Celebrating the unsung heroes

By Petty Officer 3rd Class Diana Honings

The men and women of our nation’s Armed Forces are without a doubt honorable and considered heroes by many. But there are unsung heroes who stand beside our Armed Forces.

Justin Britton and his wife Petty Officer 2nd Class Kelli Britton. Kelli is a food service specialist currently deployed to Bahrain.

Justin Britton and his wife Petty Officer 2nd Class Kelli Britton. Kelli is a food service specialist currently deployed to Bahrain.

These men and women are selfless, courageous and supportive in so many ways. These men and women are the husbands and wives of those who serve our nation. Today marks the 30th annual nationally declared Military Spouses Appreciation Day and we honor those who have given up the comforts of home, put off dreams and goals for the military and dealt with family life alone for months at a time while their spouses are deployed.

Justin Britton, husband of Petty Officer 2nd Class Kelli Britton currently deployed to Bahrain in the Persian Gulf, has been following his wife throughout her military career. Britton has watched his wife sacrifice precious time with her family for the military.

“The separation is the worst,” said Britton. “My wife has missed every holiday at some point including our children’s birthdays. She’s missed many, if not all of the ‘firsts’ in our sons’ lives. She hasn’t been able to be here much for the kids, and as a mother, it’s been really hard on her. It breaks my heart at what she’s missed. When we dropped her off at the airport for her flight to Bahrain, she held our 22-month-old son with tears in her eyes and said, ‘You’re going to be so big when I get back.’ That broke me. It’s been hard without her. We manage, though never easily.”

Caroline Leo and her husband Petty Officer 1st Class Vincent Leo. Leo is an ombudsman for Coast Guard Cutter Alex Haley.

Caroline Leo and her husband Petty Officer 1st Class Vincent Leo. Leo is an ombudsman for Coast Guard Cutter Alex Haley.

Caroline Leo is the wife of Petty Officer 1st Class Vincent Leo aboard Coast Guard Cutter Alex Haley homeported out of Kodiak, Alaska. Leo, a native of Kalihi, Hawaii, has been married to her husband for four years and followed him from Seattle to Kodiak. She works in the healthcare field and has been lucky enough to always find jobs at the local hospitals, but it’s not always easy.

“Job hunting as a spouse is hard,” relates Britton. “It’s the same as if you are a single parent. You have to find child care and then be able to work within those daycare hours. As a man, this can be difficult because most of my work is construction and can last long hours that start extremely early. I couldn’t find child care at all on base and the people in town charge too much. So I ended up just being a stay-at-home-dad for the last year and a half. And for a man, it’s hard to stay at home and not be contributing monetarily to the family.”

Military spouses are called to make sacrifices for our military members during transfer season. Uprooting a family and leaving those you made relationships with is never easy but when you’re married to a member in the military, it’s most often a necessity.

“The friendships and relationships you leave behind always make moving sad or hard,” said Leo. “However, nowadays with social media, it’s easier to keep in touch. How do you cope? You just do. Get out and meet people. Keeping busy and getting involved in the local community or church always helps. You can also meet other spouses and make new friends at the gym.”

The Coast Guard makes it a priority to treat its members like a family and that includes the spouses and their children. The service hosts many programs for spouses and their families such as: the Coast Guard Spouse Club, Ombudsman program and providing a number of family support services.

We join President Barack Obama today in celebration of these unsung heroes for their strength, loyalty and commitment as they stand beside those who serve our nation.

“As servicemembers board planes for deployments to foreign lands, they need to know their country will be there for their loved ones,” said Obama. “As mothers and fathers take on the work of two, they need to know their neighbors will lend a hand. And if called to make the ultimate sacrifice, troops must know their nation will honor their memory and care for their family. After everything military spouses have done for America, for one another, for our wounded warriors and the families of the fallen, we must stand beside them. We must make good on our debt of gratitude. May each of us serve our military spouses and their families as well as they serve us.”

Tags: , ,