Traci Wilson

Branch: Marine Corps

Duty Station: Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center-Twentynine Palms

Number of Deployments: 5

Number of PCS's: 7

Share your military spouse story:
My military spouse story started while I was in my last semester of college. I was getting ready to leave for basic training, just after 9/11, when I came across a handsome individual sitting in the recruiters' office. He might have been on his leave block, but that day changed our lives. We married shortly after I finished training and he returned from a deployment. We had baby number one while I was still on active duty. When she was born, the doctors noticed she needed additional help physically and later mentally. Both my husband and I worked with specialists from several states to reach a diagnosis, so we could have a better understanding of how to help her thrive. When she started school, I spent my time advocating for not only our child but for others who needed extra assistance. I started to volunteer my time with my husband's command and the Exceptional Family Member Program offices. I joined groups of moms who shared the same passion and attended every meeting I could to understand my rights and responsibilities of a parent with a special needs child. My husband and I have had four other children, multiple moves and deployments, separations for temporary additional duty and unforeseen reasons, and no matter what, we have the education of our kids at the forefront of our parenting. I am thankful for the journey I have been part of with my husband. I am grateful for the friendships made along the way and I will forever be in debt to the women who have become sisters and taken my kids in like their own.

Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
While being stationed at Camp Pendleton, I was lucky enough to have a Family Readiness Officer who worked diligently for the spouses of the unit. She was an inspiration and I knew I wanted to strive to be like her. With the help of the current installation command, I have been granted permission to spearhead a 501(c)3 organization to promote and enhance the leadership skills of spouses, so they are better equipped for school or work. I have the opportunity to work with other spouses of the base to make this goal a reality. With some of the same spouses, we are also working to assist the Military Spouse's Association with collecting donations for scholarships and grants to be used for spouses, local business and individuals preparing for college.

Describe your involvement in the military community:
"Bloom where you are planted" is a phrase military members hear often. It is because of inspiring spouses of units past and present, I have found it easy to jump in and connect people to resources for the past 17 years. I have been a Key Wife Volunteer and a Family Readiness Advisor for past commands. I am currently a Military Spouse's Association Unit Representative, 3d BN 4th Marines volunteer, 3d BN 4th Marines Family Readiness Advisor, National Military Family Association Scholarship Judge, Military Spouse Advocacy Network Marine Spouse Mentor, Navy League Ambassador, L.I.N.K.S Mentor, American Heart Association Ambassador, Giving Tuesday Military-MCAGCC Ambassador, Flying Leatherneck Historical Foundation member, and USO volunteer.

Describe how you support your community:
Because our community is very close, it is easy for someone to have an idea and everyone commit time or resources. I was part of an amazing group of individuals who collected clothing items for the homeless. I worked with another group to donate books, playground equipment, and games to our base elementary school. I also had the opportunity to support a friend by participating in a "Pink Walk" to promote the importance of breast cancer awareness. Some spouses of the current unit my husband is assigned to have created a group that deliver "get-well" bags for the wives who are sick. Most importantly, I am humbled to be a member of the school site council for my daughters' high school, my sons' middle school, the base elementary school, and the online school my daughter attends.

What do you advocate for? Why?
My platform is education for spouses and children of the military with an emphasis on Special Education. My daughter has a developmental delay and as a family, we continue to work to have schools understand and prepare to better support the students who need just a little extra help. The kids who need additional support want to be successful and included. Families should not have to reinvent the wheel every time they PCS, so working with schools who serve military families is important to me. I also enjoy working with the National Military Family Association to give spouses the opportunity to attend or continue their education by sharing resources and scholarship information.

How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
Being a military spouse for many years, and jumping into volunteer positions with more confidence, I usually like to gather with other spouses and ask them how they are doing, if they need anything, and how can I help to support them. I find that social media is an easy way to get information to people quickly but sometimes it takes the feeling of actually caring for the person you are speaking with, away. I utilize social media to share posts from Military Spouse Advocacy Network and the National Military Family Association; however, I believe it is still important to be face to face when possible. I have conducted interviews with attorneys representing students with special needs and attended forums on behalf of the EFMP. There is nothing more exhilarating than connecting with people of such prestige, knowing and feeling they actually care for you and your ideas.

What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year® title?
If I earn the title, I hope to continue promoting the importance of education for spouses and EFM by conducting research alongside those who aspire to higher and more inclusive education. I would like to continue to share resources and advocate on behalf of all dependents regardless of branch or rank so they can attain the future they deserve with minimal to no debt. I would like to continue to work with past Military Spouse of the Year Awardees so family members who feel lost have adequate outlets to meet their needs.