Duty Station: Fort Belvoir
Number of Deployments: 2
Number of PCS's: 5
Share your military spouse story:
I am an Army spouse of 18 years, mom of 6 resilient and beautiful children, and advocate for all military families. Being a mom has lead me into advocacy, and being a military spouse has helped me maintain focus. Since our move to Virginia I have learned the most, and learned how to share the most. I am the co-founder of MilPride a program under MMAA. When my child came out, I saw a need in the community for support and I worked to try to fill that need. I offered a local support groups for LGBTQ military children and their families on Fort Belvoir. In March of this year, my family’s whole world changed. We discovered mold throughout our home. I had never dealt with a housing issue of this magnitude before. During my spouses tour to Egypt, two of my children became ill, we were relocated to a temporary home due to our housing issues, and I found myself having to learn about things that had never crossed my mind before in relation to our home and our health. We lost everything we owned and worked hard for during the last 18 years. And even though we are 18 years into our journey and losses we could not have imagined, I feel like I am just beginning again. Our story, unfortunately, is a story being told often, by families nationwide experiencing the same housing issues. I immediately started working with a small group of advocates. Once again I saw a need and we understood that there was not enough help locally for families at the Fort Belvoir installation.This group emerged as the Belvoir Housing Advocacy Group, currently with over 400 members. All of them are families who have experienced housing issues of their own, or who were seeking help on how to deal with their existing issues. As a founding member of the advocacy group and a village representative for my community I have worked around the clock to provide support, to share information, and to provide resources to our families.
Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
I help organize the community to participate in the local town halls and I bring their concerns and help stream the town halls so all can participate. I find village representatives to participle in the focus group meetings and bring their communities issues to light. I help families look through their home concerns and organize their work orders from routine to emergent. I explain how the process should go if everything is smooth. I highlight common mishaps and who to contact if the family notices them. I encourage the entire community to assist when there’s a crisis along with giving mine and my families resources to the cause. The whole advocacy group organizes and supports. I worked with the local hospital to get information about MilPride out to the community and stood up monthly support groups. I always strive to bring people up. Leadership for me is empowering the individuals of your community to step up, and then challenging them to share their experiences with others.
Describe your involvement in the military community:
I am a see a need fill a need person. I try to plug into my community and at each post and encourage others opportunities to do the same. I believe it does take the whole village. I am involved in local focus groups, schools, talking with legislators, and the Army leadership. I go into families homes to help them with their housing situations. Some families just need someone to tell them they will get through this, and other families need step by step for a few moments because the impact may be great to them. I also help them understand the process put in place at our post. Our post doesn’t have written housing policies so they are all verbal and they can change at a moments notice. I try to keep up to date so the next family I meet has the correct information. I have to stay focused and listen close so families know what is happening.
Describe how you support your community:
I support my community by reaching out consistently to the families and meeting them face to face to answer questions or go over documents they may have. Every family is unique and it’s important to meet them where they are with understanding and compassion. Whenever a family asks I will be at their meeting or their house to help them sort out all the information they are receiving. I listen to them and try to plug them in with needed information, or just provide a listening ear, or a shoulder to cry on. I am also my village representative. I take the village needs as a whole to the garrison command and the housing partner and let them know where the needs exist around the whole village. I then follow up with the community to see if the concerns have been addressed. I answer my phone 24 hours a day 7 days a week. I joke that I do my best work between 11 pm and 7am.
What do you advocate for? Why?
I’m advocating for family housing with this nomination. Over the last year I learned a hard lesson in life. I cannot be an advocate for everyone when my family didn’t have their basic needs met. I have shed many tears at the impact this has had on our lives. I hope to help stop this from happening to others. Housing is often overlooked as a need in the military community. Families may choose on or off their post for many reasons, but they normally find a space to live. I have learned that the one constant for nearly all military families can also become a nightmare, and turn life upside down. Once families have safe and secure housing they can start to heal from the experience and move forward. I have had to take a step back in other areas because I couldn’t ensure my own family had adequate housing. I want to see everyone thrive in life and to do that basic needs must be met first. Once I had a secure home I could then start reaching back out and fully plugging back into MilPride.
How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
I am a Facebook fan and use it most often to reach families and spread the word that the advocacy group is there to help. I am an admin for the MilPride family group.I connect on the local community pages and spread resources and information. This year I attended the Armed Serviced Hearings and was in multiple media outlets.
What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year®
I hope to keep the focus on military housing and ensure families get the attention they desperately need to bring an end to the military housing crisis. When the focus is on housing, military families start to see measurable results. As the focus shifts about the accountability lessons and things don’t always continue to move forward. I have learned over the last year that without safe and adequate housing you cannot put focus anywhere else. When families have their basic needs met they can thrive.