Kathleen Marie Lancaster

Branch: Air Force

Duty Station: Hurlburt Field

Number of Deployments: 12

Number of PCS's: 5

Share your military spouse story:
Hello. To all those who visit my page, welcome! I’ve been a military spouse now for nearly eight years and in the beginning, I always thought I was going to be stronger and more resilient than those around me. I was wrong. I needed them; I just didn’t know it at the time. Once I was able to swallow my pride and learn to lean on other military spouses, I found my footing to become someone others could lean on as well. My education as a nurse and my experience as a Key Spouse has given me a platform to advocate for others. The time I spent as the Chairman of the Patient Advisory Council for Hurlburt taught me how to listen, how to navigate a complex system, and how to increase access to care. It is the first place I learned and taught leadership about the suicide risks of military spouses. Volunteering as an Air Force Military Spouse Advocacy Network mentor for two years has opened my eyes to the diversity of spouses within the ranks. No matter their age or location, we spouses all share the same trepidation with regard to the mission, deployments, and finding out how we fit in this military realm. In 2019 while my spouse was deployed, he informed me that deployed locations would not be receiving the Avenger’s Endgame movie. I took the initiative to use social media to get the attention of the CEO of The Walt Disney Company. I asked Mr. Robert Iger if he would consider sending the movie to Bagram. He answered me within an hour, and within four days the movie was screened to nearly 1,000 deployed troops. Because of momentum from that interaction, this December Bagram will also be the recipient of the newest Star Wars movie. Through the power of networking over $1,000 in Star Wars merchandise was collected to distribute to the deployed personnel of Bagram Air Base at the movie premiere. The flood of 'thank you' emails I have received from deployed troops has been the biggest reward. You can hear the emotion in their messages as you read.

Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
Key Spouse 14th WPS School Liaison between command, squadron spouses, and schoolhouse spouses to maintain support and keep communication open between leadership and families. Chairman of the Hurlburt Field clinic Patient Advisory Council Brought forth information about increasing access to mental health care for dependents suffering in the AFSOC community. Air Force Military Spouse Advocacy Network Mentor Coordination with new or even seasoned spouses in need through email support. Utilization of community and military resources to ensure the utmost support is provided in times of need or crisis.

Describe your involvement in the military community:
Avid Weapons School and AFSOC fan attending most change of commands and speaking events at Hurlburt while encouraging other spouses to attend and learn more about the base and the mission Key Spouse 14th WPS School Chairman of the Hurlburt Field clinic Patient Advisory Council Air Force Military Spouse Advocacy Network mentor Successfully coordinated with the CEO of the Walt Disney Company to bring Avenger's Endgame to Bagram Air Base and subsequently 41 deployed locations with the commitment to bring the new Star Wars movie, The Rise of Skywalker, to Bagram Air Base in December Collected over $1000 in Star Wars merchandise to distribute at the Star Wars premiere event at Bagram Air Base Coordinated with multiple vendors to gift military spouses baby products in exchange for product reviews.

Describe how you support your community:
Right now besides the Disney initiatives, my primary focus is on supporting spouses through a coordinated effort with companies that offer baby products in exchange for reviews. With no obligation to the military spouse, over 100 car seats, strollers, toys, and humidifiers have been sent out to military children all over the world. These items range in price from $50 to over $100 and are being sent exclusively to military spouses totally free. So far, the feedback has been great and it is just getting started! 2020 is going to be an incredible year and we are going to help so many military families!

What do you advocate for? Why?
The most significant part of my role as a military spouse leader is always going to be mental health and access to care. It is a daily goal to post on social media something uplifting or information on how to access care. My phone is always on and I'm often found taking time to speak to a spouse in crisis via a referral from a friend. My message is still clear, 'It will get better, you are loved, you are wanted, and you are needed. How can I help?' More people need to be told that it is okay not to be okay and that help is available. Suffering in silence is what leads to tragedy, and we need to take steps to prevent that.

How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
Social media is a great way to promote my platform. I have a Facebook group and Twitter with nearly 2000 followers. I try very hard to convey a message of inclusion. By sharing my struggles with mental health, it destigmatizes depression and anxiety by creating a safe space for discussion about internal battles. Social media has been a blessing and without it, I would not have had the opportunity to get the attention of the Walt Disney Company's CEO, Robert Iger, and I would not have had the chance to boost morale at Bagram and 41 other deployed locations. In addition to social media, I have appeared in print in the greater Emerald Coast area, multiple news outlets online, including Stars and Stripes, People Magazine, and even The Hill. I've been on ABC interviewed for my philanthropy and maintained a good relationship with all those that have covered my advocacy this past year.

What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year® title?
The AFI Military Spouse of the Year title could bring greater opportunities to meet with leadership and discuss my mental health platform and ideas I have to help reduce suicide in the military. These are conversations that we need have and the more visibility these topics receive, the quicker the stigma fades. Being able to represent my peers as a bold advocate is a position I am always proud to hold. If I were to win the AFI Military Spouse of the Year title I would do my best to ensure that the needs of the spouses across the Air Force are heard and that discussions are not just had, but solutions and calls to action are put into motion.