MSEJ November 2018 - Page 25

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We are bound to those we served with, to their families who knew us when we were in uniform. We are also bound to new friends who have never seen us outside of our spouse role. In many cases, the only person who has seen us operating as both a service member and a spouse is the person we’re married to; and they

are often far away for extended periods of time. Perhaps it’s time to start looking for the connection and identity we need by refusing to divide who we are, between veteran, spouse, and civilian circles.

This summer, I moderated a panel on spouse employment. As I listened to the speakers, I could relate to the stories they shared about finding and retaining employment. As a woman, as a woman veteran, and as a spouse, I’ve faced many of the struggles they shared. I recognized my voice not in any one of the categories these speakers represented, but in the thread that ran through them all.

For veterans who are also spouses, we need to own who we are and who we have been. We need to feel free to acknowledge our service, to embrace the ties we form with spouses, and to seek each other out. We’re 13% of the spouse population, and we’re growing.

As we make these connections and own our stories, perhaps it will be easier to do as Dr. Greentree recommends and “choose to emphasize the larger lessons of personal sacrifice and commitment to duty as hallmarks of both [roles],” rather than seeing them as set apart.

I’m not the same person that I was when I stood in that line in Norfolk, nor am I the same person I was when I wore my uniform. With each year and each person I meet, I hope to bring these two identities closer together.

Charlie M. Palumbo is the Director of Transition and Employment Programs at the Virginia Department of Veterans Services (DVS), where she serves as primary lead on developing and overseeing the creation of a transition and employment programs at the DVS. She leads the Virginia Values Veteran Program (V3), Military Medic and Corpsman Program (MMAC), Virginia Transition Assistance Program (VTAP) and the Skills Bridge Program; all of these programs create opportunities and pathways for employment for veterans and their spouses. Prior to DVS, Ms. Palumbo spent three years at the Virginia Employment Commission, as the Veteran Program Manager, where she oversaw the Bridge to

Employment Program and the Jobs for Veterans Program. She also worked for

several years at the Office of Personnel Management, as a Program Coordinator at the Federal Executive Institute. She spent four years in the Navy stationed in Yokosuka, Japan and then accompanied her husband as a military spouse for a four year tour in Naples, Italy. She is staff for the Virginia Governor’s Workforce Board, lead on the DVS Workforce Steering Committee, and sits on multiple veteran focused committees in Virginia. Ms. Palumbo is a published author of The Face of a Memory. The images used in this article were graciously supplied by Ms. Palumbo.