Murray works to help veteran spouses, families

At a recent event in Tacoma, Senator Patty Murray shared some personal history about growing up with a father who was a veteran and the work she’s doing to help military spouses. The 2013 Military Officers Association of America’s (MOAA) Military Spouse Symposium, titled “Keeping a Career on the Move,” brought service members, veterans and military spouses together with local business experts and employers.
“Now, often times when I thank the spouses of service members I get the same modest answers back,” Murray told the crowd. “I hear, ‘Oh, don’t thank me, thank my husband or thank my wife’ or I hear, ‘It’s not that big of a deal.’ But the truth is – it is a big deal.”
Murray went on to talk about growing up in a military family. Her father fought in World War II, was one of the first on the beaches of Okinawa, received a Purple Heart and came home from war to start a big family in Bothell. Murray was a twin and one of seven children in the family. When she turned 15, though, things changed dramatically for her and her family.
“My father, who had up until that point run a five and dime store on Main Street in Bothell, fell ill, was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, and within a few short years he could no longer work,” Murray said.
At that point, everything fell to Murray’s mother to take care of seven kids, a husband whose medical bills were mounting, and very few of the skills she needed to go out and find a job that would actually pay her well enough to support the family.
For a little while, the family relied on food stamps and Murray and her siblings thought there would be no way to leave the family to go off to college.
“But my mother was brave enough to reach out for help – and thankfully the country her husband had sacrificed for was there to answer her calls,” Murray said. “Through a program established by the federal government my mom was able to enroll in courses at Lake Washington Vocational School where she got a two year degree in accounting that helped her find work that would support our family.”
That help from the federal government got the Murrays back on their feet. It also paved the way for Murray and her siblings to go on to successful careers.
“So these days, whenever I talk to military spouses – who not only faces similar difficulties, but who also must constantly worry about the safety of their loved one. It forces me to ask – are we as a nation there for today’s families the way we were there for mine?”
Murray said that when it comes to making sure that military spouses and children are above water, the government is doing some, but not enough. She noted that employment efforts have expanded in recent years so that they don’t just focus on veterans and active-duty military members, but also on military spouses.
“We have seen many spouses take advantage of the Military Spouse Employment Partnership, an Army program that works with Fortune 500 companies that pledge to hire our military spouses. And now that we have expanded it to the spouses of service members in the Air Force, Navy, and Marines – it is having an even greater impact.”
Murray also noted that many spouses utilize the Military Spouse Career Center which has centralized many important resources online.