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Second lady Karen Pence addresses military spouses stationed in Italy about the importance of their role in America’s strength on Friday, Jan 24, 2020, at the U.S. Embassy in Rome.
Second lady Karen Pence addresses military spouses stationed in Italy about the importance of their role in America’s strength on Friday, Jan 24, 2020, at the U.S. Embassy in Rome. (Maria D. Cavins/U.S. Army Garrison Italy)
Second lady Karen Pence addresses military spouses stationed in Italy about the importance of their role in America’s strength on Friday, Jan 24, 2020, at the U.S. Embassy in Rome.
Second lady Karen Pence addresses military spouses stationed in Italy about the importance of their role in America’s strength on Friday, Jan 24, 2020, at the U.S. Embassy in Rome. (Maria D. Cavins/U.S. Army Garrison Italy)
Karen Pence addresses  military spouses stationed in Italy about the importance of their role in America’s strength Friday, Jan 24 2020, at the U.S. Embassy in Rome.
Karen Pence addresses military spouses stationed in Italy about the importance of their role in America’s strength Friday, Jan 24 2020, at the U.S. Embassy in Rome. (Maria D. Cavins/U.S. Army Garrison Italy)
Vice President Mike Pence surprises military spouses stationed in Italy on Friday, Jan 24, 2020, at the U.S. Embassy in Rome.
Vice President Mike Pence surprises military spouses stationed in Italy on Friday, Jan 24, 2020, at the U.S. Embassy in Rome. (Maria D. Cavins/U.S. Army Garrison Italy)
Military spouses representing the Army, Navy and Air Force traveled from northern and southern Italy to see Karen Pence at the U.S. Embassy in Rome on Friday, Jan. 24, 2020.
Military spouses representing the Army, Navy and Air Force traveled from northern and southern Italy to see Karen Pence at the U.S. Embassy in Rome on Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. (Maria D. Cavins/U.S. Army Garrison Italy)
Vice President Mike Pence surprised military spouses stationed in Italy on Friday, Jan 24, 2020, at the U.S. Embassy in Rome.
Vice President Mike Pence surprised military spouses stationed in Italy on Friday, Jan 24, 2020, at the U.S. Embassy in Rome. (Maria D. Cavins/U.S. Army Garrison Italy)

Active-duty military spouses assigned to Italian bases attended a reception Friday with Karen Pence, the second lady of the United States, at the U.S. Embassy in Rome.

Among the 64 women and one man were 17 wives from Vicenza, who traveled by train at their own expense, along with spouses based at Naples, Gaeta and Livorno. Vice President Mike Pence also made an appearance at the event to praise and thank the spouses.

"I think it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," said Amanda Vogel, wife of the commander of U.S. Army Garrison Italy, who gave Karen Pence a commemorative garrison coin.

Vogel said the Pences both "spoke from the heart" and that she shared an emotional moment with the second lady while discussing the lack of paid employment opportunities for spouses assigned to Italy and all the volunteer work they subsequently provide.

"She teared up and I teared up," Vogel said.

Alexa Walrond said the eight-hour round trip to visit with the Pences was "so worth it."

Walrond, the wife of a company commander with the 173rd Airborne Brigade, said it was clear that Karen Pence empathized with women prevented from being able to practice their professions as she discussed her part-time teaching work.

Karen Pence, 63, works twice a week at a private Christian school that does not allow gay students and requires employees to affirm that marriage should only be between a man and a woman.

She and the vice president, former Roman Catholics who became evangelical Christians, had earlier Friday visited Pope Francis.

montgomery.nancy@stripes.com Twitter: @montgomerynance

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