Duty Station: Fort Bliss
Number of Deployments: 3
Number of PCS's: 4
Share your military spouse story:
I didn’t plan to fall in love with my Beloved Infantryman nearly 11 years ago. But I guess that’s how things go for us military spouses… It’s the “no-plan-plan” at its finest. At the risk of sounding like Forrest Gump, my mama always said when I fell in love, I was going to face plant. She was right. We carried on a long-distance relationship for four months, then weathered our first year-long deployment together (or rather, apart). He came home on R & R, proposed, and the rest, as they say, is history. Thus, started the "thrillifying" (4 parts thrilling, 1 part terrifying) story that is my milspouse life. Since that time, we've moved back and forth across the country several times, adopted a goofy-looking but hilarious pup and birthed two Tiny Humans. I've also learned a lot of valuable milspouse life lessons like always double check the uniform for ink pens, coffee is a solid survival beverage, prayer gives strength and hope in even the most challenging circumstances, and milspouses are some of the most incredible people in the world. Starting out, I was "afraid" of milspouses. I honestly hadn't heard much good about them, only the "llama llama lotsa drama" part. So after our first PCS, I kept myself isolated. That was a mistake. In the decade + since that time, I've realized that community is a vital ingredient to not only surviving this milspouse life but thriving. Now that I am a senior spouse (Yikes-- when did THAT happen?!?) I am passionate about empowering other milspouses on their journey. Through various opportunities to serve within the SFRG, to volunteering with Army Wife Network for 6+ years and now pursuing my Doctor of Education in Community Care and Counseling: Pastoral Counseling, I share my story to empower other spouses. It's a story of navigating question marks, making mistakes, setting no-plan-plans (only to change them—again), growing, hoping, dreaming, persevering and now helping others to do the same.
Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
Volunteering with Army Wife Network over the last 6 years has both challenged me to grow and enriched my life as a military spouse. When I applied as an experience blogger, I had no idea (or intention) that it would develop into a leadership opportunity of epic proportions. Although we can potentially reach between 130,000-177,000 followers weekly, my greatest joy is leading the AWN Command Team. The incredible women are making a difference in the lives of military families around the world, so I take leading them very seriously. My goal for the Command Team is not that they just "do" what they volunteered to do but to grow and learn in the process. I conduct weekly "Command Team Briefing" videos to take our relationship from URL to IRL ("in real life.") We engage in one-on-one personal leadership coaching quarterly. I pray that if/when they are called to serve in other capacities beyond AWN, they are more empowered milspouses, leaders and battle buddies than when they arrived.
Describe your involvement in the military community:
I've been blessed to serve in a variety of SFRG positions including a two-time stint as SFRG leader and one time as media coordinator. I am Key Caller and Care Team certified and have been an active member of PWOC, serving as Vice President of Spiritual Life and President. My husband and I led a church home group comprised of military family members for three years and I am currently pursuing my Doctor of Education in Community Care & Counseling with an intention to serve military families upon graduation. In 2014, I joined Army Wife Network a blogger and in the years since have been fortunate to give back to the military community at greater levels, including Core Team Blog Editor, then as Executive Officer and now as AWN Owner and Commander. Through it all, I've learned that I want to be "that friend" who can double as a pep-talker, truth-teller, meal-bringer, kid-wrangler, grace-giver and hope-instiller to those in the military community and to those beyond my local community.
Describe how you support your community:
At my first duty station as a milspouse, I remember laying on a bed in the emergency room as I miscarried our baby. My husband was away at Ranger school. I started at the ceiling, crying… alone. I had isolated myself from other spouses thinking it was a form of "protection," but I realized how wrong I was. Since then, I’ve been on a mission to encourage milspouses across all branches to come alongside one another because we are NOT in this alone. Solidarity, milspouses. Solidarity! I've celebrated special occasions with friends when their husbands were away. My battle buddies and I have invoked "mandatory fun" on each other when battling the "blahs." I sat with a friend in the ER when she was considering suicide. I gave the eulogy of a milfam's baby girl. I've made strides to be vulnerable in the journey. It's ok to cry, to grieve, to hope, to laugh. We don't have to do it alone. This inclusive approach cultivates empowerment, one of the key ingredients to milspouse life success.
What do you advocate for? Why?
I advocate for EMPOWERMENT. Why? Because as military spouses, we can often feel like like we are deprived of “normal” experiences such as being close to family or building a career. The potential for feeling powerLESS and at the mercy of all things military is also a concern. However, there is such beauty in the uniqueness that comes from the milspouse life and I want others to not only see or hear about that, but live it! My heart is that other milspouses feel empowered to pursue their education, engage with other spouses and encourage one another in all seasons of life, regardless of demographics, background, color, religion, military branch, home state, and the like. When we say "I do" to our service member, we began an incredible adventure, one that includes threads of heartache but also victories greater than we could ever imagine. I want to share the message for milspouses around the world to be victoriously empowered! Empowered milspouses can empower milspouses!
How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
Ask anyone: I’ve never had trouble when it comes to talking! My ability to spread the message of milspouse empowerment has been greatly developed through the past decade as I now pursue intentional engagement through communicating. It's a balance of professionalism, authenticity and humor. I’m grateful to have received various levels of public speaking coaching throughout my life and I love sharing my heart with others. I’ve been on the preaching team at church, delivered keynote addresses at events and now, as AWN Owner and Commander, regularly engage with our Army Wife Talk Radio podcast guests. I love writing stories that empower and educate others, which is demonstrated through years of blogging. Allowing others to tell their story through media interviews thrills my soul. In 2018, I even participated in a round table interview with actor Christ Hemsworth ("Thor") during the "12 Strong" Press Junket in Hollywood and somehow kept my fangirl feelings subdued. #ThatDudeWasSoTall
What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year®
Ultimately, I desire to tell the milspouse story in an effort to engage, educate, encourage and empower military spouses, families and civilians alike. Yes, it can sometimes be a tough story to tell, but it is one that is filled with beauty and deserves to be shouted from the rooftops. I want others to know that we don’t have to live with the mentality of constantly “pulling ourselves up by the bootstraps,” but that we can walk together as a band of battle buddies, encouraging one another no matter what milspouse life throws our way. I want the world to see the milspouse story as one that is authentic, filled with moments of belly laughing, couples that love and respect one another, well-timed hugs and the resilience that often comes after some of life’s darkest and most challenging moments. The milspouse story has the potential to empower ourselves, our families and others. It would be an absolute honor to serve as a collaborative vessel of milspouse empowerment as AFI MSOY.