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News   Know Your Military

DOD's Virtual Military Spouse Symposium Slated for May 10-12

May 4, 2022 | BY Terri Moon Cronk , DOD News

Military spouses worldwide are expected to participate this month in the sixth annual Virtual Military Spouse Symposium, the Defense Department's premier event for spouse empowerment and goal setting.  
 
Free of charge, the May 10 to 12 symposium is a chance for spouses to network with other military spouses and take advantage of a powerful community and set of resources just for them. It's also an opportunity to learn about employment, education, family life and well-being.  

A military couple is shown.
Military Spouses
Military spouses sacrifice in many ways to help support their spouse's career. The mobile nature of military life often has families moving from one duty location to another, making it more difficult for spouses to have a career of their own.
Photo By: Photo courtesy of Military OneSource
VIRIN: 201029-A-PC730-464C

 
This year's focus will be on the "whole spouse," by zeroing in on how spouses can take the best care of themselves and ensure family well-being, said C. Eddy Mentzer, associate director in military community support programs in the office of the deputy assistant secretary of defense for military community and family policy.  

"We know in most cases, the military spouse is going to be called on to do many things, especially when the service member is working long hours, is deployed or in training," he said. "So, being able to give spouses the tools and resources they need so they can be their best selves is one of the big aspects of this year's symposium."  
 
For example, Mentzer noted, "the folks from Sesame Street are coming in, and how cool is that? They'll talk to us about not just children and the challenges around mental health coming out of this pandemic, but they will also focus in on the primary caregiver, who in most cases in the military family is going to be the military spouse."  
 
Another highlight this year will be the last session at 3:30 p.m. EST, May 12, which will be a new networking event, in which 10 to 15 spouses will be placed into small, virtual rooms to develop their network of support, Mentzer, also a military spouse, said.  

A smiling woman poses for a photo.
Marissa Santiago
Travis Air Force Base recognizes Marissa Santiago, Fisher House operations assistant and military spouse, for the Military Spouse Appreciation Day campaign at Travis AFB, Calif., April 7, 2022. Military Spouse Appreciation Day is on May 6 and Travis AFB is honoring the resilience and commitment of spouses in the military community.
Photo By: Hun Chustine Minoda, Air Force
VIRIN: 220408-F-FM924-1157C

 
Such a network comprises "the people we know we can tap into at any time to help us out. And I think this will be a great opportunity for spouses to meet completely new spouses they've never met before, and grow that overall spouse network," he said.  
 
The symposium is about military readiness and ensuring our service members are able to focus on the mission. 
 
"They need to know their families are being taken care of, and the Virtual Military Spouse Symposium is a great way to show the department cares," Mentzer explained. "We care about military spouses; we care about the military family; and we know the impact that has on the service member."  
 
One of the most significant aspects about the symposium that Mentzer says he's seen over the years is the peer sharing that goes on in the chat room. "The biggest part is the individual experiences military spouses have," he said, adding that spouses share their military life experiences with each other.  
 
Spouses are great at sharing what works for them. Maybe a new app, or way to communicate while apart, Mentzer said. "We know our most trusted resource as military spouses is other military spouses. This peer sharing can get heavy as spouses share their experiences, and it can be so helpful to understand others have been there and how they managed to get through it." 

An airman hugs his wife.
Arkansas Welcome
Air Force Capt. Brian Vaughn, 61st Airlift Squadron pilot, reunites with his wife upon returning to Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., Dec. 8, 2021, following a deployment supporting contingency operations in East Africa.
Photo By: Air Force Senior Airman Aaron Irvin
VIRIN: 211208-F-ZA639-1263Y

 
Out of the three-day, 16-session symposium, he added, "no matter where you are in your life, there's going to be a session that's going to appeal to you."  
 
The symposium is easy to attend on the Zoom platform and registration is available through DOD's Spouse Education and Career Opportunities website. Symposium updates will also be available by following Spouse Education and Career Opportunities – also known as SECO – on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  
 
About Spouse Education and Career Opportunities 
The Defense Department established the Spouse Education and Career Opportunities program to provide education and career guidance to military spouses worldwide, offering free comprehensive resources and tools designed to help spouses meet their career and education goals. This program also offers free career coaching services six days a week.