Branch: Air Force
Duty Station: Kadena Air Base
Number of Deployments: 0
Number of PCS's: 1
Share your military spouse story:
I became a military spouse January 26th of 2019 and couldn't imagine that I would be doing what I'm doing now one year ago. Our first duty station was decided and it was going to be Kadena Air Force Base in Okinawa, Japan. A whirlwind of emotions overtook me as not only have I never been to another country, I've never even left the state I was born in. We took the plunge though and after packing the house alone and Facetiming constantly to make sure everything was packed we were ready for the 20+ hour flight to Japan! Since arriving in Okinawa I have had to find my place in the hustle of the military life. I wanted to find my calling, which was found at a newcomers table called the Okinawa Enlisted Spouses' Club. My husband wanted me involved and the person representing them said a key word that made my ears perk "volunteerism." In college my absolute love was volunteering and helping others I volunteered at the local soup kitchen, retirement home, and park clean ups. So once she mentioned there was similar opportunities I was all in. So I joined OESC and soon became the volunteer chair of the organization. I was then charge of planning events such as beach clean ups and providing home cooked meals to single airmen e-4 and below. On top of trying to stay actively involved in my husband's flight by bringing in snacks on tough days and bringing some fun to PT days. The volunteer chair soon ended though as the President position became open so with a lot of complicating whether I could take it on I ran for the position and won! I promised myself and the club that I would put all my effort in making OESC as great as it can be. This push allowed for us to break our record in most donations in a month by donating over $29,000 in the month of November. As well as spearheading the establishment and co running of two domestic violence shelters on base with the first sergeants and family advocacy. This May will mark my first full year here on Okinawa.
Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
My biggest leadership role is as the president of the Okinawa Enlisted Spouses' Club. This role oversees the distribution of upward to $250,000 a year to various private organizations on and off base from helping facilitate award ceremonies for the service members to donating to purchase a lift van for a special needs center. This role also includes being the Operation Director of the Kadena Thrift Store, which entails the hiring of employees, checking to see if the books are in line and making sure the store is run according to their Standard Operating Procedures. The OESC and Thrift Store has changed so much since when I was first elected from initiating a renovation of the store and seeing to its completion to the OESC focusing more on other branches then just the Air Force. I take my role very seriously and ensure that things are being done to bring as much benefit to the community as possible because that is our one and true mission statement.
Describe your involvement in the military community:
My involvement is primarily through my volunteering with OESC and the events we plan and make happen. Some key events that had the most impact I believe include; we rented two food trucks to give free food to the first one hundred customers one was sent to Kadena and the other was sent to a marine base further north that didn't have family, Camp Hansen, this was done on Thanksgiving day for the marines to have a free meal with Thanksgiving. We have also redecorated barracks to make them more festive for the holidays and make them feel more homely. The biggest endeavor I undertook is the writing of SOPs for the domestic violence shelters and coordinating with the first sergeant council to make sure these assist the community and stay running for as long as possible. I pushed for OESC to sponsor and help in this due to our stable income versus the first sergeants relying primarily on fundraisers. These houses now are set up so they will always have funds available to maintain them.
Describe how you support your community:
My biggest undertaking that has helped the community of Kadena is the establishment of two on base domestic violence shelters. Originally they requested a donation that would help them furnish the two homes they acquired, but I pursued the goal of OESC sponsoring the homes so they wouldn't have to rely on fundraisers to make sure the homes stay running. I did this because a monthly upkeep would be needed to supply woman hygiene and make sure the residents have consistent communication. Through this I believe have been able to help establish something that will help future spouses in need and will last long after my departure. The other endeavor that was undertaken that will have an impact on the community is the founding of the Okinawa Special Olympics that I am undertaking. This will be a multi event organization that revolves around facilitating people with special needs compete in organized athletic events. Which will help bring both on and off base residents together.
What do you advocate for? Why?
Resiliency is such a need for the military spouses. Being a military spouse of only a year I can already see the need for something spouses and military members to rally behind to bring morale up. Here on Okinawa I am achieving this by founding the Okinawa Special Olympics which is inspired by the now dissolved Kadena Special Olympics. 800+ athletes would compete and over 2,000 volunteers would help, so I want to bring this back. This type of event would allow for the local community to experience America and also allow for the military community to interact with the local community in a positive way. To be able to bring this sort of event to every base would be such a spectacular way to rally spouses and military members alike to this noble cause. Every member of the community can help in some capacity from printing flyers, to fundraising, to even just cheering on the athletes. This is something that could be globally done and achieved with just a little manpower and some kind hearts.
How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
To spread and facilitate this goal I have made contact with key local residents by setting up appointments and rallying their support in funding and setting up the Okinawa Special Olympics. With their support this project can reach across the various islands of Ryukyu and making a lasting impact on the community at large. The other goal of spreading this message is to make it big enough where it will help bring out spouses that usually are unaware of volunteer opportunities or are generally held back to participate in something that is part of something larger. Furthermore, I have set up a consistent radio ad on the first Monday of each month to discuss opportunities and events OESC is offering to the community at large to draw in more volunteers and participants. OESC has given me a platform to raise awareness of various issues on island and through our socials I have set up informational speakers on resiliency and how everyone can do something to better the world around them.
What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year®
To promote and better the surrounding communities of every military base that I have the privilege of visiting. From starting a Special Olympics in that region to setting up a sponsored event that the people of that area look forward to each year. Whatever I do for that community I want it to strengthen the bond between spouses and between the military and local residents. Resiliency is becoming more focused on which can be bolstered by a project that can make connections and provide the mentality of "One Team, One Fight." Every base and community will have different needs and wants based on their location and resources, but to facilitate one event or project per base that people can rally behind and establish lasting impressions of camaraderie. These types of events even have the chance of bringing out the key individuals that we are trying to help when we talk about resiliency and making sure morale stays high, because it is something they can look forward to as a base.