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When the Homefront Rises: Military Spouses Vying for Elected Office

 

As election season has entered full force, people are making their political standings known. Our 2016 presidential election has become somewhat of a running joke with little to no real discussions about policies or plans to improve different aspects of our country. Many voters have expressed that we need better, more competent candidates. But where can we find people who love this country so fiercely that they are willing to put their own feelings aside and work for the greater good?

MSJDN and In Gear Career joined forces to kickoff the inaugural Homefront Rising event after realizing the value of adding the military spouse voice to elected office.
MSJDN and In Gear Career joined forces to kickoff the inaugural Homefront Rising event after realizing the value of adding the military spouse voice to elected office.

There are no better candidates to hold political office than veterans and military spouses. However, veterans often feel as though they can’t make their political leanings known while on active duty because of certain policies and procedures in place. This makes it difficult to begin any sort of political networking until they end their active service or retire. As for military spouses, the mindset is often that it would be impossible to become involved in politics because they are never stationary. Luckily, there is a campaign to help those military families who want to be involved in our communities, and in politics, known as Homefront Rising.

What is Homefront Rising? 

Homefront Rising is “a joint non-partisan initiative of the Military Spouse JD Network (MSJDN) and In Gear Career that encourages and trains military spouses to speak up and get involved in the political process by serving in public office and positions of influence,” according to its website. Its most recent event was held this month as part of the Women’s Symposium for female veterans and military spouses interested in running for or being involved in politics. The two-day training event, hosted in Washington DC, allowed attendees to learn about “opportunities and challenges specific to military spouses and veterans pursuing civic and political leadership, how to lay the groundwork for future success, as well as the skills necessary to win.”

Libby Jamison, MSJDN’s President-Elect, coordinated the annual event and plays an integral part in building an impactful program for attendees. She told the Homefront United Network that the goal is to empower military spouses to become positive voices for change in public service. Military families are subject to certain decisions made by the government, and we should have a voice that truly has our best interests at heart to represent us. Those voices should be military spouses.

Attendee Kathleen Foley, who was named the 2014 and 2015 Independent and Reserve Installation Marine Corps Spouse of the Year, learned about MSJDN’s training at its inception.  while tweeting a Congressman about the impending government shutdown. The Marine wife has been active in advocacy work throughout the community and was tweeting a Congressman about an impending government shutdown. Foley caught the attention of another military spouse who thought the training at Homefront Rising would be a good fit for her. She was impressed by what she learned during those few days in attendance.

Attendees learned how to start a campaign, fundraise, and the tools needed to get involved in both local and national politics.
Attendees learned how to start a campaign, fund raise, and the tools needed to get involved in both local and national politics.

“Every year, at every event, I’m surrounded by brilliant people … There were spouses from all over the country, in all different careers (or none at all) who were ready to stand up, united, and say ‘We aren’t going to play this way anymore,’” Foley said.

She added that there was such a drive and passion felt in the room that those in attendance can’t help but feel motivated to do more for their communities. After Foley attended that first event, she immediately volunteered for a campaign. Then, she volunteered for several more after that. She says Homefront Rising gave her the tools she needed for when she does decide to run for a political office because “we as spouses should have a seat at the table where all of the decisions that impact us are made.”

And Libby Jamison says that’s what Homefront Rising is designed to do: give military spouses the tools and the motivation to run for political office.

Why Should Milspouses Become Involved? 

Both Jamison and Foley believe that military spouses should be the ones giving voice to the military community in Congress and in the Senate. Jamison notes that military spouses have a unique position when it comes to politics, not only because they are directly impacted by certain decisions handed down by the government but also because of certain qualities many of those in the military lifestyle portray.

Military spouses are problem solvers. The military is a diverse group of people, and many times that involves solving issues with people with varied opinions. Jamison states that that is basically what lawmaking is: reaching across the aisle to work with those who have a different opinion, and coming up with a solution that is best for the situation at hand. Military spouses have this experience to pull from if they do decide to go into politics.

Foley agrees.

“Whether we like it or not, as military spouses, we are involved. Politics and the military are so intertwined that it is impossible to separate them. Every facet of our military lives is determined by politics, and it always will be,” Foley said.

When the Homefront Rises: Military Spouses Vying for Elected Office
Marine wife Kathleen Foley says military life and politics are so intertwined that military spouses need a seat at that decision-making table.
Marine wife Kathleen Foley says military life and politics are so intertwined that military spouses need a seat at that decision-making table.

Still, it is up to the individual to determine if they are up for the challenge of running for politics. And there is exists great examples of military spouses who have successfully done so on a local and national level. For example, the mayor of Holly Ridge, NC, Anita Dingler, is a Navy wife. South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley is the wife of a National Guardsman. So there you have it, it can be done – it has been done.

How Can Military Spouses Get Involved in Politics? 

Homefront Rising’s main goal is to empower military spouses to take part in their community, and begin networking for a larger seat as a public servant if they feel so compelled. Jamison gives several examples of how military spouses can get involved in local politics despite their nomadic lifestyle. She suggests volunteering for a campaign (either local seats or a local chapter of State or Federal government seats), serve on public commissions, or work with the school board on actions that are important to you.

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, who is married to a National Guardsman, serves as an example that military spouses can successfully run for an elected office.
South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, who is married to a National Guardsman, serves as an example that military spouses can successfully run for an elected office.

Her biggest piece of advice for those who wish to run for office is to start early. Begin volunteering in the community in which you are stationed or on base. If there are issues in your home state that you deem important, find out if you can work with the campaign via telecommuting. According to Jamison, networking is key so that when you do decide to run for political office people will know your name, they will know your hot-button issues, and they will know your ethos to support you.

Dispelling Myths of Politics and the Military

Many spouses worry that running for political office is an impossible task. Given the nomadic lifestyle of the military, some feel as though they aren’t settled in a place long enough to become involved. Let the experiences of living in different locations be an advantage for you. You get to meet with diverse groups of people and see various styles of how local governments are operated. Next, spouses express that they may not be qualified to run. Kathleen Foley’s answer to that? “You should run.” She cited an example of Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, who was a guest speaker at a Homefront Rising event. She told the audience she walked door-to-door to hand out flyers when she was just 21 because her state congressman told her if she didn’t like the way he was running his job, she was welcome to run against him. So she did, and she won!

Another falsehood spouses believe is that they fear how involvement in politics can impact their service member. Jamison states that in terms of the military spouse, there are little to no restrictions to what they can and cannot do in terms of running for office as long as they are being ethical and law-abiding.

Overall, the number of veterans and military spouses in Congress has decreased over the past few decades, softening the voice for military families. With unique qualities and the love for country at hand, both military spouses and veterans are uniquely equipped for political office. Homefront Rising hopes to create a movement of military spouses to become that voice that is so desperately needed in our country’s leaders.

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