Would you recommend military service? New survey shows why majority say ‘No.’

Tessa Robinson
Mar 19, 2024 3:00 PM PDT
3 minute read
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Matthew Bragg

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Matthew Bragg


Since 2009, Blue Star Families has asked the military community the hard questions about issues they face in hopes of lightening the load. This year’s survey is no different.

Since 2009, Blue Star Families has used its unbelievable reach to assess the state of the military family. From spouse unemployment to financial stressors, PCS problems to the military recruiting crisis, over 100,000 respondents have voiced their experiences to create change over the years.

The 2023 survey results are out and 7,431 service members, veterans and military family members answered the survey, with the largest demographic being military spouses.

Here are some of the key findings:

Active Duty & Spouses

When asked to "select up to five military life issues that most concern you right now," military spouses cited employment, pay, family separations, BAH/off-base housing concerns and dependent education as their top worries. For service members, it was family separations, pay, BAH/Off-base housing concerns, PCS issues and spouse employment.

Blue Star Families

National Guard

The amount of time separated from family was also a top concern for National Guard and Reserve family respondents, as it has been since 2020. While National Guard and Reserve activations have decreased since a peak in 2020, family separation and the impact of deployments on families remain central concerns.


Both Veteran and Veteran spouse respondents continue to report that access to military/VA health care system(s) is their top concern, and “military benefits” is also among the top five issues. Provider shortages across the country, from primary care to specialty care, may be further exacerbating these concerns.

In all of the statistics, one of the most glaring was the staggering decrease in the number of military families who would recommend service, down from 55% in 2016 to just 32% in 2023.

Blue Star Families

WATM had the opportunity to sit down with Dr. Jessica Strong, the Senior Director of Applied Research for BSF to discuss the recruitment crisis. When asked what she thought contributed to the decline in recommendations, she explained that there were a number of reasons, and a big one was the economy. "As out-of-pocket expenses increase, the likelihood to recommend service decreases." With inflation, childcare issues, spouse employment issues, housing affordability and PCS costs, military families often face financial stress and uncertainty. While alleviating the financial burdens won't fix the recruiting crisis by itself, Dr. Strong did say there is something we all can do. "What I'm most excited about this year," Dr. Strong shared, "is that families who feel the most belonging to the community have the strongest likelihood to recommend military service. At the heart of what BSF does is help create those communities and that sense of belonging."

What does Blue Star Families do?

Blue Star Families

According to their website:

The families of our all-volunteer military make unprecedented sacrifices these days to serve our country. Blue Star Families was founded by military spouses in 2009 to empower these families to thrive as they serve. We're committed to strengthening military families by connecting them with their neighbors – individuals and organizations – to create vibrant communities of mutual support. We believe we're all stronger when we take care of one another.

Our groundbreaking research is raising the nation's awareness of the unique challenges of military family life. With the help of neighbors across the country, we are overcoming the isolation and alienation of frequent moves, deployments, and reduced support from the government. Our innovative programs are solving specific challenges for military families, including fighting economic insecurity with resources that foster spouse career development, creating family strength with rich family programming, and providing critical peer support for caregivers, whose numbers are only increasing.

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With approximately 275,000 members in our network, including in chapters and communities all over the world, we touch more than 1.5 million military family members each year. Through our research and program partnerships, we ensure that wherever American military families go, they can always feel connected, supported and empowered to thrive – in every community, across the nation, and around the globe.

Community is everything! Find yours through Blue Star Families.


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