Whenever Anna Larson’s husband John returned home during leave from the military, she saw changes in his behavior that were typically swept under the rug, as their time together was limited and he was returning to active service.

When John Larson finally retired after 22 years in the military, Anna knew it was time to address some of the issues now that John was home for good.

“From start to finish, he was a completely different person,” said Anna Larson about her husband’s military career. “When the transition happened, I stopped that process and said, ‘We’re not doing this again. It’s not going to be another new norm where we don’t have these conversations.’”

Anna Larson said that once a military spouse, always a military spouse, and that continues after a spouse returns to the civilian world. When that veteran suffers from post traumatic stress disorder, as seven of 100 veterans do according to the Veterans Administration, many forget the spouses are going through a difficult transition stage as well.

Anna’s experiences helping John through his challenges inspired her to become a Military Spouse Ambassador for SpouseLink, a program started by the American Armed Forces Military Aid Association (AAFMAA) to help spouses cope with life as a military spouse.

SpouseLink provides resources to military spouses who are finding challenges making ends meet while their spouses are serving and once the spouse retires from active duty. The program provides spouses of active military members and veterans with help with financial issues such as investing, helping get kids through schooling, or making other family decisions such as health care.

It also provides a sounding board and a support group for spouses who are struggling to find help elsewhere or searching for peers who are experiencing the same problems.

Anna Larson served as the ambassador for Fort Cavazos (formerly Ford Hood) in Texas before John retired. It is a self-described passion project for Anna, who is a digital marketer, copywriter and website designer. John’s retirement also opened another door for Anna’s commitment to SpouseLink.

“We were going through retirement and I said I was probably not the right person for that role,” Anna Larson said. “But that conversation led us to talking about retiring service members. That led me into a position where we decided I would become an ambassador that focuses specifically on retiring and transitioning military spouses.”

Anna Larson uses her career background as part of her duties as an ambassador, writing articles and hosting monthly livestreams focusing on transition and retirement topics, such as how to claim disability benefits and filing VA claims. She started the role 18 months ago.

Anna Larson started seeing signs that her husband was struggling that she described as “abnormal,” such as shying away from social events or having trouble sleeping. She felt helpless thinking she was not able to help her husband get through his issues, and now wants to let other military spouses know there is help out there.

“What I really want to bring to the attention of spouses is it’s okay to start having those conversations, even if it’s a little bit of change you see,” she said. “Addressing it then might be what makes them realize, ‘I guess I am acting a little differently.’ Just acknowledging that those things are there are things military families don’t want to do because there’s so many other things that are invading that time and space.”

When meeting with clients, Anna Larson’s main message is to encourage more communication between spouses.

“Create open communication and open dialogue earlier rather than later and start having conversations that you might have put off, especially if you know that retirement is coming,” she said. “Don’t be afraid to ask if you can participate in the things that you feel are important for you to know. Because the more we know, the better we’re going to be able to support our service members through transition in retirement.”

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