Throughout my adventures to Washington DC, I have had the opportunity to meet with our military’s senior leadership spouses. These women are fantastic and when I meet with them, I find myself wondering about their lives.
Imagine living in a small town, a village on Long Island, New York called Oyster Bay. You live there most of your life. You attended the same school, had the same neighbors, and went to the same church.
You leave for college and graduate. One day you’re home and it’s your brother’s wedding; his friend Mark is in the wedding. Right then, you know that Mark is the man for you. “That was the beginning…and I would have married him that weekend, had he asked!” exclaimed Mrs. Welsh.
After eight months and a long distance relationship, Mark and Betty were married and became the Welsh Family. Their Air Force adventure was just beginning.
General and Mrs. Welsh have four children, Mark (IV), John, Matthew, and Elizabeth. Mark works in private equity and is married to Ashley; they have three sons. John is a third year Orthopedic Surgical resident, married to Marcela, and they have a son as well.
The military tends to be a family business, and Matthew Welsh is a 1st Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corp, and married to Kristen. Lastly, is Elizabeth; she works for a small IT company and gets to travel frequently due to her career.
Having four children and experiencing your first deployment is not a painless task.“Mark deployed to Desert Storm in the Fall of 1990. Shortly after joining the Fighting Fuujins in the desert, he took over as the Squadron Commander. The children were young—10, 8, 3, and 1 years old. We were a young, unprepared couple and had no idea what to expect” said Mrs. Welsh about their first deployment.
It was a different military in 1990, and a technologically different world. Skype, social media, email, and the other forms of communication we have now, didn’t exist.
“We didn’t have a Key Spouse program or the programs that our Airman & Family Readiness Centers now provide to support the deployed families,” said Mrs. Welsh, “I wanted to make a plan to communicate and check in on everyone.”
Through the efforts of Mrs. Welsh and the other deployed spouses, phone trees were established. Weekly meetings occurred to check in on families and fellow spouses. Keeping connected to each other throughout Desert Storm was essential. Mrs. Welsh was surrounded by a great and supportive group of Air Force spouses.
War and deployments come with stress, and Mrs. Welsh shared how she handled the stress of her first deployment. “Keeping in touch with everyone, talking things through, finding needed resources so that personal struggles did not become overwhelming was essential to our survival. It was a first for all of us and I wouldn’t change a thing because I learned first-hand how important it is to make connections and take care of people”.
By relying on her spouse community, Mrs. Welsh made it through Desert Storm. It was during that first deployment, where Mrs. Welsh learned about herself, how to work with people, and how to utilize their strengths.
So what does Betty Welsh love about being an Air Force spouse? The people; Mrs. Welsh loves the people she has met throughout her Air Force adventure. “There are so many new adventures and travels, which reminds me of Dr Seuss’s book “oh, the places you’ll go”… that life’s a great balancing act,” said Mrs. Welsh.
The Welsh Family has moved more than twenty times, which include three overseas assignments. “Since Mark started as the 20th Chief of Staff of the Air Force, we have visited 100+ bases and 19 countries. I have learned so much from the Airmen and spouses I have met with along the way…people are the bedrock of the Air Force,” stated Mrs. Welsh.
Every military spouse has faced difficulties to include Betty. Every move meant the loss of a home, a community, friends, or a career. What did Mrs. Welsh do? She did what we all do; reinvent herself, and decide if she would like to work again or stay home.
Mrs. Welsh put her degree in Dietetics to good use. “One of the advantages of the Health & Fitness field was the many directions I could choose to take my career,” commented Mrs. Welsh, “the difficulty was starting over with each and every move and often starting at the bottom.”
Betty has held jobs as a personal trainer and nutritionist for a variety of health club as well as worked for the state of Georgia’s Health Department and Department of Defense as a Nutrition and Wellness Counselor.
Mrs. Welsh applauds Joining Forces and the work that is done to “streamline the ability for service members, veterans and their spouses to obtain occupational certification and licensure”.
Through the moves and deployments General and Mrs. Welsh have stood beside each other. Keeping a marriage strong takes work and dedication. For military couples facing long separations; keeping a marriage strong can be a daunting task.
“Communication is key for us. We talk about everything and always have,” stated Mrs. Welsh. From disciplining children to career choices, the Welsh Family communicated and supported each other. “We both committed to our life together, knowing that the military was a big part of our life. It’s not always easy, but we have worked hard and worked together because we know the positive impact it has on our marriage.”
What advice would Mrs. Welsh give to spouses? “Wake up every morning and count your blessings! We are so blessed to be a part of our Air Force and to be able to serve right alongside our spouses, supporting our military and their families. Enjoy each and every opportunity and embrace your Air Force life!”
Embracing Air Force life is really what it’s all about. It really is comforting to know that General and Mrs. Welsh value the Airman and families who work hard at keeping our country safe.
Thank you Mrs. Betty Welsh for this opportunity. Up next will be Mrs. Linda Odierno, wife to the Army Chief of Staff, General Raymond T. Odierno.
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