A Room Full of Military Spouses 

  • April 2013

This month, I spent two days at the Military.com Spouse Summit (#milspsum) in Vienna, VA, with military spouses from near and far, all with a single-minded purpose: to help military families. Each person attending had his or her own niche and brought individual talents and perspective to the table. It was inspiring, enlightening, and fun! (Group photo on SpouseBUZZ Facebook).

Look for follow up posts about the event topics on SpouseBUZZ. For those of you who couldn’t be there, I want to introduce you to just a few of the awesome people I had the pleasure of spending time with:

Jacey Eckhart served as master of ceremonies, cranking up the energy. You may know Jacey from her book Homefront Club and radio show, and now as editor of SpouseBUZZ and director of family programs at Military.com. A few years back, Jacey and I worked with TriWest on a deployment DVD for military families. Neither of us liked the TV makeup, but we both loved helping military families. It was great to see her absolutely in her element, leading this great group of change agents.

Sal Giunta and Karen Pavlicin-Fragnito
Sal Giunta was our keynote speaker.

Sal Giunta, the first living Medal of Honor recipient since Vietnam, was our keynote speaker.  Sal is a remarkable person, humble, humorous. The kind of guy you’d love to have a beer with and talk about…well, anything. He is one of the best speakers I’ve heard in a long time. Speaking to a room full of mostly-female spouses—not his usual crowd to talk combat or paratrooping with—could not have been easy. We all loved him! Thank you, Sal, for your heroism and your down-to-earth just-plain-nice-guyism.

My table the first morning hosted great conversations with Lori Wilson, a writer working on a book to help teens make good choices; Kamlyn Jurgensen, managing editor and publisher of Macaroni Kid, a free online weekly newsletter for families; and Alice Swan, a blogger for DCMilitary who wrote this piece about Sal and a few lessons she learned at the summit.

Some of our colleagues were there to remind us to go deeper and wider.

Chris Pape @MachoSpouse said male spouses want to know they aren’t forgotten. Chris is founder and owner of MachoSpouse.com, a video-based resource to support male military spouses. Lori Hensic gave the group a keener awareness of some of the challenges faced by gay partners in the military community. Lori is director of educational affairs for The American Military Partner Association.

Karen Pavlicin-Fragnito and Cameron Allison
Cameron Allison has big ideas for MilitaryTownAdvisor.com.

Cameron Allison @MilTownAdvisor shared ideas with me and Judy Davis at breakfast Friday morning. Cameron recently launched MilitaryTownAdvisor.com, a web site where military families write reviews about local neighborhoods and schools. What a great idea! Think about how many times you move to a new place, wouldn’t it be great to have instant friends who’d give you the real scoop to find what you need?

Judy Davis @JDavis55 is motivation, uplifting motivation! She’s the Direction Diva and I’m excited Elva Resa is working with her on a great new book/workbook for military spouses. Judy blogs, connects, and did I mention motivates?

Buzzing about the place taking photos was Amy Bushatz@amybushatz managing editor of SpouseBUZZ. Check out SpouseBUZZ for posts by other mil spouses about all kinds of mil life issues. And be sure to attend SpouseBUZZ events in your area – a great way to meet other mil spouses!

Stephanie Taber and Joyce Murphy
Stephanie & Joyce will host a spouse event
in May at Quantico.

Those of you in the Quantico area have a SpouseBUZZ event coming up in May. Joyce Murray, director of Marine Corps Family Team Building at Quantico, won a set of books from MilitaryFamilyBooks.com at the summit. Joyce and her colleague Stephanie Taber will be hosting the May MCFTB event.

Several businesses and organizations attended and sponsored the summit. USAA gave away a $100 VISA card and a diamond necklace.

Christine Gallagher, government relations deputy director at National Military Family Association, shared what NMFA has been up to. If you aren’t a member, you should be. This org advocates for mil families and brings you awesome news and programs, such as Operation Purple Camps.

Jennifer Pilcher, founder/CEO at MilitaryOneClick, shared an entertaining video of our deployed guys performing a music video “Call Me Maybe” to reinforce the importance of staying connected.

New to the area and need a babysitter? Lauren Tarasewicz, military program manager at Sittercity reminded us Sittercity finds just the right caregiver for your needs. The DoD funds memberships for Army, Marine, Navy, and Air Force families, including active duty, Reserve, and Guard.

And how about a place for servicewomen to renew and find support to overcome depression, trauma, PTSD, and similar challenges? Living Springs at Lourdes in Willingboro, NJ, offers this special place.

Lots of great services represented.

There were many other writers, too. Briana Hartzell writes for USAA Military Spouse Community and Wendy Poling writes for USAA and MyMilitaryLife.com.

Kristin Henderson, widely-known for her journalism, shared her work with the awesome Yellow Ribbon Fundfor our injured service members and families.

My final working lunch table had a powerhouse lineup, including two fast friends I had the chance to spend quality time with: Holly Scherer, coauthor of Help! I’m a Military Spouseand 1001 Things to Love About Military Lifeand Terri Barnes, @SpouseCallsStars and Stripes Spouse Calls” columnistI’m looking forward to fun projects ahead with Holly and Terri. We were joined, among others, by Rachel Tice of The Major Group. I was really impressed with Rachel’s bright perspective and genuine desire to make the path easier for others.

One the things we know about military life: military spouses make friends to last a lifetime. And even when folks move on into civilian life, they still care, still reach out.

Holly Scherer, Jacey Eckhart, Terri Barnes, Judy Davis, Karen Pavlicin-Fragnito, Chris Pape

This group of authors (Holly Scherer, Jacey Eckhart, Terri Barnes, Judy Davis, me-Karen Pavlicin-Fragnito, Chris Pape) without hesitation agreed to be part of a special book for military spouses. How cool would it be to go to lunch with folks like this who’ve been around the block in Militaryville? What questions would you ask? Who else would you invite to lunch? We want to know!

Throughout the Spouse Summit we heard over and over, how great it was to connect. So get out, connect with one more person. Before you know it, you’ll have a room full of people who care. Maybe you’ll call it a summit. Maybe you’ll call it lunch with friends. And if you don’t where to start, reach out to someone on this post!

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Karen’s life experience is intertwined with her roles as a wife, mom, stepmom, writer, publisher, photographer, traveler, and woman of faith. All these elements tend to make their way into her blog posts.

“Writers have to write. It’s something deep inside us that pushes and pushes until we let it out. It’s part of the air we breathe, this need to make sense of the world around us and to somehow find the right words to express and influence the way we each feel and interact and love and live.”—Writing is Risky Business