Enjoy The Ride

Much as Suzie looks back on her military life with love and respect, she cautions spouses to realize that even for senior spouses, it hasn’t all been rosy; today’s senior spouses once faced the same challenges today’s junior spouses face.

“Some of us in the early days worked hard so we could have the benefits we have today,” Suzie says. “There was no Airman and Family Readiness Center at first. No Key Spouse Program or FRG. There were none of these organizations that now exist. You were expected as an officer spouse to fulfill all of those roles. Your job literally was to take care of families.”

And take care of families she did, and still does today. One of Suzie’s greatest joys is entertaining in her home. “I love it more than anything,” she says. “I used to want to be Martha Stewart and would watch her on HGTV. I’d always say when I was no longer working I would up my home game. I worked until 2000 when Nort became a three-star and then I really did it.”

Today Suzie is an avid gardener, entertains as much “as humanly possible” and orchestrates beautiful table place settings. She loves to watch sports – especially the Razorbacks and Nationals – and spends hours in her craft room, meticulously crafting handmade greeting cards. She also works as President of Military Spouse programs.

By all accounts, Suzie’s life has been a resounding success. What success means for her, though, isn’t about accolades, resume bullet points and trophies.

“Success for me has been the joy I receive in watching military spouses be successful,” she says. “That’s where my joy comes from. It comes from imparting wisdom and connecting them with others who can help. I watch so many young and old spouses in awe because they do such great things. Any small part I have in that success makes me happy.

“When Nort and I went to bed each night the last thing we thought about was if we’d done the best for our airmen and their families that day,” she says. “As he retired, I had no regrets. I don’t want to live that life again; it was crazy. I love my life now. Was I successful in everything? Absolutely not, but I can keep going forward and not look back. I know I did my best.”

Perhaps one of the most important attributes a spouse can have is the ability to keep an open mind. Suzie shares, “The journey is not what you think it’s going to be, but it could be even better. My life went a whole different direction than what I thought it was going to be. Yours may too.”  

The Why Behind the Photos at the 9/11 Memorial

Photo courtesy of Erin J. Rexroth Photography

Life changed dramatically after 9/11. Gen. Schwartz started working almost around the clock at the Pentagon. “My life has revolved around that since,” Suzie says. “You’re wanting to do everything you can for families of the fallen. The outpouring from Americans was so unbelievable. I was at the Pentagon the day the 9/11 Memorial was opened. We had a wonderful luncheon with the families of those who had died. I got to hear stories of how the memorial came about and what a wonderful bonding experience it was for the families. The families had a say about every aspect of the memorial. They were so united in it; they loved it. That was all that mattered to me.” 

Mentors Matter

Suzie Schwartz is a mentor to thousands of spouses. But she didn’t get to where she is today without a few mentors of her own. Here’s what she has to say about them:

Mary Jo Myers: “Her husband was an Air Force four-star general and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. When her husband became the four-star at Pacific Air Forces in Hawaii my husband was a one-star. My husband technically didn’t even work for her husband, but she took me in. She was so wonderful and made sure I was invited to things because my husband was gone almost the entire time we were in Hawaii. She was a profound influence on my life of what a good, inclusive, involved military spouse could do.”

Lynne Pace: “She also is married to the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. She was a beautiful entertainer and taught me how to step up my game in the entertaining space. As your spouse continues his or her career, you get household aides to help with official functions, but you can still make great impacts yourself and make functions memorable to people.”

Diane Hobson: “She influenced me earlier on in my husband’s career when he was in a squadron and later when he had a wing. She taught me grace and tolerance.”

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