Military spouses get Texas-sized boost from Second Lady Karen Pence

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AUSTIN (Nexstar) — The Lone Star State is growing its investment in military families.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation announced Texas is expanding its efforts to connect spouses of military service members with job opportunities. Texas is the sixth state to implement a statewide Military Spouse Economic Empowerment Zone. The state already has MSEEZs in San Antonio and El Paso.

Second Lady Karen Pence traveled to the state Capitol in Austin to make the announcement and meet with military families.

“Military spouses are the homefront heroes,” Pence said Wednesday.

According to federal data, military spousal unemployment hovers between 15 percent and 25 percent, while the rates of overall nationwide unemployment and veteran unemployment are around 3.5 percent.

“Military spouses are well educated, they are hard-working, they are flexible, they are about the most flexible people that I know, and they are reliable, and they are loyal,” Pence said. “They are the kind of workers that we want in the workforce. Employers who hire these spouses benefit from their tremendous talent and their breadth of experience.”

Second Lady Karen Pence speaks to Texas military families about military spouse employment at the state Capitol in Austin on Oct. 2, 2019. (Nexstar Photo/Wes Rapaport)

“Strength of nation doesn’t just come from those in uniform who fight to protect our freedoms— the spouses and families who serve alongside also make tremendous sacrifices,” she said.

Pence, whose son Michael Jr. is a Marine, teared up when speaking about her own connection to military families.

“Military spouses are so special — I know that — and this is when I get emotional — We have one in our family, she’s pretty special,” Mrs. Pence said, referring to her son’s wife Sarah.

That resonates with Liz Larsen. An Army spouse of more than two decades, she and her husband, Col. (Retired) James Larsen, know the challenges of moving to different cities around the world and starting over.

“I have never forgotten the struggles that I had as a military spouse finding meaningful employment and I never will forget that,” Larsen said.

Larsen helped launch the economic employment zone in San Antonio last year.

“One of the most important reasons is it really is for readiness, for military readiness,” she said, adding that it allows service members to focus on their own work rather than stress about other sources of income.

She said some employers misunderstand military families, which is why they may not invest.

“Another big one that we get from companies is that we are going to move. Which is true, but especially in this day and age people change jobs,” she explained.

Other speakers at Wednesday’s announcement included elected officials, representatives from businesses and the U.S. chamber of Commerce.

Texas military families looking for resources can visit HiringOurHeroes.org.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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