It’s no secret that the truly unsung heroes of the military family are spouses. Spouses are responsible for holding down the fort while their military loved one is on operations and exercises. And they make incredible sacrifices by living in places far away from their own family and profitable employment opportunities.
It’s for these reasons, and many more, that our American neighbours celebrate Military Spouse Appreciation Day on the Friday before Mother’s Day. This year, the holiday falls on Friday, May 12.
When U.S. President Ronald Reagan proclaimed this holiday, he recognized the incredible resilience of military spouses and stated:
“In many instances, they subordinated their personal and professional aspirations to the greater benefit of the service family. Responding to the call of duty, they frequently endured long periods of separation or left familiar surroundings and friends to re-establish their homes in distant places. And there they became American ambassadors abroad.
“As volunteers, military spouses have provided exemplary service and leadership in educational, community, recreational, religious, social and cultural endeavors. And as parents and homemakers, they preserve the cornerstone of our Nation’s strength – the American family.”
The day is widely recognized by Americans. Various military, news and business organizations share their appreciation of military spouses on Twitter.
Military Spouse Day on the Homefront
In Canada, however, the day has not quite caught on in an official capacity. In 2022, a former military spouse Rachel Dunleavy presented a petition to Parliament on behalf of the more than 51,000 civilian spouses of Regular and Reserve Canadian Forces Personnel. E-Petition 3978, supported by Parliamentarian Anita Vandenbeld, called for a national day to recognize military spouses as a national symbol.
The petition aimed to highlight that military spouses are civilians within the military family, acknowledge the strength of spouses and partners, and make visible the service of this part of the military family.
The e-petition was signed by almost 900 people. However, it was not accepted by the government and was tabled.
Supports for Military Spouses
In the official response to the e-petition 3978, the Minister of National Defence recognized the strength of military spouses and highlighted various supports available.
The response also noted that the House of Commons “unanimously adopted” a motion to establish the third Friday in September as Military Family Appreciation Day.
“National Defence recognizes that military families are the cornerstone of support for Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members. Canada’s defence policy, Strong, Secure, Engaged (SSE), underscores the Government of Canada’s commitment to military members, and their families. Family members of CAF personnel share in the stresses and strains resulting from deployments of their loved ones into dangerous operational duty, and the prolonged separations they entail.
“They also make important sacrifices and face challenges associated with frequent relocation such as finding new family health care providers, re-establishing child care, moving children between school and education systems, professional licensing, and dealing with the inconveniences of moving between provinces,” stated the response, signed by Minister or Parliamentary Secretary Bryan May.
The Department of National Defence also highlighted the launch of Seamless Canada in 2018. Seamless Canada aims to improve services to CAF members and their families when they relocate from province to province. The work of Seamless Canada has led to the waiver of the 90-day waiting period to enrol in provincial healthcare and improving access to employment and training for military spouses.
Another example of supports provided to military spouses that DND pointed to is the Military Family Services Program and its network of Military Family Resource Centres.