Mrs. Dempsey: Military Families Take Care of Each Other
By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service
DURHAM, N.C., Jan. 18, 2012 Caring about military families comes naturally to the wife of the nation’s top military officer. She’s been an Army spouse for nearly 36 years, and their three children have served in the Army.
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and his wife, Deanie, enjoy a USO show with service members at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, Dec. 16, 2011. Through social media and contacts with service members and families, Deanie Dempsey discusses issues that include programs for military families overseas, jobs for military spouses, military family health, and her travels with the chairman. U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Cody Ramirez
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Since Oct. 1, when Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey became the 18th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Deanie Dempsey’s full-time job has been to communicate in every way she can with military families about topics that affect them.
“Wounded warriors have always been near and dear to my heart, but [I’m interested in] pretty much any of the family issues,” Dempsey told American Forces Press Service during a trip here with the chairman Jan. 13.
“We’ve done a lot with spouse employment and post-traumatic stress disorder,” she said, “and making sure we take care of [military families] and not break faith” with them in a time of defense budgetary constraints.
Through accounts on the social media websites Twitter and Facebook, through contacts with service members as she travels with the chairman, and even through personal notes to military spouses, Dempsey discusses everything from programs for military families overseas and jobs for military spouses to military family health and her travels with the chairman.
In December, she joined her husband on his first USO holiday tour as chairman, a fast-paced trip through five countries in six days.
In Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and Germany, they hosted four celebrities and brought holiday gifts to troops that included hockey equipment, soccer equipment, holiday cards from schoolchildren in the United States, and 10,000 cupcakes donated by DC Cupcakes in Washington.
“I thought [the USO tour] was absolutely amazing, and I was really impressed with the stars,” she said. The celebrities were recording artist Jordin Sparks, actress and model Minka Kelly, seven-time NBA champion Robert Horry and comedian Thomas "Nephew Tommy" Miles.
“They were good people who really were thrilled at the prospect of going to see troops,” Dempsey said. “If they smiled for one picture, they smiled for a million, and they were working on as little sleep as we were.”
On the last night of the tour, she and the chairman had a small ceremony with the celebrities.
“Marty got up and said some things about each one of them, and they were all in tears by the end,” she said. “They got that the week was about the soldiers, not about them, and the joy that they brought to all those service members for that week.”
On the stop in Iraq, the Dempseys joined Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and other U.S. and Iraqi military officials at the closing ceremony for U.S. Forces Iraq.
“Today I attended the casing of the colors in Baghdad and it was pretty emotional,” she wrote in a Facebook post Dec. 15.
“As I sat there listening, I couldn't help but think of my family members (husband, son, daughter) who all were a part of this effort,” Dempsey wrote. “I felt like I was representing all spouses and mothers who couldn't be here. I also thought of all those who had paid the ultimate sacrifice. We will never forget you.”
Dempsey calls being a military spouse, especially as the wife of the nation’s top military officer, a full-time job.
“All through Marty’s career, we’ve always taken that command-team philosophy seriously, so I support him,” she said.
When the chairman travels stateside, Dempsey said, his hosts at the military facilities he visits “always want to show the general everything that’s perfect and good.”
“Then I go and talk with spouses and … find out there is a lot of good, but there also may be something that’s not so good, and they’re not afraid to tell me,” she said. “I think that’s the benefit of having somebody else there -- another set of ears.”
As Dempsey supports the general in his hectic schedule of work and travel and communicates with military families to share her strength and experience, she continues an ancient tradition among military families to look out for each other.
“It is unlike any other occupation,” she said. “I used to tell people I could get in the car on the East Coast and drive to the West Coast and never spend a night in a hotel.
“It might be that I haven’t seen you in 15 years, but if I’m driving on I-70 through Kansas and you’re at Fort Riley … you’re telling me to come over, because there is that close-knit family atmosphere where you want to take care of everybody because you’ve been there,” she added. “It’s what we do.”