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When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she would marry. “I was at 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 go out with those flyboys from the Springs.”

“He didn’t say anything about marrying any of them,” she says. And so began her life as a military husband.

Life brings some real benefits, such as opportunities to live abroad – her family has had to live all over the US, Japan, and Germany – but it also has some drawbacks, such as your partner’s career over your own. should set goals.

“Although we chose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and they didn’t just disappear.”

Career aspirations become harder to achieve, and progress comes with many starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had earned a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she was unable to make any progress—until they moved back to the DC area. “Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became clear that this was going to be more of a challenge than I could have ever imagined,” she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, by which time most spouses are looking for their next assignment. “If I couldn’t find a job with multiple degrees and a great network in my own hometown, it didn’t bode well for other military spouses,” she says.

She’s not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving house with their partners, which means they are often far removed from family and other support networks. When they find a job, they often earn less than their civilian counterparts – and are more likely to be underemployment or unemployment. In some cases, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, unemployment of military spouses was 22%. Since the pandemic, this is expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job with a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her gain the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military affiliate program. She wrote a book and started saving 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 that they can perform from anywhere.”

“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.

The NMSN mission was not only important to Sue on a personal level, she saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

“Gone are the days when families can thrive on one paycheck. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two paychecks to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to,” she says.

“If less than one percent of our population is serving in the military,” she continues, “we need to be able to not only recruit but retain the best and brightest.”

“We lose as a nation when soldiers leave the Corps because their spouses can’t find work. We see it as a matter of national security.”

“The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to spark the discussion and address the challenges facing military spouses. We’ve taken the conversation to Congress and the White House,” she continues. “I am so proud that businesses, government and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues military spouses face and recognize the barriers to employment they have unfairly faced.”

“Together we have raised concerns for other people, and in doing so we have lifted the problems of unemployment of military spouses to a national and global level,” she adds. “During the process, we also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that the employment issues of military spouses can 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 achieving for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public relaunch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative to support families of military personnel and veterans, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

It has also this year incorporated two of its recommendations for practical solutions into legislation. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their pilots and their military families.

That’s why Sue is one of Tory Burch’s “Empowered Women” this year. The $5,000 donation will go to The Madeira School, a school Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, “the lessons I learned there as a student set the tone for my personal and professional life. so meaningful to know that the donation will go to make education in Madeira more accessible to those who might not otherwise be able to afford it and provide them with a life-changing opportunity.”

Most military kids will move one to three times during high school, so having four years of continuous experience in one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue went to Madeira and found herself “in an environment that fostered trust and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate, not just for ourselves, but also for the people around us.”

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy’s Empowered Women program, visit Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

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