|ELEVATING OUR SUPPORT OF SEA SERVICE FAMILIES|
|Friday, October 19, 2018|
By ALAN KAPLAN, Navy League National President
Supporting the men and women who serve in our military is at the crux of the Navy League’s mission — but so too must be supporting their families. The sacrifice that our sea service personnel make is prominent in the public’s eye. They are on the front page of the paper during war time. We see them in uniform around bases, ports and in our communities. And their needs are a priority for our lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
But the duty and sacrifice of their spouses and families, while less visible in the public sphere, is no less deserving of our attention.
A 2017 U.S. Chamber of Commerce study highlighting the employment challenges of these unsung heroes estimates that between 20 and 25 percent of military spouses are unemployed, and underemployment may be as high as 35 to 40 percent. At a time where the majority of American families are dependent on two incomes, we are asking our military families to improvise on how they can do more with less.
The challenges these families face doesn’t stop at employment. With each move comes the weight of making a new house a home, often in remote areas without the support structure of a military base and with a civilian community that may not understand the requirements of service life. There is the challenging task of transitioning their children into new schools and the onus of finding a new social network — only to have to do all this work again with the next move.
Our first-ever sea services spouse panel, held at this year’s Sea-Air-Space Exposition, highlighted just how much flexibility and ingenuity is required to be married to the military. The spouses who spoke exemplified what it means to be a military spouse, and their service deserves to be recognized. They sacrifice so much and expect so little in return.
Some, like Fran DeNinno Zukunft, wife of Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft, were able to telecommute as their families moved from base to base. Even with this stability, there are big family challenges and sacrifices as a result of the constant demands and relocation requirements for the men and women of our sea services. What she said at the panel still resonates with me: “It’s hard to do a good job when you are worried about your kids.”
The best and the brightest of our nation and their families deserve more. Highlighting and fulfilling the needs of the families of our sea service men and women is a core focus of my term as national president and will be an ongoing mission of our Navy League.
I hope each council and member will join me in seeking out new opportunities to help these individuals who are serving our nation just as bravely as their service member spouses.
We must elevate our work as a community to identify key and innovative ways that we can help military families feel at home and at ease, wherever their service members’ jobs take them. Please reach out to me with any initiatives and ideas you have so our Navy League can be at the call of our sea service spouses, ALWAYS.
One Team — Mission Focused