Military spouses navigate the intersection of keeping their families strong and supporting active duty loved ones whose military service helps to keep the country safe.
The often unsung contributions of military spouses were in the spotlight today, Military Spouse Appreciation Day, thanks to Support Military Families (SMF), which hosted socially distant celebrations in North Carolina complete with care packages for spouses and children.
Penske Truck Rental provided the use of three trucks, while associates in the company’s corporate office in Pennsylvania contributed handwritten and often poignant messages which were included in the spouses’ care packages.
“The encouragement the care packages give to military spouses and their little ones is so deeply appreciated, but clearly beyond appreciation, I believe there is a tremendous need that we are filling,” said Diane Rumley, who, along with her husband Dr. Steven Rumley, founded SMF in 2010.
At the end of today’s events in Fayetteville, Jacksonville and Goldsboro, North Carolina, SMF will have distributed 2,000 care packages – 1,000 each for spouses and their children – to benefit the families of Army and Navy personnel and Marines.
Since 2010, SMF has donated 82,000 care packages to military spouses and children, and every care package has been delivered by a Penske rental truck.
Honoring Service on the Homefront
In 1984, then-President Ronald Reagan set aside the Friday before Mother’s Day as a day to remember the service of military spouses to the nation.
“President Reagan understood the very important role military spouses play in keeping our nation safe and keeping our service members being able to do their job, because they know their husband or their wife is doing what needs to be done at home,” Mrs. Rumley said.
Often, that service on the home front comes at a cost.
“The majority of military spouses are living away from their normal built-in support system any family would have. They are living in a new town, and they don’t have the resources you and I don’t think about,” Mrs. Rumley said. “They serve double-duty and they never complain about it. They do it selflessly and in many cases seamlessly.”
The Rumleys created the non-profit SMF with a goal to provide every U.S. military spouse with an appreciation care package as a way to thank military spouses for their sacrifices.
“Our whole mission is to show them God’s love, and I think somehow the spouses know it,” Mrs. Rumley said. “They know we are genuine and what we are giving them is a gift from the heart, that they are appreciated as is their servicemember husband or wife, and we understand.”
That first year, in 2010, Mrs. Rumley remembers packing up a Penske van with 35 shoeboxes, filled and donated by caring individuals, and delivering them to Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro.
“Every time we give them a care package, it lets them know we see your sacrifices. You are not forgotten. On behalf of all of us, thank you for what you are doing,” Mrs. Rumley said.
Penske is a founding partner of SMF, and the relationship has been vital to the evolution of the non-profit and its mission.
“There is something so wonderful about going into the Penske rental location and feeling like we are partnered with not only a major corporation but the heart of people who care and who understand what we are doing and who agree that the spouses deserve this kind of recognition,” Mrs. Rumley said. “Penske is a company with a heart.”
Proud Military Supporter
The support for military spouses and SMF’s mission is just one aspect of Penske’s support and appreciation for active-duty military and veterans.
In addition to hiring, the company is proud to partner with and support military-friendly organizations, including The Paralyzed Veterans of America's Mission: ABLE campaign
To assist with military moves, Penske Truck Rental established a specialized military call center in 2014 to help reduce the stress of do-it-yourself moves for military families.
The appreciation for the military extends to associates who paused again this year to write inspirational messages of appreciation for military spouses and their children.
Of all the gifts in the care packages, the handwritten thank you cards are the most cherished item, according to Mrs. Rumley.
“The handwritten thank you notes are the most treasured item in the entire care package because the spouses get to read in someone else’s writing thank you for your service to our country we appreciate what you are doing,” she said.
“I have seen many spouses cry when they read their cards,” Mrs. Rumley said. “The heart knows the genuine appreciation of the words that are written and are so impactful to the spouses.”
In December, SMF will host a holiday care package event for military spouses and their children.
By Bernie Mixon