Military Spouse Appreciation Spotlight: Heather Conkle

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’m a third-generation Army spouse, so identifying a hometown has always been a challenge for me. I was born in Kansas, moved to Panama, and then spent most of my childhood on and around Fort Bragg, North Carolina. My dad retired from the Army when I was In high school, and we relocated to Enterprise, Alabama, so he could work at Fort Rucker. So Enterprise is my adopted hometown.

I graduated from Troy (State) University in 1996. My husband David (a native of Phenix City) joined the Army about a year after our graduation from Troy, and then served 25 years in Military Intelligence. We have three children, all of whom have grown up with the frequent moves and constant deployments shared by so many military kids over the last 20+ years of conflict. Our family moved to Decatur about two years ago to be closer to family and create a homebase while our daughter finished high school. We are thoroughly enjoying North Alabama and our new hometown, especially since my husband retired from active duty last fall.

I am incredibly proud to be a military spouse. My mother and grandmother were supportive sounding boards for me when I faced my husband’s first deployment while we lived so far from home. They taught me to embrace the opportunities provided by a life of military service instead of always focusing on its challenges. I grew up appreciating differences in cultures and perspectives because I was constantly meeting people who looked different from me, spoke different languages, and ate different foods. No matter where the Army sent our family, I knew I could find a welcoming community among those who shared a sense of pride in the service to our country yet understood the nuances of being far from home and constantly starting over. For me, National Military Spouse Day is a chance to focus on the unique impact that so many other people have had on my life. It also allows me a moment to acknowledge my own experiences along the way.

Finding meaningful employment as an active-duty spouse was so challenging that I eventually decided to devote my time and energy to full-time volunteerism with the American Red Cross (Service to Armed Forces) and other military-focused organizations. While those experiences didn’t provide me with a paycheck or contribute to our family income, the responsibilities and privileges of supporting veterans, service members, and military communities allowed me to develop transferrable skills and build a broad network. Today I am a Talent Management Coordinator with PZI International Consulting here in Huntsville, a company that was founded and created by a military spouse. Many of my co-workers are military spouses, and I finally have a chance to build a career using the skills I’ve honed over 25 years of managing volunteers, coordinating resources, and providing training.

Our company also recently joined the Military Spouse Employment Program through Hiring Our Heroes, and I now have the chance help coordinate opportunities for our five Fellows from the program. Frequent moves are more than a hassle: they often prevent military spouses from establishing careers. It is so rewarding to be making a difference in the fight against the disproportionately high unemployment rate that milspo’s face!

Today’s military spouses are highly educated, adaptable, and resourceful. In addition to commitment and resilience, they often bring the gifts of perspective and a broadened worldview to their communities and workplaces. We can honor them by empowering them to create meaningful careers, valuing their contributions, and welcoming them into our communities and neighborhoods.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s