Today marks National Military Spouse Appreciation Day.
As the title of the U.S. military holiday explains, the day is used as a way to recognize the sacrifices that military spouses make and the impact they have on the community and nation.
The holiday coincides with National Military Appreciation Month, which is celebrated every May. It’s a declaration that encourages U.S. citizens to unite to honor current and former members of the military, including those who have died.
Here’s what you need to know about National Military Spouse Appreciation Day:
1. The Holiday Was First Declared by President Reagan
The first National Military Spouses Appreciation Day was observed on May 23, 1984 after President Ronald Reagan issued a proclamation. It was intended on being a one-off holiday, but was later made into an annual observance by Secretary of Defense Casper Wienberger.
Reagan coined the day to honor the importance of spouse commitment to the readiness and well-being of military members.
By 1999, Congress declared May as National Military Month, and National Military Spouse Appreciation day has since been held every Friday before Mother’s Day.
Other days of military observances set for May include Loyalty Day (May 1), Armed Forces Day (May 20), Memorial Day (May 29)
2. The Trump Administration Is Honoring the 2017 Holiday
In honor of National Military Appreciation month, President Donald Trump and his administration are showing their respects to members of the military and their families.
On May 10, Vice President Mike Pence held an event at the White House surrounded by military children and spouses of military members.
“We’re grateful that you’re here at the White House today,” Pence said in his remarks. “We hope you leave here today with your hearts full of the assurance that the American people are grateful for those who serve in uniform and just as grateful for the families who stand by their side.”
Mike and Karen’s son is in the U.S. Marine Corps. Mike said that he and his wife have the “great privilege of having a son and daughter-in-law sho are serving our country.”
3. Military Spouses Have Historically Struggled to Find Jobs
According to a 2016 article by the Associated Press, military spouses often have trouble finding employment.
The AP report cited a study that said those spouses are “more likely to work for less pay or in positions below their education level.” That can spur unemployment and other costs that total around $1 billion.
The study, commissioned by Blue Star Families, said that military spouses had an unemployment rate of up to 18 percent at the time. That was compared to a 5 percent national jobless rate.
“The math is shocking, but it also shows the way forward,” said Kathy Roth-Douquet, founder and CEO of Blue Star said. “If we work together to reverse the crippling employment trends facing military spouses, we will add money back to our economy.”
4. The Government Launched a Program Aimed at Providing Jobs to Military Spouses
The unemployment has become such a problem that the government started the Military Spouse Employment Partnership.
The program helps connect those spouses of military personnel to get connected with job opportunities. It also gives them job training to help enter a new field. About 100 companies around the country had partnered with the program, including AT&T, Amazon, Starbucks, Wal-Mart and The Home Depot.
Click here for more information on the partner companies and the program.
5. The Obamas Honored the Holiday Annually
Keeping in line with those before him, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle honored the annual military holiday every year during his presidency.
In 2016, President Obama issued a presidential proclamation that said military families “give up their time with loved ones so we may live safely and freely.”
He added: “Few Americans fully understand the sacrifices made by those who serve in uniform, but for spouses of service members across our country, the costs of the freedom we too often take for granted are known intimately. On Military Spouse Appreciation Day, we honor the spouses of those who have left behind everything they know and love to join our Nation’s unbroken chain of patriots, and we recommit to giving military spouses the respect, dignity, and support they deserve.”