WASHINGTON, May 6, 2004 U.S. military installations worldwide will host a wide range of activities from receptions to workshops to "pampering parties" -- in observance of Military Spouse Day, May 7.
Military Spouse Day was first celebrated in 1984 when then-President Ronald Reagan proclaimed the observance to honor the contributions of military spouses. The military now sets aside the Friday before Mother's Day each year to pay tribute to the spouses who play a vital role in the nation's defense.
But Defense Department leaders say recognizing Military Spouse Day is particularly important this year, when thousands of spouses tend the homefront while their service members are deployed in support of the war on terror.
"Military Spouse Day is just one day of the year in which we stop to recognize the immeasurable contribution our spouses make to the true readiness of the force," said John Molino, deputy undersecretary of defense for military community and family policy.
"We are constantly aware that the stability of the military family and our military communities is attributable, in large part, to the self-sacrifice and dedication of our military spouses," Molino said. "As they strive daily to keep the homefront strong, these capable and committed spouses are a vital part of winning the global war on terrorism."
Vice Adm. Gerry Hoewing, chief of Naval Personnel, called military spouses "the heroes behind the scenes," who he said often find themselves "forgoing personal and professional aspirations, enduring long periods of separation, and willingly moving to foreign countries to become front-line American ambassadors.
"They demonstrate daily an unwavering loyalty to both family and nation and deserve our heartfelt thanks," Hoewing continued. "I shudder to think where our Navy would be without their support."
Retired Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Michael P. Downs, director of the Marine Corps' Personal and Family Readiness Division, said there's no doubt that Marines carry out a tough duty, "but it is often overlooked that Marine Corps spouses have a tough duty, too." These spouses, he said, "endure long separations often fraught with anxiety and worry, all the while continuing to parent children, pay the bills and support their Marine."
Downs said the Marine Corps has long known that family readiness leads to mission readiness and retention. "These spouses make great sacrifices in support of their Marines and the Marine Corps, and deserve this special day of appreciation," he said. "Simply put, we couldn't do it without them."
Lt. Gen. Richard E. Brown III, the Air Force's deputy chief of staff for personnel, called military spouses "a vital link to the success of our military" and praised military spouses for their tremendous contribution to the force's quality of life.
"Our spouses serve our nation just as we in uniform serve," he said, calling the wide range of activities planned Air Force-wide on May 7 an important time to express appreciation. "As we pause on Military Spouse Day to recognize the contributions, sacrifices, and extraordinary efforts of our spouses, the Air Force renders a very heartfelt 'thank you' to each of them," Brown said.
Col. Yvonne Tucker-Harris, deputy director of Army Family Programs, agreed that spouses "have always played a pivotal role in the readiness of our force" a role she acknowledged has often gone unrecognized.
She called Military Spouse Day "an opportunity for the services to salute the "unsung heroes in our military families" for their "unparalleled support" in fulfilling the military mission. "We appreciate so much their sacrifices and keeping the family intact when we are not available because of mission requirements," she said.