Ever wonder how people manage to get by on minimum wage? Oftentimes, they don't...
When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."
"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.
The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.
"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."
Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.
Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.
Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.
She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.
Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.
Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.
"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."
"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.
Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.
"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.
"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."
"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."
"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."
"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."
Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.
She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.
That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."
Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."
To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!
A controversial post by the Winter Haven Police Department in Florida has dredged up a unique debate over whether it's acceptable for a seemingly desperate father to steal from a multi-billion dollar corporation.
On Saturday, the police department posted security camera footage of a man pushing a shopping cart with his two young children at a local Walmart. According to the police, the man attempted to buy diapers and baby wipes but his card was declined at the self-checkout.
The man left the store then returned without the children to buy the products with a different card which was also declined.
The man then left the store with the items without paying.
The police department posted a photo of the man on its Facebook page with a snarky comment. "So when your card is declined and you try another one with the same result, that is NOT license to just walk out with the items anyway," the department wrote.
(The original post by the Winter Haven Police Department did not obscure the man's face.)
The police department posted the images and description of the crime in an attempt to find the man and charge him with shoplifting. According to Winter Haven police, Walmart has a zero-tolerance policy and wants the man to be arrested.
This post rubbed a lot of people the wrong way because the man was caught stealing necessities for his children. He wasn't stealing alcohol or a television set. Diapers are not cheap and there are a lot of people struggling to make ends meet during the pandemic.
The post received well over 1,000 comments with many offering to pay for what the man stole.
There were also a lot of people who thought the police department acted in poor form by shaming a man who committed a crime to provide necessities for his children. Many called the department directly to say they believe the charges should be dropped.
It's impossible to know what type of pressure the man was under when he decided it was better to steal the diapers and wipes instead of paying for them. If he had access to money at home but didn't feel like making a second trip, then stealing the diapers was clearly wrong.
But if the man was down on his luck and had no other options then one can understand his decision. If he didn't, he would have been forced to neglect the health of his young children which is also morally reprehensible.
Regardless if you agree with the man's actions or not, his children shouldn't have to go without clean diapers.
Some in the comments said that there are community resources available to parents who need help affording diapers and he should have reached out to one of those organizations before he decided to steal.
Whether the man was right to steal or not, comes down to all of our personal values. But the positive thing that has come out of the story is the number of people who were willing to help the man by paying for his diapers. It shows that there are a lot of kind-hearted people out there that are looking for ways to help those in need.
It was also heartening to see the number of people who criticized the police department for shaming a man that committed a crime out of what appeared to be desperation. The police have a duty to uphold the law, but that doesn't mean it's right for them to shame parents who are in need.