Grace Romo

Branch: Marine Corps

Duty Station: Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton

Number of Deployments: 1

Number of PCS's: 0

Share your military spouse story:
I am a Marine Corps spouse, mother, guardian, volunteer, and a woman with divine passion to give back to the community. I am blessed to be married to my best friend of 12 years, and together conquering the journey of military life. In 2014 before high school graduation we were asked, "Where do you see yourself in 5 years?" my response, "Making a difference in the world." I can say with great honor I am doing just that, making a difference in my own world. I am passionate about organization, planning, leadership, dedication to the community and most importantly love for others. I strive to be the best volunteer I can be and being a military spouse has opened doors to volunteer opportunities that I would not be possible elsewhere. Life has had its many challenges, rough upbringing, miscarriages, and the biggest heartache, 21 years old and losing my mother as our military journey was just beginning. I vowed to show love and compassion to others, to help at every opportunity as my mother always did. The military community has given me strength, hope, and encouragement to pursue my passions and strive to provide the same for others. As a mother and military spouse, I have taken on the responsibility of juggling multiple schedules, handling finances, making the best of what is at hand and ultimately keeping the household running. I decided to use those skills to help the military community. That is how I found my place as the Executive Secretary of the Military Spouse Association Camp Pendleton.

Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
I have always been taught from a young age "to lead by example." I always knew that was important, but it really struck home when I realized I was a "young military spouse", a newer spouse found minimally within the volunteer community. I know that many young spouses such as myself want to help the military community but have a fear of rejection. I took the leap and became the executive secretary for the Military Spouse Association of Camp Pendleton to lead other spouses in continuing the tradition of military spouse volunteerism and develop camaraderie in the community. I have led committees for three years in planning and executing MSA's Annual Margaritaville Benefit Auction & Gala raising over $110,000 thus far to gift in scholarships and grants.

Describe your involvement in the military community:
I have been a member of the Military Spouse Association Camp Pendleton from the moment we stepped foot on Camp Pendleton. As a member and executive secretary of the association I have helped raise over $110,000.00 to provide scholarships to military dependents and community enrichment grants to local nonprofits who provide services to the military community. I am the web administrator and volunteer with Dependa Strong, a newly founded organization that is fighting the stigma around the word "Dependa" by highlighting the greatness that lies within military spouses. I attend monthly spouse socials, host a weekly play group, volunteer with my husband's unit events, attend unit volunteer/planning meetings, help with the annual Molly Pitcher event and serve with the Oceanside High School Show Choir booster, a program that has been an outlet from the chaotic military life for our teenager and many others. Although my schedule seems full, it is my heart that's fuller.

Describe how you support your community:
The military spouse community is such a large part of the military life. I believe kindness, friendship, support, and acceptance are what we as military spouses need. The feeling of loneliness in the military life can be crippling. I strive to reach out to as many spouses as I can and let them know they are not alone, we are here...together. I work diligently with the Military Spouse Association and Dependa Strong to make sure we are accessible to as many spouses as possible, encouraging them to attend our monthly events, board meetings, social groups, Facebook lives as well as extend resources to them from other organizations within the military community. Military spouses can conquer the world...together. I will continue to strive to make those connections happen.

What do you advocate for? Why?
Initiate and expand camaraderie within the military spouse community. Becoming a military spouse, moving to a new location away from your familiar support system and feeling like you are alone can be crippling in the military life. Military spouses hold the power to support, encourage, and lead each other to accomplish goals and build our community. Making sure that every spouse finds their place within the community is a task that I hold dear to my heart. I myself was the young/new military spouse who felt alone in a new environment. I was unsure of what my next step would be. Joining the Military Spouse Association Camp Pendleton was the best choice I made. I found support, encouragement, connections, friends, family and most importantly understood the importance of camaraderie. I would like to give those same opportunities to fellow military spouses, old and new, who are walking the same path.

How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
Over the last three years I have been an avid volunteer with the Military Spouse Association Camp Pendleton creating monthly events for military spouses as well as providing volunteer opportunities. I reach out to many spouses on social networks who are seeking a place in the military community by passing along info about events happening in our local area, and organizations that have resources they may need. I also plan gatherings in my home on a monthly basis such as clothing swaps, kids' parties and other gatherings to encourage community involvement among military spouses and their families.

What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year® title?
The military spouse community is a blessing and with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year title I hope to expand the Military Spouse Association across multiple military installations to encourage camaraderie and spouse involvement in the military community among all spouses old and new.