K-State students and military spouses gathered for a luncheon on May 10, 2017, at the Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art in honor of Military Spouse Appreciation Day. The luncheon was the second year of recognition celebrations from K-State’s Institute for the Health and Security of Military Families. The luncheon recognizes and honors military spouses from K-State, Fort Riley, the Kansas National Guard and the community. Lisa Hallett, Gold Star spouse and co-founder of the nonprofit wear blue: run to remember, spoke at the event. Hallett lost her husband, Capt. John Hallett, in August 2009 when his Stryker was attacked with an improvised explosive device in southern Afghanistan. Surviving the loss of her husband, best friend and father of her three young children, Hallett turned to running. She soon found a community that needed the same kind of support. Creating wear blue gave Hallett a healthy outlet for her grief and a path to move forward — and she’s committed to sharing that with others. In December 2016, she was appointed by President Barack Obama as a commissioner on the American Battle Monuments Commission.
At the luncheon, the institute also recognized three military spouses who were nominated for showing tremendous resiliency throughout their spouses’ military careers, including Karen Cunningham, a K-State staff member and veteran spouse; Roberta “Bobbie” Hanlon, a community member and veteran spouse; and Christine Benne, a community volunteer and veteran spouse.
Cunningham has been the “rock who has kept her family together” through her husband’s 20 years of military service. Cunningham also supported her husband as he returned to K-State to earn his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, and now is working on his master’s degree. Hanlon served as the 1st Infantry Division family readiness coordinator. When her job ended, she continued serving the division as a volunteer. In the words of her husband, “If there is something that needs to be done, Bobbie just doesn’t know how to say ‘no.’” Benne is the spouse of retired Col. Paul Benne and is a community volunteer with numerous military support organizations in Manhattan and the Flint Hills region. As one of her nominators shared, “I cannot think of another person as resilient as Christine, who gives herself so selflessly to better the community and the world around her.”
To honor Hallett and her organization the institute hosted a 5K run that evening, with approximately 40 individuals attending. Plans are in the works to start more wear blue runs for the Manhattan area. Contact Suzanne Reese (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information.