The Association of Defense Communities held the third installment of its Summit Keynote series on Oct. 8, which focused on military family readiness.

The event brought together a wide array of leaders from defense communities to discuss issues ranging from military child education and spouse employment during the COVID-19 pandemic, to the impact of social unrest and racial inequality on military installations.

Karen Holt, Federal Installation Administrator, Harford County Office of Community & Economic Development, as well as ADC board member, hosted the event.

“As defense communities we must engage in these issues, understand what is happening, and find solutions that will help our families during this challenging time,” said Holt.

The first segment of the keynote brought together two nationally recognized leaders on the topic of military families: Paulette Fryar, the Coast Guard 2020 Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year, and Bree Carroll, 2020 Armed Forces Insurance Air Force Spouse of the Year.

The topic began with a discussion of military family assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our military spouse community is extremely resilient,” said Carroll. “Military spouse employ rate is typically four times higher than national average. What we find during the pandemic is that we’re becoming more creative in seeking report.”

Fryer pointed out that one of the primary challenges in military spouses seeking employment during the pandemic is the loss of daycare and necessity of homeschooling children. “It’s definitely affecting people on a broad scale. As military spouses we adapt and overcome but were dealing with financial challenges based on our employment situation.”

The speakers also discussed the pandemic’s impact on the social structure of families.

“COVID-19 was an amplifier,” said Carroll. “If your relationships were strong before the pandemic, it was a win for all the additional time you had to spend with your family. If relationships were struggling, the pandemic amplified this as well.” She discussed cases of increased abuse and battery in the community; she says stemming from the long-term effects of isolation.

Finally Holt discussed ADC’s new One Military, One Community initiative regarding racial equity in defense communities.

“I’ve stood in rooms that there is only one person that looks like me,” said Carroll. “Relationships are at the heart of diversity so we can have these honest conversations. We need to be mindful who is leading these conversations. We need to be open hearted when having these discussions.”

Watch the full Keynote Series session here