In 1999, Congress officially designated May as National Military Appreciation Month, a time to recognize the extraordinary efforts and sacrifices made by our armed forces. Now, I know a few people have opinions about this. Shouldn't we celebrate our military community every day? Absolutely. Still, in a country where one percent of the population has carried 100 percent of the burden of war for the last decade, it can be easy to forget that our freedom comes at a price.
During my time in the Marine Corps and in my work and travels since, I have had the privilege of meeting thousands of military families and the incredible people who keep them running. If you want to see what resilience looks like, go find a military spouse. In addition to working, running businesses, volunteering and raising children, these women and men support their service members through training, deployments and reintegration every day. Military spouses are at the heart of the armed forces community, and their efforts extend far beyond their individual households.
Although I'm not married, I have seen the incredible spirit of a military spouse firsthand in Mrs. Bonnie Amos. This past Christmas, I had the privilege of traveling with the Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Jim Amos, and his wife Bonnie to Camp Leatherneck in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. Christmas is a time to be with family, and that is certainly how Mrs. Amos treated every deployed Marine she met on that trip. I got to know her well during that visit, and she is an exemplary woman and leader.
In spite of reaching the height of the Marine Corps, however, Mrs. Amos has also faced the struggles that can come from being a military spouse. She's made 29 moves and endured multiple deployments in her 42 years of marriage, frequently leaving behind jobs and professional opportunities. In all that time, however, she has also built military family support networks across the country, planned and executed thousands of community events and dedicated her time to helping wounded service members.
While Mrs. Amos is certainly a unique person, her sense of civic duty and call to leadership are common in military spouses. Spouses volunteer at a rate more than three times that of the national average, they manage multiple moves with little advance notice and persevere in earning degrees and starting businesses knowing they may have to pick up and move at any time. Their high mobility may explain why their unemployment rate hovers around 30 percent.
Sometimes it can be difficult to get recruiters to look past the gaps in work history that may appear on military spouse resumes. Perhaps employers assume spouses are not working during those periods, when the truth is they are serving as mentors, completing professional fellowships and leading organizations -- all at no charge. Managing budgets, personnel, marketing and more is still work experience, with or without a paycheck.
Addressing these kinds of misperceptions is exactly what Toyota, Hiring Our Heroes and Blue Star Families had in mind when they developed Career Spark, a first-of-its-kind online tool to help military spouses build strong, skills-based resumes. Career Spark was modeled after the Personal Branding Resume Engine for veterans, but instead of military skills, it translates things like volunteer and unpaid leadership roles into functional work experience. After a full resume is created, spouses can make them searchable to thousands of employers across the country.
Given the significance of this month, my message to military spouses is simple: your skills are valued and appreciated. Help employers see your strengths and I have no doubt that you will be as indispensable to their companies as you are to our military.