Military Spouse Appreciation Spotlight: Jennifer Holliday

~ Prologue ~

Each year the Friday before Mother’s Day is set aside as National Military Spouse Appreciation Day. This year it is May 12th. Being a military spouse is a familyhood of those who also support the military; no different than the other support organizations that help the military achieve their goals. In this issue you will meet five military spouses, each with a unique story to tell.

They discuss the challenges of being a military spouse, their backgrounds, and how we as the general public can help honor them.

I want to thank Jennifer Holliday for setting this up for us. It started with a conversation at a 90th birthday party for Billy “Pop” Neal (who was on our Veterans Day cover last November). We met and brainstormed ideas and what you will read is the culmination of these meetings. I would also like to thank the military spouses who participated in this project. Your dedication to your spouses and our country is truly appreciated. — Bob Druckman

I grew up in New Jersey and never would have expected to live in Alabama, but the South and Alabama truly are “Sweet Home.” Some of my extended family lived near West Point, New York. That proximity to the US Military Academy led to meeting my husband, Doc (Tom) Holliday.

Most of our military life was in Southern states with our three children. We almost moved to Europe once but that was as close as I got to the world tour I had expected when I “married the military.” All our duty stations were great locations where we met wonderful friends and had a mix of interesting, exhausting, exciting, depressing, happy, and amazing experiences. We were lucky to have longer-than-normal tours while the kids were young but did get some of the quick-move experience in our last few moves.

Ever since friends introduced us to North Alabama in 2009, our plan had been to retire in Huntsville. We were very surprised when the Army offered a job exactly where we wanted to be! We moved to Redstone Arsenal in 2016 and Doc retired from the Army in 2018. We are officially permanent residents of Huntsville.

National Military Spouse Appreciation Day spotlights a small but mighty community that has traditionally been misunderstood and undervalued. It helps the public recognize those who are the backbone of our military. It is also a day that reminds military spouses themselves to pause and celebrate each other, not just those with a platform, but each military spouse for his or her daily service and sacrifices.

I did not have a career plan when we married – and I moved out of Jersey for the first time in my life, to Kansas. It was the great unknown on every level. I was lucky enough to get a job as a legal secretary at the Riley County Attorney’s Office in Manhattan, Kansas (The Little Apple), in 1998. Following some remote work for that office in the early 2000s, I volunteered within each of our units along the way, and for nonprofits, and ran a couple of small businesses. My focus and passion have always been on learning new skills, networking, sharing resources, and supporting military spouses, families, and Veterans. Those experiences eventually led to an opportunity with the State of Alabama and the Alabama Military Stability Foundation, where I helped design and curate resources for the new Alabama Heroes Welcome Initiative website in 2020.

Taking the Heroes Welcome website concept to a more personal level, I now serve as the Alabama Military Family Liaison, within the Heroes Welcome Initiative, as “boots on the ground” connectivity between the State, local communities, and military families. I collaborate across a wide variety of organizations and agencies at every level to inform the State of needs within the military community and opportunities for support, help bridge communication gaps between military families and their local communities, support and develop programs that improve Alabama’s military family quality of life, and advocate for policy advancements on topics of concern for military families. One of those programs is a first-of-its-kind statewide virtual network for military spouses created in partnership with the Military Spouse Advocacy Network, which is called the Alabama Mentorship-HUB.

Honoring military spouses can be as simple as thanking them for their service, similar to the way we all thank service members and Veterans. Going beyond the “thank you,” though, just give them a chance. Whether it is as a newcomer to your area or a potential employee, whatever the situation, give a military spouse the chance to be himself or herself and to get involved with your groups, organizations, and businesses – even if they are only in your life for a short time before having to move to the next duty station.

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