National Military Appreciation Month (NMAM) is celebrated every May and is a presidential proclamation that encourages U.S. citizens to recognize and appreciate the sacrifices and hardships endured by those who serve or have served our great nation. NMAM honors the current and former members of the U.S. Armed Forces, including those who have died in the pursuit of freedom.
One of several observances throughout the month of May which highlight the contributions of those who have served is Military Spouse Appreciation Day. President Ronald Reagan first proclaimed “Military Spouse Day” a holiday in 1984 before Congress declared it part of Military Appreciation Month in 1999. Traditionally set for the Friday before Mother’s Day, it is a day which honors military spouses and recognizes the important role our military families play in keeping our Armed Forces strong and our country safe.
Military spouses play a huge role in not only taking care of things while their loved ones are deployed, but also in providing a backbone of support and care during the tough times. The sacrifices of a military spouse are many and can be quite costly. Many have difficulty finding and maintaining meaningful employment. The result is an extremely high rate of un- and underemployment as compared to civilian counterparts.
After marrying my Soldier husband, I quickly learned how challenging it is to hold a traditional career while living the military lifestyle. Nearly 14 years later, the network of civilian and military friends I’ve built over the years has been paramount to the successes I’ve realized in business and is now carrying me into the next chapter of military spousehood: retirement from active duty service. As I move into these unchartered waters, I am faced with many questions: do I continue to operate as an entrepreneur or get a job? Do I want to continue working in my current field, or do I want to do something different? If I do move to traditional employment, how will it affect my family’s schedule and routine? I can only imagine these are some of the questions that relaunchers contemplate as they consider returning to work.
As I make these important life decisions, I’m learning that the network I’ve worked to build during active duty military spouse years is proving to be invaluable. My connections are a combination of military spouse friends and professionals I’ve met in the various communities where we’ve lived. Reaching out and reconnecting with some of the people in my network can help me as I work through answers to the questions I have about my own professional future.
Building a network is important for all of us, but can be especially difficult for a transient population like military spouses. If you happen to meet a career-minded military spouse, you can help him or her make new connections while adding to yours at the same time. Here are a few ways you can help to support military spouses in their professional endeavors:
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions and get to know his or her aspirations. Being a military spouse can be a wonderful adventure, and we are often eager to share some of our experiences. Be inquisitive and invite conversation, especially as it pertains to professional goals.
- Invite them into your social & networking circles. Because of frequent moves, military spouses are often the “new kid on the block,” which can make insertion into social situations difficult. Welcome her to the next book club meetup; invite him to Tuesday’s networking luncheon.
- Attend social and networking functions together. Operate as his or her wingman. Meeting new people can be easier when a friend is by your side. You can introduce and brag on her to people you meet at an event, and she can do the same for you.
- Encourage them to reach toward professional goals. Be each other’s biggest cheerleader! Job searching can be frustrating for military spouses and relaunchers alike. Offer ideas and wisdom when it’s acceptable to do so.
- Focus on the progress he or she can make in the short term. Don’t dwell on the possibility a departure may come sooner rather than later. A military spouse is likely to concentrate on making as much impact as possible during the duration of their stay in the area. Support them in this endeavor.
- Stay connected after he or she leaves and continue to check in with each other on professional progress. An unexpected LinkedIn message, personal email and/or a phone call from a friend can go a long way in encouraging a military spouse during challenging times. Keep each other accountable to working towards goals.
As we appreciate those who sacrifice for and support our country during this Military Appreciation Month, know that career-minded military spouses are looking to connect with people like you. Whether virtually or in-person, that civilian-military connection is so important and appreciated. We are all in this together, and our professional lives will be better for it.
See our team spotlight on April Keating, our iRelaunch Manager of Military and Community Outreach (and Military Spouse)!