Keesler Air Force Base
Number of Deployments:
Number of PCS's:
Share your military spouse story:
At the age of 34, I became a military spouse. The Air Force gave us an opportunity, and we haven’t looked back since. My husband, Jacob, and I will celebrate 18 years of marriage this June. We have four kids that we love sharing this journey with, ages 13, 8, 7, & 5. Upon arrival at our first duty station, I experienced hurdles, but was determined to see our family succeed. Within our first few days, we moved into a house on base and got planted at a local church. Since then, I’ve been building a team of volunteers for the Bookstore and Information Central at our church. I love serving others and building a stronger community. For the past 3.5 years, I’ve been heading efforts to plan and oversee monthly serve opportunities within the community for my church family. My passion is to love on, serve, and support families. My undergraduate degree is in Communication. Upon arriving in Biloxi, MS, I decided to go back to school and in December 2019, I graduated with a Master’s Degree in Social Work from Indiana University. While attending school, I was able to spend 4 months working with Child Protection Services locally and assisting foster families. In my free time, I co-lead a foster parent support group weekly. This has been a blessing to partake in, and I’m blessed to walk the journey with so many wonderful foster families over the past 3.5 years. We were foster parents in Indiana, and understand the need for people to step in and take care of children for a season. Our middle two children joined our family through adoption, and we love to walk with other families on the same path. Being away from family members, has taught us the importance of those friends that you call family because you pick each other! We quickly connected to other military families and found our new "family." We now take vacations to visit our God given and hand picked extended family.
Describe your involvement in the military community:
During my MSW program, my second internship was with the A&FRC. I spent 7 months serving as an intern, and loved it so much I’ve continued as a volunteer for the past 5 months. The main area I focused on was the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP). Two of our children are enrolled in the EFMP, and having first hand experience with the challenges families face has given me a unique perspective when helping other families. Whether a family is in need of community resources, a listening ear, or friendly smile, I love to be available. When a family is considering adoption or foster care, I love to meet with them and encourage them on their journey as well. Being a military family has its own set of hurdles when growing your family this way. I love having extra kids in my house, because that means another parent is getting a much deserved break. It's a blessing to help other families, and it reflects an attitude of service to our own children.
Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
While at the A&FRC, I was given the freedom to create programs that support families. I’ve assisted with the creation of a monthly military parenting workshop called Uniting Parents (UP). It’s a time for military parents to come together, meet new people, gain support and resources. I also spear headed the Foster Care and Adoption Option Workshop to connect military families to information about becoming a foster parent or adopting. I love being a resource for the A&FRC, and love serving other military families. It is my hope to use my MSW degree to continue to help families. I plan on continuing my role as a volunteer with the A&FRC.
Describe how you support your community:
I support my community by being available. I volunteer with the A&FRC, and meet with families whenever I'm asked. I also connect with my friends and neighbors to help them as needed. I volunteer within my church in multiple capacities and offer support to the foster care community. By organizing the Uniting Parents workshops, all military parents have a safe space and place to come, be seen and heard. Being available to one person who is struggling, is enough. I want to be the support, kind word, resource connector, and/or shoulder to cry on.
What platform do you advocate for? Why?
Resilience is a word used often in the Air Force. I now have a better understanding of what it means to be resilient. I also understand that by serving others and doing life together, we can help individuals be more resilient. With the different advocacy hats I wear, I feel it's important to meet an individual or family where they are and help them get to their next step. This looks different for each family, but when families grow and overcome obstacles, they are being resilient. By building family resilience, we are building a stronger military.
How have you spread the message of your platform?
I spread the message of resilience by being a positive person and advocate. I assist in facilitating programs on base to help families through the Airman and Family Readiness Center. By connecting with other military families, support services, and community resources, my platform is being spread. I recorded a podcast with the public affairs office on base to promote the Foster Care and Adoption Option Workshop. I also create flyers and disseminate them around base and on social media platforms to inform families of upcoming workshops and events. I advocated for the EFMP Facebook page for Keesler until it was implemented.
What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year®
I hope to bring more light to the issues that military families face with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year title. It is my goal to continue serving military families, wherever the Air Force takes us. I hope to be an advocate for all military families to ensure their needs are met and they are being given the support necessary. It is crucial to hear the needs and find solutions so families can be more resilient. By being given this title, it will allow me to advocate with a more impactful voice.
Joy has been a huge asset to Keesler's Airmen and families throughout 2019. She has teamed up with the Airman and Family Readiness Center to initiate the "Uniting Parents" program. She has hosted 10 events, which focus on bringing Keesler families together for networking and education. She has accelerated the Exceptional Family Member Program, by bringing in medical specialists and support agencies to educate military families, just so they are aware of different programs that can help their families.
She has also helped with 4 deployed family events, supporting family readiness for 24 squadrons.
Joy has also hosted the first annual "Touch a Truck" event, where she led 22 volunteers, and provided networking capabilities and a day of entertainment for 220 Keesler Families.
Joy has donated approximately 30 weekly hours supporting and educating Keesler Families. She is more than deserving of this award.
MSgt Victoria Cortez
Airman and Family Readiness NCOIC
- by victoria cortez