We’re With Rosie: An Actress Balancing Her Theater Career and Life as a Military Spouse Abroad

By Danielle DeSimone

Actor, mother, singer, wife, business owner, educator – and military spouse. Rosie Hunter wears many hats and, considering the challenges of life in the military, this is an impressive feat in and of itself. That’s because as a military spouse, the ups and downs of your loved one’s service can sometimes take priority, leaving many MilSpouses to struggle to maintain a career, their personal time, or even their own sense of identity.

But the USO is determined to support these crucial members of our military community through programs that assist military spouses in everything from building supportive communities to pursuing job opportunities. We are committed to being by the side of military spouses just like Rosie so that they and their families can not only navigate military life, but also thrive in it.

How Rosie has rallied to the challenges of military life

Rosie was eight years old when she first began singing classically. From there, she developed a passion for musical theater and performed on the stage throughout high school, college and her postgraduate studies. Rosie then joined the professional actors union Actors’ Equity and performed professionally throughout New England at many venues, including at the Tony Award-winning Huntington Theatre in Boston, Massachussetts. Rosie and her now-husband Dan met through mutual friends, and they connected over a shared passion for music. Dan himself was a musician and had played with groups such as the Boston Philharmonic, the Vermont Symphony and many others.

With their young family growing, Rosie’s husband decided to join the U.S. Navy Band to better support their family. | Photo credit Courtesy Photo

The pair were married in 2006, and then later decided to build a family and have children. But when Rosie became pregnant with their second child, Dan decided to leave his career as a civilian musician behind and auditioned for a position in the U.S. Navy band.

“Dan joined the Navy to help better support our family,“ Rosie explained, stating that with balancing a toddler and a second pregnancy, she wanted to take a step back from auditioning and performing. “I was working full time as a makeup artist at Sephora and still auditioning, and it was so hard to go back to work six weeks after having our first child.”

And so, out of hundreds of musicians who auditioned, Dan secured one of the very limited and highly competitive tuba spots in the U.S. Navy.

Suddenly, Rosie was thrown into a life she was unfamiliar with – that is, life as a military spouse. Dan was already at A School (where sailors go for technical training) when their second child, Henry, was due to be born.

“Dan flew in just a few hours before Henry was born and he was home for seven days, but then had to fly back to A School,” Rosie said. “We weren’t reunited as a family for an additional two-and-a-half months.”

After just one week together as a family, Rosie was alone again – this time for nearly three months with their newborn son and toddler-aged daughter.

Their nearly three months apart happened to take place over Thanksgiving – and it was here that the Hunter family had one of their first experiences with the USO. Alone with a newborn and a toddler at home, Rosie couldn’t make it to Dan’s A School to celebrate the holiday with him, but he was still able to have a home-cooked meal and celebrate at a Thanksgiving dinner hosted by the local USO team.

Meanwhile, back home, Rosie was experiencing some of her first challenges as a military spouse. When a service member must leave for duty, training or deployments, the first thought is of course that their family will miss them; however, the challenges go much farther than just the emotional heartache of being separated from your loved one. Their absence can have a very real effect on their families’ daily lives.

Suddenly, the responsibilities of managing the household and caring for children – in addition to managing their own careers – fall mostly on the military spouse while their service member spouses meet the daily demands of their service. Those responsibilities grow exponentially when their service member spouse is away from home for weeks or months at a time, as Rosie experienced.

However, Rosie learned to adapt; the family had moved to Virginia and were settling into their new life there. After all, Rosie was a firm believer in “blossoming where you’re planted,” taking everything in stride.

But then, only 15 months into their lives as a military family, they got the news.

“We found out we were moving to Japan. It was literally the last place I wanted to go,“ Rosie laughed. “It was just so far away and so foreign from everything we knew.”

Photo credit Courtesy Photo/Saori Wilson Photography

Rosie and her family’s first overseas duty station as a military family was to Yokosuka, Japan.

Moving overseas with the military can be daunting, especially for a military spouse. You must leave behind your family, your friends, your support networks, your way of life and, oftentimes, your career. After all, even in the age of remote work, many jobs can’t be carried out remotely, and it can be difficult for military spouses to find new positions once they relocate.

Being a military spouse, you are always, constantly moving,” Rosie said. “When we moved to Japan, I didn’t know what I was going to do to stay relevant in the workplace.”

As an actress, it can be difficult to remain relevant on the stage when the stage is over 6,000 miles away.

Thousands of American military spouses around the globe transition from duty station to duty station every two to three years, making it difficult for them to grow in their careers or even establish one. These spouses can struggle to find jobs at their education or experience level, leading to unemployment or underemployment.

But Rosie, ever the optimist, rose to the occasion and dove headfirst into life at U.S. Commander Fleet Activities Yokosuka, Japan.

“I am someone who has a lot of chutzpah and gumption, and I come from a very entrepreneurial family,” Rosie said.

Soon after their arrival, she attended a seminar on base that educated military spouses on creating home-based businesses while in Japan.

