The Meritorious Woman Award

MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: Today is Thursday, May 7th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Megan Basham.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. By the way, you’ve got to see the video of that traffic stop I just described. It’s the final item on our video news for kids site at this morning. Just click the little blue “play” icon and that’ll bring up today’s “WORLD Watch News in 3” with Brian Basham.

He’s your favorite anchorman, isn’t he?

BASHAM: He is! And he’s pretty handsome, too.

EICHER: Well, a handsome group of dads in Rockwall, Texas, wanted to do something special this year for their wives for Mother’s Day. They wanted to publicly recognize their dedication as spouse, mom, educator, and, most importantly, disciple-maker.

BASHAM: The men planned a special program to take place at a nice steak restaurant on Mother’s Day. But stay-home orders wiped out the gathering, like so many other special events.

So the husbands have turned to Plan B. WORLD reporter Bonnie Pritchett spoke with three of the men about the special award they are bestowing on their wives this weekend.

ROBERT ROUSE: Katie’s passion for learning, personal dedication, and sacrificial love reflect great credit upon herself, her family, our community, and the Body of Christ.

It would have been a simple yet intentionally public ceremony this Sunday, Mother’s Day. But rolling with the ever-changing tide of social engagement during a global pandemic, the “praise her at the gates” ceremony will take place in their individual homes. There, nine husbands will present their wives with a letter of commendation and the Meritorious Woman Medal.

Yes. A medal.

Moms always appreciate the traditional flowers, dinner out, and homemade cards from the kids. But for Robert Rouse and his friends, it seemed an insufficient expression of their gratitude. So, Rouse, a retired U-S Air Force officer, looked to his military experience for inspiration. Unwittingly, his wife, Katie, gave him the idea. 

ROBERT ROUSE: Every mom, every parent, actually, has those moments when something’s not going well with the kids… And after those really hard days and those moments of frustration and moments of exasperation and my wife Katie would sometimes say, ‘I should get a medal for this!’

DAD AND ISAAC: Isaac, what’s your highs and lows. [Isaac] My first high is that we got to go to a friend’s house…

In the Rouse family school room is a plaque with Robert’s Air Force service medals. Next to that hangs Katie’s lone medal for running a marathon. Robert figures raising their sons ages, 4, 6, and 9, is a marathon worth its own recognition.

After consulting with the other husbands, they created the Meritorious Woman Medal.

The award ceremony was intended as a community event—not just one husband heaping praise on his wife as would be expected on Mother’s Day. The group presentation represented a shared agreement that although the specific accolades on the letter of commendation came from her husband, each woman would be recognized by the community as a one worthy of praise.

Inspiration for the medal’s design and meaning came from another generation during a far more troubling time. 

NEWSCAST: To this group and to a devoted group of organizers up and down the country goes the credit for a stupendous feat—that of assembling women’s voluntary work throughout the kingdom in one concerted drive…

Rouse borrowed some design elements from a medal honoring World War II-era British women. A 2016 BBC headline called them: “The Army Hitler Forgot.”

NEWSCAST: Her majesty, as president, is head of this great voluntary effort which we have described as a democratic organization without officers, without ranks, without pay. Where every member, whatever her task, wears the same badge as her Queen – Women’s Voluntary Services for Civil Defense…

ROUSE: And that’s exactly the kind of character qualities that we want to bring out and recognize with women who aren’t fighting a war these days but are certainly engaged in a whole lot of self-sacrifice…

Eric Atwood agrees. His wife, Audrey left a career she loved as an emergency room nurse to stay home to raise and educate their three boys and one daughter ages 6 to 15.

ERIC ATWOOD: There’s just so much to it and there’s just so much you leave behind, I think, that I don’t think people really understand…

In 2013, the couple left behind a job in downtown Dallas and bought 50 acres of land east of the metroplex. That same year they began fostering infants. Living off the land didn’t pan out as they hoped, so Eric returned to his work downtown—but they kept the farm. Raising kids is still a work in progress. They adopted one of the children and continued to foster until recently.

In his commendation to Audrey, Eric calls her a pillar of strength, resolve, and love…

ERIC ATWOOD: She has been a pillar of strength, resolve, and love as her household faces the everyday challenges of parenting and unknown difficulties which come from fostering…

David and Shawna Sullivan have also opened their home to the temporarily displaced. Their family of six has grown to 10. Shawna’s sister, husband, and their two small children moved in after the school he was attending shuttered due to the pandemic.

David said Shawna simply “folded in” the extended family members to their daily routines. In his commendation letter David reveals the source of her unflappable character. He writes: “Shawna dedicated her early mornings… 

DAVID SULLIVAN: Shawna dedicated her early mornings to times of prayer, reading of scripture and journaling. These efforts graced her with the capacity to successfully address the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of her bustling home…

But change can be providential. Originally, the Meritorious Woman Medal award dinner was a parents-only affair. Now, Sunday’s presentation in nine individual homes will include an audience of kids ranging in age from 3 to 30.

Who better to watch and hear Dad honor Mom. Wife. Teacher. Disciple-maker. Let Dad praise her in the gates. In the living room. Around the kitchen table. 

David Sullivan, like Robert Rouse and Eric Atwood, isn’t sure his kids will fully appreciate the gesture’s significance.

DAVID SULLIVAN: I think it’s helpful for the kids to see it and hear it as well. They’re young, right. This is not something that will penetrate super deep or be fully appreciated at this age in their life because ‘Mom’s mom. And Mom’s always been awesome to them.’

High praise indeed.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Bonnie Pritchett.

(Photo/Rouse, Sullivan, Atwood)

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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One comment on “The Meritorious Woman Award

  1. Lori Parziale says:

    I completely appreciate this kind of recognition, and can happily say my husband did the same for me more than 10 years ago, sans medal. He created an award certificate and threw a surprise party for me at the officers’ club in recognition of my service as wife and mother in our family. He tells me that he was motivated by my comment that motherhood was a lot like Ranger school: not a lot of sleep and you weren’t sure when you would next sit down for a meal.

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