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Wing spouse seeks platform to help military families

  • Published
  • By Maj. Gabe Johnson
  • 162nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
For military spouses working in licensed professions - attorneys, teachers, and health care professionals among others - the challenges of following their loved one's military career around the country and the unique certification requirements they face in each state can be insurmountable; but one local military spouse is working to change all of that.

Mary Reding, wife of Maj. John Smith, an F-16 instructor pilot at the 162nd Fighter Wing here, is a California-licensed attorney whose professional life has been full of bar exams as she has followed her husband's military career to numerous assignments. This year she is a nominee for Military Spouse magazine's Military Spouse of the Year, a position from which she says she can better help families navigate licensing issues throughout the United States.

"I work on licensing issues related to the legal profession and employment for military spouse attorneys," said Reding, who is also a mother of two young daughters, "but I'm also focused on helping spouses with concerns well beyond the legal profession like healthcare and education benefits."

"I thought I was alone in this until I filed a rule change petition with the Supreme Court in Ohio. That introduced me to other military spouse attorneys - men and women who wanted to practice, but gave it up in spite of significant student loans. By the time a spouse can study for and pass a state bar exam, their three-year stay is almost at an end and it's time to move. You can see how that can be challenging," she said.

"As Military Spouse of the Year I can create more awareness about these and other important matters facing military families, but I need people's votes. They can vote for me on the Military Spouse of the Year website until Feb. 3."

Thus far in the competition, a panel of judges has reviewed all nominations and selected five finalists from each military service branch. Reding is one of five spouses nominated to represent the National Guard. Currently anyone can visit to vote upon and select one winner for each military branch, and ultimately the national winner.

The winner may make public appearances, write a monthly column to appear in Military Spouse magazine and maintain a blog during his or her one-year reign. The platform also gives the winner exposure to national media outlets and elected leaders to call attention to specific issues and advocate for military family programs.

"What she's doing is great for current spouses and future generations. I'm glad to be a part of it as well," said Major Smith. "I think military spouses can come to her and she'll be a good advocate and spokeswoman for their issues. She's an absolute professional with a lot of connections for getting things done. She's already accomplished so much."

Reding has volunteered her time as a representative for the National Military Family Association, on the Board of Governors for California Women Lawyers, and on the Monterey County Women Lawyers Association. She is active in her local community as a member of the Junior League of Tucson and on the Board of the Heritage Hill Foundation, which raised over $200,000 for cancer patients and their families.