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Marine Wife, Defense Officials Reflect on Military Spouse Day

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 11, 2007 – After being “married to the military” for almost two decades, Angela Conboy has experienced her share of ups and downs and absences and reunions.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Marine 1st Sgt. Kevin Conboy and his wife Angela have spent about seven of their 17 years of marriage apart due to deployments. Military Spouse Appreciation Day, being commemorated today, recognizes the contributions spouses make to the military. Defense Dept. photo by Donna Miles
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

When she stops to add it all up, Conboy figures that her husband, Marine 1st Sgt. Kevin Conboy, has been deployed seven of the 17 years they’ve been married. Out of the last two years alone, he’s been gone 14 months. He returned home to Camp LeJeune, N.C., in March after his most recent deployment, to Anbar province, Iraq.

Standing at her husband’s side last night while he received a SemperComm Award for his morale-boosting activities during that deployment, Conboy took time to reflect on the role she and other military spouses play in supporting the military.

Like most military spouses, Conboy downplays any insinuation that she’s doing anything more than simply standing behind the man she loves.

“They have it a lot harder than we do,” she said of her husband and his fellow troops. “He’s the one getting dirty and not getting showers. I’m the one who’s here living my own normal life.”

While her husband is gone, Conboy strives to keep her home life stable for the couple’s 15-year-old son. “I know that’s important, so I try to keep things as normal as possible for him,” she said.

She talks with her husband as frequently as possible, filling him in on what’s happening at home and reassuring him that all is well.

She admits to putting on a happy face so he doesn’t have to wonder how the family is doing without him.

“You just have to be positive,” he said. “I focus on supporting him and trying to be strong and not letting him know that we’re worrying about him.”

But in truth, Conboy said, she spends his deployments “hoping and praying” her husband and his comrades are safe, never giving up the vigil until they return. Only then, when she knows they’re home, can she let that guard down.

“The best feeling in the world is seeing that bus come around the corner (from the airfield) and them coming home,” she said.

Conboy may pooh-pooh her and other military spouses’ contribution to the military, but military and defense officials say they understand it clearly.

President Bush issued a proclamation yesterday commemorating today as Military Spouse Appreciation Day to honor military spouses who “inspire our nation with their sense of duty and deep devotion to our country.”

The president recognized the sacrifices spouses and family members make every day to support the force.

Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, issued a message today praising spouses for the “quiet strength and untold support” they provide.

“Through long deployments, you sustain our morale with your letters, e-mails and the comforting knowledge that your thoughts and prayers are always with us,” he said. “While we’re away, you maintain a sense of stability for our families, providing a constant foundation despite daily challenges and unspoken worries. When we get tired, you dust us off, and put us back into the fight.”

Pace recognized that spouses are slow to accept recognition for what they do. “When we come home and receive recognition, you stand in the background and pretend you had nothing to do with that success,” he said.

Navy Secretary Donald C. Winter noted that although it’s the soldier, sailor, airman or Marine who signs up for military duty, it’s often that person’s wife or husband who will be the key to how successful that service will be.

“The support of our military spouses is critical to our servicemembers,” he said.

Winter said it’s fitting that the first Friday in May be set aside to formally recognize the contribution military spouses make.

Even more impressive, he said, is the fact that President Bush is honoring military spouses personally at the White House today.

“That speaks volumes,” Winter said.

Troops, too, say they recognize the important role their spouses play, particularly while they’re deployed.

“When you know you have their support, you can have the right head on your shoulders and concentrate on your mission,” said Marine Staff Sgt. Christopher Wright, a reservist who recently returned from a deployment near Ramadi, Iraq. “It gives you focus.”

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