Branch: Marine Corps
Duty Station: Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune
Number of Deployments: 5
Number of PCS's: 4
Share your military spouse story:
After being married to a US Marine in 2010, I left my position as an Instructor at the local college. Upon arriving at Camp Pendleton, CA, I was unable to locate a job that used my education, work experience, or passions. There were no positions that fully utilized my background, nor offered compensation that was even close to my prior salary. I came across a job for a Youth Sports Director/Specialist with MCCS for which I was over-qualified for, applied, and was never offered an interview. After pursuing several different jobs outside of my field, I ended up applying for unemployment benefits due to the drastic cut in income. Although I understood that I would have to leave a job, I was not aware of the fact that getting married to a servicemember meant leaving my life-long career field. My Master's Degree is in Sport Management and my experience afforded me opportunities to work with professional sports teams such as the Philadelphia 76ers and Philadelphia KiXX, which is what I had worked towards and aspired to. To pursue opportunities in the professional sport field, I would need to be located in/near a major city, which is not the typical location for military bases. Additionally, lack of childcare (I have three boys) and the red tape surrounding entrepreneurship on bases presented seemingly insurmountable obstacles to a (fulfilling) career. I created Tiny Troops Soccer from the need for physical activities for preschool-aged children as well as an outlet for military spouses to regain a sense of autonomy and financial freedom.
Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
I have led over 130 military spouses and dependents as coaches and in administrative positions with Tiny Troops Soccer. I currently serve on the Honorary Board of Advocates for the U.S. Military Spouse Chamber of Commerce. I was recently nominated and selected as The Rosie Network 2021 Inspirational Leader of the Year. I pride myself on creating opportunities and leading spouses through experiences that we have previously been denied. I was the first Military Spouse to complete the Soldiers to Sidelines certification, which opened the doors for other spouses to pursue a career in coaching. I participated in the Bob Evans Farms Heroes to CEO's contest and was selected as a finalist, but upon recognizing that I was a spouse, was withdrawn from the competition. However, I was still awarded a grant and was told that the judging panel now recognizes the need to support the whole military family so will allow spouses to be a part of the competition in the future.
Describe your involvement in the military community:
Through Tiny Troops Soccer, I have partnered with the non-profit organization Deployed Love to offer free soccer sessions to military children whose parent was deployed at military installations and surrounding communities, and sponsored a book drive for those children. I have also partnered with Angels of America’s Fallen to provide activity grants for children of fallen servicemembers and law enforcement through our annual TTS Angel Run 1k/5k and throughout the year. I have led holiday activities for the wives of my husband's unit and served as an AWANA children's ministry leader at Marine Corps Base Hawaii; I am on the advisory network for Soldiers to Sidelines; have volunteered with the Association of Military Spouse Entrepreneurs; and was an advocate for Military Marriage Day. Additionally, Tiny Troops Soccer offers year-round soccer sessions to military children worldwide (over 15,000 to date).
Describe how you support your community:
The annual Tiny Troops Soccer program survey results stated that we provide the necessary physical activity and community for military children to increase confidence, ease anxiety when relocating, and to maintain positive mental health. We are the only sports organization to primarily serve military children that also provides continuity throughout our 50 locations. The military community recognizes TTS as a notable, established organization that aims to provide equitable access to sport and play as our civilian counterparts. We employ the underserved, under-utilized, large percentage of unemployed in the country - military spouses. I have created ways to successfully employ military spouses around the globe. Not only is their self-worth improved, they are able to (once again, in many cases) contribute monetarily to their households. Our team is open to all, with our staff being comprised of multi-racial; LBGTQ+; active-duty, dependent, & civilian members.
What do you advocate for? Why?
I have been faced with an egregious amount of red tape regarding being a military spouse entrepreneur operating aboard installations which has further spurred my passion for military spouse entrepreneurship. I believe as spouses that we have, in most cases, sacrificed our personal career aspirations in support of our service member, so the military should do what they can to support us in creating a career in which we can do both. I want to challenge leadership to have a consistent process at EVERY installation for military spouse entrepreneurs. No longer will we be denied access to a career or be forced to wait months to resume business operations. We will be valued as a part of the base economy and recognized for our commitment to servicemember readiness.
How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
I am actively involved in working with local and national media outlets to further support military spouse employment and military children. I have authored a book, "I Will Be Okay - Adventures of a Military Kid", to support military kids through times of stress. I have been featured in Sports Illustrated and on the cover of Military Spouse Magazine; chosen as the Military Spouse Influencer of the Month by Military Spouse Magazine; have been a featured guest speaker on multiple podcasts and video broadcasts including the #RiseandGrind Morning show with Glenn Lundy and Hearts & Stripes, Strength 4Spouses, and Waiting Warriors podcasts. I am featured in the book, "To Thrive, Not Just Survive - How to Build a Successful Business as a Military Spouse Entrepreneur" by Gems Collins. Most notably, I arranged a meeting with Senator Hirono regarding military spouse employment. I have also shared my story on multiple news outlets.
What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year®
I hope to give a voice to the young military spouse who doesn't know to question the "no". Who is afraid to question leadership in fear of their spouse's career. Whose own career may be eternally thwarted because of outdated, inconsistent, and unfair regulations regarding military spouse entrepreneurship and employment. I want to work directly with DoD and government officials to create consistent mandates military-wide that support the military spouse entrepreneur. Being honored with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year will provide the access needed to achieve this goal which will ultimately effect generations of military spouses to come.
Amy is the founder and owner of Tiny Troops Soccer (TTS). She has created ways to successfully employ military spouses around the globe & is on the Board of Advocates for the U.S. Military Spouse Chamber of Commerce to ensure other military spouses are empowered and have the necessary tools so they can support their service member while also pursuing their career. TTS is the only company that solely provides athletic programming to military children. Amy was the first military spouse to be certified through the Soldiers to Sidelines program, first military spouse awarded with a grant from Bob Evans Heroes to CEO contest & awarded the 2021 Inspirational Leader of the Year by The Rosie Network. TTS has partnered with the non-profit organization Deployed Love to offer free soccer sessions to military children whose parent was deployed & partnered with Angels of America’s Fallen to provide activity grants for children of fallen service members & law enforcement.
- by Michelle Yearwood