By Alura Romero, Naval History and Heritage Command Communication and Outreach Division
While military spouses should be recognized and honored every day, we want to take this special day – Military Spouse Appreciation Day – to show our respect and to thank the men and women who are the backbone of the fleet and the driving force behind our service members.
In 1984, Ronald Reagan believed so whole-heartedly in the importance of military spouses that he enacted Proclamation 5184, which made May 23 Military Spouse Day. President Reagan said in his proclamation, “As volunteers, military spouses have provided exemplary service and leadership in educational, community, recreational, religious, social and cultural endeavors. And as parents and homemakers, they preserve the cornerstone of our Nation’s strength—the American family.” Congress would later add Military Spouse Appreciation Day into the month of May, prompting the Department of Defense to reclassify Military Spouse Appreciation Day as May 10.
President Reagan understood the sacrifices that military spouses make—the countless months, days, and hours of waiting for their spouse to come home from deployment; sacrificing their own personal goals for the goals of the fleet. He understood that spouses put the service before themselves. In his proclamation, he empathized with spouses who have to leave places they’ve finally become accustomed to and friends they’ve just made.
While President Reagan was first to enact a national day celebrating spouses, he wasn’t the last to mention their unwavering loyalty to the service. In 2016, President Barack Obama said in a proclamation, “Serving alongside our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen, our Nation’s military families give of themselves and give up their time with their loved ones so we may live safely and freely. Few Americans fully understand the sacrifices made by those who serve in uniform, but for spouses of service members across our country, the costs of the freedom we too often take for granted are known intimately. On Military Spouse Appreciation Day, we honor the spouses of those who have left behind everything they know and love to join our Nation’s unbroken chain of patriots, and we recommit to giving military spouses the respect, dignity, and support they deserve.”
While the role of “military spouse” has always been noticed, there is another role (or service to the fleet) that sometimes goes unnoticed—the Navy Ombudsman. While honoring our spouses, we also want to show our appreciation and gratitude for the Navy Ombudsman—the official representative of Navy spouses fleet wide. Beginning with his “Z-Gram” on Sept. 14, 1970, Adm. Zumwalt instructed that the Navy needed representation for spouses. He instructed that “All shore-based commanders shall establish procedures which give Navy wives an opportunity to present complaints, viewpoints, and suggestions to Commanding Officers.”
Here’s to you spouses – here’s to your resilience, flexibility, patience, and respect for the fleet. In the words of President Obama, “Enduring separation and relocation, heartache and anticipation, military spouses demonstrate a strength reflective of the spirit of our Nation.”