Duty Station: Washington Navy Yard
Number of Deployments: 0
Number of PCS's: 5
Share your military spouse story:
On August 15, 2021, I watched the footage on the evening news of the Taliban taking over Kabul. I cried as I saw desperate families trying to board planes to evacuate their country. I watched them pour into Dulles airport with little more than the clothes on their backs and the anxiety of an uncertain future. I told my husband I had to help. These were our allies. They fought alongside our servicemembers and worked with the US to form a free Afghanistan. We have a decades-long connection to them, and I felt a call to action. I volunteered to complete home setups, and then I reached out to my DC area military spouse network and asked who wanted to help me. The response was overwhelming, and why wouldn’t it be? Setting up a home is literally a military spouse’s specialty. The first weekend we set up 2 homes. The next weekend we did another, and another. Soon, families contacted us with other needs: Medicaid, school enrollment, diapers, food, driver's licenses. Thousands of refugees were coming to our community, and they needed help. On September 18, I officially formed REACT DC, Inc. and soon after I filed our paperwork to become a non-profit. We are now a team of 17 staff and volunteers, including a talented Afghan refugee who arrived in August in a directorship role. In 2021 we provided ongoing social services assistance to over 100 Afghan Allies and committed to over $76,000 in financial support. I’ve formed lifelong bonds with Afghan newcomers in my community, and I’m incredibly proud of the people with whom I work and the organization we’ve built. I know we'll continue to bring military families together with refugees to help them stand on their feet. At the same time, I hope we will continue to heal our military community’s wounds through service to our Afghan brothers and sisters.
Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
I have had the pleasure of serving as Command Ombudsman for two of my husbands' commands. First, in Pensacola, Florida, during my husband's first tour, and second, in Yokosuka, Japan from 2017-2019. In both instances, I was the only spouse willing and available to do the job. With my background as an attorney, I was well-suited to resource and referral work. I enjoyed coordinating and communicating with agencies and service organizations. Mostly, I enjoyed being able to help officers, sailors, and their families solve problems that were important to them. And I can't lie; the parking spot at the Commissary in Japan was also a plus! Now, as the CEO of REACT DC, part of our mission is to connect the military and veteran community with Afghan refugees who need support. While news cycles change and the American public tends to move on, our military communities are still dedicated to helping our Afghan Allies, and I am pleased to connect them to those opportunities.
Describe your involvement in the military community:
I am a Navy spouse of 12 years. I have served as Command Ombudsman twice and have lived in base housing communities twice in the US and overseas. In some ways, it's impossible to be a military spouse living on base and not be involved in the community. Many spouses in Japan endured constant deployments far from family. I was fortunate that my husband was not deployed, so I tried to provide extra support to those spouses who were keeping the kids and the home going while their spouses were away. As CEO of REACT DC, I often acted as the liaison between the Camp Upshur (MCB Quantico) refugee safe haven and the military community at large. REACT DC worked to improve the transition from camp to community through our military spouse and veteran volunteer support. Camp Upshur has closed, but we now support other camps through Sponsor Circles, helping move refugees into communities to free up the military installations to return to their primary mission.
Describe how you support your community:
Northern Virginia received thousands of Afghan refugees to our community. I feel if we do not help them integrate and stand on their feet, the community will suffer increased homelessness, food instability, and other negative consequences of poverty. I work to bring our community together to support our Afghan newcomers, who are talented, extraordinary people.
What do you advocate for? Why?
I advocate for those who are able to lift up those who aren't. We are all our brother's keepers. With regard to our Afghan Allies, we've forged a connection with them over 20 years, and now they need lifting up. We, as a military community, are uniquely positioned to help them, and I advocate that it's our responsiblity to do so.
How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
REACT DC engages in social media as well as television and print media stories when we're able to. We form community partnerships to help expand our reach, and we regularly engage with the community to keep our message at the front of peoples' minds.
What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year®
I hope to connect to other talented military spouses and find ways to collaborate to further our combined work. I hope to keep the needs of our Afghan Allies in the news, at the front of people's minds, and encourage people to act.
Amy Marden is a textbook example of the old Mr. Rogers adage: when scary things are happening in the news, “Look for the helpers.”
In 2021, when thousands of refugees were being evacuated from Afghanistan, many of us milspouses felt helpless. But Amy leapt into action. She mobilized a network of other milspouses and veterans to building a support network for families who were resetting in her local D.C. area. Her nonprofit REACT DC has already made a tremendous impact.
Through her resourcefulness and passion for doing good, Amy has not only touched these families, but she’s provided her milspouse colleagues with mental and emotional support through a difficult period. I was proud to volunteer with her group and witness that firsthand. I can’t wait for others to learn about her work through the MSOY program!
- by Sarah Streyder