Duty Station: Naval Base Kitsap- Bangor
Number of Deployments: 7
Number of PCS's: 2
Share your military spouse story:
My military spouse story is not like most. I married a wonderful man serving our country, shortly after our marriage, my mother was diagnosed with cancer. I spent months away from him and watched her health decline, and ultimately, pass away. My husband received orders to a new duty station and thankfully he could be with us, support me through the arrangements and funeral services. Days later, we were in a new place, 3,000 miles away from home, and I didn’t know one person. My husband was gone a lot with his command. I was in mourning for my Mom, in a new place, missing my husband and felt completely alone. I had to start from an empty place of nothing and learn everything about military life. I met and learned from other spouses, found the resources that would help me at that time, and learned to ask lots of questions. The incredible thing that comes from having a spouse that serves our country, those deployments give you the chance to find out exactly what you are made of and what you can achieve. I was able to learn about resources, answer questions and soon, found myself as an example to those around me. I was given the opportunity to lead meetings and serve as a resource to others. It’s been wonderful to pay it forward, to reach out and help others become the leader and military spouse they strive to be. I love being a military spouse!
Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
One of many moments I will never forget, our ship had been away for a few months with our spouses holding strong at home. In a matter of fifteen minutes, two separate women contacted me in desperation seeking support as they were both experiencing miscarriages while their husbands were deployed. With privacy and delicacy, I lead the coordination between three entities including the Command Support Team, the American Red Cross, and our Point of Contact to help find and provide the resources necessary to take care of both the family’s needs. I enlisted support from others in our command family to provide childcare and meals while following up on things that only I could address with the mothers. The several days that followed involved repeated follow-ups, both verbally and in-person, to ensure the families were taken care of while contending with my own deployment challenges. I am grateful for my ability to provide leadership in crisis as well as in controlled situations.
Describe your involvement in the military community:
One of the best parts of military life is being involved and serving our own community. I’ve been honored to serve as an Ombudsman for two separate commands working with over 150 families and being able to help them in times of crisis. Part of this includes creating an open flow of communication from the families to the command, sharing critical information in poignant times, and continually participate in advanced training to be current on program updates. I became ASIST certified to provide Suicide First Aid. I’ve served as FRG President for our command through three deployments. I have volunteered at FFSC Pearl Harbor supporting families in need of basic household items. I’ve been able to create halfway boxes for over 300 Sailors across several commands, including my distant family to foster awareness and increase military support. I’ve personally made and delivered over 45 meals to families in need.
Describe how you support your community:
I serve the community right here where I am, where I live, and the people around me. I’ve done this by facilitating two sessions of a financial budgeting course at the local YMCA, helping sixteen households win with money. I planned bi-monthly activities, lessons and social events for women in a local congregation for the past four years. I volunteered at schools reading with children, leading weekly spelling groups, helping with the school’s robotics club, and leading the local chapter of Frontier Girls (similar to Girl Scouts.) I’m a parent volunteer in the local youth sports programs. I have also worked to guide a local Self-Reliance Group, helping others to learn How to Start a Business. This weekly workshop provided a great way to meet members of the community, working to start a side business while keeping their families first. I am halfway through a Masters Degree program in Management and Leadership. I plan to use this to help others learn how to become leaders.
What do you advocate for? Why?
I advocate for military spouses becoming self-reliant and leading others in doing the same. Military spouses, by the sheer nature of the lifestyle, are leaders. They can lead right now, where they are! They can become self-reliant, resourceful, and confident while helping others. Part of that is learning how to advocate for themselves and their families to ask the tough questions and get help before they need it as opposed to when they are in crisis. Our military provides quality resources to help, but the spouse has to ask those questions. Becoming a leader starts with trust. Military spouses learn to trust themselves and become self-reliant amidst deployments, including the financial challenges and additional tasks required to maintain life. In moments of transition, military spouses are able to be the rock and guide for the family amidst the challenges that come with this life. The spouse then can become someone others trust and feel empowered to teach others how to lead.
How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
I believe military spouses have the power to change the world! We are involved in every aspect of life, among various parts of the globe and are the key to keeping families strong while our service members protect our country. Understanding the power of leadership as a military spouse has been the core of my personal journey. As an ombudsman for the command, I share this message of leadership regularly speaking to our families at periodic meetings, through email, social media messages, and a command newsletter. I share the message of leadership as an individual through my personal social media, on my website, and via my podcast, Think Enriched. The best way I have found to help others through this process is to invest time in those who are ready to progress. My experience has created a unique opportunity to reach out to people I would have never encountered otherwise, listen to their story, then share what I have learned throughout this journey. It has been most rewarding!
What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year®
To be an influence for good is the number one goal of my life. As the AFI Military Spouse, working with AFI to meet those spouses where they are, inspire them through humor, kindness, and genuine stories of our military life journeys are the keys to success. This is possible through guidance and reaching personal connections. I dream of working with AFI to create a workshop, either online or in-person, designed to teach military spouses the core principles of leadership, advocating for yourself, and becoming self-reliant to influence the entire military community. This could be a workshop template that is offered to train leaders who then connect with commands throughout the globe. We can create an AFI MilSpouse Podcast to reach an even greater audience. This could reach that one military spouse who is struggling right now. Together we can become the connecting piece so that all spouses can progress and help others. We can make a powerful impact on our communities and the world!