Branch: Coast Guard
Duty Station: Coast Guard District 8
Number of Deployments: 1
Number of PCS's: 2
Share your military spouse story:
I am proudly married to an enlisted BM1 Boatswain mate. Although we both come from the same small city (Pensacola, Florida), we never met even though we had the same friends. My husband, James Ralls, was visiting home from Alaska one fall and I was home visiting from a weekend at college (University of Florida). We met at a mutual friends house watching college football. LSU v. UF! My husband is originally from right outside of New Orleans, LA. We immediately hit it off and it was love at first sight for me. He traveled back to Alaska and I went back to graduate from college. We stayed in touch but our paths never seemed to cross for a while. After he was stationed in Destin, Florida, not far from home I decided to take a chance and cancel my plans for my masters in Chicago for a masters here in Pensacola, Florida. That chance gave us the opportunity to fall in love. Turns out his mother was my preschool teacher ! We moved to Philadelphia shortly after being married 2012. He graciously passed his GI bill over and I went to law school in Philadelphia while he served at a station in the city. It was a wonderful adventure that solidified our marriage and partnership. After about 3.5 years in Philadelphia he opted to go to Bahrain so that we could be closer to home. After that gut wrenching year he was stationed in Pensacola, Florida where I passed the bar. We welcomed our first child in 2012. Being a military wife is not easy, but one of the most rewarding opportunities I have ever had. The companionship, understanding and relationships entrenched in this life will forever be a part of our extended family. I only wish to help other military families thrive in challenging situations and come to appreciate the military spouse life.
Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
At all new locations, our house is an open door for military members. All coworkers of my husband know they are welcome for afternoons and holidays. The military life offers countless difficult situations, and I do my best to help provide a stable home for those who are away from home. I helped one Coast Guard member start an LLC to open his own business. From applying to the state and drafting articles and bylaws, I am enthusiastic to help these individuals thrive and be independent. I also help any military member with family law issues in the State of Florida to ensure they receive the best representation possible, which can be extremely difficult with military members as they create a unique dynamic in family law issues.
Describe your involvement in the military community:
Both of my grandfathers served in the military, along with countless cousins, uncles and other family members. I have strong ties to the military and military families hold a special place in my heart. I currently use my skills to help local military families and have started an annual fundraiser that will benefit military families and veterans, especially those returning from overseas tours. I use my education and status as a licensed attorney to help local military members. As a member of the Veterans Law Society, I happily went out of my way to ensure that the fundraising events were successful and encouraged interaction between the students with active and veteran military members.
Describe how you support your community:
I am determined and self-motivated. I am the first female a senior associate and the Director of the Trusts and Estates department at the law firm of Chase & Ralls, PLC. I graduated from University of Florida, was a member of LEAPS, Rho Phi Lambda Fraternity and Kappa Alpha Theta Sorority. I have a background and experience in public speaking, serving and working with nonprofits as well as event management. I earned my Masters in Public Administration from University of West Florida and was inspired by my work with nonprofit companies. I work with volunteers to put on special events for the community such as parades and festivals. In 2018 I was awarded the Outstanding Young Alumna from the University of Florida. In 2019, I received Top 40 Young Lawyer, National Alliance of Women In Law, for the State of Florida 2019. I serve on the Inns of Court, licensed to practice before the United States Tax Court and member of Florida Bar Association, Northwest Florida Estate Planning Counsel.
What do you advocate for? Why?
I advocate for the stability and support of military families. I have seen first hand the difficulties of a working military spouse in the local community, but also the difficulty of staying behind while my spouse had to serve overseas. I am more than proud of what he has achieved and sacrificed for our family. I would not have survived without the support of my family, friends and the other military spouses that surround me.
How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
I engage my fellow military spouses at each new location and stay in touch with past ones. I am engaged with community events that support the military and their spouses. I am open to opportunities that ensure the stability of military families, and those that are serving without their families. I recently helped start and serve a board member on a Project Kindness group in Pensacola that engages the community, and especially children to get involved in a once a month project to do something kind for their community. In November we made cards and sent them to military member serving overseas. In December we solicited donations and filled stockings for the homeless, which in this community includes many veterans. I look forward to doing more with this group, geared towards the military members, veterans and their families.
What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year®
I want to ensure that those who need help are able to find it. While there are many opportunities and services out there for military members and their families, it can sometimes be difficult to find those resources and go through the process of receiving such support. I want to be able to take the time to help military members and family members one on find the support they need to thrive and give back to the communities that they sacrifice so much for. I find that civilians are more than happy to support their local military members, but don't always know what to do .