Thomas Edison State University By Thomas Edison State University • May 24, 2024

Edison Sound Stage Episode 16: Military Families' Untold Sacrifices, 'You Are Stronger Than You Think'

For Sherri Hamm, being a military spouse meant taking on the roles of both "mom” and “dad," handling everything alone while separated from family and support systems whenever her husband, a member of the U.S. Coast Guard, was deployed.

For Maja Mendez, a U.S. Army veteran married to a fellow soldier, it meant navigating the particular challenge of a dual-military marriage. Even though both understood the demands of military life, there were times when one partner was deployed while the other remained at home, "never really being together at the same time."

And for Jonathan Sloan, it meant a childhood of limitations because of his Navy officer father's chronic illnesses from radiation exposure during the Gulf War — unable to have friends visit due to his dad's severe sensitivity to fragrances and pursuing his college degree through distance education.

Episode Highlights

Their personal stories, shared in Episode 16 of the “Edison Sound Stage podcast, shed light on the untold sacrifices and burdens that military families shoulder so that their loved ones can serve. While bearing an enormous sense of pride, military families also face immense difficulties that are often misunderstood or unappreciated by civilian communities.

"We all have our little picks on each other," said Maja, “but at the end of the day, they're still your brothers and sisters."

This disconnect was a common refrain. Maja recalled a perception when she was younger that "they don't get it" — the civilian world failed to grasp the realities and sacrifices of military family life. Jonathan mentioned the struggle of finding compassion from others about his father's conditions.

Yet each guest expressed resilience forged from their experiences. "You're stronger than you think," Sherri said. "This too shall pass, and the most important thing is family."

Amidst the challenges of frequent moves, prolonged separations and lack of community support, the group emphasized the need to establish routines and build connections wherever possible — through schools, churches, activities, and understanding neighbors. They also called for more resources and assistance for military families, and better transition and disability support as service members return to civilian life.

For Jonathan, the flexibility of TESU’s online programs proved critical, enabling him to pursue higher education despite his family's limitations. Now graduated, he credited the "wisdom and truth" passed down by his parents in showing how to avoid repeating history's negative cycles.

Sherri, having completed her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University, became a peer support specialist helping guide new students. "I don't want a student to feel like I felt on day one," she said of the lost, isolating experience she initially had.

As the nation marks Military Appreciation Month, their stories are a poignant reminder that behind every service member are family members making their own extraordinary commitments and sacrifices.

Military families embody the commitment, service and perseverance that their loved ones exemplify on the battlefield and abroad. They're the backbone of our nation, and we owe them a debt of gratitude.

Show Notes


Sherri Hamm BSOL ’22, MSHRM ’24
Online peer coach and peer support specialist at TESU
•    Wife of retired U.S. Coast Guard member
•    Discusses sacrifices military spouses make when partner is deployed, having to be "mom and dad"
•    Highlights challenges of being separated from family/support systems

Maja Mendez
Associate Director of Military and Veteran Recruitment and Outreach at Thomas Edison State University
•    U.S. Army veteran and dual military with husband
•    Talks about unique struggles of both partners being in military
•    Constant swapping of roles when one is deployed vs. at home

Jonathan Sloan BSBA ‘22
•    Son of retired U.S. Navy officer who contracted radiation poisoning from Gulf War
•    Shares limitations his family faced due to father's chronic illness triggered by fragrances/chemicals
•    Credits ability to earn online degree at Thomas Edison State University

Key Themes:

•    Immense pride but also major challenges for military families
•    Need for more support during/after transition out of active duty
•    Suggestions: Tuition assistance, community connections, understanding from civilians
•    Importance of perseverance, commitment, enjoying the journey
•    Military families are the "backbone" holding it together through sacrifices

Thomas Edison State University extends the benefits of our military degree completion program, including a discount to eligible family members. Learn more about our degree programs as a military spouse or dependent here



Thomas Edison State University

Written by Thomas Edison State University

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