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March 19, 2015

Honoring Our Military Spouses

Honoring Our Military Spouses

vwise_candidBeing in the military is not just a job for a servicemember, but for their family members as well. While many of the Institute for Veterans and Military Families blogs/social media posts honor our servicemembers, we would like to take the time to honor the men and women who stand beside them during their time in service.

In winter 2014, IVMF conducted a report on military spouse employment. Of those surveyed, over 96 percent of respondents were women spouses. Females with active duty spouses face a 32.17 unemployment rate. A large portion of these respondents ranged from 25-44 years old and over 38 percent of these respondents had obtained a Bachelor’s degree.

However, employment for military spouses is often a hard task, as over 28 percent of those surveyed stated that over the past five years, they have moved to a new station once or twice. This makes keeping a job and being promoted a difficult task. In fact, over 18 percent stated that they have resided in a different geographical location from their spouse in order to maintain a career after their spouse was issued a change of station, the second highest percentage behind deployment as a reason for separation.

“Being a military spouse can be isolating at times, which is why it is so important for us, as a community, to tell our stories. Our community is as diverse as America. As a newlywed spouse, it was really amazing to read those stories and know that I wasn’t alone,” said popular military spouse blogger from Jo, My Gosh! Read her article here on 4 Free Career Programs for Military Spouses that includes IVMF’s Veterans Career Transitioning Program (VCTP).

IVMF partnered with the Small Business Administration in 2011 to start the Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (V-WISE). The program offers entrepreneurship training to women veterans and active duty service members, as well as any female partners or spouses of active duty servicemembers or veterans.

Robin Elliott has been involved in the military for over 22 years, not as a service member, but as a wife and mother. Her husband, recently retired Navy SEAL Captain Stewart Elliot, now resides in, Colorado, but has been transferred to ten duty stations, both in the United States and overseas. The family has moved over twelve times during his military career.

“I have friends from as far back as elementary school that never quite understood how I could continue to move every two years, go through who knows how many deployments and not have my husband come home every night at six,” said Elliott.

Elliott learned to find her own identity as a military wife and became actively involved in helping other military families. During the course of her husband’s military career, Elliott received numerous awards including four Navy Commanders Awards for her volunteer work and the Meritorious Public Service Medal from the Department of the Navy.

In June 2012, The Rosie Network, was founded by Elliott and her two partners, Stephanie Brown and Jill Ivie, also Military Spouses. The Rosie Network is a non-profit that focuses on bringing public awareness to military family-owned businesses in areas across the country. The organization also provides access to business support and resources, as well as entrepreneurial training and mentoring.

In 2013, Elliott attended The Institute for Veterans and Military Families’ Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (V-WISE) conference in Denver.

“Attending the V-WISE program allowed me to still maintain that connection with military spouses and veterans,” Elliott said. “It made me realize that the strength, tenacity, and drive I had as military spouse can be now focused on a career.”

The non-profit has since partnered with V-WISE and have become regular exhibitors at V-WISE events.

Patricia Neleski fits our spouse demographic perfectly. With a bachelor’s degree and some graduate work, she was often underemployed in jobs ranging from a forklift and heavy crane operator, a waitress, a weekly newspaper editor and a fitness center desk clerk. While some of her jobs were not her favorite, she found a passion for writing working as a freelance writer for the Navy Times, a contract writer for Military One-Source, a staff writer for the Virginian Pilot and an award-winning writer for the Georgia Press Association.

“Like every working military spouse I’ve ever met, I took whatever job I could find when we moved,” Neleski said.

That all changed in 2005 when Neleski invented NavyRackPacks, a heavy duty, flame-retardant storage curtain for ships, submarines, Coast Guard cutters, NOAA ships and Military Sealift Command vessels.

“My husband brought home a flimsy piece of cloth and said it was his Navy issue curtain. He couldn’t sleep because the light shone through it,” Neleski said.

Now Neleski hires spouses, much like herself, to work in NavyRackPacks, where she encourages them to strike out on their own as she did.

“[Military spouses] can think on their feet and they understand military customers. They don’t complain and they work very, very hard. They aren’t afraid to learn new things. In fact, truth be told, I think they thrive on it,” Neleski says about the spouses she has hired to work alongside her for NavyRackPacks.

Neleski is also a V-WISE New York City graduate, a national conference attendee and the winner of the Bold Enough to Make It Happen Pitch Competition that included a $20,000 prize.

“V-WISE is making a difference in the lives of military veterans and spouses. It’s like they do for us what we do for our military members. They’ve got our back,” Neleski said.

Since she started in her Navy housing garage 10 years ago, the business has grown to a storefront in St. Mary’s, Georgia. She currently employs four military spouses and outsources to a factory that employ veterans and their spouses. She has sponsored two employees to participate in VWISE.

To learn more about the military spouses featured in this article, visit their websites at, and

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