By Danielle DeSimone

On November 14, the USO hosted The Salute to Military Spouses, co-presented with media partner POLITICO with support from event sponsor Lockheed Martin. We spent a full day not only thanking military spouses for all that they do to support our service members, but also diving deeper into what it means to be a part of the military spouse community.

Check out a few things we learned below!

1. There is no “one” Military Spouse

All too often, the world assumes all military spouses look like the “average military spouse.” Aside from the USO’s extensive research in building the USO Military Spouse Report on spouse demographics, our event in Washington, D.C., brought forth voices from many military spouses who don’t fit the typical stereotype.

There is no “one” military spouse. Spouses vary in gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, background and more. Recognizing and celebrating that diversity builds a stronger military spouse community and allows the USO to better serve that community through our programs.

2. Life as a Military Spouse is a Challenge

The life of a military spouse is undeniably challenging. Being away from your partner for months or years at a time, assuming the role of a single parent, trying to balance a career while moving so often – all of these realities of military life can take its toll.

While many military spouses work hard to do it all and support their families, sometimes civilian friends can’t see all that happens behind-the-scenes in what it takes to lead the life of a military spouse. The Salute to Military Spouses event allowed spouses to speak on their own terms to each other about the challenges they’ve faced over the years, and how they’ve been affected by them.

3. Military Life Can Bring Opportunities

On the other hand, military life can bring opportunities. While traveling and seeing the world is often touted as one of the most exciting parts of being in a military family, many spouses also explained that as the husband or wife of a military spouse, they were able to achieve concrete goals that would have been otherwise impossible.

For one spouse, she explained that her husband’s career had made it possible for her to pay college tuition and earn her bachelor’s degree. Retired Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Chris Cortez, vice president of military affairs for Microsoft, spoke on Microsoft’s dedication to providing military spouses with career opportunities that fit their lifestyle through The Microsoft Military Spouse Tech Academy. The USO Pathfinder℠ Program also supports military spouses in pursuing career goals.

4. Being a Military Spouse Means “Community”

As Executive Editor of Amy Bushatz explained, “Military spouses have been saving my skin since before I was even a military spouse.” Being a military spouse can be an exhausting role – leaning on other military spouses for support, encouragement and even just a moment of understanding is crucial.

Friendships made with military spouses – whether just on base or at a USO Military Spouse Coffee Connections event – are some of the most dependable and reliable friendships. Military spouses truly understand what their other military spouse friends are going through, and that bond forms an incredible community.

5. Military Spouses are Warriors

#1 New York Times Bestselling Author and motivational speaker Rachel Hollis addressed the crowd of military spouses, veterans and supporters at The Salute to Military Spouses and provided inspiration, but through it all, one common theme emerged: military spouses are warriors.

Although their fight is not on the front lines, military spouses work hard to support our nation’s service members and their families, often taking on burdens alone in tough times. However, through it all, they continue to push through and serve as the backbone of our military. And for that, we salute them.