Duty Station: Not Affiliated With a Duty Station
Number of Deployments: 3
Number of PCS's: 3
Share your military spouse story:
I never imagined that I would one day use the words "Military Spouse" to identify myself. Having grown up with little connection to the military community, the concept of living a life alongside my spouse's military service felt complete foreign when I married my husband Randy- an Active Duty Soldier- in 2011. I was introduced quickly to the complicated (and beautiful) realities of military marriage. With impending deployment orders looming, we were married on the banks of the James River in Fort Eustis, VA by an Army Chaplain with just a few of his fellow soldiers in attendance. It wasn't the storybook wedding I had dreamed of, but the pure joy and contentment that I felt in that moment left me assured that the journey we would take as a military family would be worth every bit of the sacrifice. Married for just three months, I found myself on the home-side of my husband’s first deployment to Afghanistan. Only a few weeks after he left, I was struck by how long the deployment ahead was going to be- and how easy it could become to waste that time focused solely on his homecoming date. Instead, I decided that I would capitalize on the season of separation by focusing each day that my husband was gone around personal growth and self development. By shifting my own paradigm around this season of separation, deployment became a powerful time for me personally and perhaps the best thing that could have happened to my marriage. Years later, as a friend prepared for her spouse’s first deployment, I shared this philosophy with her by sending a "deployment countdown care package" to inspire her to focus on the ways she could grow and evolve during her countdown. With the hope of inviting other spouses to embrace this same concept, in January of 2018 I launched Brave Crate- the deployment countdown box for military spouses, which now supports and inspires hundreds of military spouses each year as they count down deployment.
Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
One of my most fulfilling leadership experiences as a military spouse has been guiding hundreds of fellow spouses through their deployment countdown by organizing monthly online training and workshops to educate and inspire during deployment seasons. Each workshop requires months of preparation and collaboration with guest experts from all areas of the military spouse community. In addition, when stationed previously near a military installation I actively sought opportunities to lead within my spouse's Family Readiness Group. This has included involvement with the organization of informational and wellness events, providing organic individual support for newer spouses, and dedicating time to preparing and organizing social events alongside of FRG leadership. Military Spouse life can feel overwhelming, and I have found that one of the keys to providing excellent leadership is planning in advance to make participation and engagement simple for those involved.
Describe your involvement in the military community:
During our time stationed in Fort Bragg, NC I found that the opportunities for involvement in the military community were limitless. Being connected to such a large base allowed me to formally support our community by serving as a Key Caller and Event Coordinator for our Family Readiness Group and organically by fostering relationships with fellow spouses and offering assistance in times of need. Since moving to Philadelphia, PA for my husbands temporary assignment as a recruiter, I've found that the digital military spouse community affords just as many opportunities for engagement and support. Through promotion on my social media platforms I am able to connect spouses with incredible resources such as the Independent Wellness Summit, Deployed Love and Milspouse Conversations. Most importantly, through my work with Brave Crate I am able to directly impact the spouses involved in these organizations through the donation of funds or care packages.
Describe how you support your community:
My work with Brave Crate has been an incredible opportunity to partner with and support the military spouse community. I am able to partner with military spouse owned businesses to include their unique creations in our monthly care packages, highlighting and helping to grow their customer base. But, the mission extends far beyond the businesses we feature or the military spouses who receive our box each month. Using the ongoing growth of Brave Crate's digital audience I seek daily to shift the paradigm around the deployment season and the military spouse experience through blogs, video discussions and social media posts drawing attention to the realities of deployment for military spouses while offering support, guidance and a connection to a community. Finally, Brave Crate affords me the opportunity to offer tangible and financial support to military focused organizations through in-kind donations of boxes and the donation of a portion of proceeds.
What do you advocate for? Why?
The primary platform that has driven my work in the military spouse community has been advocacy around "shifting the military spouse paradigm" by inviting the spouses and civilians to move away from a focus solely on the struggle of military life, and instead to refocus on the unique opportunities and experiences afforded to military spouses and families. By "shifting the military spouse paradigm" we are able to reclaim difficult seasons of our lives such as PCS, deployments and TDY separations as opportunities for personal growth and evolution. Highlighting these realities as moments that shape and mold military spouses (not merely moments to be endured or struggled through) helps to paint a more accurate and positive picture of the military spouse community. Rather than passive victims of circumstance, we are active participants in a lifestyle that breeds uniquely qualified community members- an important reality for spouses to internalize and to share with the public.
How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
One of the great gifts of the military spouse community is our vast network of connections allowing us to share information quickly. Over the past several years as I have sought to inspire fellow military spouses to "shift the military spouse paradigm", I have had the opportunity to work with a number of excellent media sources. Digitally, I have had my work shared on blogs including: - Jo, My Gosh - Seasoned Spouse - Milso On the Move Additionally, I have had the opportunity to give voice to this platform as a guest speaker on podcasts including: - The Army Wife Network - Hurry Up and Wait - Lifegiver with Corie Weathers (sp) - Dear Milfam Podcast - Waiting Warriors In addition to the outlets listed above, the concept of “shifting the military spouse paradigm” has been featured as a key component of my work with Brave Crate in print with the acclaimed Military Spouse Magazine, as well as a scheduled feature with Buzzfeed.
What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year®
As AFI Military Spouse of the Year I plan to not only raise public awareness around the unique realities of military life, but to offer an alternate image of what being a military family entails. During my husbands temporary recruiting assignment I was made acutely aware of the public perception of military service, and the often dismaying picture that is painted when the narrative focuses solely on the hardships and sacrifices made by families. While the importance of sharing these difficult realities remains, I believe that this is a crucial moment for military spouses to begin reclaiming that narrative. We are not passive participants, and the challenges of life as a military spouse are not simply a burden that we bare. As AFI Military Spouse of the Year I plan to highlight the unique opportunities for personal, relational and professional growth that are presented to each of us as military spouses.