Yesterday history was made when Mrs. Deanie Dempsey, spouse of Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, presented Jeremy Hilton with Military Spouse Magazine's Military Spouse of the Year (MSOY) award.
History was made since Jeremy is the first male military spouse (MANspouse) to receive this award.
I have to be honest, I was briefly disappointed with Jeremy winning, because now I can't be the first MANspouse to receive this honor. But that disappointment only lasted about a half a second. Because honestly, I am not sure this is an award I would want to win, even if I could.
Why you ask? Because I don't possess the class or tact it takes to accompany such an honor. I guess you can say I am rough around the edges. I am the kinda guy that would say "I can't hold Jeremy Hilton's jockstrap?"
And let's face it, that kinda guy shouldn't ever represent military spouses. And I really don't want to change who I am. I'm cool with being an oaf. Or as my beautiful and loving bride likes to say, "a big stupid boy."
All kidding aside, yesterday was a remarkable day. It was remarkable for Jeremy. It was remarkable for MANspouses everywhere. But most importantly, it was remarkable for all military families, in all branch's of service, in all points of the world. This year's nominees for MSOY were all incredibly talented and gifted people. It didn't matter who won, the military community would be better off no matter who received the award.
Our military community will still benefit from all of this year's nominees, but I can't help but to think there is something a little extra special about it being a MANspouse who is going to represent the military spouse community for the next twelve months and advocate for all military families.
I wish I could say I was shocked and surprised by Jeremy winning this award, but truthfully, I am not. I have had this sneaky gut feeling for several months now that it would be him. In fact, last year I predicted a MANspouse would win it this year.
For the last ten months or so I have been saying 2012 would be the year of the Military MANspouse. The stars have been alligning. The perfect storm has been brewing. And now it's ready to rage.
Like it or not. Agree or disagree. The average male military spouse has felt rejected, neglected, overlooked, ignored, undermined, abandoned and just about any other negative word you can think of in regards to how he views the military community has treated him. These are some words I have used, but mainly they are the words of the MANspouses I have talked to. Some men are so bitter with the way they feel they have been treated over the course of their wife's career that they have given up on feeling part of the military community (and this is a high percentage -- I know to some extent females feel this way, but not at the rate the MANspouse has expressed he does). I can't say I blame them. But I can CERTAINLY say I disagree with them.
I have personally lucked out as I travel the MILspouse life. I have been warmly embraced into the military spouse circle by most all I have come in contact with. I can say that 999 out of 1,000 times I have had great experiences with the MILspouse community. Maybe I am just weird. Or maybe I am too naive. Or thickheaded. Or ignorant. I just know that because of all of the outpouring of love and support I have felt from my MILspouse community (as well as our Command at Ft Riley and the advocacy agencies here), that I am optimistic about the future for MANspouses. It seems no matter where I turn someone is wanting to hear the story of the MANspouse. I am not sure whether it's a good thing or bad thing for us guys, but many are calling on me to tell our story. That very well could be because I am open minded enough to hear from my female counterparts that they want to help make a change to better understand and embrace the MANspouse. And I completely believe every last one of them who says this.
I mentioned the perfect storm and how I felt 2012 was the year of the MANspouse. The group I helped create, MANning the Homefront, is preparing for some pretty awesome things. As time passes and things begin to unfold I can begin to elaborate on those things, but for now all I can share is that we currently have men at four different military installations who have been tracking what our group here at Fort Riley is doing and are interested in creating groups of their own at their respective installations. They can become a "chapter" of MANning the Homefront if they want, or they could just be a group of guys. All I personally care about is they do in fact get together with one another.
There is a gentleman/MANspouse, Phillip Eskridge, in Misawa-shi, Aomori, Japan at an Air Force Base who has taken it upon himself to set up his own group for MANspouses. He did this without any knowledge of what we were doing here at Fort Riley. He has a group of MANspouses who get together regularly for dinner and activities. This is a MANspouse who saw a need where he was, and filled it. He didn't wait for someone to tell him it was OK. He didn't wait for someone to ask him to do it. He just did it. And this is the kind of man we need in our MANspouse, and MILspouse, ranks.
Another gentleman/MANspouse, Chris Pape, with 1102 Productions, has launched Macho Spouse. Macho Spouse is currently an online website/resource that is offering educational videos for the MANspouse. Macho Spouse is also partnering with several organizations to become an advocate for the MANspouse. While Macho Spouse looks to help guide the MANspouse through the military lifestyle as a MILspouse, it is also looking to let others know our story. Currently Macho Spouse is still in production, but Chris is working tirelessly to push out videos as quickly as he can. And not just some "shot on a home camcorder" videos. These are high quality, high resolution, hign definition videos that are not only informative, but they are highly entertaining as well.
Jeremy Hilton winning the MSOY award brings to mind the proverbial expression "it's the icing on the cake." To me, the final star has aligned for what the guys I mentioned above are doing. The storm is now ready to rage fierce and I don't see it losing any steam any time soon. If anything, it will only gain momentum as all of us MANspouses work together to make the most out of this opportunity.
I have become a MANspouse advocate sorta speak. I am not trying to toot my own horn, but it seems in many circles I have been tasked to speak for the MANspouse (or else I wouldn't get so many invitations to share my thoughts on us).
So you would think the thing I am most excited about Jeremy winning the MSOY award is that a MANspouse actually won it. Instead, nothing could be further from the truth. While I see a lot of great things coming out of this for us MANspouses, what Jeremy is bringing to the table for military families far exceeds any gender. Jeremy to me is yet another great example of what a military spouse should be. Someone who has put county first. Family right there with it. And the betterment of the military family life for all not far behind those. He is an outspoken advocate for those who are either too tired or feel they have no voice to speak. He is working relentlessly to improve the quality of life for tens of thousands of individuals he will never meet. He is taking the term "selfless service" and bringing it to new levels. He has ignored the limitations many MANspouses put on themselves by not becoming involved in our community.
Jeremy is not going to impact just the lives of us men, but women, children, servicemembers and DoD civilians as well. I wouldn't doubt if by the time Jeremy is done, the things he is working on could possibly even touch the lives of many average Americans with no military affiliation. Becoming MSOY is only putting him in the spotlight so he can scream louder and advocate longer for what he has already been doing. From what I have come to know of Jeremy through some brief and simple conversations, as well as what I have read about him, he is truly a man who deserved this honor. At first I did want Jeremy to win because he is a MANspouse. But now that I know of him a bit better, I am glad he won this award so he can continue to fight for what is on his heart. He is living the old adage of fighting a good fight.
If you would like to see Jeremy's interview with Macho Spouse, the video that made me pull for an incredible MILspouse rather than a MANspouse to win this award, click here.
Wayne Perry and his wife reside in Fort Riley, Kansas where his wife serves as a combat medic in the US Army. His wife enlisted in 2010 and they were married in 2006. They have two children, ages 2 and 11. Wayne is currently a stay at home dad. He blogs under the name TheArmyWife(DUDE) and you can find it here. Wayne is honored to be part of the core team for the Army Wife Network. He also is one of the founders of the group MANning the Homefront that works to connect MANspouses. The group at Fort Riley meets once a month for dinner just for the guys and at least once a month for either a family or MANly event. They hope to see similiar groups start across the globe at all military installations. You can find the facebook page for MANning the Homefront here.