Military spouses connect with each other during an ice-breaking exercise at MilSpouseFest Sept. 14 at the Courtyard by Marriott Killeen. (U.S. Army photo by Blair Dupre, Fort Cavazos Public Affairs)
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Military spouses connect with each other during an ice-breaking exercise at MilSpouseFest Sept. 14 at the Courtyard by Marriott Killeen. (U.S. Army photo by Blair Dupre, Fort Cavazos Public Affairs) (Photo Credit: Blair Dupre) VIEW ORIGINAL
Spouses speak to representatives of local and national organizations, businesses and universities Sept. 14 during MilSpouseFest. (U.S. Army photo by Blair Dupre, Fort Cavazos Public Affairs)
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Spouses speak to representatives of local and national organizations, businesses and universities Sept. 14 during MilSpouseFest. (U.S. Army photo by Blair Dupre, Fort Cavazos Public Affairs) (Photo Credit: Blair Dupre) VIEW ORIGINAL

KILLEEN, Texas — More than 100 military spouses attended MilSpouseFest Sept. 14 at the Courtyard by Marriott Killeen to learn and network.

MilSpouseFest hosts about 10 to 12 events a year around the country, rotating around to different military installations each year to ensure that they impact as many spouses as possible.

“We have spouses that come in by themselves,” said Danya Devine, director of MilSpouseFest. “And they walk out with a network and a community.”

The event promoted connections by providing spouses with opportunities to mingle with each other, network with representatives of local and national organizations, colleges and employers, as well as listen to guest speakers and enjoy free breakfast and lunch.

“I started (MilSpouseFest) eight years ago to serve our spouses with resources, connections, networking and really give them a day to celebrate themselves,” said Jennifer Pilcher, founder of MilSpouseFest. “We noticed … spouses were struggling to find the resources. They are dispersed a lot of times, everywhere, and it can be overwhelming and also (moving) to a new place, maybe not knowing what is available locally. We combine and bring in national resources with local resources to make sure that the spouse is equipped with what they need.”

Pilcher said MilSpouseFest’s partnership with USAA made the event possible and collaborating with organizations, like Military Spouse Jobs among others, ensures the spouses have access to resources they may need.

Denise Lewis, director of diversity initiatives for Vet Jobs and Military Spouse Jobs and one of the guest speakers for MilSpouseFest, said that Military Spouse Jobs understands the struggles that spouses can face when navigating the job market.

“We understand our spouses are committed to serving our country and sometimes they lose their identity,” she said. “Organizations like ours want to make sure (spouses) know, when they’re ready to enter the job market, we have their backs and we’re ready to help fulfill whatever career needs that they need.”

Chuck Bunch, military affairs relationship director for USAA and another guest speaker, said spouses need to be aware of the resources that are available to them.

Ashley Gutermuth, comedian and MC for the event, performs for the attendees Sept. 14 at MilSpouseFest. (U.S. Army photo by Blair Dupre, Fort Cavazos Public Affairs)
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Ashley Gutermuth, comedian and MC for the event, performs for the attendees Sept. 14 at MilSpouseFest. (U.S. Army photo by Blair Dupre, Fort Cavazos Public Affairs) (Photo Credit: Blair Dupre) VIEW ORIGINAL
Chuck Bunch, military affairs relationship director for USAA, and Jennifer Pilcher, founder of MilSpouseFest, give the military spouses advice on entreprenuership. (U.S. Army photo by Blair Dupre, Fort Cavazos Public Affairs)
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Chuck Bunch, military affairs relationship director for USAA, and Jennifer Pilcher, founder of MilSpouseFest, give the military spouses advice on entreprenuership. (U.S. Army photo by Blair Dupre, Fort Cavazos Public Affairs) (Photo Credit: Blair Dupre) VIEW ORIGINAL

“From our perspective, our military spouses are our humble and selfless heroes on the homefront,” he said. “SpouseFest is an opportunity for them to … come in here, see the wealth of resources that are readily available to support them, but also connect to a community that is so tight knit, allowing them to understand that you can’t do this alone. There’s others that are experiencing the same thing. They should be very proud to be a part of the military community. Their selfless efforts are not unnoticed and most appreciated.”

Bunch also shared that his spouse was a great help to him while he served in the Air Force.

“I was a beneficiary during my 20-year career,” he shared. “To me it’s a matter of national security, (in my) personal opinion. Oftentimes when I’d be away from my spouse, I didn’t ever have to worry about what was going on (at home). I could concentrate on the mission. To me, that’s about safety and defending this nation. We have to concentrate and (if we) worry about things back home, we could endanger our lives and maybe others that we may be leading. So, thank you to our military spouses.”

Guest speakers briefly talked about a variety of subjects including home buying and renting, entrepreneurship, finding joy, education assistance, job searching resources, cargiving and meeting other spouses.

Ashley Gutermuth, comedian and MC for the event and a military spouse herself, entertained the crowd with a comedy performance to wrap up the fun. She was excited to be a part of MilSpouseFest to help bring the spouses together.

“I love it because we’ve traveled all over,” she said about being a military spouse. “We went to Alaska, East Coast, West Coast, and you get to see all different military families and how the struggles are the same. We try to bring them together. I’ll ask in my comedy show, ‘Who’s been a spouse for more than 20 years?’ They raise their hands. Then I say, ‘Okay, who’s been exposed for less than one year?’ They raise their hands. Then I go, ‘Okay, you’re all going to take care of the babies right?’ Then they swap numbers.

“That’s part of it is being able to help people find the community and network,” she added. “There’s so many neat opportunities and you get to spend time with other military spouses, share experiences and it’s all free.”

Pilcher said connection is vital for military spouses and she’s happy that MilSpouseFest can provide spouses with that opportunity.

“Seventy percent of our attendees come by themselves and that’s a hard thing to do,” Pilcher said. “It also shows us the need that’s out there to make connection. Our number one goal all the time is to make a connection whether it’s at your table or through one of our fun activities.”

For more information on MilSpouseFest, visit https://milspousefest.com/.