Published: November 7, 2022
Meet Ellyn Dunford, spouse of the 19th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Ret.) Gen. Joseph Dunford.
At this year’s Blue Star Celebration, she was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award for consistently making a difference in the lives of military families – decade after decade.
Not only has she been right there at every turn, every stage of development, getting Joining Forces off the ground, but she has also advocated for the needs of military spouses, including their employment – all while raising three children and working as a physical therapist.
History of Service
“The word we always call my mom…supermom. Because she does everything all the time for everybody,” daughter Kathleen “Kat” says of her mother, Ellyn. “She’s a deeply practical person. I think when she sees something that doesn’t make sense or doesn’t work, it’s just in her nature to want to fix it or make it better.”
Ellyn embodies the journey of many military spouses, past and present. Being named a recipient of this award highlights the daily multitasking routine of the average spouse and the need for additional support.
Ellyn spent the early years of her husband Joe’s Marine career solo parenting due to constant deployments. She ran carpools, coached the soccer team, took on the role of troop leader for Girls Scouts, and served on the PTA. You name it, and Ellyn was there to offer support in any way possible.
Her husband recalls that, during that time, there were few resources available for a military spouse. “It’d be hard to imagine now, but there really weren’t any programs to speak of to take care of military families,” Joe shares. “Six months after we got married, I made my first deployment and we left behind military families with no formal structure to speak of. Ellyn brought all the spouses together, let them know that there would be somebody there to help them get through the challenges associated with their spouse being deployed. And really from the very beginning just had a passion to make sure that other military families were connected and taking care of each other.”
Supporting Blue Star Families
Through it all, Ellyn persevered, as many military spouses somehow find a way to do. She also continues to advocate for the experiences and needs of the community.
For Blue Star Families, it is important to highlight Ellyn’s achievements within the military community. Blue Star Families’ CEO and Board President Kathy Roth-Douquet explains, “At Blue Star Families, we’re looking to draw a spotlight to the people who make military life possible for families. There are so many who give a lot. And so one of the issues is who’s had a lifetime of this kind of achievement, who consistently, decade after decade, has been there making a difference.”
As a consistent supporter of the organization, honorary co-chair of Blue Star Welcome Week, Navy-Marine Relief Corps volunteer, honorary board member of Easterseals, USO liaison, and a dedicated physical therapist for 30 years, it’s easy to understand why Ellyn was chosen as the 2022 recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award.
“She’s a fighter,” Kathy adds. “She’s compassionate. She’s funny. She is down to earth. And that’s why so many of us know that when you talk about a lifetime of achievement, it’s Ellyn Dunford.”
Thanks to supporters like Ellyn, Blue Star Families continues to serve the military family community, working to provide the resources needed to make this life easier. For more on this year’s Blue Star Celebration, visit our event landing page.