Jacey Eckhart: Hiring Katies Speaks Volumes


Katie Lewis graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder with a degree in psychology and linguistics. She nailed down rewarding internships. She educated herself about all the employment programs aimed at military spouses like her.

"I have my feet to the pavement every day," Katie said in a recent email. "The problem is, my husband and I just moved to Virginia, but will be moving again within the next few months, then again a little bit later. By the time I find [a job], we will be moving again. It is very discouraging, and I can't seem to find anyone to help."

Clearly, Katie is doing her part to find a job. Yet Katie has just run smack into the wall of military reality. The hard truth is that young military members move. A lot. For the first couple of years of a military career, our servicemembers are sent from training to school to training to duty station in an unpredictable, unplannable round of assignments. That is what their life is.

That is what the life of their spouses inadvertently becomes. That is probably why plenty of people say young military members should not marry at all -- as if love ever happens at a fiscally responsible time.

I just wonder what would happen if we were a culture brave enough to admit this reality. What would we say to the Katies of the military world then? By failing to hire them, we are already saying plenty. Oh, I know the official message is that we treasure our military families and admire them for all they do.

We put stickers on the window. We contribute to military charities. We pay into the rhetoric that tells those spouse units to be proactive! Adaptable! Hard-working! Positive!

Still, the official message and the hard reality don't go together, do they? The truth is that it isn't enough to be a Spartan military spouse who is proactive and adaptable and hard-working. It isn't enough to be smart and educated and willing to work at any job. We need employers who look at the Katies of the world and see the big picture. If we elect to be a country with a standing military, we have to admit we need a constant supply of young military members in our training pipeline. Because those military members must be trained to do so many different jobs, they must move around the country until they are useful to us.

Because these military members are the kind of people willing to take on such a commitment, they are probably the kind of people who marry young. Consequently, we are making Katies all the time -- useful, educated, hard-working Katies.

Hire them. Hire them because it is not right to expect the Katies to have nothing of their own for eight months or six months or 12 months at a time. Hire them because it is too much pressure on our young military members to be everything to their spouses.

Hire them because they are like Katie Lewis, who has already elected to start on a Certificate in Marketing while she hunts for volunteer hours in something related to her degree. Hire a Katie already -- and make a statement about military families that matters.

Jacey Eckhart is a military life consultant in Washington, D.C. Her newest CD I Married a Spartan??: The Care and Feeding of Your Military Marriage debuted Feb. 1. Reach Jacey on Facebook or through her website at www.jaceyeckhart.com.

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