each other throughout our journeys. Although it can be challenging at times, it is possible to incorporate lifestyle changes to live more naturally in the military.
If you know of a Facebook group or other site that helps to encourage and network natural parents in your area, please share it in the comments section!