Second Lady of the United States Karen Pence called the spouses of those serving in uniform the “backbone of military families” while speaking in the central San Joaquin Valley on Wednesday.
The second lady addressed military spouses at Lemoore Naval Air Station about the hardships of finding work — a topic that inspired her last fall to launch an awareness campaign to highlight employment solutions.
Unemployment rates for military spouses sits at 24%, according to the Department of Defense.
“You are flexible, well-educated, flexible, hardworking, flexible, reliable and loyal,” she told a crowd of about 150 spouses inside a hangar Wednesday. “You are the kind of workers we want in the workforce.”
Pence says she is in a position to understand the hardships of military spouses. Her son, Michael Pence Jr., is a Marine, and her father was an Air Force pilot. Her daughter is dating a Super Hornet pilot, she said in her speech.
Pence says she has seen her daughter-in-law’s sacrifices and was inspired. She says spouses endure “frequent moves, job changes,” and “being a single mom or dad” while their spouse is deployed.
During her listening sessions as part of her awareness campaign, unemployment kept coming up as a major problem for spouses, she said.
In addition to a current LinkedIn partnership that allows military spouses free use for a year, Pence also mentioned a Small Business Administration program designed specifically to help military spouses.
She is also working on getting companies to keep spouses employed when they relocate, which is often, according to Mystere Garrett, a military wife at Lemoore NAS.
“Moving around a lot, it is really hard to try and find a new job, especially when you have a specific career path,” Garrett said after the speech. “(The second lady) really hit on a lot of issues that we deal with as military spouses.”
Garrett said she recently closed her small business in Lemoore.
“A lot of the things she spoke about today would have been really helpful four years ago when I started to get it off the ground,” Garrett said.
Pence and her husband, Vice President Mike Pence, landed at the base around 11 a.m. Wednesday. As the second lady spoke, her husband was scheduled to make appearances at a Lemoore farm and at a Republican Party fundraising luncheon at Harris Ranch Inn and Restaurant in Coalinga.