Carolyn E. Chase

Branch: National Guard

Duty Station: California

Number of Deployments: 5

Number of PCS's: 3

Share your military spouse story:
Growing up in a military family, becoming an Airmen, and then becoming a military spouse, I think it's safe to say that I have seen all sides of the coin. This unique perspective allows me to move within the military community with ease and compassion. I truly love devoting my skills to help and support other families. Seeing the relief, smiles, and friendships grow because of me, gives my life a deeper sense of purpose. While raising 4 children, 3 of which being differently-abled, I understand the importance of community support, information dissemination, and advocating inclusion. I have learned about acceptance from my children; the oldest son having ADHD as well as an Anxiety Disorder, my middle son who is gifted, my youngest son having Autism Spectrum Disorder with severe allergies, and my daughter having Down syndrome as well as being legally blind. I myself have been diagnosed with a Generalized Processing Disorder which makes parenting special needs kids a tad bit more complex. My diverse family has shown me what is truly important in life. In this house, the definition of success is to try your best, only compare yourself to who you were yesterday, and to love as you wish to be loved. I felt a great need for this message to be shared with others so I began volunteering. I understand that a lot of people would see my family as complicated enough without adding volunteering to the mix. However, I discovered that reaching out to others not only helps them, it helps me. I have been blessed with a philanthropic devotion and the ability to share my life as a means to encourage others. My motto is: you are awesome, just let me tell you why. I reach out to families in order to give them the courage to step outside themselves and see how amazing they are. I hope that by doing so, I can encourage them to give back to other spouses or families. It is my goal to create a network of support for everyone.

Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
Given the nickname, the ‘Iron Angel’ I was honored to lead many families through their first deployment. I became the Key Volunteer for the Maintenance Group and was tasked with recruiting more volunteers for MXG as well as finding key volunteers for each squadron. Once I found more volunteers, I became the Key Volunteer for the Maintenance Squadron. I focused my efforts on bridging the information gap between members and their families by creating social groups on Facebook. I also worked with other Key Volunteers to create what is known as ‘Coffee Break.’ Whereby, the families of deploying Airmen come in for informal briefings to find answers to specific questions. This event has been adapted by the base and is used in helping prepare all families for deployments. I set up a volunteer chain to call families during deployments to make sure that they were feeling connected. To promote networking, I established a new base tradition known as Trunk-or-Treat, which is going on its 4th year!

Describe your involvement in the military community:
Starting in 2003, I began volunteering, and over 16 years my involvement led to becoming the Key Volunteer for the Wing. I help maintain a direct line of communication between the families and the unit/base authorities. I provide support, information, and networking opportunities for the families by organizing base events, squadron Coffee Breaks, Hearts Apart events, Facebook group pages, Yellow Ribbon events, and holiday events. I love helping with group Christmas parties, spouse appreciation events, family days, bake sales, group booster clubs, the base volunteer booster club, and collecting care packages for the deployed. Families appreciated the waiting areas I helped create before/after major deployments that provided them with extra time for hugs, kisses, and tears. I also created, collected, and analyzed a family member deployment survey to improve upon the care given to the families of deployed personnel. Being a volunteer isn't just a passion, it is life!

Describe how you support your community:
I like to think that advocacy isn't just something you do, it's who you are. I have worked hard to be inclusive by finding Spanish speaking interpreters, creating online groups for people with limited mobility, making events kid friendly, offering options for times/locations that might meet uncommon needs, and creating opportunities for volunteering that don't require intensive labor or time. I'm most proud of my work in the military community as an online moderator for families who have kids with Down syndrome. I helped create and am currently maintaining a sub-group for the Down Syndrome Diagnosis Network, a global non-profit organization. The sub-group is for support that focuses primarily on the needs of the U.S. military families from each branch of service. I help families find answers to questions related to child care, insurance, therapies, deployment, permanent change of station, and respite care for children with Down syndrome. We serve them so they can serve the country.

What do you advocate for? Why?
I aspire to connect the military family with the community, but recently I have a special desire to advocate for special needs parents and adults with disabilities within the military community. It is my goal to inspire inclusion, volunteerism, and support for the disabled within both the military community and the community at large. As an adult with a learning disability, I understand the struggle for better support. As a parent to children with special needs I have grown to understand what that support should look like and how better to obtain it. In truth, inclusion begins at home. And what better way to start spreading awareness and inclusion than to appeal for a stronger volunteer base. One on one relationships form the foundation of trust and support, and those relationships are built from reaching out to others. In short, I advocate for building a network of volunteers, families support, and inclusive connections within the military community.

How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
I have established connections with the community through church ministries, high school mentorship programs, and college clubs. In each case bringing the military needs into focus and gradually building a framework for future endeavors involving the disabled within the military community. I supported the Silent Sleigh, a parade for deaf children, where I helped teach signs to Airmen. I worked with the food science club at CSU, Fresno to help with military functions. I coordinated making soups, finding tools, making breakfast burritos for fundraisers, and de-boning chickens for events. I used my honors student platform to promote military life through social media to collect donations for care packages. During my time as a volunteer I have successfully worked with organizations like Blue Star Moms, VFW, Pappy’s Seasoning, Pepsi Cola, Costco, Dollar Tree, and CSU, Fresno to provide donations, support, and appreciation to the Fresno 144th Fighter Wing members and their families.

What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year® title?
I am a highly motivated individual with a strong calling to serve others. While many people would find my situation limiting or difficult to manage, I have persevered in my attempts to help others realize their worth. With a focus on connection, inclusion, and volunteer outreach, I hope to give all people within the community the same chance to impact others in a meaningful way. By following the Air Force Core values of: integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all you do, I hope to show that disabled members of the community are not less than. I value the contributions of others no matter the size, and through the AFI Military Spouse of the Year title, I hope to show others the value of those contributions within our military community. I also hope to maintain and grow member and family connectedness to each other, the unit, Air National Guard, and Air Force. Thank you for considering me for the 2020 Military Spouse of The Year.