Chandelle Walker

Branch: Army

Duty Station: Fort Hood

Number of Deployments: 5

Number of PCS's: 6

Share your military spouse story:
My husband, Mike, joined the USMC in 1996 and was stationed at Camp Pendleton, CA. We met in 1998 at a concert! A girl who grew up on a farm in the middle of a city turned Marine girlfriend overnight! He soon deployed to Kuwait for 7 months which was my very first experience of a deployment. At the end of his four years, he moved to AZ. We were married six months later in May 2000. Mike joined the AZ National Guard in 2003 and in 2004, he joined the Army to fly helicopters. He is now a CW4 and still flies the UH-60 Blackhawk today. Five weeks after flight school, he was sent unaccompanied to Korea for a year. I was pregnant with our second child. Then we were stationed at Ft. Bragg where he was in the 82 Airborne division. He deployed three times to Afghanistan, each for a one-year deployment. In a seven-year time span, he was gone for FOUR of those years! In 2013 we were stationed at Ft. Rucker, AL. In 2017 he was stationed in Korea without us for another year. In 2018, we moved to Ft. Hood, Texas. Back in 2004, I started writing a military children's book. Fourteen years later, in January 2018, I felt strongly it was time to publish it. The fun part was that I was keeping this a secret from my husband. I received my first hardcover copy of, “Daddy Left with Mr. Army: A Child’s View of Military Deployment,” on December 24, 2018! Outside of being a Stay-At-Home-Mom all these years, I find ways to keep myself busy with visiting friends, DIY projects, gardening, home decorating and furniture repurposing, and teaching piano out of my home. I have a positive, playful and outgoing personality. Meeting new people, public speaking and teaching is also a joy for me! We have now been an Active Duty military family for over 21 years. Our children are now 17 & 14, and we will be married for 20 years this May. Although there are many challenges with being a military family, we still are grateful for the opportunities, experiences, and memories it has given us.

Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
As I gained understanding and further insight into this military world, I always try to pass that on to newer military spouses, especially relating to deployments. I have always felt that we should share what we learn with those that come after us, so they have a mentor or friend with words of wisdom and advice, even if we never had that during our own early years in this life. I was fortunate enough to be a part of the Ft. Hood Military Spouse Appreciation Day luncheon program by sharing one of my military spouse poems with the women and having it presented as a gift bookmark. I have also been privileged to share my book with a local ACS director so she can share its message with children and families at Ft. Hood, and to visit multiple elementary schools to read my story and talk about its meaning and the importance of patriotism. I have also connected with PTOP-Parent to Parent, a program under MCEC-Military Child Education Coalition, to share my book & discuss deployments.

Describe your involvement in the military community:
I have done my best to support my husband in his unit duties, assignments, promotions, deployments, TDY's, PCS-es and any other military-related events. If we're not in it together, then neither of us can fully thrive in our roles as a military couple. I have also tried to support and attend special activities being sponsored by our local post and share those events with others. I also try to support our local FRG by attending events they sponsor so we can meet each other and to be better apart of other like-minded families. I am really enjoying spending more time with my writing and my focus has been on the military spouse and family a lot. I have started writing articles and poems about the military spouse and her relationship with deployments and military life in addition to talking about the importance of recognizing our military children more. I currently have two more books in the editing stage; one is another children's deployment book.

Describe how you support your community:
I have a special place in my heart for the elderly. I enjoy volunteering at local nursing homes and events they might offer for their residents. I also am currently trying to become a volunteer at a local children's hospital. I am a very active member of my church. I have been blessed to hold different teaching and leadership positions in youth programs with children from 3-18 years old. I currently am one of the youth leaders of girls ages 11-18. We hold weekly activities and Sunday lessons for these young ladies. Our family likes to attend volunteer events at a local veteran's cemetery to help support their efforts in retaining their memory and to show continued love and admiration for their service. I have also been invited to attend events at libraries and public schools to read my story to different elementary age groups, some of which are not military-related. This has helped offer an understanding between military and civilian knowledge of deployments.

What do you advocate for? Why?
My hopes are to reach as many military children and families as possible. I want to recognize and focus more on what military spouses and children encounter during deployments and TDY's. I want to encourage more family time and reading time together. I want to help bridge the gap between parent and child so we can be more aware of what they see and feel before and during these deployments and family separations. I want to help children feel heard and to help them know that there are other children hearing, seeing, and feeling the same things as them. And this is not inclusive to just the Army. This is for every military family member, for every branch of service that has been asked to do their part in supporting this great country by saying their goodbyes to their beloved parent or spouse. I hope to bring a brighter light to military families and their experiences and to better recognize what they go through during these family separations.

How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
Over the years, I have tried to share my feelings of and focus on what our military children experience during deployments with other military families and to also help the spouses remember not to lose themselves during this separation. I have tried to share this message more through the words in my children's deployment book and on social media platforms. I share pieces of our family life and my insights into being a military spouse. I also try to share the book with as many military children as possible so they can know someone out there does understand all the emotions they experience while a deployment is in process. I have been blessed with opportunities to share the book and my military spouse insights in different ways such as being on a podcast, being noted in multiple military spouses blogs, two magazines, two newspapers, attending several local book fairs, and reading the book and sharing its message to many children at different elementary schools and libraries.

What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year® title?
If I was elected to be the AFI Military Spouse of the Year, I would work hard to bring more recognition for our amazing military children and spouses, who are left behind during a deployment. I would focus more on all of their experiences in and around deployments and try to find additional ways families, friends and the community can assist them in successfully navigating through the difficulties of deployment, and try to work with them more closely so their side of the deployment can be heard. I would focus even more on the children as they are sometimes overlooked in this entire deployment process. I would love to find a way to help them gain more recognition and help for their unwavering support to their deployed family member. I would love to give them a louder voice and bring to light the many challenges that accompany a deployment and do my best to offer them whatever coping methods they, and their family needed to navigate best through this time.