Sonia Garza

Branch: Army

Duty Station: Joint Base Lewis-McChord

Number of Deployments: 8

Number of PCS's: 2

Share your military spouse story:
I am a proud Army Green Beret spouse of almost 12 years. It all started in college chemistry class when sparks were literally flying when I met my husband. While dating, I created Military Wives and Girlfriends Club, supporting all those who loved someone in uniform and continued to grow the group while he deployed to Iraq on a 15 month tour. We got married and started our journey as a military family in 2008. Our first duty station was NC and it’s where I found my passion for community and met my first lifelong Army friends. We PCS’d to JBLM, WA in 2011 and became the proud parents to two beautiful military kiddos. I am a writer and storyteller, having started my own online publication for military spouses, Spouse Connexion, where spouses learn, grow and connect with each other. I have been called a “social butterfly” and “resource guru” since I delight in spreading information to military spouses to connect to their communities, so I feel Spouse Connexion helps me do just that. I have learned to be adaptable, resilient, strong under pressure, happy despite distance from family, and have been the backbone of my family. My passion and purpose is serving my community and helping others. Although the military has thrown us curveballs, I worked hard to grow my education so during a deployment and during the birth of my firstborn, I achieved a Master’s in Non-profit management and a certificate in grant writing. I am graduating with a certificate in storytelling/content strategy soon. Being a Special Forces Green Beret wife certainly comes with honor and sacrifice. My husband is gone more than half of every year, and as we prepare for deployment #9, I know how immeasurably blessed I am because of the military spouses who surround me. I am so often called “sunshine” because I smile and try my best to bring cheer to any situation and to any spouse facing difficulties. I am truly blessed to live this life and could not have imagined any other life for us.

Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
The special forces community is an amazing community so from the start, I have served many roles under the FRG, from the battalion leader, company POC, team POC/key caller, to fundraising chair. As the Special Oppettes chair (a playgroup formed for special forces spouses with children) I created monthly playgroup and coffee events. I serve on the FIRST Mentorship committee, to create support for military spouses of special forces soldiers. Through this program we have been able to create monthly events and bi-annual retreats for spouses to learn, socialize and heal with each other. I am currently the Content Developer for MilHousing Network, sourcing and writing blog content to share with military spouses during their real estate journey. I was recently hired to be the Small Business Development Manager for United Way of Pierce County. These two roles have given me a wonderful opportunity to serve both the military community as well as the local community.

Describe your involvement in the military community:
Community means so much more to me than just the zip code. To me, “community” is family. I enter a community knowing that it is truly what I make of it. I have made it my mission to bridge the gap between the installation and the surrounding community by leading and serving on the local FRG, serving on the Spouse’ Club board, volunteering at MWR events, all with the intention to make sure that military spouses feel connected to their community. I thrive on spreading resources. I am a contributing writer to our local online community publications. With Spouse Connexion, I am able to use my time to highlight the amazing work of military spouses and work with contributing writers. I encourage participation in community and on-post events and community projects. I am excited to lead the Rosie Network JBLM, giving spouses tools they need to launch their businesses. And this year I am excited to be a featured writer in a Christian military spouse collaborative publication out this fall.

Describe how you support your community:
I participate in my son's school PTA as fundraising chair and school mascot. I volunteer with PARCS, a local nonprofit dedicated to bringing better events to our community. I am a Blue Star Families volunteer and speak directly to military families at local events and campaigns. With the Blue Star Books program I provided over 800 new books to military children. The Yellow Ribbon Tree project allowed my family to put up a christmas tree at Starbucks and write notes to remember those deployed during the holidays. I desire to have the children be a part of what I do. I am a volunteer for the Women, Wellness, Wisdom conference at JBLM (created by a military spouse). Other volunteer roles include the Special Forces Steel Mags program, as well as the IF: Military Table for military spouse Christians. An unofficial leadership role I have taken on is opening my home to military spouses during deployments, holiday gatherings and more.

What do you advocate for? Why?
My platform is creating a pathway for military spouses living on post and the surrounding area to go beyond the base and into their surrounding community, creating ultimate connection because I believe that in order to thrive we need to bridge the gap between the military installation and the local community. I would love to build a thriving program where military spouses could be better welcomed and integrated into the local community. Equipping military spouses would not only create a thriving surrounding community, but also military spouses who feel valued as a part of each community they move to. I am working to create a leadership pipeline program for military spouses to meet local community leaders. Ultimately, I would love to see each military spouse be a community ambassador, meet local leaders, learn the local area and spread knowledge to others. If it can help one military spouse feel “at home” then my work is done and my heart is full!

How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
I am a walking billboard of my mission. I am spreading my message by working within the military community as well as the local community. One project I am working on is bringing Mission United to our local United Way to serve the veteran population. Through Spouse Connexion, I host Motivational Mondays to keep the military spouse community abreast of current events and advocacy issues pertaining to them and how they can get involved, whether it be local to our area or not. I have advocated for local issues at the WA State legislative executive signing of the Military Spouse bill at our Capitol by Governor Insley and the Military Spouse Employment Summit with the Employment Commission. Annually, I have done live feeds through Spouse Connexion at Amplify, MilSpouseFest and at Hiring Our Heroes Hiring Fairs. I have been a speaker for local panels and represented military families with articles to our JBLM newspaper and have had published articles in many military spouse publications.

What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year® title?
I am incredibly humbled and blessed to be nominated! I would be so thrilled and honored to hold this title because I have seen what it can do for your platform. The support of the AFI/MSOY community is tremendous and I would love to be a part of a family of amazing military spouses. However, whether I am awarded this title or not makes no difference on the work I will continue to do for the military community. Spouse Connexion began as a passion project and ultimately I would like to add paid contributing writers, giving flexible employment to spouses. I'd also like to add a quarterly printed version and podcast. A specific program to grow is a certification program for military spouses to go beyond the base and be well integrated into their local civilian community, bridging the military/community divide. Thank you to AFI for giving us this platform. My greatest joy has been giving back to the military and surrounding community and I hope to continue to do it for many years to come.