Military families are sometimes overlooked in the national conversation about military and veterans affairs, but we play a crucial role in the nation’s defense.
National Military Spouse Appreciation Day, which has special meaning to me as both a military wife and a veteran, is a great opportunity to honor the sacrifice and contributions of our troops, veterans, and their families. May 8 has already come and gone, but fortunately we have a command in chief who demonstrates that appreciation every day.
As someone who has been part of a military family my entire life — first as a child, then as a service member, and now as a wife of a service member — I can offer a fairly comprehensive perspective on the experience.
My father was deployed away from our home at Fort Ord, California, in support of Operation Just Cause in Panama when the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989 struck. I remember my mom, an Army veteran who served in Grenada, huddled me and my older brother in the kitchen doorjamb, praying to God and calling out to my dad. Less than two years later he deployed to Iraq and missed the birth of my younger brother. He wrote letters to us all, just in case, that remain sealed in one of his many steamer trunks, serving as silent reminders of his more than 30 years of service.
While these are just a couple of moments and memories of my childhood, they are indicative of so many other men and women’s experience. A remarkably resilient and hardy group, it is still tough to be a family member of a deployed loved one. As our service member is off fighting to protect our country, we pray for their safe return while projecting normalcy and stability to those who rely on us. It is often a lonely and arduous journey. As a kindergartner on Career Day, I told my teacher and the class that I wanted to be an Army wife, believing it to be the most powerful, selfless job in the world.
Instead, I followed my parents’ example and volunteered to serve my country, graduating West Point in 2008 and deploying to Afghanistan in 2010. Like many others, during my time in uniform I fell in love with a fellow Army officer and we became a dual military couple — another role that holds its own unique challenges.
Relatedly, I transitioned out after the birth of our second daughter, and in 2014, with two kids under the age of 2, my husband deployed overseas for the fourth time. I moved home to pursue a master’s degree at George Washington University, mostly attending night classes so I could be at home during the day to provide some balance for our young girls.
I’ll never forget the one evening when a well-educated and well-meaning fellow master’s student said, “Wait. We still have soldiers in Afghanistan?” Sleep-deprived and stress-weary, I could do little more than nod my reply. That same year, for the first time since Vietnam, an Army general was killed in action — one of 54 U.S. service members who made the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan that year.
With news of the Global War on Terror too infrequently in our headlines and our all-volunteer force bearing the burden, it is perhaps forgivable my fellow student did not understand the endless cycle of deployments, the heart-wrenching goodbyes, and the awkward hello-agains that pockmark military life. More reminders are necessary, and this president uniquely understands this, especially as he fights to end our “endless wars.”
President Trump understands that the sacrifice and service of military wives and husbands too often goes unnoticed or misunderstood, and he often tries to remind the nation. Several times during his most recent State of the Union address, for instance, the president highlighted stories of veterans and military families. In one heartwarming example, he was able to surprise a military spouse and her children by bringing out of hiding in the chamber their husband and father, who had recently returned from his fourth deployment.
These reminders are essential for the American people to appreciate the unique challenges faced by military families. Veterans make up a little less than 8 percent of our population, and while older Americans are the likeliest to have had an immediate family member serve in the military, a growing share of the public no longer understands the problems faced by military families.
President Trump has also pledged to our armed forces that he will always have our backs, and it was particularly meaningful to me when he specified, “that means providing for military spouses as well.”
He has fulfilled that promise throughout his presidency, issuing an executive order in 2018 to enhance opportunities for military spouses looking for employment in the federal government and fighting to include improved education, childcare, and private housing for military families in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2020. He also eliminated the so-called “widow’s tax,” which blocked benefits for families of fallen heroes.
Our commander in chief recognizes that the strength of our military comes not just from technology, morale, and training, but also from the bonds of family. Military spouses are “combat multipliers,” enhancing the ability of our warriors to defend the nation. We are lucky to have a president who values that contribution and is fighting for us just as hard as our spouses are fighting for America.
Meaghan Mobbs is a West Point graduate, Afghanistan veteran, and former Army captain who is currently a clinical psychology pre-doctoral fellow at Columbia University, Teachers College where she researches and writes about modern day veterans issues. Mobbs is a George W. Bush Veteran Leader Scholar, Tillman Military Scholar, David O’Connor Fellow, and a Noble Argus and National Military Family Association Scholarship recipient. She is also the Executive Director of Veteran and Military Family Engagement for the Donald Trump reelection campaign.
Editor’s note: This is an Op-Ed and as such, the opinions expressed are those of the author. If you would like to respond, or have an editorial of your own you would like to submit, please contact Military Times managing editor Howard Altman, firstname.lastname@example.org.
The biographical information in this commentary piece has been updated.