NORFOLK -- Fuzzy socks, a bracelet and a deployment journal are nice gifts for military spouses.
But what made those items and others extra special for hundreds of family members at Naval Station Norfolk on Wednesday is who delivered them: Second Lady Karen Pence.
Pence delivered care packages, took photos and chatted with the spouses of deployed service members in the hangar used by the "Nightdippers" of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 5, who are deployed aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln.
The care packages -- which came in a striped USO bag and included lip balm, hair ties and a challenge coin -- were part of a new United Service Organization initiative focused on military spouses. The Defense Department knows that keeping military families happy is critical to retaining talent, and Pence has offered to bring whatever attention she can to issues that affect them.
"I can tell you without a doubt that the strength of our nation does not just come from those in uniform," Pence said. "We appreciate those who wear the uniform, but the spouses and the families who serve right alongside them also make tremendous sacrifices to the benefit of our country."
Among other things, Pence was there to help boost morale among family members who have to deal with the stress of caring for homes and children by themselves for months at a time. Many of those in attendance brought babies and toddlers, with a few scurrying around the hangar as Pence spoke.
"I for one admire your selfless support, your volunteer spirit and your great contributions to our armed forces and communities. You experience frequent moves, job changes, periods of being a single parent while your loved one is deployed all while exhibiting pride, strength and determination," Pence said.
Following Pence's speech, most spouses patiently waited in line to collect their bags and meet the Second Lady while sometimes rolling strollers back and forth to calm excited children.
Becky Brown, whose husband is the commanding officer of the Abraham Lincoln, said it was nice to have Pence come to Norfolk and give attention to military families.
"When we get together as a group, you see again that you're not by yourself," she said of the families. "Part of being a spouse is being surrounded by people who are going through the same thing as you."
The stop at Naval Station Norfolk was one of two Pence was scheduled to make in Norfolk along with an address to families at the Sheraton in downtown Norfolk.
This article is written by Brock Vergakis from The Virginian-Pilot and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to email@example.com.