FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — Fort Leonard Wood’s Army Community Service team hosted a day of activities, food and education on Friday, to recognize the resilience of military spouses and the roles they play in the readiness of America’s armed forces.
The event, held in honor of Military Spouse Appreciation Day, featured activities such as flower bouquet arranging and Zumba, and classes on topics such as women’s self-defense and spousal employment.
The day recognizes the profound importance of spousal commitment to the readiness and well-being of military members, said Rhonda Hutsell, this year’s event organizer.
“We ask so much of our military spouses — frequent moves; heartbreaking separations; parenting alone; incomplete celebrations; and weeks, months and sometimes years of waiting for a loved one’s safe return from harm’s way,” Hutsell said. “Time and time again, however, military spouses respond with resilience that defies explanation. Our service members are often praised as national heroes, but their spouses are equally worthy of that distinction.”
With the pandemic minimizing many in-person services here over the past couple of years, the event was also a chance to show the Fort Leonard Wood community that ACS has a lot of helpful programs available, said Shawn Steen, ACS director.
“(The pandemic) shoved us backward in quite a lot of ways,” he said. “We are trying to reach back out to the installation and let folks know that we have lots of opportunities and services here at ACS.”
Steen said it’s fitting that Military Spouse Appreciation Day comes in the spring, near Mother’s Day on the calendar.
“May is sort of a time of renewal and getting things going again before summer starts,” he said. “I’m not saying we don’t have male spouses — but the majority are female — and we thought it would be a great opportunity, especially right before their special weekend, to highlight some of the things that are out there and to encourage them and support them.”
One of the attendees, Kaitlyn Price, has been a military spouse for just about a month. Her husband, Spc. Grant Price, with the 50th Multi-Role Bridge Company, has been in the Army for about five years.
“I feel like his co-workers are pretty good about including me and making me feel good and letting me know what’s going on,” she said.
Events like this are also very helpful, she said, and she looks forward to more opportunities to meet people in the community.
“I’m trying to figure out how to do it, make the best of it here and make new friends,” she said.
Another attendee, Lauren Hill — whose husband, Sgt. 1st Class Corey Hill, is with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Chemical Brigade — said she feels the pandemic made it more difficult for spouses to connect with the installation.
“Things that were usually provided, like welcome briefs, had to go away because of COVID, so there are a lot of things unknown, especially to new spouses here,” she said. “We’re just now starting to catch up on things like that.”
Hill — who has been a military spouse since 2016, and here for three of those years — said Fort Leonard Wood is doing a good job bringing back community events, but “you have to meet them halfway.”
“I feel like a lot of things are provided but people don’t participate, people don’t utilize them, and when that happens, they end up going away after a while,” she said. “So, I think it’s important to get out there if you can and just stop by, just say hello — be part of the community. I know they try to do their best at getting the information out there for people, whether on social media, pushing through the units or signage all across the post.”
Tina Simmons, a military spouse for more than 10 years and a social service representative at ACS, taught a class at the event on putting things in perspective.
“It’s basically an MRT (master resilience training) skill we utilize in our everyday life, especially as spouses, because we are constantly going through those changes, and that raises our, well, my anxiety — let me speak for myself,” she said. “So, when you learn a skill like putting it in perspective, it helps you to be optimistic.”
Simmons called military spouses the backbone of the military.
“We don’t wear that uniform but we are a part of that uniform,” she said.
(Editor’s note: Angi Betran, Fort Leonard Wood Public Affairs Office, contributed to this article.)