Branch: Air Force
Duty Station: Pentagon
Number of Deployments: 0
Number of PCS's: 4
Share your military spouse story:
My husband and I met in college while both working to complete the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps Program at Fresno State in California. He graduated and commissioned a year before and moved to New Mexico. During my senior year, we got married and I followed him to New Mexico to begin my Air Force career as a Civil Engineer. We served as a mil to mil couple for six years. I was actively involved in the military spouse community during my six years of service but truly didn't know what it meant to be a military spouse. In 2010, I deployed to Afghanistan and left my husband behind. He was quickly forgotten by my squadron, but the military spouses from my community checked in on him and occasionally brought him a meal. While deployed my husband got accepted to attend the Air Force Institue of Technology and PCSed to Ohio a few months before I came home. I came home to a box of things my husband had left behind and begun to in-process and then out-process so I could follow my husband to New Mexico. In 2013, my first son was born. We decided that dual-military life had been challenging while not having kids and with the possibility of deploying when my son was six months old I left the Air Force behind. My transition out of the military was very challenging and I quickly learned the reality of military life as a new stay at home mom. My husband left for two months of training when my son was two months old. I really struggled with my loss of purpose, loneliness and being so far from family. We have moved to California and Virginia since I left the military and completed our family with my second son's arrival in 2015. It has been a journey, but I found a great group of military spouse entrepreneurs online who changed everything for me. They have pushed me to grow and take leaps of faith with my business. I am still actively involved in the military spouse community at our current assignment along with other volunteer programs.
Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
With my background as an officer in the Air Force, I have been able to adapt those systems and leadership lessons to my everyday life. I have been involved in a number of volunteer organizations since leaving the military often quickly finding myself in a leadership position. When we moved from California to Virginia I was desperate to make new friends and dove into Mother's of Preschoolers and within weeks of contacting the coordinator, I was on the leadership team filling the role of Service Coordinator my first year at MOPS in a new city. I was able to bring my experiences from California with me to help improve and grow the MOPS group. I am always up for a challenge and ready to give 100% to whatever military life throws at me.
Describe your involvement in the military community:
As both a veteran and military spouse I have a unique perspective of the military. I have seen both sides and know how hard it is to serve, but also how hard it is to stay behind, put your career in the back seat and take care of your family. I use my voice to help bring to light the struggles military spouses face through my blog, podcast and freelance writing opportunities. I'm not afraid to stand up and speak up when spouses are treated like a doormat for the military and I am working to remove the "dependa" cultural belief. Through the encouragement of my military spouse community, I launched a podcast sharing the stories of military women. Military women are often forgotten about and with the title of the podcast being Women of the Military people sometimes assume it is focused on military spouses and not service members and veterans. While not focused on military spouses this topic comes up regularly as many of my guests have transitioned into that role.
Describe how you support your community:
I am working to bring a forgotten group into the spotlight by sharing the stories of military women. I am working to build a safe place for women to share their stories and talk about important issues. I have covered military spouse culture, military spouse unemployment, military sexual trauma, deployment, moving and so many other important issues. Giving women a platform to share helping both women veterans and service members not feel alone, but also allowing military spouses to hear the stories that they sometimes don't hear from their husbands or wives of what it is like to be in the military. I also am actively involved in my local community volunteering with my son's school, Mother's of Preschoolers (MOPS) leadership team member, recipe club chair for our local spouse group and the social media coordinator for Military Wives Connect. Giving back to the community and getting involved is very important to me.
What do you advocate for? Why?
Military women, past and present. With the launch of my podcast Women of the Military, I was drawn back into the veteran community. In my struggle of transition, I had focused on my role as a military spouse and mom and let the veteran piece fall away. But through the podcast, I have met so many amazing military women and have the honor of sharing their stories. I want people to know the work that military women have done for generations while also inspiring the next generation to continue to break barriers and change the world. I love that through the podcast I have been able to share the perspective of military spouses who were once servicewomen. They are able to talk about the challenges of being a military spouse after serving in the military. I think this platform allows people to understand that the challenge of being a servicemember and a military spouse is equally valid and some might say the challenge of those left behind can sometimes be more difficult than those serving.
How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
I primarily use my blog www.airmantomom.com. While I primarily use it to help promote my podcast I have the freedom and opportunity to share my experience/opinion with additional blog posts. I am also active on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn). The podcast is available on Apple Podcast, Sticher, Google Play, Spotify, Breaker, Anchor, Overcast, RadioPublic. I also have recently formed a partnership with K.K.T.Y. Tiger Country Radio in Missouri that airs the weekly episode of the Podcast on their radio station to help the podcast gain more exposure. Last year, I was a featured veteran entrepreneur on Mornings with Maria (Fox Business News) and have had the opportunity to be featured in Military Families Magazine, Maritime Executive, Military.com, Women You Should Know and more. I was also selected for the Class of 2019 HillVets 100: Veteran Individual Accomplishment.
What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year®
I want to continue to be an advocate for military spouses. I am working to bridge the gap between a sometimes divided group working to show we have more in common than different. And I think that male military spouses are one of the most powerful tools we can use. Male spouse and female service members and veterans both understand the struggle of being the minority and we could work together to bring a voice to an often unheard demographic leading to change in the military as a whole. When we work together we can have a huge impact on the military community and can make a change. Through MSOY I would love to bring light to the challenges that both military spouses and service members face and work together to bring changes for the military community. Working to build the community together and leave a powerful impact on the next generation.