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February 7, 2012 / iDriveWarships

CO’s Wife Recognized for Joining Forces Initiative; Attends State of the Union address as Michelle Obama’s guest

By: Adrienne Howard
Adrienne Howard is the wife of CDR Colby Howard, Commanding Officer of USS Dewey (DDG 105), currently stationed in San Diego, Calif.

Attending the State of the Union address as a guest of the First Lady was an incredible honor—both for me personally and for military spouses nationwide. In choosing me, Mrs. Obama was recognizing the indomitable spirit of volunteerism that exists among military spouses. We all sacrifice.  We all volunteer in one capacity or another. It was so wonderful to have that spirit recognized by one of our national leaders.

At the White House, we were treated as honored guests. Photography was allowed, the reception was lovely, and we were allowed to wander the first floor rooms at will. Everyone was kind, cheerful and welcoming—particularly the Navy men and women stationed as docents in every room. When I met Mrs. Obama, she thanked me and my husband for our service to our nation and I thanked her for creating Joining Forces. I think with this initiative, she has done more for military families and spouses than any other First Lady. The entire point of Joining Forces is to garner support from the civilian community for our military members and their families. My efforts on behalf of my husband’s sailors embodied her goal. As soon as she heard about my project last fall, she invited me to blog about it for the Joining Forces website. 

I studied history, government and politics in college. It was incredible and surreal for me to be in the Capitol for the State of the Union address and see all of our elected officials in one room. Supreme Court Justices, Congressmen and Senators, the Joint Chiefs, our President, all there in front of me. We were given no instructions as to our personal behavior in the First Lady’s box. We could stand and clap, or not, as we saw fit. After the speech, we had the opportunity to meet the President. He was just as gracious as his wife—thanking me and my husband for our service to our Navy and our country. 

Overall, what really struck me was how surprised the civilians I met were about the realities of military life—moves, new schools, new friends, volunteering, new jobs, multiple separations—all of which are our norm. We do it and make the best of it, most often with smiles on our faces. Joining Forces is an effort to make the lives of our active duty military and their families easier as they cope with those realities. I decided long ago to support my husband to the best of my ability; it is so wonderful that the First Lady of our country has decided to support military families to the best of her ability. I am proud to be a part of the Joining Forces initiative and even more proud that I was able to represent military spouses nationwide at the State of the Union.

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