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Military Spouses Enable Mission by Maintaining the Home Front

May 7, 2021 , DOD News

More than half of active-duty service members and about 44% of reserve service members are married. Together, that's nearly a million military spouses who stay behind during deployments and temporary duty assignments to maintain the homestead and care for about 1.6 million children, sometimes while also working their own job.

Young children and parents are seated as members in an audience.
Family Farewell
Family members watch a farewell ceremony at the Fort William Henry Harrison Reserve Center gymnasium in Helena, Mont., Sept. 7, 2019.
Photo By: Army Master Sgt. Ryan C. Matson
VIRIN: 190907-A-LD390-244C

Military Spouse Appreciation Day is observed each year on the Friday before Mother's Day and recognizes the contributions to the nation's defense by the spouses of military service members — spouses who struggle every day to keep families together and safe while their service member is away.

"Military spouses may not always wear a uniform, but they serve and sacrifice alongside their service members and keep our military strong," President Joe Biden said in a White House proclamation released yesterday. "On Military Spouse Appreciation Day, we recognize and thank the military spouses who serve our nation and are critical to our national security."

Today, we pause to salute the women and men who do so much to support our troops, invest in our communities and sacrifice for our country."
President Joe Biden

During the COVID-19 pandemic, military spouses have worked harder to keep their families together. They've had to struggle with school shutdowns, limited child care options and, for some, a loss of income as well. In some cases, their spouses had to stay deployed longer due to COVID-19 restrictions.

"Still, military spouses have done what they do best: adapt, persevere and keep going," President Biden said.

Programs like First Lady Dr. Jill Biden's Joining Forces and the Defense Department's Military Spouse Employment Partnership are two efforts designed to help improve the ability of military spouses to keep families strong while their spouse defends the nation.

During a virtual event last month, Dr. Jill Biden told military spouses and stakeholders in the Joining Forces program that they are a critical part of what keeps the nation strong.

A woman in a suit stands behind a lectern with microphones. A sign on the lectern indicates that she is at the White House. A collage of monitors is behind her.
First Lady
First Lady Dr. Jill Biden announces the priorities of the newly relaunched Joining Forces initiative at the White House, April 7, 2021.
Photo By: Cameron Smith, White House
VIRIN: 210407-O-DO439-0195

"You are the rudder that steers our military, and supporting your physical, social and emotional health is a national security imperative," Biden said.

Over the next few years, Joining Forces will focus on several key issues to help strengthen military families and reduce the burden on military spouses, she said:

  • Military family employment and entrepreneurship. Before the pandemic, the Defense Department estimated the military spouse unemployment rate was about 22%, she said. "All of you deserve opportunities to do the work you love, whether that means keeping your job when you move from base to base, or owning your own businesses."
  • Quality child care when families need it. Families do not have to feel like they're choosing between their job and taking care of their children.
  • Education for military children. There are more than 2 million children whose parents are service members, National Guard reservists or veterans. Schools want to support all students, but they don't always know how to do so, she said. "We're going to work with educators and our government partners to make sure that your military-connected kids have what [they] need to succeed."
  • Military family health and well-being. Because only 1% of our country has shouldered the burden of 20 years of war, no one has more strength, grit and resilience than our military families, Biden said, adding, "But you can't do this alone. We have to help you carry this weight by improving access to mental health resources, ensuring everyone can put food on the table and supporting caregiving families and survivors."

A woman touches the fingertips of another woman.
Military Spouse
Adrea Facio, a military spouse on Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow, Calif., demonstrates her nail products to Cheryle Magorno, November 11, 2013 at Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow, Calif.
Photo By: Marine Corps Pfc. Garrett White
VIRIN: 131113-M-DQ243-640
A woman hangs from a wooden bar.
Karen Wheeler
Karen Wheeler, the wife of Army Sgt. 1st Class Douglas Wheeler with the 3rd Sustainment Command, completes an obstacle course during "No Ordinary Spouse" day at Fort Knox, Ky., April 12, 2013.
Photo By: Army Staff Sgt. Michael Behlin
VIRIN: 130412-A-RJ696-006
A man in a military uniform handles the cables attached to a woman who is in civilian clothing.
Rappel Help
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Terriance Hamilton of the 3rd Sustainment Command, helps a spouse disconnect from the rappel tower during "No Ordinary Spouse" day, at Fort Knox, Ky., April 12, 2013.
Photo By: Army Staff Sgt. Michael Behlin
VIRIN: 130412-A-RJ696-010C

While there are long-term solutions to help the Defense Department and the nation better support military spouses in their critical role, Military Spouse Appreciation Day is meant to let those spouses know that their contributions to the nation's defense is known.

"On Military Spouse Appreciation Day, we recognize the importance of empowering spouses and ensuring they have the necessary tools and resources to thrive in all facets of their lives, including in the community, in the workforce and at home," President Biden said. "Today, we pause to salute the women and men who do so much to support our troops, invest in our communities and sacrifice for our country."