SAN ANTONIO, Texas — When Chris Pape jumped in his car in January 2011 and began driving around the country, little did he know that his inaugural idea for a website would eventually help change the lives of the people he's most familiar with — male military spouses, and their wives who help defend this country.
Pape and his wife, Maj. Dana Pape, are stationed at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph. Chris was selected as one of six active duty military members' spouses — and the only male — competing for the 2014 Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year award, presented by Military Spouse magazine.
Chris is the owner and purveyor of www.machospouse.com, a website he created two years ago while the couple were stationed in South Carolina. Chris had trouble finding a job and wanted to reach out to other male military spouses, to see if his problem was unique, and to find out how other male spouses had handled the transition and employment scene.
But what Chris found was … nothing.
“I was busy with work, keeping myself moving within society, so there was never a feeling of emasculation, of, “Oh my God, what am I doing; my wife's over there fighting a war, and here I am sitting at home, washing the sheets.”
But a move from Arkansas to South Carolina changed all that.
“'Macho spouse' came about during a (move) to South Carolina in 2011. It was a small town, with not a lot to do, and I couldn't find work in my field,' he said.
That was the first time in his 10 years of being a male military spouse that he tried to reach out. “I spent two weeks looking online; there were about 3,000 different military spouse organizations, but none were for male military spouses, not one.”
With a college degree and background in video production, online video and website construction, Chris decided that the time had come to break out on his own. “After about two weeks it dawns on me: I'm in Columbia, S.C., and I'm not finding a job. So I figured, why not build my own resource?”
Chris began making connections from there.
“So one day in January 2011, I jumped in my car and drove around the nation,” he said, “interviewing all these people, just asking them what life was like, and what advice they would give for a military spouse. I wanted to learn more about my process, as much as helping other guys learn about theirs.
Chris said he would bring the interview segments home, chop them up into five-minute interviews and post them online “and let the chips fall where they may, and the rest has kind of taken off.”
An email arrived a few months ago, from a special forces unit that was using his videos to help their families reintegrate when they came home from deployment. “That was great, to know that what I was doing was actually helping not just military spouses, but the military warriors.”
Through his interviews, he's found two primary common traits among the male military spouse.
“All of the guys, in some form or another, want to connect with each other,” he said. “Some of them want to do it in person, some online, but they all want to find some common way to connect and talk.”
For his efforts, Chris was nominated for Military Spouse of the Year, one of 18 nominated for the award.
The six finalists were selected through an open online vote. Ballots are at www.msoy.militaryspouse.com through Tuesday. The website also has details on the award program and the individual branch winners.