By Kari Hawkins (AMCOM)June 22, 2011
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala.--As he chased after his big brother Tristen with a piece of melon in his hand, it was hard to tell that toddler Jacob Wojtaszek has had any health problems.
The 1 1/2-year-old is the son of Sgt. David and Beth Wojtaszek, and a participant in the Army Community Service’s Exceptional Family Member Program. And, while he is doing well, Jacob’s mom and dad said his premature birth has caused some minor developmental delays that have been easier to overcome with the help of the Exceptional Family Member Program.
“We’ve had a really good experience here,” Jacob’s dad said.
The Wojtaszeks were just one of several military families in attendance during the ACS Open House on Thursday as part of the Armed Forces Week Celebration. The open house included a tribute to military spouses.
During a short program welcoming guests to the open house, Garrison commander Col. John Hamilton said military spouses have an “incredible impact” on their Soldiers, the Army and organizations like ACS.
There are a “thousand different ways to describe all you do for us and this community and it still wouldn’t be enough to describe all you do. You are the glue that binds us together and makes us a community,” Hamilton said.
While the military is stretched by a decade of war, military spouses have “passed with flying colors in their support of their Soldiers,” he said.
“You convinced me that you can do it all. We’re convinced that the military spouse is the toughest job in the Army or in the world,” Hamilton continued to applause.
“You make a difference every single day in the defense of our nation.”
Among the female spouses in the audience sat a male spouse who is getting a lot of attention these days. Retired Air Force Col. Craig Brotchie, husband of Gen. Ann Dunwoody, represents a growing population of male spouses whose wives serve in the military.
“Twenty years ago, women in the military weren’t as interested in serving and having a family,” Brotchie said. “Today, they know there is an opportunity to serve as well as to raise a family and have a home life. The military can offer their families a dual income, and a very successful partnership.”
He also said that the Army, as well as the other services, learned that a happy military spouse means they have a satisfied, committed Soldier.
“Ten, 15, 20 years ago, when you asked a Soldier why they didn’t want to stay in the military, they would say ‘My wife hates it. She doesn’t like me being gone. She doesn’t like the danger,’” Brotchie said.
“The Army and the other services realized they are not just recruiting Soldiers, they are recruiting and retaining families. And if you don’t have family support services on installations, the Soldier is going to walk. Today, despite being at war, there is no problem with recruiting, no problem with retaining because of organizations like ACS.”
Although male spouses “to a large degree, we are a very silent population,” Brotchie said male spouses face some of the same challenges as female spouses. Despite his work in Air Force special operations, Brotchie has had to leave several jobs because of his wife’s career.
As an established retiree, Brotchie doesn’t require the use of ACS services, but, he said, younger military spouses " male and female " know ACS can provide them with family support services that can make a real difference on the home front.
“ACS is always a very special place on every installation,” he said. “It is the hub for families. Families can gather here, can come here and relax and talk to others, and can get the assistance they need for their families.”
Military spouse Crystal Pruitt is thankful for the support ACS has provided to her while her husband, Spc. Ralph Pruitt, served in Iraq. Pruitt is now temporarily assigned to Fort Stewart, Ga. Pruitt has a son and two stepdaughters.
“I have really enjoyed the Hearts Apart waiting spouses program,” she said.
“The ACS here is the best. I love it here. The staff here goes above and beyond to help us,” Pruitt said. “They treat you like a family, and they have helped me out in so many ways with different facets of my life.”