DURHAM, N.C., Jan. 18, 2012 – Caring about military families
comes naturally to the wife of the nation's top military officer.
She's been an Army spouse for nearly 36 years, and their three
children have served in the Army.
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and his wife, Deanie, enjoy a USO show with service members at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, Dec. 16, 2011. Through social media and contacts with service members and families, Deanie Dempsey discusses issues that include programs for military families overseas, jobs for military spouses, military family health, and her travels with the chairman.
USAF photo by Airman 1st Class Cody Ramirez
Since Oct. 1, when Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey became the 18th
chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Deanie Dempsey's full-time
job has been to communicate in every way she can with military
families about topics that affect them.
have always been near and dear to my heart, but [I'm interested in]
pretty much any of the family issues,” Dempsey told American Forces
Press Service during a trip here with the chairman Jan. 13.
“We've done a lot with spouse
employment and post-traumatic stress disorder,” she said, “and
making sure we take care of [military families] and not break faith”
with them in a time of defense budgetary constraints.
accounts on the social media websites Twitter and Facebook, through
contacts with service members as she travels with the chairman, and
even through personal notes to military spouses, Dempsey discusses
everything from programs for military families overseas and jobs for
military spouses to military family health and her travels with the
In December, she joined her husband on his first
tour as chairman, a fast-paced trip through five countries in six
In Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and Germany,
they hosted four celebrities and brought holiday gifts to
troops that included hockey equipment, soccer equipment,
holiday cards from schoolchildren in the United States, and
10,000 cupcakes donated by DC Cupcakes in Washington.
“I thought [the USO tour] was absolutely amazing, and I
was really impressed with the stars,” she said. The
celebrities were recording artist Jordin Sparks, actress and model Minka
Kelly, seven-time NBA champion Robert Horry and comedian
Thomas "Nephew Tommy" Miles.
“They were good people
who really were thrilled at the prospect of going to see
troops,” Dempsey said. “If they smiled for one picture, they
smiled for a million, and they were working on as little
sleep as we were.”
On the last night of the tour, she
and the chairman had a small ceremony with the celebrities.
“Marty got up and said some things about each one of
them, and they were all in tears by the end,” she said.
“They got that the week was about the soldiers, not about
them, and the joy that they brought to all those service
members for that week.”
On the stop in Iraq, the
Dempseys joined Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and other
U.S. and Iraqi military officials at the closing ceremony
for U.S. Forces Iraq.
“Today I attended the casing of
the colors in Baghdad and it was pretty emotional,” she
wrote in a Facebook post Dec. 15.
“As I sat there
listening, I couldn't help but think of my family members
(husband, son, daughter) who all were a part of this
effort,” Dempsey wrote. “I felt like I was representing all
spouses and mothers who couldn't be here. I also thought of
all those who had paid the ultimate sacrifice. We will never
Dempsey calls being a military spouse,
especially as the wife of the nation's top military officer,
a full-time job.
“All through Marty's career, we've
always taken that command-team philosophy seriously, so I
support him,” she said.
When the chairman travels
stateside, Dempsey said, his hosts at the military
facilities he visits “always want to show the general
everything that's perfect and good.”
“Then I go and
talk with spouses and ... find out there is a lot of good, but
there also may be something that's not so good, and they're
not afraid to tell me,” she said. “I think that's the
benefit of having somebody else there -- another set of
As Dempsey supports the general in his hectic
schedule of work and travel and communicates with military
families to share her strength and experience, she continues
an ancient tradition among military families to look out for
“It is unlike any other
occupation,” she said. “I used to tell people I could get in
the car on the East Coast and drive to the West Coast and
never spend a night in a hotel.
“It might be that I
haven't seen you in 15 years, but if I'm driving on I-70
through Kansas and you're at Fort Riley ... you're telling me
to come over, because there is that close-knit family
atmosphere where you want to take care of everybody because
you've been there,” she added. “It's what we do.”
By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service
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