Second lady Karen Pence: Military mom, military spouse advocate

Washington (CNN)"I don't worry about Michael. I don't know why," second lady Karen Pence tells me.

Her son, Michael Pence Jr., is a pilot in the Marine Corps.
It helps, she says, that she has faith in his flying ability — and God.
    There is one caveat, though: "He hasn't been deployed. So that's going to be harder."
    Vice President Mike Pence and Mrs. Pence have been military parents for three years, but they had long expected their son would opt for a career in the military. Before joining the Marines, Michael Pence, now a captain, studied flight at Purdue University in Indiana while his father was governor.
    A love of flying runs in the family. Mrs. Pence's father was an Air Force pilot and the second lady has her pilot's license, though it's not current.
    "I don't have the money ... or time," she laughs. "It's very expensive!"
    Mrs. Pence learned to fly in college but only took her kids up once, she says, deciding it was too dangerous of a hobby once she had a family.
    Having a familiarity with aviation when your son is an aviator "helps a lot," she says.
    "When [Michael] takes the VP up in a plane, his dad is like 'OK, OK, I'm ready, OK let's go down.'" Mrs. Pence tells me, playfully. "And I'm like 'this is great! I'm having a ball!'"
    The Pence family on stage on the third day of the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio. From left: daughter-in-law Sarah, son Michael, mother Nancy, the vice president, wife Karen and daughter Charlotte.
    Mrs. Pence says Michael has even been candid with her about some of the scarier moments he's had flying, including one close call while he was in college. Before beginning a descent to land he did a visual check beneath his Cessna. There was another aircraft directly below him.
    "He's very, very cautious. He's had times where this little light was blinking and so he just didn't take off. Maybe it was nothing, but maybe it was something," Mrs. Pence says. "And maybe being married helps him in being more cautious."
    Michael met his wife, Sarah, in a political science course at Purdue and the couple married in late December 2016.
    "She ... holds him accountable," Mrs. Pence says, smiling.
    "I learned about being a spouse from my daughter-in-law. She insists that [Michael] has his responsibilities in the house and she has hers. And I tend to say, 'Oh, you know, the vice president is really busy, I'll do this for him,' and — really — it's better if you don't."

    The challenges of being a military spouse

    As Mrs. Pence considered a cause she could champion as second lady, she also found inspiration from Sarah, who she says has embraced the role of military spouse and helped open her eyes to the challenges faced by the men and women married to service members.
    "I think people don't understand the sacrifice the spouse makes. They really don't. Usually it hits home when I say, 'what if you had to move in two years? And then you had to move in two more years ... packing everything up, finding another house, finding a school?'"