Duty Station: Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island
Number of Deployments: 3
Number of PCS's: 8
Share your military spouse story:
Share your military spouse story: My development as a leader within the Armed Forces community started over 20 years ago as a young military spouse. I was teaching when 9/11 happened, and I had several military dependents that were affected directly by those events. Those students needed consistency, compassion, and hope amongst a world seemly turned upside down. It was also my first time living far away from home. So, I quickly reached out to other military spouses, and we created strong bonds caring for each other. I have carried those friendships and lessons learned throughout eight duty stations, 10 moves, three deployments, and the addition of three children to our family. It has motivated me from day one to volunteer and have a giving heart. Currently, I find great joy in serving new Marines who complete recruit training at Parris Island but do not have their families here for their graduation. The spouses group I lead serves them fresh baked goods, beverages, offers phones so they can call home, and of course hugs and high fives for a job well done! It makes a huge difference to these new Marines knowing there is someone there for them that cares. I can see the emotion on their faces, and it often brings a tear to my own eyes. Throughout the last 20 years, I have had amazing opportunities to volunteer across the country and overseas in Italy as well. Sometimes this has it has been through participating in spouses’ groups, creating a group when there was not one, helping in my kid’s classrooms at school and church, investing and getting to know my community by coaching, volunteering at events like Wreaths Across America, or organizing fundraisers for military children’s scholarships. Being a military spouse has its joys and challenges, but every time I arrive at a new duty station, I ask myself, “What can I learn here, who can I help, and what can I do to make a positive difference?”
Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
I am currently the President of the Parris Island Spouses Club (PISC.) The three main pillars of PISC are connecting spouses, philanthropy, and community service. During my time as president, we have increased our focus on the philanthropy and community service pillars. During my tenure, the membership has grown by 50%, now offer monthly volunteer opportunities to spouses on and off the base, and we have made connections to retired military groups in the surrounding community that help fund our philanthropic efforts. Last year, while serving on the scholarship chairperson, we successfully raised over $10,000 through donations and our annual, community-wide bingo fundraising event to provide college scholarships for local military children and spouses. This year we are on track to greatly surpass that mark. Serving in this role would not have been possible without many leadership developing activities like coaching sports teams and being a Family Readiness Group Adviser.
Describe your involvement in the military community:
I have always naturally been someone who is ready to lend a hand when needed, and that has continued to grow over the past 20 years of being a Navy spouse. At the past eight duty stations, I always look for unmet needs in the military community. I love welcoming new military families to the area through sponsorship programs, inviting them to spouses’ groups, or answering their questions. I have jumped in to help coach my children's basketball and soccer teams when needed, help organize neighborhood parties, and arrange meals or showers for military spouses around me. I volunteer regularly with fellow spouses on and off base, have been involved with my children's PTO for over nine years, was a MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) member and leader for five years, and have volunteered in local churches for over 20 years. This volunteering has often progressed to leadership roles within the military community.
Describe how you support your community:
Supporting your community starts with meeting your own family needs first. That might mean starting a playgroup for military moms when you are in that stage or starting a group for your military teens when there is none on your base, as I did 2 years ago. At each location, I look to meet the unmet needs of spouses where we are stationed. This means spending time listening and talking with a variety of military spouses in order to build friendship and learn about their needs. I love to engage my community by supporting my children’s local schools through PTO and volunteering. In the local community, I help raise funds for local charities, currently volunteer weekly with my spouses group helping new Marines, help backstage at productions of the local youth theater, and once a month in our local community with other military spouses. Serving on three scholarship committees for military dependent scholarships has been such an honor and privilege as well.
What do you advocate for? Why?
My platform is "Connecting Military Families to their Local Community." I have witnessed the difference this has made in my family as well in the lives of others. The more connected the military family is to their community the higher their satisfaction is not only with the duty station but life in general. Once connected to groups or activities, friendships form, and a love for their current duty station grows. Spouses of these families, then become inspired and energized with their own families and seek to reach out to others. What an amazing example of a cycle of caring this can be. I have observed that a key to contentment at a duty station is giving back. Seeing this, I have sought out opportunities to serve others with my fellow military families, like volunteering at an event for homeless veterans, helping fight human trafficking while overseas, volunteering for base events, organizing a toy drive for Toys for Tots, or laying wreaths at a Wreaths Across America event.
How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
Communicating the need for military families to be connected to their community happens in many ways. Often, I have done this by coming alongside military families during a time of need. I have also communicated this through organizing events and volunteer opportunities. Being the administrator for two local Facebook pages for military spouses allows me to communicate and invite them to events to connect with others. Leading a scholarship committee has also developed me as a communicator because had to speak with donors, military leadership, businesses, and at award ceremonies. I also speak at a Installation Council meeting about current events with the spouses’ club I lead. Motivating military families to connect to their community is no easy task but when the message is communicated to them with joy, compassion, a listening heart, and excitement they cannot help but join in and start making a positive difference in their community, too.
What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year®
My dream would be to make our nation more aware of what a valuable asset military spouses and families are to their communities. I would find new ways to connect military families to their communities using social media, websites, existing resources to better communicate to families. Training local leaders to serve military families but also using the unique skill sets that military spouses have through jobs and community service. A partnership between the two is a huge win for everyone. I would also like installations to be able to better evaluate what the current needs are for their population and adjust programs and funding accordingly. This will better serve the military family and create buy-in by military in their communities. When we accomplish this, we create a better society in America for everyone.