sarah streyder

Branch:
Air Force

Duty Station:
Marine Corps Base Quantico

Number of Deployments:
1

Number of PCS's:
1

Share your military spouse story:
My spouse is an Active Duty Air Force NCO, and I am tremendously proud of his service. His job has also been hard at times. Our marriage has been filled with bittersweet moments. I remember the day Jason left for boot camp, because it was the same day I met the president. I was so excited! But on my way to the West Wing, I got Jason’s last goodbye phone call before he’d be out of communication for two months. All I could think about for the rest of the day was how much I missed him. The same thing happened months later, when I got offered a full-time job in the administration. I called Jason to tell him the good news, and he responded, “we’re getting stationed in Nebraska.” I spent hours agonizing between a once-in-a-lifetime job and living with my spouse. I chose the former, which meant our 2nd year as a married couple was spent halfway across the country from each other. A few years later, we lived 6 time zones apart for a year so I could earn my Master’s at Cambridge in the UK. The same day that I landed back in the U.S., ready to re-start our life under the same roof, Jason told me he was deploying just weeks later. Stories of heartache and distance are a dime a dozen in the military community. It’s something you accept when you sign on the dotted line. One of the most encouraging things is realizing I have an entire community of other military spouses going through the same struggles. I didn’t grow up in a military family. So when my boyfriend-since-high-school told me he wanted to enlist, I came into this community with a lot of misgivings. I worried about fitting in and finding friends. I had heard rumors of mandatory etiquette classes – white gloves aren’t exactly my style. But our time in service has been filled with joy and gratitude. The majority of military spouses I have met share a lot of my dreams and concerns. I have made some of the best friends I’ll ever know. And they have inspired me to give back to this community however I can.

Describe your involvement in the military community:
I am a spouse who always shows up. I attend formal events where spouse input is solicited -- from a town hall hosted by Mrs. Ellyn Dunford, to a Q&A with Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force and Mrs. Wright. I also participate in morale events. I have played 3 intramural sports for our squadron’s team, co-captaining once. I helped the squadron host a volleyball tournament – spouses were not required to help, but I volunteered anyway. I have even helped retirees sign new wills and testaments at the base’s legal clinic. Every base picnic, squadron sports day, or friend’s promotion ceremony that comes up, I am there. I also make sure new folks feel welcome. When our friend’s spouse moved to the area for summer break, and I showed her the best ice cream spot in town. I check in with my fellow spouses and chip in when needed – I helped a friend pack for her PCS while her husband was deployed. I have received so much kindness from this community, and I want to pay it forward.

Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
Last summer, I attended an event about spouse unemployment. I was impressed to hear about the innovative ways in which companies in the private sector are tackling this problem. But a piece was missing from the conversation: a call for nonpartisan civic engagement. Because it’s also crucial to engage the public sector. Our government makes decisions every day that can either alleviate our problems or make them worse. We should be encouraging military spouses to vote and talk to their representatives about issues that matter most to them and their families. I saw a gap in the space, and I immediately stepped up to fill it. With help from a small team of fellow military spouses, I launched a brand-new, nonpartisan project to empower members of our community to be voters and storytellers. Military spouses understand better than anyone the consequences that wars abroad have here at home, and those stories are important to tell. I believe we deserve a voice at the decision-making table.

Describe how you support your community:
My platform is nonpartisan. Civic engagement and diplomacy-first foreign policy are values we can all get behind, regardless of political persuasion. In this era of polarity, it’s important to mobilize behind issues where we can find common ground. I have been very intentional, as I build this platform from the ground-up, to include the voices of spouses who are women and men, queer and straight, from different racial and ethnic backgrounds. Our military is as diverse as the communities we come from; organizations who represent our voices should accurately reflect our voices. My hope for this platform is to bring military spouses from all around the world together. Our materials are offered online, so all you need is a computer with internet. We also recruit volunteer “Points of Contact” for each region to help connect with and organize other spouses local to where they live. Our program helps military spouses find community through meaningful work, no matter where they are.

What platform do you advocate for? Why?
I advocate for nonpartisan civic engagement through voting and storytelling. Our country has been at war for 19 years, and it has taken a toll on our military families. While the increased operational tempo certainly hasn't caused many of the challenges facing our troops and their loved ones, it has made them worse and harder to tackle. Not everyone understands the effects that decisions over war and peace have on the military families responsible for carrying out the mission. That’s why it’s so important for military spouses to talk about our lived experiences – about what it’s like to constantly worry that your spouse might deploy, or to pause your career to take care of your kids while your loved one serves overseas. We can help paint a fuller picture, and in doing so ensure our country's leaders have all the relevant information at their disposal. Voting is the most fundamental way to make our voices heard, and storytelling helps us bridge the military-civilian divide.

How have you spread the message of your platform?
Effective communication is key to building a big tent and bringing in a wide range of people. That’s why I am vocal about my platform on a wide range of media outlets. I have published an OpEd on Military.com, and a guest post on the popular blog “Soldier’s Wife, Crazy Life.” In both pieces, I talk about the importance of storytelling by sharing my own as an example. I have also been featured on two podcasts: “Military Wives Unfiltered” and “Confessions of a Military Spouse.” I am actively promoting voting and advocacy on my social media as well. I am also an effective in-person communicator: I presented at an annual conference in front of 160 foreign policy experts, including Members of Congress and former Ambassadors. The purpose of this whole project is to elevate all kinds of different voices, from every corner of the armed services, not just my own. We want to build bridges and connect people who haven’t before.

What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year® title?
I want to elevate voting and advocacy as important components of the military spouse lifestyle. Some spouses are reticent to get involved in anything “too political” for fear of jeopardizing their service member’s career. While I understand that fear, I do not believe it should drive us away from doing what is right. Telling our stories is one of the most patriotic things we can do to support our spouses in uniform. At its core, storytelling is educational. The more complete and accurate information our country’s decision-makers have at their disposal, the more informed their decisions will be. That’s just good national security protocol right there! My goal in applying for the MSOY title is to set an example. I want to demonstrate to military spouses that making your voice heard is not antithetical to your family’s service, but complementary to it. I want to create a precedent so that future military spouses can get involved in foreign policy advocacy without fear of reprisal.

Nominations

Sarah is a powerhouse. She's constantly looking for ways to engage military families in the electoral process and is leading the charge to improve access and information sharing for military families and veterans. She's also an amazing friend and mentor. She's stood by me through thick and thin as I struggled with the realities of military life. She's the best kind of human and absolutely deserves to be named as a military spouse of the year.
- by heather aliano