“And so I was like, okay, I’m just going to start my own business.”

She began her own makeup artistry business in Yokosuka, supporting her local military community in everything from prepping for formal military functions, to teaching makeup classes. Then, through networking with her fellow MilSpouses, Rosie secured a job teaching musical theater and vocal directing in Tokyo with the Tokyo International Players, the oldest and largest English-language theatre group in Japan.

“I just couldn’t believe that these opportunities were presenting themselves to me overseas. I get so emotional talking about it,” Rosie said.

Photo credit Courtesy Photo/@max.pro.studio

Despite the challenges of being a military spouse overseas, Rosie tackled those obstacles head-on, and decided to start her own makeup artistry business in Japan.

In addition, Rosie also began a voice studio and began teaching singing on-base, with students ranging from military children to a captain in the Navy.

On top of her multiple professional pursuits, Rosie was also spending time with her family and navigating daily life in Japan. And where could Rosie and her family turn to for help in navigating their brand new lives in a brand new country? The USO.

How the USO supported Rosie and her family overseas

One of Rosie’s favorite events that she ever attended at the USO Yokosuka Center in Japan was also one of her first. Upon their family’s arrival in-country, the family – including their two children – visited USO Yokosuka for an arts and crafts night that was designed to welcome new military families to Japan. Rosie especially liked the event because it included military children, helping her kids make new friends and foster a sense of community.

The Hunter family fully embraced life in Japan, exploring the culture and the country during their time there. | Photo credit Courtesy Photo

“In Japan, the USO had lots of great events for spouses and kids to really help you feel less ‘alone,’” Rosie explained. “Being stationed overseas is so unique, and the USO did so much to bring people together and help them connect. It can feel really lonely as a MilSpouse sometimes, and the USO definitely helps create a space where you can be with people who are having the same shared experience and support each other.”

Another instance of USO support that stood out to Rosie was when the USO stepped up to support the Yokosuka military community in the wake of the two ship collisions that occurred in the summer of 2017 while they were stationed there. The USS Fitzgerald, a Navy destroyer, collided with a commercial container ship near the Izu Peninsula, about 64 miles from its home port, in June 2017. Seven sailors were killed in the collision and three others, including the ship’s commander, were injured. Then in August 2017, the USS John S. McCain, a Navy warship, collided with a merchant vessel east of Singapore. 10 sailors were killed in the collision and five others were injured.

In the aftermath, USO Yokosuka quickly rallied to support the local military community and the families who were affected by the incidents. Following the USS Fitzgerald collision, USO Yokosuka provided food and snacks to any Fitzgerald sailors and families in need of a hot, home-cooked meal. The center also extended its operating hours to 24/7 to provide service members and their families with a safe, comfortable environment to spend the night.

Following the USS McCain collision, USO Yokosuka hosted a community dinner, serving as a meeting place for the people who serve and their families to come together and connect on the day of the incident.

In the weeks that followed, the USO provided sailors with USO Care Packages and essential supplies, as they had lost a great deal of their possessions aboard the USS McCain during the collision. The USO also provided expeditionary support, quickly leveraging the USO2GO program to build an unstaffed USO Center in Singapore where the sailors were temporarily housed as the ship underwent repairs. This Center provided them with free Wi-Fi to contact loved ones back home, satellite TV, video games, snacks, drinks and much-needed air conditioning in the summer heat of Singapore’s tropical climate.

Although the circumstances were incredibly sad, Rosie had fond memories of how the USO and the local community rallied in those dark moments to provide a shoulder to lean on for the families that were affected by the collisions.

“The USO was instrumental in trying to support the families and the sailors as we were all pitching in in different ways,” Rosie said. “The USO is just such a pillar of the community.”

Rosie was also impressed by the numerous USO programs and events designed specifically to support military spouses. Programs such as USO Coffee Connections, for example, regularly brings military spouses together for coffee or other activities where they can connect with other MilSpouses – forging friendships, job connections and support networks.

Photo credit USO Photo

Military spouses chat at a USO Coffee Connections event.

Whereas the USO Transition Program offers service members and military spouses with professional development services throughout the duration of military service as well as in preparation for life post-military. This can include everything from training on financial readiness, assisting with educational opportunities, networking, career advice and so much more.

This kind of support is especially near and dear to Rosie’s heart, as she is a firm believer in uplifting other MilSpouses.

“A MilSpouse lives with constant uncertainty, navigating the unknown as best they can and leaning on other spouses who have been in their shoes and walked this life before. And so, it’s amazing that the USO has so many different programs [for military spouses]. I think military spouses are so resourceful and smart and authentic and have so much to give,” Rosie said.

“There are so many different MilSpouses around me, trying to find out what their passion is and hone it into something that’s purely their own, but that can also benefit themselves and their family. It’s really important to have something that can ‘fill up your own cup’ as a spouse. I think that is really important. I find, for me, when I am able to contribute to my family via a creative outlet, and that I’ve been able to monetize my specific skillset, it feels really wonderful. I feel like so many women have that in them, even if they’re not sure what that thing is yet.”

