Karen Pence, wife of American Vice President Mike Pence and mother of a United States Marine, met with three dozen women on Thursday to honor them for their service and their sacrifices in the United States military as a part of scheduled events for Women’s History Month.
“We just wanted to say ‘thank you,'” she said from her residence, where she hosted the event. “I get choked up because I am a military mom. I’ve got my ‘mom pin’ on.”
During her remarks, Mrs. Pence recounted a meeting she had with female service members at Fort Meade in Maryland earlier in the week, where she learned more about the unique challenges faced by women in uniform.
“They shared with me some of the reasons why they went into the military. They shared with me some of the things they love about being in the military [and] some of the struggles of being a woman in the military. We just had a great visit,” she said.
Mrs. Pence also made it a point to ensure members from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard were all represented for their meeting, as it was important to her that she honor the full “range of women who serve.”
“I think a lot of times, people in the military—men and women—aren’t told enough how much we appreciate you,” she said. “It’s not an easy place to be where you are, and I think we’re learning that more and more in the position that we’re in.”
According to Pence, she was asked by Melania Trump, President Trump’s wife, to plan something for Women’s History Month, and she immediately knew that she’d like it to revolve around female service members.
The decision to honor female members of America’s military was a timely one, as the Marine Corps was rocked by scandal in recent weeks due to a secret Facebook group sharing nude photos of female service members and veterans, bringing with it reports of similar practices ongoing in other branches of service. The Facebook group, called Marines United, has once again brought concerns about women in the military to the forefront of conversation, particularly amid ongoing efforts to integrate females into combat occupational specialties.
Neither the president nor the vice president have spoken publicly about the growing scandal, though heavyweights from the Pentagon, such as Secretary of Defense James Mattis, have already weighed in on the issue and what needs to be done in order to ensure the safety of America’s females in uniform. Mrs. Pence also did not address the scandal, or other concerns about sexual assault that have permeated the conversation about Marines United, but maintained a light tone throughout her speech, even calling up Air Force Colonel Michelle Pufall and Marine Corps Lieutenant Talia Bastien before leading the crowd in singing them a happy birthday.
The gesture by America’s second lady did not need to delve into the darker corners of the issue in order to effectively demonstrate her appreciation for women’s efforts in the defense of our country, but if the issue is an important one to her, it may encourage members of the executive branch to take a more active role in the discussion of how to address the issues that led to the Marines United group controversy, and how to address such infractions in the future.
Image courtesy of the Department of Defense