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Candy Olivares

Branch: Army

Duty Station: Fort Polk

Number of Deployments: 2

Number of PCS's: 5

Share your military spouse story:
My military story started in 1996, as an Army girlfriend. My then boyfriend joined the Army while I was still in high school, our long distance relationship grew via letters and long phone calls. I was proud and remember joining online forums of other Army girlfriends. Now that I think about it I've always looked to find a community to be a part of and help in. We were young and didn't have friends in similar relationships that understood our love for these men that took the call of duty. He came home after successfully serving his enlistment. In Oct 2000, we got married and he went to college. After graduating he told me he wanted to come back into the Army, I love my husband and just want his happiness so off we went. In 2006 with a newborn baby in tow, our family moved to Fort Bragg, NC. The start of a career for him and a life I'd never imagined for myself after being married civilians for five years. I enjoyed being home with our newborn son and looked to groups for friendship and community. Learning "the life" was interesting and fun, I couldn't have asked for a better partner in my husband. His support has been instrumental in my growth as a military spouse. Five duty stations later and my sense of community has only grown by being active in family readiness groups, spouse clubs, in organizations in our local communities at all of our duty stations and online via my blog. Fourteen years later my home is complete with our two boys and two cats and many, many friends stationed across the globe. It's been such an incredible journey thus far and look forward to many more amazing spouses that I can support and share my experiences with. My story includes my husband's career, because my story wouldn't be complete without his. I see how so much of the amazing things we have experienced and been a part of, have been because of the military.

Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
As the Chapter lead for the Hiring Our Heroes chapter here at Fort Polk, I have the opportunity to speak with spouses that are working towards furthering their education or looking for a position using their education and job skills. Providing encouragement and resources that are available to spouses that might not have considered either going to school or entering the workforce.

Describe your involvement in the military community:
When I became a military spouse I learned quickly that a friendly face and smile was the best way to make a person feel more at ease. There isn't exactly a manual for this life with all of the twists and turns and different situations that can occur so being positive and friendly has worked for me. Any chance I get, I become involved. I've been a part of the FRG, to a volunteer with ACS, a volunteer in the community on behalf of a military organization, to being on the executive board for the Spouses Club here at Fort Polk. I truly enjoy helping folks in our community.

Describe how you support your community:
Currently I serve as Secretary of the Fort Polk Spouses Club and Lead for the Hiring Our Heroes: Military Spouse Professional Network here at Fort Polk and am an admin for a Facebook page that supports our Ft. Polk spouses. In these positions I am able to asses needs where I can provide assistance for other spouses or resources that can provide assistance.

What do you advocate for? Why?
I advocate for spouses that are continuing their education and the working spouse, as I am both. Many spouses are either unsure of what career field they want to pursue or how they could even begin. By being a part of HOH, I'm learning about MySECO and always share the benefits of it.

How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
Word of mouth has always been the best way. Also by being a social person, I love engaging with new people. I am also a blogger/ social media influencer and share some military related content on my blog and social channels. I am also an admin on a Fort Polk spouses group page that is open to spouses based here at Fort Polk.

What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year® title?
To bring awareness to the spouses that are interested in starting and/or continuing their education.