Rosie is particularly passionate about raising up other military spouses so they can achieve their dreams – whatever those may look like – while navigating the challenges of military life. | Photo credit Courtesy Photo/Nancy Vela Photography

That is why the USO stands firmly by the side of our nation’s military spouses. They are crucial members of the military community, and deserve to find community, pursue their passions and have support through the many challenges of military life. Whether that be through the simple act of sharing a cup of coffee with other spouses in a USO Center, to helping them find a new career path while overseas, to providing a home-cooked meal to families following a tragedy, the USO is always there.

“The USO Centers in Japan played such a huge part in making you feel welcome and like you had a piece of home,” Roise said. “The USO has always sort of been a little lifeline for us.”

And so, after two and a half years in Japan, when they got the news that they were returning to the United States, the USO continued to serve as that lifeline and provided the Hunter family with support.

Rosie’s Next Role

Rosie, Dan and their family have been assigned to five duty stations in the past 10 years of his career as a Navy musician. With each new duty station came new challenges, but one of his more recent ones was significant.

Rosie was able to transition her makeup business in Japan into a career in high-end bridal makeup in Chicago. | Photo credit Courtesy Photo/KCP Associate Photographer Katy Carl

When the family returned to the U.S. after their tour in Japan, Dan was stationed at Naval Station Great Lakes, Illinois. Here, they finally allowed themselves to put down roots. After a few years, in 2020, the family decided that regardless of Dan’s next duty station, this is where they wanted to settle – so they bought a house. Rosie successfully transitioned her makeup artistry business in Japan to a career in high-end bridal makeup in Chicago. She even built her own makeup artistry business in the area. And now that they had returned to an area with an extensive theater scene, Rosie was ready to make a comeback and begin auditioning again.

“Even though motherhood and the military had temporarily shifted my direction away from the stage, I knew I wasn’t done with performing yet,” she said. “When we started having children, we weren’t a military family. And then we became a military family, and you really need to put your family first. And these opportunities that I’m having now are a direct result of the support and the love and the culture that we’ve formed within our little family of just being there for each other and supporting each other’s goals and dreams.”

Rosie was soon signed by a talent agency and performed in industrial films, print work and was a featured extra on a variety of shows filmed in Chicago.

Then, in 2021, Dan received his next set of orders: Newport, Rhode Island.

Rather than uproot their family again, Dan decided to “geo-bach” this duty station. That is, when a military family lives in a different location than their service member. Dan moved to Rhode Island while Rosie and their children stayed in Illinois, and for the past two years, Dan has come home to visit them every 1-2 months.

“This was a huge challenge as a family, but we knew we had strong roots and could make it through,” Rosie said. “Dan was flying home every four to six weeks and every time he was in the airport, he’d be at the USO. Having that little bit of comfort and support was a huge deal.”

While Dan was apart from his family, Rosie took a two-year hiatus from auditioning for theater roles to be able to balance the care of their family.

In June 2023, after several years apart, Dan finally returned home for his final duty station – once again in Great Lakes, Illinois – and reunited with Rosie and their two children.

Since then, Rosie has begun auditioning for film and the stage once again, as well as continuing to run her makeup business and serving as the middle school choir director and vocal director of school musicals at her daughter’s middle school.

Photo credit Lara Pucci Photography

The Hunter family.

Rosie has approached each new duty station and audition with that gumption she is so proud of – but the challenges of military life are not lost on her. And sometimes, she wishes the civilian communities around her realized how difficult life in a military family can be as well.

“I wish people would recognize that military families sacrifice every single day. That unknown and uncertainty that military families have to live with, it’s a whole other level of no control over your own life, and I didn’t understand that until I was a military spouse,” Rosie said.

“My husband missed the first two and a half months of his son’s life. You know, people always stand up at baseball games when there’s a service member on the big screen, and they cheer and they applaud. But I wish people would, on a broader basis, acknowledge and recognize that military families sacrifice every single day more so than the average person.”

But today, the future looks bright for Rosie, Dan and their two children. Rosie was recently signed to a new talent agency and is auditioning for plays and films, while she and Dan are celebrating nearly 22 years together. Their daughter seems to be following in Rosie’s footsteps, performing in musical theater at school, while their son is is thriving while playing travel baseball, basketball and golf. And now, their family is finally reunited for Dan’s final tour of duty before transitioning out of the military.

Through it all, Rosie has remained strong as she navigated the challenges of military life, leaning on her local community, the USO and her own strong sense of self to bloom wherever the military has planted her.

“There have been many bumps, hurdles, moments of doubt, anxiety, sadness, grief and literal oceans to cross to get to where I am today,” Rosie said.

“What I’m most excited about right now is how my family is thriving here in Illinois and how we are part of the community. When the Navy planted us here five years ago, I had no idea how life would shift, how the transition would go, how anything would unfold. All I knew was that I had an incredibly supportive family, a strong marriage, amazing kids and that we all had the gumption and tenacity to find our way.”

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