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Crossroads of the Marine Corps

Military spouses face many challenges that civilian counterparts do not

19 May 2016 | Adele Uphaus-Conner Marine Corps Base Quantico

“The strength of our Nation's military comes not just from the brave women and men who defend the values we cherish, but also from their families, who serve alongside them and make great sacrifices in service to our country,” reads the text of a Presidential Proclamation designating May 7 “Military Spouse Appreciation Day.”

The Proclamation continues: “On Military Spouse Appreciation Day, we recognize the selfless heroes who stand with the finest fighting force the world has ever known, and we honor their relentless courage and commitment.”

Each year since Ronald Reagan in 1984, presidents have commemorated the Friday before Mother’s Day as Military Spouse Appreciation Day. To celebrate spouses aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico, Marine Corps Community Services (MCCS) Family Team Building hosted a free Roaring Twenties-themed bunco night at The Clubs at Quantico (TCAQ) May 3.

“The goal was just to have fun with our spouses, let them get away from their responsibilities, and let the installation show them that they are appreciated,” said Stephanie Taber, .
“We do the event a little before the actual day so that we leave the day open for the service member to honor his or her spouse,” she continued. “It’s nice coming from the community, but it means more coming from the service member.”

Despite pouring rain, 63 spouses—male and female—came out to the event, which was sponsored by the Marine Corps Exchange, Marine Federal Credit Union, and TCAQ.
“For a night when the weather was not their friend, they came out—they overcame it,” Taber said. “It was important to them.”

Guests enjoyed a photo booth loaded with 1920s props such as feather boas, fedoras, plastic Tommy guns and (empty) whiskey bottles. The Exchange donated raffle prizes and an ice-breaker activity in which the spouses had to find someone who’d moved more than four times or had a passport, for example, to help them meet new people.

Taber can speak to the challenges and rewards of being a military spouse herself. Her husband is an active duty Marine who has served for 22 years. They have three children, ages 19, 17, and 16 and have spent half their married life overseas at multiple posts in Japan. The family has also been posted to Yuma, Arizona and Twentynine Palms, California in addition to MCBQ.

“Military spouses have to recreate their community wherever they go,” Taber said. “Home is wherever you are at that time. So any way we, as an installation and as MCCS, can help them build that community connection is good.”

Taber has welcomed the opportunity given to her by her husband’s career to expose herself and her children to multicultural communities and diverse experiences.

“Personal growth has been a big benefit,” she said. “My children have a much broader, global perspective than many of their peers. They’re not afraid of travel, getting lost in an airport, being in a place where no one speaks English or meeting new people.”

But there have certainly been challenges.

“Raising our own family while being disconnected from our families of origin has been hard,” Taber said. “And for me personally, career progression has been difficult. It’s always two steps forward, three back. Each time you move, you have to reinvent yourself—start at the bottom and work back up.”

She said that the government is taking steps to make military spouse employment simpler. The Obama administration launched the Military Spouse Employment Partnership, an online resource that connects spouses with global organizations eager to hire them. Taber said many major corporations have signed on to the partnership, including Verizon, Starbucks, and Amazon.

“It helps to retain good people and it also invests in the military service member,” Taber said of the partnership. “I know it pains my husband to see me have to start over at each post. Service members would be more comfortable if they knew their spouse was being supported.”
Increasingly, military spouses are not only women, as was the case in the past. Taber said that male spouses faces “absolutely the same challenges” as females.

“So many spouse-targeted events have been aimed at women,” Taber said. “We’re really trying to broaden our horizon. We have to take male spouses into consideration and not do events centered on pink and flowers.”

As President Obama’s proclamation says, military spouses, whether they are male or female “serve alongside our troops through trial and triumph, and in their example, we see the bravery and pride that reflect who we are as a Nation. These homefront heroes deserve respect and support worthy of their sacrifice and grace—every day, they should know their country supports them, is there for them, and is grateful for all they do on our behalf.”

Marine Corps Base Quantico