Karen Pence, Second Lady of the United States joined me this morning to discuss her campaign to support military spouses:
HH: I am so pleased, honored to welcome the Second Lady of the United States, Karen Pence, to the program. Mrs. Pence, welcome, it’s great to have you on the show.
KP: Thank you, Hugh. It’s great to be with you this morning.
HH: I want to begin by thanking you. I saw a story in the Military Times, Karen Pence Opens Campaign To Help Support Military Spouses, and I immediately said let’s reach out to her and see how we can help. What are you up to? And thank you for doing it.
KP: Well, thanks, Hugh. You know, we just started to realize that our military spouses are kind of a unique population. And they contribute so much and play such a significant role in the defense of our country. And I think people don’t realize that. And more than anything, we just want to come alongside, and we want to say we are with you, we support you, we appreciate you.
HH: They have so many unique challenges. Often, their spouse disappears overnight. Often, they’re left to move on short notice. Often, they move often, and they cannot find work because of licensing, and I believe you’re focused on licensing specifically.
KP: Well, we are, and you know, it’s something that changes all the time. So right when you think oh, we’ve got the licensing going, you know, it’s a state issue. And state legislatures change all the time. But it is something that is tricky for our military spouses. We’re making a lot of headway with state legislatures, but then, for example, maybe a state will say yes, we will accept your license from another state when you move, because you’re a military spouse. But maybe they don’t get that information to that particular organization, and so when the military spouse moves and calls, and says you know, I have this career, and she calls her organization and says you know, can you accept my license, maybe the person answering the phone doesn’t know what they’re talking about. So it’s a matter of getting everybody informed and on the same page as well.
HH: I’m talking with Karen Pence, Second Lady of the United States. I have two particular suggestions for your task force, Mrs. Pence.
HH: The first is that we get all the airlines to agree that unaccompanied military spouses traveling with children get to board first. They’re Class 1-A-A-A. They get ahead before anyone if they’re an unaccompanied military spouse traveling, because that’s kind of a nightmare for them.
KP: It really is. You know, I mean, I had three kids in three years, and I’m telling you I can’t imagine having to do that all by myself and traveling. But you know, they have a lot of unique challenges, too, Hugh. I mean, they are by themselves frequently. So they are single moms, single dads trying to raise these kids. Maybe they’re alone for six months, nine months, a year by themselves. And it becomes increasingly frustrating when they can’t get child care, because there’s a one year waiting list on their post, or, for example, they can’t continue the job when they move, because their employer says well, we don’t want you. When you move, you’re going to lose your job. And so we’re doing a lot of great things, though. I don’t want to be a Negative Nellie here, because a lot of great things are happening. One thing, the President signed an executive order in May asking the federal government agencies to hire more military spouses. So we’re trying to start at the top and do that. Also, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, their foundation, Hiring Our Heroes, just launched hiring 100,000 military spouses. And they’re going to do a three year call to action campaign so that companies all around American can hire our spouses, because what happens is a spouse will interview for a job, and they’ll say wow, you know, you’re really qualified. But then they won’t give them the job, because they’re afraid they’re going to move in a year or two. So we are asking our companies to come alongside and come up with creative ways that they can hire military spouses who then can continue that job remotely when they have to move again in two or three years.
HH: That is a great challenge to every CEO and to every human resource personnel person out there. Also, to identify those jobs where moves would not impact, we have two military spouses working for the Hugh Hewitt Show, because they can book guests from anywhere.
HH: And there is in every organization, there are jobs that can be done from anywhere, even if you move four or five times over 20 years.
KP: That’s exactly right. That’s exactly right. And one of the things, too, that 2018 National Defense Authorization Act actually requires the Department of Defense to implement a new policy where they reimburse the military member if their spouse has had to have a licensing fee that they’ve had to pay up to $500.
HH: Oh, I didn’t know that. Oh.
KP: …because, yeah, which is a great thing, because these spouses move, and they’re like, well, okay, maybe I can renew my license in this new state, but it’s going to cost me $500 dollars. And they just don’t have that money up front. So they can get reimbursed for that. So that’s a great thing as well.
HH: Well, my second suggestion, it’s one I’ve talked about with my friends at www.military1click.com is also to have every DMV in the country have a line set aside, you know, they don’t have to keep it open all the time, but if a military spouse shows up, DMV’s are like their worst nightmare, because they move all the time and they have to get re-licensed.
KP: Oh, I know. I know. And it’s so difficult, because sometimes with their employment license, they’ll say oh, well, you know, call us once you get your driver’s license.
HH: Right. Right.
KP: And they don’t, can’t get that until they move. So I think you’re right. I think that, or somehow that they could apply for it, you know, online remotely and say I know that we’re going to be living there, I know we’re going to be there, you know, in three weeks, can I go ahead and start that process. So there are a lot of frustrations they have, but you know, our military spouses, Hugh, they’re also an amazing group that they have a lot of amazing experiences as well. And they are kind of, you know, a special club. And they learn how to make friends quickly. They learn how to adapt. They’re very good at setting up a household very quickly. Their boxes are unpacked. And they are a group of men and women who come alongside each other. And they’re almost like a family. And when we’ve gone around, we’ve gone all over the country and even overseas, and we have lots of listening sessions with spouses, because we didn’t want to come into this and say oh, we know how to help military spouses, because we don’t. We asked them what do you want us to focus on, what do you want us to do. But they also shared some amazing stories. And we had one spouse, I said tell me something positive about being a military spouse. She got very emotional, and she said there is no one in the world that I am more proud of than my husband. And it was really a tender, tender moment.
HH: They are also very tightly knit, I know from personal experience. I will say one other suggestion. For people who rent properties, the military has an allocation of housing, a housing allowance, depending upon your pay and your grade. And if you’re willing to, make sure you put in your note that you’ll take a little bit less if it’s for a military active duty, and you’ll take their housing allowance, because every patriot wants to do that. I just don’t think they realize it’s sometimes they’re two or three hundred dollars over what the allowance is, Mrs. Pence, and they’d gladly contribute that to the care of a military family.
KP: I think you’re right, and I think that goes to the whole point that what we are wanting to do is just raise awareness. I think if people understood some of the struggles that our military families have, that you’re right. They would step up. And I think it’s just a matter of elevating these spouses and encouraging them, and letting people all over the country know we want to come alongside, because if our military spouses aren’t happy, and the military servicemember says well, I’d like to stay in the service for another four years, another six years, but I’m going to get out, because my family, it’s too difficult for my family. Then that affects our military readiness. So it’s very, very important that we come alongside our spouses.
HH: 100%. Let me close by asking, you’re a proud military mom now. How is young Lt. Pence doing, our Marine?
KP: Well, we’re very proud of him. He got his soft wings last week, and so we’ll be able to go to his winging ceremony. And he’s having a ball. He’s really having a ball.
HH: Well, you’re serving in so many ways. Your husband is serving, you’re serving, your son is serving, everyone is serving in the family that’s extended as well. Thank you for bringing attention to military spouses. Is there a website? Or are you simply encouraging people to go…
HH: Oh, tell us the website.
KP: Well, we are, my office is not, we’re not set up to actually take suggestion and solve problems. But www.militaryonesource.mil is a great place for spouses to go. It is a one stop shop, 365 days a year, 24/7. You can call them if you can’t maneuver the website and give them a call, www.militaryonesource.mil. They do a great job.
HH: Second Lady Karen Pence, thank you so much for your time, much appreciated. Come back, and any time you want to put the word out, just tell us and we are here for you.
KP: Thanks, Hugh.
HH: Thank you.
End of interview.