July 6, 2012
It has been said that spouses have the toughest job in the military.
They support the military member and their children through frequent moves, long spans without their significant other due to deployments, and even learn a new language filled with acronyms, “hooahs” and the occasional “roger that.”
Military wife’s clubs have been around since the dawn of the military spouse, and have even evolved into “spouses clubs” to accommodate male military spouses.
MANning the Homefront, however, is a group geared specifically toward male military spouses.
“Our group has two specific purposes,” said Wayne Perry, one of the group’s co-founders. “The first one is to connect and support the MANspouse. We believe that by supporting the MANspouses, we are also accomplishing our second purpose — supporting our female service members. As crazy-simple as it sounds, the best way to support the married female service member is to support her family. That is exactly what we aim to do.”
Though a rather small group in number, MANning the Homefront seeks to create an enormous positive impact on military families as it engages MANspouses from every service, providing them a community of support, strength and integrity, said Perry.
“The group began in 2010, at Fort Riley, Kan., when the director of the Fort Riley USO, April Blackmon, and a concerned female military spouse, Ginny Hagin, brought MANspouse Jeffrey Crippen and me together to discuss some of the struggles MANspouses face,” said Perry. “Through their guidance and support, we launched our Facebook page in January of 2011, and from there we grew to 17 MANspouses at Fort Riley who regularly met in-person.
The MANspouse Facebook page helped grow the group throughout other military installations, bridging thousands of miles and every branch of service. The group numbers around 50 now, and is growing every day, according to Perry.
Brendan O’Conner, married to Air Force Tech. Sgt. Diana O’Connor, is a MANspouse of 13 years. A stay-at-home-dad, Brendan mans a rather large home front of five children, ages 10, 9, 7, 5 and 3.
When Sgt. O’Conner deployed for nine months, Brendan said the MANspouses helped him through some rough times.
“The deployment was the most difficult thing I have ever done,” Brendan said. “When I was in my darkest hour of the deployment, when it seemed like no one was there for me, it was the guys at MANning the Homefront that talked me through it.”
Perry said MANning the Homefront doesn’t try to be a support group, but more of a source of camaraderie for the few-and-far-between male military spouses.
“We do also encourage female service members to sign their husbands/fiancées/boyfriends up and tell him he is going, or give us his number and we will call him,” Perry said, only in half-jest. “Let’s face it, most guys won’t reach out like this.”
“We take to heart the famous quote by President John F. Kennedy, ‘Ask not what your country can do for you, but ask what you can do for your country.’ We believe that the responsibility to have male specific support and programming rests solely on the shoulders of the MANspouse,” Perry said. “Our goal is to give the MANspouse a sense of his own community within the overall military community and he will become more actively involved in our military community just as female military spouses have been doing for ages.”
For more information about MANning the Homefront, call 864-304-4059, visit their Facebook page or email MANningTheHomefront@hotmail.com
By Staff Sgt. Torey Griffith
11th Wing Public Affairs, from www.af.mil