CHAMPAIGN — Each year on May 10, the U.S. military honors those who do not wear the uniform but who stand beside their service members every day — military spouses.
Military Spouse Appreciation Day was established by Ronald Reagan in 1984 and is celebrated the Friday before Mother’s Day each year.
Although the special day has been around for nearly three decades, many service members are not aware of its existence.
“I think it’s incredible,” said 2nd Lt. Anastasia M. Flanagan of Danville, acting commander of Company B, 634th Brigade Support Battalion. “I think military spouses, especially on the Guard side, are often overlooked. I think this is an excellent program to get the word out that as an Army, in the National Guard, we do appreciate our spouses and we do think they are an invaluable member of the team.”
Sgt. 1st Class Sean P. Broderick said his wife, Donna K. Broderick, both of Fisher, has proven herself as a spouse who goes above and beyond to make her husband’s service to his country possible. Broderick, along with his daughter, Pfc. Kierstin M. Broderick of Urbana, both serve in Company B, 634th Brigade Support Battalion in Champaign.
Just four months after they married, Sean deployed to Afghanistan with the 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team in 2008. Donna was left to run the house and take care of their now combined five children.
“I thought deployment, from my perspective, was harder on my wife than it was on me,” Broderick said.
Despite the family dynamics, deployment and any other stressors, Sean said Donna held the family together while he was overseas.
“She’s pretty awesome,” Sean said. “For someone who has never dealt with anything like a deployment, she really held it together. I was really impressed with how she held herself together and dealt with everything.”
Donna said the family transition and the deployment was difficult at first, but over time she adapted.
“It was hard enough with our family dynamics because we were combining families, trying to find boundaries with the older kids, working, not knowing what (Sean) was getting himself into, especially after what happened in Iraq in 2005,” Donna said.
Sean, a purple heart recipient, was injured in a rocket attack during the 2005 deployment that put him in the hospital for several months.
Donna took on even more responsibility when she took charge of the Family Readiness Group (FRG) just five months ago after the previous leader abruptly stepped down.
“The FRG was so helpful while our soldiers were gone,” Donna said. “It’s not like being at a normal military base where your neighbors have soldiers deployed. You’re kind of out there on your own.”
Donna has made progress to improve the FRG after only five months in the leadership role.
“I was immediately impressed with how she brings her ideas into the FRG meetings and is working outside of the two hours that we have our meetings,” Flanagan said. “She’s working toward trying to have our meetings run efficiently and bring new and fresh ideas. That’s been incredible.”
Story and photo by Sgt. Jesse Houk, 139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.