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Shana Smith

Branch: Army

Duty Station: Paul B. Huff US Army Reserve Center

Number of Deployments: 8

Number of PCS's: 0

Share your military spouse story:
I am an Army wife! Has it always been easy? Of course not... military life is hard and just like everyone else we've had our ups & downs. I mean we've been through combat and non combat deployments, raised children and moved... none of those are easy to do. In 2006 I became a single foster parent, ready to take on the world of parenting but little did I know someone else would come into my life that same year and change my way of thinking. My husband and I connected online during his deployment; 6 months later he was back in our home state post deployment. It didn't take long before we realized that we were madly in love with each other. Just 9 days after we 'officially' became a couple our daughter came to us, a bouncing 2 1/2 year old toddler. Holy cow was that a transition. Knowing our commitment to each other and our family we were married just 10 months after our first date! We tell people, when you know and you're prepared to put the work in, you know! Then after 15 LONG months later we finalized her adoption. Over the next 9 years we experienced years of infertility, loss, 2 deployments and moved across country before we decided to move forward with adoption again. In 2015 we reopened our home as foster parents in Tennessee, just 6 months after we were approved our son came to us at 6 1/2 years old. We thought our family was complete... we were wrong. In 2018 we were asked to adopt a friends grandson, in 2019 we welcomed our 3rd child into the family. I can proudly say I am the mother of 3 crazy kids (15, 10 & 1) which also makes me a taxi cab driver, a maid, a Boy Scout mom, an ATM and a kisser of boo boo's. In addition to our 3 loves, we have fostered 20 children in the past few years, 20 beautiful little people that simply want to be loved, that want to know they are wanted and want stability. We have been blessed to interact and love on each one of them. I love all the aspects of life that others find crazy.

Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
From 2010 to 2016 I was the Secretary and event planner for a non-profit that benefited and supported Gold Star Families, I have volunteered within that community for the past 9 years. I planned and executed our annual fundraising events, multiple sporting events as well as assisted with an annual trip for surviving family members. For the past 5 years I have been increasingly active and supportive in online communities for military families that are adopting and/or fostering. Additionally I am an active member of my husbands FRG supporting our families through deployment and helping them navigate military life.

Describe your involvement in the military community:
I heard former Second Lady, Jill Biden, say that military spouses make up the majority of volunteerism hours annually and I am proud to be part of that statistic. Over the last 13 years I have held many positions within organizations that assist Gold Star Families, FRG, an advocate and fundraiser for multiple military organizations and as a speaker throughout the community as an advocate for foster and adoptive families. I have met some of the most amazing families throughout this journey, ones that have taught me about the true meaning of duty to family and country.

Describe how you support your community:
As the grandchild of 2 WWII Veterans I have had the opportunity to volunteer with military organizations since childhood; whether that was at the USO, handing out poppy's or setting up events to raise money for and support Gold Star Families. Supporting our military families is just part of who we are. Most recently I have had the opportunity to utilize social media to support and educate others on foster care and adoption. Speaking at events on the challenges and beauty in being both a foster parent and an adoptive parent has aided in an increase in local foster homes. I am actively part of our FRG and find supporting new military spouses/families to be necessary and gratifying, being able to use the knowledge gained over the past 13 years to help them along their journey is a wonderful way to both welcome them to the family and help them avoid some of the mistakes we made as new military spouses.

What do you advocate for? Why?
Over the past 13 years I have spoken and advocated for children in foster care, the need for an increase in foster homes and the sheer number of children waiting for their forever family. As a foster and adoptive mother and family I love having the opportunity to educate other on foster care, adoption and how to support foster families and children in the foster care system. As military families we have an amazing strength, an ability to support each other through some of the hardest moments of our lives. We understand moving, making new friends and starting over. We know loss and we know love and stability comes from your family not the roof over your head. What better group of people to impact children in care, to be able to bring a child or children into your home, teach them, grow with them. Being a foster/adoptive families isn't easy, made more difficult by PCS's and military post/base rules but it isn't impossible however takes a lot of support amongst our families.

How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
Spreading the message of family, love, faithfulness and strength are some of the core values of being a military spouse. Through local events, my website, social media and my YouTube channel I have had the opportunity to speak to thousands of people about our 13 years of fostering, our adoptions and the life that comes along with it. I have had the honor of speaking at fundraisers, community awareness events as well as having appeared on several news outlets to discuss foster care and advocate for the children and change.

What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year® title?
The AFI Military Spouse of the Year title would afford me the amazing and unique opportunity to meet with military families on bases all over the world to discuss foster care and adoption. Enlarging my reach beyond my dreams! My message is simple: there are no unwanted children, only unfound families. This message has been promoted through many platforms and avenues, which I look forward to continuing to do. The media opportunities that would come along with the title would be absolutely amazing and potentially life changing for the 450,000 children awaiting families in the foster care system or the 153 million orphans world wide.