Number of Deployments:
Number of PCS's:
Share your military spouse story:
This journey as a military spouse started for me as a young college student, who fell in love with a soldier overseas. He was looking for a person to call home to, and I eventually warmed up to that idea. After finally meeting in person during his 2 weeks of R&R we both knew our paths would be forever aligned. Through the years we’ve had many ups and downs. Personal challenges as well as ones the Army was kind enough to supply. Together we have endured many separations due to training events, military schools, countless TDY’s and 47 months in combat. We have lost far too many dear friends, and loved ones over the years, and that grief is a heavy burden to carry. But we have also been incredibly blessed with 6 amazing children that we get to travel around the country with, and recently the world, thanks to our overseas duty station. This Army life has never been one to call easy, but rewarding and worth it no doubt.
Describe your involvement in the military community:
My first active role was as the merchandise chair for the FRG. The next opportunity came shortly after our PCS to Hawaii when I lost my dad to suicide. I started a hiking group with a small group of friends and fellow military spouses, “Hiking With Keiki”. The hope was to find other parents who needed to get out into nature to cope with whatever their struggles may be. HWK grew exponentially and became a source for many connections amongst military and local families alike. We then organized “Hike For Hope” to bring awareness to mental health and raise funds for the American Foundation For Suicide Prevention. HWK is now 5 years old and going strong! Today I serve my community in Okinawa, Japan by taking Chair position for the F.I.R.S.T Spouse Mentorship Program where I make it my priority to give spouses the mental and emotional breaks needed, and provide necessary tools for success in this high demand lifestyle we lead by organizing impactful events throughout the year.
Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
As Chairman of F.I.R.S.T. Spouse Mentorship Okinawa, I recently put together, with the help of my committee, a two day overnight conference for the spouses of my Battalion. This took months of planning and coordination. Every detail from securing a venue to setting up childcare; deciding how many hours would be spent in the conference room with our speaker to making sure we had an overall balance by putting on a themed social for the spouses to unwind and reconnect. I learned quickly the amount of time spent working with contracts and endless paperwork needing signatures of approval at various levels. For me the most important piece was bringing in a speaker with invaluable information pertinent to our community. Living in Okinawa, this was a challenge. It meant months of work, continuing right down to the last minute to ensure the speaker was able to come. After receiving feedback from the conference, I knew it was all worth it and I could begin planning for the next big event.
Describe how you support your community:
After becoming a Certified Babywearing Educator I began to teach parents how to safely use baby carriers. Helping moms figure out how to continue on when their soldier is away, and dads to find a special way to bond with their little ones between his comings and goings. I continue to offer advice, loan out my personal carriers, and assist new parents with their babywearing needs. I’ve also found a home for volunteering at my church on base. Shortly after our PCS we went on the hunt to find our new church. It was then I realized my parish community needed help from volunteers in various ways. I have enjoyed helping out where I can, teaching Vacation Bible School over the summer and religious education over the school year. Perhaps most meaningful to me, was organizing Hike For Hope, getting both civilians and military together for a cause, and donating the proceeds to our local chapter of the AFSP taught me just what we can accomplish when we all come together to serve a common goal.
What platform do you advocate for? Why?
I advocate for mental health awareness and suicide prevention. Although the well-being of every single person is important to me, I feel it’s time to put a spotlight on the spouses and children of our military members. We do a lot to make sure our active duty and veterans are ok. We even know how many we lose each day. It’s time the spouses and children are afforded the same attention. For they too make sacrifices for this country. The lifestyle they lead, in order to support their soldier, is demanding and stressful. We need every member of our military families to know, America has their back.
How have you spread the message of your platform?
I speak out about suicide and my personal connection to it very openly. Using my personal social media to share my thoughts about mental health. The Hiking With Keiki Facebook community was the first place I shared my dads story and the impact it had on me. I also shared how I was managing my way through the grieving process. I was asked to write an article for momsrising.org and discussed how I was able to survive my darkest days after losing my dad. In addition I did an interview with Bernadette Baraquio and had a segment about Hike For Hope televised on Living Local TV, and published to their YouTube channel. Hike for Hope was able to reach a larger military audience due to being invited on air to speak about the event and it’s mission through the Veterans Movement segment on iheart radio with Rick Hamada and Corey Cazares.
What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year®
I would love to advocate for military spouses by producing more space to build friendships, community, and support through Mentorship programs. Therefore creating a safety net for those who may be struggling, and a venue to build on personal growth and success. Through events like Hike For Hope I plan to spotlight the need for Military spouses and children to get active and stay proactive in their mental health. As I believe that a body in motion is one on the road to success.
Recently I had the pleasure of working with Kati in her role with the 1st Spouse Mentorship program. Kati selflessly serves the military spouse community in Okinawa Japan and goes above and beyond to make sure the needs of military spouses are met. She cares about their wellbeing and I witnessed just the lengths she would go to make an event happen for them. She stayed up around the clock to coordinate on US time to ensure the event was successful. Kati deserves recognition for her hard work not only for this event but for the daily effort she gives to the military families in her community.
- by richelle futch