Beth Elder

Branch: National Guard

Duty Station: West Virginia

Number of Deployments: 3

Number of PCS's: 0

Share your military spouse story:
I am a National Guard spouse of 6 years. My husband and I were introduced through mutual friends in my hometown, and the connection was instant. He used the line “I already have so many adventures planned for us” and I was hooked. I had no idea what I was signing up for. When we met, I had just graduated pharmacy school and moved to a remote area in our state for a job. He was living in our hometown, determined to get a spot at the Special Operations Qualification Course and earn his Green Beret. We married at the courthouse while he was in North Carolina for the course, and due to obstacles of license transfer, I stayed in our home state of Pennsylvania to maintain full time employment as a pharmacist. We were already becoming experts at loving across distance. After his graduation, he got the news that he would be deploying with his new team just weeks after he moved home. We made the best of the situation and in six weeks time, I planned a large wedding celebration for our friends and family. It was an amazing time and a great lesson in the importance of quality of time rather than quantity. During this trip, his unit got the call to deploy again. This time to Afghanistan – we would have only month and a half to spend together in between. I was elated to get a positive result on a pregnancy test as he was flying across the country to head overseas. Each separation taught an important lesson and this was no different. I learned the importance of connection. During this time the team spouses exchanged numbers and amazing friendships were formed. Having this connection with people who “got it” pulled me through many dark days during that trip. He was finally back home shortly before our son was born. I have been through 3 deployments and countless temporary separations. I have learned to navigate this life while working full time and becoming a mother. Despite the many challenges, it has been well worth the ride and I wouldn’t change a thing.

Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
I am the chapter ambassador for the Southwestern PA branch of Giving Tuesday Military, a kindness movement started to bridge the gap between the military and civilian communities and make the world a better place. Our chapter organized several projects including random acts of kindness, a kindness rock movement and sending cards to both troops and elderly in nursing facilities. With just a small group we able to contribute over 1,000 kindness acts towards the larger goal.

Describe your involvement in the military community:
As a National Guard family, it can be easy to feel separated from the larger military community. I’ve stayed involved and connected through the genuine friendships made with our team families. Despite geographical separations we have maintained involvement with supportive ears, thousands of text messages and frequent road trips to get together. We have found that we truly are each other’s best resource. Outside of the team I use social medial to stay connected to the Special Forces community. I am a member of two spousal groups, the Green Beret Foundation’s Steel Mags and Special Forces Shield Maidens, which are non-profits created for families to offer and seek support from each other. These groups help maintain a strong sense of community across the miles.

Describe how you support your community:
Recently, I have been working to help the service members and families in my area make connections to the larger military community through the creation of a group on social media. I have teamed up with a local spouses, FRGs, and community leaders to grow the group which currently includes almost 100 members from different branches including active duty, guard and reserve members. We’ve done this is just a few short weeks. The commonality is that we are geographically close and part of the bigger “family.” The goal of our group is simple, make connections and share resources. I believe that these connections will lead the way for the kinds of great friendships that we all need to get through this military life.

What do you advocate for? Why?
I am passionate about spreading a message of connection among the military community. Being a National Guard spouse we live with the perks of being close to friends and family, but I’ve often found myself surrounded and still feeling like no one gets it. We are each other’s best resource and I know we can still get even better at being there for each other.

How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
I have spread the message of my platform almost entirely through social media.

What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year® title?
I would love to have the opportunity to network with other spouses and community leaders to build something great to help families connect to each other. As a professional with a state specific license, I will take the opportunity to help advocate for a faster and easier transfer process for military spouses.