FORT STEWART, Ga. - Since 1984, the Friday before Mother's Day has been designated as Military Spouse Appreciation day. At Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield, the 2010 Military Spouse Appreciation was celebrated with an ice cream social, May 7.

"I know how deeply important and appreciated our spouses are," said Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Phillips, 3rd Infantry Division deputy commanding general-rear. "I want to thank each of you for what you do for our Army and our nation."

Garrison Commander Col. Kevin Milton handed out ice cream bars to spouses and Family Members, door prizes - Lexmark printers donated by Operation Homefront - were awarded, and the winning submissions of the "Most Appreciated Military Spouse" contest were announced.

The contest, which garnered almost 200 submissions, gave Soldiers the opportunity to write about their appreciation for their spouse. The top three from Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield were each given gift cards - $150 to first place, $100 to second place, and $50 to third place.

The winner from Fort Stewart was Staff Sgt. James Hibbert, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, who wrote about his wife, Beverly. He sent Beverly the submission but didn't tell her he had entered it in a contest.

"It's hard to put into words [what it meant to me]," Beverly said after listening to her husband's words read aloud. "It made me feel more loved than I ever have in my life."

The couple has four children, and is currently on their second deployment. Beverly takes care of their children, ages 15, 10, 4 and 2, while also taking a full load of college courses. If fact, she is doubling up on classes in order to get her degree in Healthcare Administration, Pharmaceuticals from the University of Phoenix sooner.

"Spouses do a lot," she said. "We take care of the kids, the house; we make sure dinner is cooked... Spouse Appreciation Day shows us that we are appreciated, whether our Soldier is deployed, in the field, or back home."

Christine Karr, wife of 1st Lt. Christopher Karr, 233rd Transportation Company, won a door prize for going through the most one-year deployments - the Karrs are currently on their fifth, and their second with the Army.

"I think [Spouse Appreciation Day] is important because, with Soldiers gone as often as they are, they aren't always able to tell us that they appreciate the little things that we do," said Christine Karr. "It's good to know that we really are appreciated."

Though female spouses are the majority, 14 percent of those deployed now are females, so more and more often the spouse left behind during a deployment is the husband.

One such husband is Ethan Zenj-Ra, husband of Staff Sgt. Katherine Zenj-Ra, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 87th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 3rd Sustainment Brigade, who is about to deploy. Ethan will be home with their 20-month old triplets, Kailynn, Hannah and Tahtyannah. Ethan's sister will be coming to stay with the Family during the deployment, but he said the support system at Fort Stewart has been extremely helpful.

"I'm appreciating all of the help I'm getting here; the support system (at Fort Stewart) is great," said Ethan, who now leaves the girls at an on-base Child Development Center. Until recently, he was a stay-at-home dad but just went back to work as an Army Civilian. "I now understand what those spouses [going through deployments] are going through; I'm seeing it first-hand."

The built-support system of the Army Family is one that goes unnoticed by none.

"In the Army, you have your biological Family, but being an Army wife, you've grown to open your heart and your home to so many other Army wives out there and bring them in as a member of your own Family," Beverly Hibbert said. "You take care of them when they need help, when they need someone to talk to, to vent to; when they're angry, when they're sad and when they're happy - someone to enjoy the joyous parts of their life with because you are one big Family in the Army."

If Military Spouse Appreciation Day is any indication, the work of spouses does not go unappreciated by their Soldiers.

"It's important to know that while I'm deployed, my children are safe at home with my husband," said Staff Sgt. Zenj-Ra.

For every military spouse in attendance, it was not just being honored and thanked; it was also to thank each other, and their spouses.

"Being an Army wife is an honor," said Beverly Hibbert. "It's an honor to be married to someone who loves his country so much that he fights for what all Americans believe in."