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Candace Guelzo

Branch: Army

Duty Station: Fort Riley

Number of Deployments: 1

Number of PCS's: 5

Share your military spouse story:
I have been a military spouse for seven years. My husband and I met in college, where the connection was immediate, and we were married within two years. When he completed his degree and commissioned, I was not yet finished with my bachelor’s degree. However, my commitment to my husband led me to uproot and follow him immediately, contrary to our original plan, to our first duty station where I was able to complete my degree online. Several years and duty stations later, we are now the proud parents of two little girls and I am currently in my capstone class of a Master’s degree in Psychology. I will be continuing my education to complete my board certification in behavior analysis (BCBA) in order to focus on children within our military communities who are on the autism spectrum. With this, the concept and strategy of Applied Behavioral Analysis therapy used by BCBAs, has been found to aid in the recovery of traumatic brain injury (TBI). I aspire to utilize my personal knowledge of the military community within the psychological field to benefit Soldiers and their families. My commitment to my husband and our family is reflected in the dedication I have to the Army and to Soldiers returning with PTSD and TBI, and to their families. Besides my education, I have a servant’s heart. I currently spend my time volunteering with the Fort Riley Spouses Club, USO, and Historical & Archaeological Society of Fort Riley. Our eldest daughter is at the stage of learning to read; therefore, my days are spent pouring over phonics and listening to the Frozen soundtrack. She starts kindergarten in the fall and by that time our youngest will already be three! My husband and I utterly adore them both. We also have two lovely little corgis who are overly rambunctious. I have made wonderful friends here at Fort Riley and I treasure those who I have met along our path. I am thankful for the lasting bonds I have made with those who mercifully saw me through this recent deployment.

Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
I have recently had the opportunity to serve as the SFRG leader for my husband’s company. While in this role, I was able to help coordinate the aspects of the Annual Training Conference in which the spouses would be involved. I also orchestrated events for the company during the year from simple holiday parties to family friendly events that coincided with community events. I often acted as an advocate for the families when speaking to the Tricare representative as the recruiting world is very different from on-post care. In this role I was a voice for the families as I was able to ensure that the needs of the families were met by the battalion as the company was in a different part of the state.

Describe your involvement in the military community:
When the Army sends my family to a new location, I take the opportunity to immediately dig into our new community. Each duty station has brought with it new and unique challenges – particularly when my husband was assigned to recruiting command. The unique geographic dispersion of the company’s stations and battalion itself left the spouses isolated. We were told that this dispersion negated the ability to have a traditional SFRG. However, with much effort we were able to develop an active and engaged organization. Prior to that I was a care team member and was involved in coffee groups and as a treasurer in a previous SFRG. Here at Fort Riley I am currently involved with the traditional brigade coffee group and am an active member of the SFRG. I am a governing board member with the Fort Riley Spouses Club and an executive governing board member of Historical & Archaeological Society of Fort Riley. I also volunteer with the USO and have helped with events for ACS.

Describe how you support your community:
Supporting our military community is my top priority. I currently have the privilege of volunteering for the Fort Riley USO. At the USO I am able to serve the Soldiers and their spouses as I am an active volunteer during spouses’ events which gives me the opportunity to ensure that spouses are making connections with one another. My governing board role with the Fort Riley Spouses Club allows me to reach out to other spouses especially during our monthly luncheons where there is an incredible amount of emphasis on inclusion and connections. I strive to ensure that others are not feeling out of place. I am also currently working on the spouses club’s fundraising committee in order to ensure the success of the spring fundraiser as the spouses club is a non-profit and everything we raise goes back into the community. I have previously worked with other military spouses to organize ball gown swaps and military ball etiquette classes.

What do you advocate for? Why?
My platform is based around the concept of support. There are many different avenues in which spouses can support each other, and our military, through service in volunteering. I want to focus on empowerment for the spouse through service back to the community. I am also very strongly committed to normalizing the conversations about mental health, both for the spouse and the soldier. My background in psychology affords me a unique advantage when it comes to understanding mental health, understanding the community, and even how the mental health and its associated stigma affects our communities. My platform is concerned with connecting and engaging spouses within the community in order to empower and support each other.

How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
I love to volunteer. As cliché as it may sound, serving others has become my passion. As such, my involvement in the FRSC events and the USO events have allowed me the privilege of meeting military spouses from the post and being able to inform them of the great groups and opportunities here. Most importantly I have been learning their needs. At my husband’s past assignment, the recruiting environment we were in placed the command team as public figures in the community. Thus, through large scale events I had the privilege of addressing and forming relationships with officials from the county chamber of commerce and state representatives. We worked often with the community to set up events where local media was present.

What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year® title?
I have always had high aspirations to help others, and the call of service has become stronger as I have raised my family in the unique environment of a Military community. With anything however, there must always be a first step, and I was fortunate to have had the mentorship of an exemplary spouse while I was still new to the experience. I have not forgotten her influence, and I value the lessons I learned from her to this day. With the AFI Military Spouse of the Year title, I would use this unique advocacy platform to serve in the areas of inclusion, outreach and awareness. To ensure that families of all ranks receive the welcome and support they need and deserve from their first day in uniform to the last.