[Vision2020] Serving in Silence

Tom Hansen thansen at moscow.com
Tue May 8 11:32:21 PDT 2007

Greetings Visionaires -

Having been married to one while on active duty, my sincerest appreciation
to those who continue to endure, unquestioning and with an unqualified sense
of duty - the military spouse.

>From the May 14, 2007 edition of the Army Times -


Serving in silence

Professional sacrifices of military spouses deserve more recognition
By Rebecca Noah Poynter

Many mornings, I am at the post walking when the flag is being raised. I
wouldn't be here at this moment if it were not for my spouse's chosen
profession, the military.

As the flag is deliberately unfolded and slowly moved up the staff, I stop
and watch. The military members present are expected to salute; custom calls
for me to quietly observe. All eyes are on the flag; I stand unnoticed, part
of the scene but not part of the ceremony.

Recently, I enjoyed a margarita and a good laugh with a longtime college
friend, and fellow military spouse, over a nearly identical military-life
moment. For each of us, there had been a tough move to a new location. With
her young children, leaving family saddened her. Losing a good job
challenged me. There were protests, then tears and finally, inexpensive
flowers offered awkwardly by each husband to make amends for the military

The moment didn't happen in the same location or even in the same year, but
in the same season of military life. For all military spouses, it takes time
to regain both identity and income each time life is repositioned, and a
$9.98 grocery-store bouquet doesn't make it better. 

"A personal sacrifice" is what President Reagan called our shared moment. In
1984, Reagan characterized it this way: "As the numbers of our married men
and women in uniform have grown and as the military missions have become
more complex and dispersed, their spouses have made countless personal
sacrifices to support the Armed Forces."

Reagan's words led to the creation of Military Spouse Day.

Now it is Military Spouse Appreciation Day, on May 11, and it is generally

It is no surprise that military spouses are both unrecognized and
unrecognizable. Spotting a uniformed service member is simple; identifying
today's military spouse is not so easy. 

The current active-duty military spouse population is about 700,000; with
National Guard and reserve included, the number nears 1.5 million. In the
active-duty population, about 93 percent of military spouses are women. They
are typically 35 years old or younger. 

This next statistic may be the most surprising part of the description: 65
percent of all military spouses work. So, she is most likely in the
workplace during prime earning years.

''Subordinating their personal and professional aspirations," the 1984
Military Spouse Day proclamation says of the personal sacrifices. Reagan got
it so right. Subordinating personal aspirations means that while a military
spouse may not like going to the next duty location or saying goodbye to her
deploying husband, she does it.

The invisible sacrifice of the military spouses is "subordinating
professional aspirations." This affects individual personal and financial
dignity and decreases the ability of the armed forces to retain qualified

For the military spouse, the ability to work is altered by the mobility of
the military lifestyle. Repeatedly for a military spouse, a job may take
longer to find, may pay significantly less and may not match her education
or experience. Also, an employer may not want to hire a military spouse,
knowing she is likely to move.

The military spouse may be better educated than her civilian counterpart,
according to a 2004 Rand Corp. study on military spouse employment. Military
spouses, however, are at a disadvantage in the labor market compared with
civilian spouses, less likely to be employed than civilian spouses and more
likely to be unemployed. Military spouses also earn less than civilian
spouses, falling in the bottom 30 percent of the distribution of all

The Rand study confirms what most military spouses already know from
personal experience, "lower employment, higher unemployment and lower income

So while you are most likely to find her in the workplace during prime
earning years, she makes less income, limiting savings, individual
retirement and Social Security contributions.

As for the thousands of active-duty military spouses who are self-employed,
establishing and maintaining businesses or professional careers with
military moves is uniquely demanding. With each move, self-employed military
spouses face an array of challenges that include state professional
licenses, business registrations and tax complications. 

Military spouse employment affects the armed forces' retention. For example,
the Army publicly states, "Spouse employment emerges as a major determining
factor in the retention of high-quality military personnel." 

State and federal legislation is needed to recognize the military spouse,
addressing both issues and opportunities. 

In 2006, Texas allowed military spouses to collect unemployment compensation
because of a deployment or a move resulting from their spouses' military
responsibilities. Only six other states - Alabama, Mississippi, Nevada, New
Mexico, North Carolina and Washington - have similar laws.

U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-Texas, introduced the Military Spouses Employment
Act to provide tax incentives to employers who hire qualified military
spouses. This bill was voted down in committee and will be reintroduced this
year. The bill was motivated by Dell Inc., which created an innovative pilot
program to allow 22 military spouses to work from home as customer service

If more employers could see the military spouse for what she is, they could
enjoy a well-qualified and grateful employee. 

While each military spouse quietly serves with personal and professional
sacrifices, the collective silence surrounding us is audible. As deployments
increase and mobility continues, the military spouse should be viewed
realistically and thoughtfully. Now that you recognize her, don't let her
stand alone.


The writer is the owner of OnPoynt Communications, which is currently
located in Washington, D.C. She is an Army spouse, and is a co-founder of
the Military Spouse Business Association, http://www.milspousebiz.org.  


Seeya round town, Moscow.

Tom Hansen
Moscow, Idaho

"Patriotism is not a short and frenzied outburst of emotion but the tranquil
and steady dedication of a lifetime." 

--Adlai E. Stevenson, Jr.

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