amanda folks

Branch:
Air Force

Duty Station:
Fort McNair

Number of Deployments:
5

Number of PCS's:
14

Share your military spouse story:
My military spouse story began 20 years ago in a small chapel outside of Travis AFB when I married a dashing young Airman with blue eyes and a motorcycle. I could never have known then how much his military service would change me, but I’ve been forever grateful for the life we’ve built together. My life in the military actually began many years earlier when I was born on Nellis AFB to a young Airman and his wife. My parent’s examples of military service and sacrifice had a profound impact on my development and paved the way for my role as a military spouse. Over the entirety of my husband’s career, we have had one guiding star that has navigated us through the stormy seas of deployments, separations, relocations, set-backs and heartbreaks: Our Family. Regardless of the circumstance, we have placed our marriage and the raising of our children as our highest priority. This has required great sacrifice. My husband was mischaracterized for time he spent coaching our son’s soccer team. He was unjustly penalized by his superiors for time he spent caring for me after childbirth. I transferred my college credits to 11 different universities before finally graduating. And I have fought many school districts for my children to receive the education they deserve. We have lost many battles, but are truly winning the war. The challenges we have faced are not unique to the military community. In fact, they are common. What sets us apart as a couple, and what makes my military spouse story compelling, is our family. We have six incredible military kids, each with vastly different personalities, challenges, strengths, and purposes. By prioritizing our family first in our lives, we have learned just about every lesson there is to learn about the highs and lows of a military lifestyle. I have experience in almost every arena where I have fought with blood and tears for my military family. And I will remain in the arena advocating for my family and for all military families.

Describe your involvement in the military community:
As young college students, my husband and I were married when he had only two stripes on his sleeve; just last year, he promoted to Lt. Colonel. Over the last twenty years of his career, I have invested heavily in the military community. Frequent relocations, several deployments, and regular transitions have necessitated my familiarity with military and civilian community support systems and have taught me how to engage, collaborate, and contribute in these partnerships. Over the course of fourteen relocations, I have served in many squadron, wing, and base wide spouse organizations. I have supported my military family peers in hospitals and doctor’s offices, at food banks and churches, in homes and schools. I have cried with them, grieved with them, and celebrated with them. These experiences have prepared me well for a variety of development, leadership and management roles.

Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
Facing the challenges unique to military life has taught me much about my strengths and weaknesses. For example, I am terrible at hanging curtains – a skill that I have not learned even after 14 moves! However, I have been blessed with the talent to relate to all walks of life. My ability to sincerely listen and validate the feelings of others has allowed me many opportunities to serve families in need. Much of my focus has been in supporting families experiencing challenges in the home due to the strains of military service such as deployment, separation, and emotional and physical injuries. This leads me to my second leadership skill which is as a connector. I find great fulfillment in connecting those around me to resources that strengthen, teach, advocate, promote and heal. I have also held many leadership positions in my church, school and work settings where I have learned how to develop improvement plans, keep organizational budgets, evaluate programs and mobilize others.

Describe how you support your community:
I practice inclusion in all aspects of my life which is what I love most about being a part of the military spouse community. Military families come in all shapes and sizes, from differing cultures, races, religions and social backgrounds. Our diversity makes us stronger, more resilient and better able to empathize, advocate and contribute. During the early years of my husband’s career, I often felt disconnected from my fellow spouses. I have learned much since those early years of the power of unity and connection. Now I am a volunteer with many military support organizations including Military Child Education Coalition, T.A.P.S., Military Spouse Advocacy Network, United Through Reading, Operation Gratitude, Boulder Crest Retreat, the Air Force Aid Society, the Air Force Officers Spouses Club of DC, and I am a registered Caregiver with the Elizabeth Dole Foundation. The partnerships and friendships I’ve created through these networks are some of the greatest treasures of my life.

What platform do you advocate for? Why?
If chosen to represent the military community as a member of the Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year family, I will advocate passionately for the inclusion of family members in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder treatment and recovery. As a military spouse that has lived with this condition in our home for more than seven years, I know of the emotional, physical, spiritual, social and mental toll this illness has on not only the service member, but on spouses and children as well. In addition, I have witnessed the increased effectiveness of treatment and recovery when families are included in the process. It is essential to the well-being of military families – and, by extension, our national security – that we destigmatize mental illness and in particular, service-related post-traumatic stress disorder. I believe the most effective way to accomplish this will be to include family members in the therapeutic process whether it be talk, recreation, or medicinal.

How have you spread the message of your platform?
I have advocated for the support and care of military spouses and children on several media platforms through my work with ThanksUSA. My appearances include WJLA-7 Washington, WUSA-9 CBS Washington, NBC-4 Washington, and I was a speaker at the 2019 Military Spouse Employment Conference hosted by the Adecco Group, a panel member at the 2018 Military Family Caucus Summit, and will speak at the 2020 Military Women’s Conference in February. My published works include “Learn from the Pros”, ADDvantage Magazine, December 2018 issue and “Changing Lives Through Tennis Corps”, USPTA and Tennis Industry Magazines. This work has allowed me to champion my belief that families are the backbone of military strength and that their inclusion in all support programs is essential to a sustain our all-volunteer force.

What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year® title?
To be nominated as an AFI Military Spouse of the Year is one of the greatest honors of my life. Should I be so blessed to represent, my foremost goal will be to connect my peers with the resources of our community to share information on support organizations, spouse groups, and physical and mental health programs that will strengthen and empower military families. Secondly, I will work to mobilize my spouse community to engage in service in both military and civilian settings. I believe in the transformative power of service which is at the very heart of the military community. My darkest moments have been made lighter by forgetting myself in the service of others and I will lead by example to show that there is nothing that unites and lifts us more powerfully than giving of our time and talents on behalf of our fellow men and women. I believe strongly in that these efforts will strengthen my platform of family inclusion in the physical and mental rehabilitation from PTSD.

Nominations

Amanda is a colleague as well as a fellow military spouse. She is a multi-talented person, military spouse, and mom of six (pre-k to college-aged). She is currently Development Manager at ThanksUSA, a non-profit that provides educational scholarships and pathways to employment for military spouses and kids. She is dedicated and passionate about advocating for military families. She is gifted in surrounding herself with the military community and listening to all viewpoints in order to properly advocate on behalf of such a broad group. With her personal background, she has a powerful yet compassionate voice to share the challenges that military families face. She handles it all with ease, but is open about her own family’s struggles stemming from invisible wounds of war. She is the first one to offer a kind word or to sign up to volunteer. She is deserving of this honor and would not take it lightly. She’s a role model for many, and with a larger platform could truly make a difference.
- by kelly sohou