Foundation, Fort Belvoir honor military spouses
Gold Star wife Edith Smith greets Sheila Casey, spouse of Gen. George Casey Jr., the U.S. Army Chief of Staff, at the Spouse Appreciation Luncheon at the Fort Belvoir Officers' Club May 7.

FORT BELVOIR, Va. - Some refer to them, collectively, as the ones with the toughest jobs in the military. Those left behind on the home front. In many cases, the women behind the men.

However, on Friday, they were honorees as the Armed Forces Foundation and Fort Belvoir's Army Community Service co-hosted a military spouse appreciation luncheon solely for them.

"It's important to remember those who serve at home," said Patricia Driscoll, foundation president and executive director. "Families serve, too. Without them, those deployed couldn't do their jobs so well." She highlighted the foundation's programs, including counseling services, support for servicemembers with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury and described the foundation as a "resource to call on."

After the group of about 150 military spouses and dignitaries viewed a montage video of the foundation's mission, Driscoll introduced Sheila Casey as a "very, very special military spouse."

Among other titles, Casey is chief executive officer of The Hill newspaper and is on the board of the National Military Family Association. She also is the wife of Gen. George Casey, the U.S. Army's chief of staff.

"In 1984, then President Ronald Reagan declared the Friday before Mother's Day as Military Spouse Appreciation Day," Sheila Casey said.

"In traveling with my husband, one of the favorite things I get to do is shine a spotlight on military spouses. I am constantly amazed at the strength of military spouses, with their formal and informal ways of supporting each other," she said, adding that military spouses of today are more empowered than before.

"Taking care of each other is what we do," Casey said. "The greatest support and our strength is how we help one another."

Casey detailed a specific Army spouse, Nicki Bunting of Darnestown, Md., who was the Army's nominee for Military Spouse of the Year.

"Bunting, a survivor spouse, organized a benefit and raised more than $50,000 in honor of her husband, while the mother of two young boys. She represents the best of our Army," Casey said.

She said the Army's senior leaders are all working hard every day to honor commitments made in the Army Family Covenant.

"We recognize your commitment and sacrifice. Thank you for your vital support," Casey told the spouses.

Before she ended her speech, Casey recommended and urged every spouse in Fort Belvoir's Officers' Club to find balance somehow. "As spouses, we traditionally take care of others and put ourselves and what we need on the bottom of the pile. Please. Figure out what you can do - something nice for you, when you leave - that isn't helping someone else. It's not selfish at all. It's survival," she said. "There's no prize for burnout," Casey reminded the audience members.

Command Sgt. Maj. Gabriel Berhane, Belvoir's installation command sergeant major, thanked the foundation and said, "We wear the uniform and we serve. But, spouses serve, too. We wouldn't be where we are if it weren't for you," he told the spouses.

Also from the lectern, Col. Jerry Blixt, Belvoir's installation commander, thanked Casey for her "sage advice and words of wisdom." He also told the spouses he was privileged and honored to be in front of them. After the lunch, Blixt said spouses play a critical role in the Army's success. He and his wife, Debby, have been married 25 years and have two sons and a daughter.

Debby said spouses are integral to the military because they typically help and volunteer so much and maintain as much of a normal home life as possible when spouses are deployed.

Col. Blixt added, "It's so important to have someone still at home to maintain the family routines and normalcy. Also, e-mails and the availability to maintain a daily connectivity now allow military couples to work together still, even with sometimes not being geographically close.

Nancy Patterson of Lake Ridge, the wife of a retired, 30-year Airman, said she loved the lunch and the recognition as a military spouse. "Everyone was wonderful. It's so impressive that they do this for spouses," Patterson said.

Page last updated Thu May 13th, 2010 at 16:05