Duty Station: Fort Shafter
Number of Deployments: 3
Number of PCS's: 9
Share your military spouse story:
My military affiliation and story began in 1994 when I was first a young service member and then a spouse. My military community has always been my rock. These amazing spouses and service members alike helped me and my young daughter through and out of an abusive relationship. As I pursued my education and my military career the spouses club and family support groups were always there for me. In the early years, I can honestly say I was given a lot more than I was able to return. As I PCS'd, others seemed to always "be there" and I seriously thought I was just "lucky" to always find a wonderful support system. In my naïveté I didn't understand this was all by design. I didn't realize the countless hours and efforts of volunteers behind the scenes. Spouses and service members that truly care for the well being of one another. They gave their time and offered whatever skills they had to support others in our community. It is because of them and their assistance that I grew into who I am. I've moved on and now have a loving family, but have never forgotten how I got here. As I became more experienced, I realized the immense need, as well as the lack of information prevalent from other military spouses/ veterans alike. It was then that I decided it was time to get more involved and give more of my skills, knowledge and connections to help. It did not matter that because of my busy career all I could do was attend evening events or that I would run at my lunch hour to help out a new friend. I was able to even volunteer remotely, making flyers, writing newsletters, making calls or coordinating events, even if I couldn't physically attend. From those early years in Ft Campbell, I've tried to emulate and duplicate the same support everywhere I've been so others could feel "lucky" too. For them to know that no matter where this adventure take us, we are not alone.
Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
During my years of military affiliation I have gained so many invaluable life experiences and connections that eventually I was no longer that young (lost) spouse. Along the way, someone invited me to join a spouses group committee and through this more formal support system I've met other hard working spouses that enriched my life and inspired me to continue to pay it forward despite holding a demanding full time career. I wanted to be the example that it is possible when you think is important. I've joined efforts with USO, pathfinders, Blue star families, wreath across america, on post thrift stores, golf tournaments and countless others fundraising programs that work tirelessly to bless our military communities. For the past 8 years I've been a part of the executive board at the local spouses clubs in addition to my other community outreach programs for the veterans.
Describe your involvement in the military community:
I first got involved in the community reaching out to the homeless veterans in the St Louis area and using my military experience, knowledge and connections to sort of be the link they needed to learn about appropriate programs that ranged from basic cleanliness to relocation and sometimes legal. Helping out spouses by answering questions, although not really through formal channels. After transitioning from the military, I stayed involved through my husband's affiliation and have made it a personal goal to continue being that connecting link for other spouses and other veterans through all our transitions. For many years now I make it a priority to find out how I can get involved even before I get somewhere. Through the spouses clubs I found many local causes and foundations as well as our own scholarship efforts that desperately need our support. It's been an amazing experience to be a part of raising thousands of dollars given in annual scholarships and grants.
Describe how you support your community:
I support my community through my volunteer efforts. I may not have a lot of time but I do know a lot of people. I found that I have the ability to connect others to where they need to be and through that seemingly small gesture make a difference in what otherwise would have been a hard thing to accomplish.
What do you advocate for? Why?
I firmly believe in the spouses club activities and the unit level family support groups. My personal experience with both of these entities are living proof that we need more than just "online" interactions. Sometimes there's nothing like a friend that drops by to check on you. It is necessary to maintain these relationships as military spouse life can be very overwhelming.
How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
Getting involved myself is the best way that I find I can spread the message. Being a living example of what's possible. Being a working spouse with a career is no reason to give how you can, when you can and for whatever amount of time.
What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year®
I hope to be an inspiration like countless others have been for me. For others to see what is possible if we give even a little bit of our time/experience. I want other spouses to realize that one hour they can give is definitely welcome. There is no small task when we all work together to accomplish something great for everyone involved.