Meet the 2020 AFI MSOY Top 18!

kelly dawn mullinax

Branch:
National Guard

Duty Station:
South Carolina

Number of Deployments:
1

Number of PCS's:
0

Share your military spouse story:
My husband has served for six years (since 2013) and until the end of 2018 when we went to what was supposed to be our last Christmas dinner at the unit, I didn't fully understand how important he was too so many people. His NCO's thought the world of him for always doing his job above and beyond, his battle buddies knew they could always count on him to help with any problem big or small, and his commander spoke with me and addressed the fact that his ethics for the military was that of citadel status. I've always admired and supported the military no matter what branch due to my father being in the navy and his father being a navy seal and I myself had wanted to join the marines out of high school but as we all know life happens...and then so did 9/11. That day was the day that me and my husband decided to make a difference even though we didn't know each other at the time, we would soon find out why in years to come. It wasn't until after he was married to his first wife and daughter that he decided to take that step and answer that call that was burning inside him to defend not only his family, but his friends, his community and his country. James (Matt) became a volunteer firefighter after 9/11 but that fill that void to defend. His marriage failed and lost his family but still pressed on with his military family standing beside him. In 2016 we met and I knew he was military by the way he carried his self with pride. I later found out that we both shared the bond of becoming firefighters after 9/11 and he took the action to join and although we started out as best friends, most of my friends from high school had went on and served and either got out or are still serving. We were married in 2017 and his month long trips were hard at first but I held down the home front for him. He resigned in December 2018 after that Christmas dinner, for another 6 years and I told him that was his life before me and its out life now. I will always fight with him and support him

Describe your involvement in the military community:
With this being my husbands first deployment, I didn't know what to expect. Yellow ribbon addressed a lot of fears and emotions and gave me a lot of helpful information and connections. I joined my husbands unit FRG as a busy bee during his NTC training in California. I have since became the FRG Treasurer for H. Co. 118 Greer. I love the ladies that I am associated with. Our Leader Kimmie Styles is up for FRG leader of year award and we keep in touch everyday and send thoughts and prayers out during our times of triumph and sadness. We send each other pictures of each others loved ones and get together when we can. We plan parties with other FRG units and I always make sure to send extra goodies in care packages just for soldiers who don't have families to send them anything or get any care packages.

Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
I bought merchandise from couponers out of my own pocket and took up serval donations of goods and goodies from my community including my town mayor just to help make sure that all of the troops had a care bag to pack in their black box to be shipped overseas. I still have 2 churches sending care packages to the whole unit, a middle school FCA program, and a local girl scout troop that is also supporting our unit from my town. I recently spoke at the middle school on veterans day to explain how hard deployment is on families and how to support our currently deployed, those who have served and those who are enlisted and may have to deploy later. This year at our town Christmas parade, I decorated one of our firetrucks for my husband in his honor and video chatted with him the whole parade so he could still be apart of the town honoring him and our fire departments commitment to supporting our troops. My tree is a yellow ribbon tree as well and I have one wrapped around my tree outside.

Describe how you support your community:
As someone who suffers from anxiety and depression and has a step daughter who is suffering from it as well, I have reached out to the schools about coming to me if they need anyone safe to talk to or even let their parent come to me for ways to help deal and cope with the stress and "readjustment period" that we are going through. In my county, another unit was detached out with my husbands, so there are other families who come to me for support and for information. The one source I use is militaryonesource.mil which I have had to use myself unfortunately but I always let the families know they do not have to struggle or go through alone. We are all fighting the same battle just in different ways and although we have different struggles, the support and help will never change. I tell my fire department, who misses their captain, that he needs to feel that same love and support from them too and not to be afraid to want to reach out and always keep him in their prayers.

What platform do you advocate for? Why?
To me, honestly, I want the community and any veteran young or old to have better support, period. Whether it be healthcare, housing, mental health, job placement, counseling for broken families or struggling families, easier ways to get seen by doctors or physicians instead of being in a region or coverage area. As a dependent and seen other spouses struggle with Tricare, it is so hard to get through and get the help that is needed. To get assistance for homeless, travel for handicapped or at least have a advocate assigned to them to make sure they are taken care of. These men and women voluntarily raised their hands and took an oath to protect us with their life even if it meant having to make that ultimate sacrifice and now we are having to deal with the 22 a day issue and homeless vets and broken marriages and its like a worm hole that it seems like a never ending battle. To soldiers, this is needed. I didn't take an oath, but I will fight until my last breath to advocate for them

How have you spread the message of your platform?
I don't consider myself a great speaker. In fact, I get quite nervous but when I speak about my husband and the military it comes natural. I speak about how growing up I heard the stories about how Vietnam vets were treated when they came home, I was taught about D-day and Hiroshima and Hitler and I seen the news coverage on Desert Storm and 9/11....then I look around at our country and I see homeless vets struggling for health care, housing, food, help to get anywhere. How they lost their families because of what we have now discovered to be PTSD and how now we do have more help but unless you have someone helping you or you have access to internet you can't get help. These days soldiers are trained to suck it up and deal with it and they either take a pill for it or try and drink it away...lets stop the cycle. During DeMode...evaluate deeper make sure these guys are ready to go back to function and succeed, not come back to nothing and be forgotten. I practice what I preach.

What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year® title?
What I hope to accomplish is to spread the awareness of the mortality rate among vets these days and how to be the change. I hope to establish a form of help with the help of either the government or petition congress to start a way to make healthcare and help be more accessible for all vets, not just for the ones returning home in the past 20 years but for vets that have struggled for decades. Its never to late to help improve the quality of life whether their quantity is very long or not we should take care of the ones who made that sacrifice for us today. The soldiers who have been injured during battle or spouses should not have any issues with Tricare due to lack of communication on the help line end. As any first time deployed spouse can tell you, Tricare and knowing which one to sign up for and how to use it and what the cost and what is and is not covered is a nightmare. That's stress that shouldn't be put on a family much less a soldier. We have got to do better for them!

Nominations

When we decided that I was going to resign with the military, my wife was nominated to be the treasurer for the FRG with our unit right before I got deployed. Our home town of Blacksburg SC is really supportive of my unit. She asked for and received hygiene products and all kinds of stuff for gift bags to take with us. She even bought Tide pods out of her own pocket to send with us. She has churches sending us care packages. The middle school is sending us packages. The girl scouts are sending us some also. She is receiving donations to support us also. She is very outgoing and supportive with our unit and FRG. Without her asking people, we wouldn't have alot of items to get us through. She knows so many living and donating people. That is why I am nominating my wife.
- by james matthew mullinax