A Spotlight on Spouses during Military Family Month

Eddy Mentzer, Director, Spouse Employment and Career Opportunities Program, Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Military Community and Family Policy)

November is Military Family Month, a time to recognize and celebrate our modern military families.  Today, I want to narrow that focus to military spouses.  We hear spouses described as the foundation, the glue or the linchpin of the military family.  Whatever your preferred metaphor, it likely serves to illustrate the vital support, sacrifice and love of our military spouses.

Machinist's Mate Fireman Jacob Hines kisses his wife after returning home from a nine-month deployment. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Shannon Barnwell)

Machinist’s Mate Fireman Jacob Hines kisses his wife after returning home from a nine-month deployment. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Shannon Barnwell)

Today, there are more than a million military spouses, and they are more diverse than ever.  There are male spouses, dual-military spouses, same-sex spouses serving proudly, often quietly.  Some spouses are in families with aging loved ones, a family member with special needs or with a service member who is wounded, ill, or injured.  Military spouses ensure their families thrive amidst the challenges of military life.

We honor the service and sacrifice of our military spouses with our support and commitment.

About 85 percent of military spouses say they either need or want to work.  Military Community and Family Policy’s Spouse Education and Career Opportunities program, seeks to strengthen the education and career opportunities of military spouses by providing career exploration opportunities to help them understand their skills, interests and goals. This one-stop shop is a valuable program helps spouses identify what they need, whether academic, licensure or credential requirements. Just about anything will help them reach their career goals.  It also helps spouses to optimize their self-marketing skills and make employment connections that help them find and maintain rewarding careers.

Our Military Spouse Employment Partnership helps increase career opportunities for military spouses the help work around the challenge of frequent moves. This program provides businesses with direct access to a pipeline of qualified military spouses, thereby meeting workforce needs while helping spouses explore careers they can pursue and maintain as they move with the military.  Today, the number of private sector and corporate partners is at 230 and that number continues to grow.  They see the hiring of spouses as good for business.  Since launching this partnership in 2011, companies have posted 1.8 million jobs and hired more than 65,000 spouses.

The My Career Advancement Account (MyCAA) Scholarship Program is a program that provides up to $4,000 of tuition assistance to eligible military spouses. The scholarship helps younger military spouses pursue licenses, certificates, certifications or associate degrees necessary to gain employment in high-demand, high-growth portable career fields and occupations. Spouses may use their MyCAA funds at any academic institution approved for participation in the MyCAA Scholarship.  It’s a great program for spouses who are just starting out.

It’s a fact that military spouses move ten times more often than civilians.  When they do move, it’s usually across state lines, and that creates gaps and delays with professional licenses and certifications that states require spouses to have.  We work with state law makers, and so far 45 states have removed policy barriers to even the playing field for military spouses.

In addition to helping military spouses meet their career goals, the Department of Defense offers Military OneSource to assist military spouses and families with everyday challenges including building healthy relationships, parenting, moving, caring for a wounded family member or a family member with special needs, and dealing with the death of a loved one. I encourage you to ensure the military spouses around you are aware of Military OneSource.  This resource is available anytime, anywhere by visiting Military OneSource’s website or calling 800-342-9647 for confidential, non-medical help at no cost.

During Military Family Month, we invite you to join us as we honor the service and sacrifices made by over a million military spouses living across this great nation.  You can use hashtag #MyMilFam on any social media channel to join the conversation and send messages of love and support and to tell everyone what makes military families so special.  This month, we celebrate the diversity of our modern military families.  No two families are alike, but each one is essential to our service members’ mission.  Use the hashtag to send them your encouragement and love when they need it most.

Military spouses are important threads in the fabric of American life and role models for our families, workplaces and communities.  By appreciating, supporting and investing in military spouses and military families, we invest in the strength of our nation.

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A Spotlight on Spouses during Military Family Month