3 Tips for a Festive 4th of July for the Disconnected Military Spouse

Have you recently PCS’d and lack close friendships in a new town?

Is your service member deployed or otherwise not with you geographically this 4th of July?

Do you feel like everyone has BBQ and fireworks-viewing plans except you?

If so, I have some tips for you today that will help you make the most out of the upcoming holiday.

4th of July. Just the phrase brings to mind burgers, lawn games, sparklers, Roman candles and certainly family and friends togetherness. As quite possibly the MOST patriotic holiday, I’ve learned over the years that many people assume that military families must have the BIGGEST plans and throw the most epic bashes in all the land.

Now, sure, I’ve spent several July 4th’s whooping it up at a friend’s beach with my family, watching fireworks blast in the overhead sky as the remnants fade into the water, late into the night. Our kids staying up way past their bedtimes and paying for it the next day. Sticky s’mores marks on their faces, their clothes reeking of campfire smoke. All part of the experience? Absolutely.

But what if you don’t live near close friends or family? What if your service member is deployed?

This is the reality of many military families every year.

There have been numerous years, close to a dozen, in fact, when Clint has been on duty, deployed or part of the pyrotechnic team shooting off the fireworks at a military installation, so not celebrating with us.

But it doesn’t have to be a lonely mope-fest. Here are my 3 tips for making the most out of 4th of July despite your circumstances:

Tip 1: Go to the Base-Sponsored 4th of July Party

Now listen, I hate crowds. And I normally pass on base-sponsored anything. I like to do my own thing, but one year when Clint was deployed, I broke down and schlepped my 3 kids to the free “beach bash” at our local base. We went early, of course, before things got really wild. We didn’t know a soul there. And it was crowded. And hot. But, there were rides and activities for the kids, a DJ playing upbeat music on a stage, tons of food options and even more freebies: “land of the free because of the brave” t-shirts, beach balls and travel-size sunblock. Yep, we went home with swag.

The overall feel of the party was festive, celebratory and even though we didn’t talk to anyone there, we exchanged plenty of smiles with fellow party goers and dare I say, we had fun. Most bases will offer some type of celebration, so look into it and go. Even if you are solo, you’ll feel like part of the group and you’ll most likely come home with some goodies.

Tip 2: Speak Up

Maybe you haven’t yet made close friends at your new duty station, but you’ve probably met your next-door neighbor or a co-worker or someone. And they probably assume since you are military that you have big plans for the 4th. Speak up and ask what they are doing to celebrate! You just might find yourself invited to a neighborhood block party where you’ll have the potential to meet others in the area.

Just try not to hate on the civilian family wearing matching, patriotic Old Navy shirts, it’s not their fault they’re all together and you’re separated from your loved one.

And like the base celebration, simply going and being part of something bigger will make you feel like you belong and a little less alone. At the very least, you’ll likely enjoy some homemade apple pie that you didn’t have to bake. Again, worth it.

Tip 3: Stay In, But Elevate

If you really just want to stay home, try making the holiday a little different than every other day. Buy the good steak or baby back ribs and make some colorful sides. If your kids are old enough, have them look up recipes and make festive red, white, and blue cupcakes with strawberries and blueberries. The possibilities are endless here. The point being to make the day special even if it’s just with your family at home.

And if none of these 3 options seem viable, if your spouse is deployed and you are truly in survival mode, then the sound of distant fireworks and the comfort of a Taco Bell burrito bowl in your lap can be just as satisfying (or so I’ve heard).

But if at all possible, try to get out and enjoy the celebration of Independence Day. After all, as a military family, it’s kind of your holiday!