Christin Fontaine

Branch: Air Force

Duty Station: Langley Air Force Base

Number of Deployments: 1

Number of PCS's: 2

Share your military spouse story:
Being a military spouse has taught me a multitude of lessons when it comes to the necessity of adaptability, the incomparable value of resiliency, and what it truly means to bloom where you are planted. It has also led me to develop a keen and complex understanding for the unique and vital things we all can do as individuals to strengthen the community that we are placed in. I believe that one of the most intriguing things about life is that it often leads us down choppy and uncertain paths that challenge everything we know. The kind of trails that make you want to turn around and run back to the mundane and familiar. But right as you are about to give up, when you think you have reached the utmost limits of your strength and spirit, the turbulent and unexpected detour leads you to a truly astonishing destination. A place where you have a sense of belonging unlike anything you have ever felt before. And you realize, in a fleeting moment of reflection, that it is not the physical place that makes this your home at all. It is the person you are, and the people you are with. Because whether it was by necessity or by choice, this roller coaster of growth and change has led you to uncover the truest and most powerful parts of yourself. Whether it has been fighting the over half a decade battle with my complex chronic medical problems, figuring out how to transform periods of distance into an opportunity for growth rather than a period of stagnancy, or learning to navigate uncharted waters and abrupt changes this life has helped me find and embrace the full authenticity of who I am. I have found pieces of bravery, perseverance, wisdom, and strength that I didn't know existed within me. Like every other piece of my life it has taught me valuable lessons through every moment, and I know it will continue to teach me as I navigate the times ahead.

Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
My main goal is to be aware of as many resources as possible so that I can share them with other people when they need them. I remember how confusing things were when we were stationed at our very first base. There are a lot of connections and resources to be given, but the sheer amount of information can be overwhelming. In my eyes, true leadership is defined by productive communication, a creative and adaptable approach to all situations, and the willingness and ability to establish a rapport of trust and integrity with everyone. I try to pay attention to people's needs individually so that I can offer them support and the correct resource at the moment they need it. Spouse and military community pages are a great place to garner more knowledge of resources, as well as to pass on assistance when people need it the most. Contributing to, and helping to facilitate productive dialogue is also important for the sake of information being openly accessible to all families who need it.

Describe your involvement in the military community:
There is a quote by Paulo Coehlo that reads "The world is changed by your example, not by your opinion." Those are words that I reflect on often when I am working on improving myself and the role that I am playing in this world. I have always loved writing and I firmly believe that words have tremendous power. However, I also believe that talk is void of value when it is not followed by intentional action. I have put a majority of my focus into opening my door to people individually for dinner, lunch, and coffee. Coordinating events at my home for the community including holiday gatherings, dinner/game nights, and discussion groups. My annual kindness initiative traditions (Birthday of Kindness & 25 Days of Christmas Kindness) have also connected me to so many wonderful families. Having a space to share sincere and personal interaction allows everyone to feel at ease. There is no overwhelming formality or unspoken expectation. Beyond the military we are all human. We need each other.

Describe how you support your community:
My role in supporting the military community starts with the reminder that behind the uniform, the countless PCS moves, the endless bouts of distance, and the formality of military structure we are all simply human beings. We have the same universal needs that other people do. Those needs are sometimes magnified or altered due to the unique circumstances and challenges that accompany military life, but it all comes down to the need for connection, support, and trust. Functions coordinated by bases and respective units definitely have value and importance, but we also must choose to go beyond that and forge purposeful human connections. When I think about the unique struggles that come with military life, being far away from the people you confide in and go to for encouragement is at the top of the list. That is why we need to be a family stitched together by our common need for connection that make these unknown places feel a little more like home.

What do you advocate for? Why?
My personal journey has led me to advocate for chronic illness awareness, which includes accessibility to quality healthcare that is necessary to meet the needs of the community, as well as helping change the stereotypical perception of what "sick" or "disabled" looks like. I have been chronically ill in some respect since I was as teenager, and growing up I experienced first-hand the bias that has been perpetuated by society of how someone should present if they are sick, as well as the impact of not having access to the quality healthcare needed for diagnosis and treatment. I am also a major advocate for mental health awareness, which stems from my goal to eventually become a counselor, as well as my own battles with anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder. My work with advocacy for this community is about ending stigma through facilitating dialogue that goes beyond diagnostic labels and reminds everyone to acknowledge the humanity of the people fighting these mental battles.

How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
A majority of my advocacy is done in two spheres. The first is social media and blogging which allows me to contribute to a larger dialogue happening on platforms with tremendous visibility and multiple perspectives. Writing has always been a source of freedom for me. When I feel passionately about something I automatically want to start writing about it. Putting my thoughts to paper not only gives me clarity on what I am feeling, but also allows me to put them together cohesively to share with others. The second sphere is through individual human connection and dialogue. Meeting with people in environments where we can learn from each other as human beings with a different set of experiences and insight to contribute. This is my favorite kind of advocacy because it allows me to treat it as what I believe it should be: an everyday conversation that holds tremendous power.

What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year® title?
MSOY is a chance to bring more people to the table to contribute to the needed dialogues that are happening right now. Conversations about mental health, military healthcare availability, disability needs, accessibility for special needs families need more voices and points of view. The more personal experiences we hear about, the better chance we have of finding unique approaches to take to encourage positive change. It all starts with truly listening to people when they voice their concerns, and remembering that true problem solving often requires a uniquely creative approach. I do enjoy public speaking and would definitely love the opportunity to share my story, as well as the pieces of wisdom I've learned from others along the way. But getting to hear from more people about their personal journeys would be the most worthwhile thing because I truly believe we can learn so much from listening to and connecting with others.