If you are a civilian who doesn’t have family or friends in the military, then the jargon and acronyms that uniformed folks use likely sound like Greek to you. Even for newcomers to the military community, there’s a tremendous learning curve in terms of understanding the lingo. Now imagine if English wasn’t your first language and you were a family member trying to make your way in the military world. It definitely adds another obstacle to an already complex way of living.
Janet Sanchez, founder and president of Esposas Militares Hispanas USA Armed Forces (EMHUSA), knows there are enough challenges when navigating military life, so she committed to making sure language isn’t one of them.
In 2007, Sanchez, a retired Army veteran, founded EMHUSA as an initiative to help military spouses whose first language was Spanish and not English. At present, the organization serves over 10,000 members stateside and abroad, and they’re continuing to grow. All of their programs are supported entirely by an all-volunteer team, with offerings adapted to military families with language barriers. Some of these services include translating information into Spanish on military benefits, insurance, community resources, and more. The organization also offers scholarships and emergency assistance to Spanish-speaking military families in need of help. Plus, they advocate for providers to offer Spanish-language materials in the places they provide the same in English.
You can learn more about EMHUSA’s efforts on their website, but here’s what you won’t see (because the team is more likely to be busy making things happen than talking about the good work they do):
After Hurricane Maria, they assisted their members in connecting with loved ones impacted by the storm. These efforts included collecting essential items for distribution and fighting to make sure National Guard members got paid after discovering months went by with delays in compensation.
On a typical day, Sanchez and team can be found speaking up about the needs of the military community at the headquarters of social media giant Facebook. Or partnering with other organizations to share the stories of Spanish-speaking military families. In other words, when there is an opportunity to speak out for these families—and for military families in general—Esposas Militares Hispanas USA Armed Forces is on the front lines.
This work is personal for the EMHUSA team. The organization makeup is as diverse as the community they support. Volunteers are both active duty and Guard/Reserves, veterans and military spouses, and they represent almost every branch of service. Sanchez’s commitment of over a decade has helped combat feelings of isolation for military-connected folks who might otherwise be left out of the important conversations. Their message is this: It doesn’t matter where you come from; we’re all military families.