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From single parenthood to stalled careers, military spouses make own sacrifice for country

Erin Trieb / VII for msnbc.com

For the past 22 years, Carla Fears has followed her husband, Sgt. 1st class Nathaniel Fears, from base to base, taking any job she could find. With her husband planning to retire in the next year or two, she's now trying to figure out what job she wants to do instead of what she has to do.

Strength. Resilience. Motivation. Confidence. Adaptability. Those are just some of the qualities military spouses mentioned when describing how their experience in the military -- by marriage -- should be attractive to prospective employers. I spoke with them at a job fair at Ft. Hood in Killeen, Texas, Wednesday, while reporting with photojournalist Erin Trieb. 

There was obvious pride in what they had learned from a life in the military; but there was also frustration. For many, moving from base to base, not just in the U.S. but also around the world, limited their career paths. With only a year or two in one place, they were often taking any job they could get, not following their passions or skills. Military spouses -- 95 percent women --  have an unemployment rate of 26 percent, according to the Department of Defense, over two times the national average for civilians.


According to job counselors at Ft. Hood, the military is making an effort to slow down transfers, to allow military families to stay in one place for at least three years. They are hosting job fairs and encouraging military spouses to add volunteer activities to their resumes. Military studies show that they volunteer at a rate four times the national average. They want to remind employers that even if a job history looks checkered, there are ways outside of a traditional job for people to learn leadership, team work and creativity. Melissa Brown, a military spouse who's family of four moved ten times within five states makes the point, "After 12 years as a military spouse, I can keep a team together." Meet more military spouses and learn about their story in the slideshow below.

Military spouses get special attention at a job fair at Ft. Hood, Texas. Those married to military service members have an unemployment rate more than twice that of the civilian population.

More Hiring our Heroes, an initiative by NBC News and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that aims to get veterans back into the workforce.

Learn more about job fairs for veterans.

Also, explore Erin Trieb’s ongoing Homecoming Project, an awareness and educational campaign using imagery to educate the public about PTSD and the struggles many service members face after coming home from war.  Funds raised from the campaign benefit local non-profit groups serving veterans.