|National Guard Officer and spouse have some down time to unwind early in the evening at the barbeque mixer at Austin's Schultz Beer Garden during the 132nd National Guard Association of the United States General Conference.
The National Guard Association of the United States supports Guardsmen across the country with advocacy efforts and standard of living improvements. This week's general conference for the association, held in Austin, Texas, brought together not just the service members, but also their spouses. While the association members enjoyed mixers, banquets, exhibits and professional meetings, their loved ones enjoyed shopping excursions and bonding events.
With events scheduled specifically for spouses, the conference enabled these dedicated family members to network with one another, develop a strong support system, and build lasting friendships.
The spouse shopping excursions to San Antonio, San Marcos, Austin and Fredericksburg offered participants the opportunity to see the colorful cultures of Texas, rich with Hispanic culture.
"I love it," said Gina Welch, the wife of Army Maj. Wyatt Welch and mother of three, from Bowling Green, Virginia. "I always look forward to attending these events. It is somewhat of a getaway."
Nearly 200 spouses traveled to San Antonio for a day of sightseeing, shopping, and Texas history. The city's beautiful Riverwalk and the famous Alamo provided much-needed decompression and morale boosts to the busy participants looking to share an adventure.
Pat Wilkinson chose the San Antonio excursion "to learn something about the history of the Alamo."
In addition to the bonding excursions, the spouses enjoyed the special opportunity to build a strong support system as members of NGAUS. Spouses are able to learn from one another's experiences and struggles by knowing that there are many other people on whom they can rely.
Further, the conference affords family members education possibilities that foster support and trust for their service member and the service member's duty. For NGAUS and its representatives, becoming knowledgeable of the intricacies of the military lifestyle comes first in supporting a community of troops.
"We know it's not just the military member that serves," said Texas State Senator Leticia Van De Putte. "It's the entire family."
The senator encouraged her audience to support their spouses' call for duty, sharing an anecdote about how her great-grandmother showed love and support for her grandfather and great-uncle.
"My great-grandmother said that if her two sons return from World War II safely that she would go on her knees from her house to the church on Thanksgiving. She was from Mexico, it's very traditional to do these promesas, these promises."
Military associations like NGAUS ensure the families and the livelihoods of servicemembers remain a priority throughout the nation. Building strong bonds of community and friendship, the conference continues to guide and enrich the lives and careers of Guardsmen from the newest lieutenants to the most experienced of generals.
"Every [conference] get's better and better," said Jean Dobaschi, from Hawaii. "NGAUS has played a very critical role in my life and in my husband's life. We've been able to make friends across the country; friends that will be lifetime friends forever."