Nominations are closed. Come back February 3 to meet the candidates!

Amy Wunderlich

Branch: Air Force

Duty Station: Little Rock Air Force Base

Number of Deployments: 4

Number of PCS's: 6

Share your military spouse story:
1) I became an Air Force military spouse while I was serving on Active Duty in the Army. My husband, Matt, and I met at a cold winter wedding between his brother, Ben, and Jennie, my friend, college classmate and fellow Army officer. We began a long-distance correspondence that became a relationship over multiple continents; through my deployment and his pilot training, several time-zones that eventually led to our marriage in my hometown in Texas and finally a common duty location in Germany. As an active duty military spouse in Germany I experienced the most amazing spouse group and squadron family that inspired me to be an engaged and involved military spouse at each duty station thereafter. I transitioned into the Army Reserves, while we finished our overseas tour and our family grew. We returned to the U.S. with a toddler and a baby on the way, and I became a full-time mom, military spouse and a civilian. We've moved often since, staying only one to two years in each duty location, seeing our resilient children grow and experiencing a variety of assignments that have really broadened my horizons as a military spouse. I had the support of key spouses and squadron families and leadership in all of those locations, and always living far away from family, I have truly loved forming Air Force (and sometimes Army) family bonds with fellow service families as well as the local communities in our chapters of my husbands career: Germany (and Kuwait), Mississippi, Arkansas, Kansas, Illinois, Kansas, one year unaccompanied to Qatar, Arkansas (and Kuwait) and soon Washington D.C.. It becomes more difficult to leave a duty station each time because we've grown more adept as a family at finding our way faster and making deeper connections in each new community. As a military spouse I have had the privilege for almost 16 years of being a part of the Air Force family, and representing our service family in each local community we are part of along the way.

Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
I currently serve as the Key Spouse Mentor and Squadron Command Spouse for the 62 Airlift Squadron. I have not previously served as a Key Spouse, but have benefitted from some wonderful examples and felt I could and should help support my spouse and the squadron family in this way. I attended the inaugural Key Spouse Conference in February 2020 as a delegate from Little Rock AFB, and have since participated in several key spouse working groups, panels and seminars to better serve our Air Force families. Working to keep up communications and morale among squadron service members, spouses and families is daunting during a pandemic, but it has also been extremely fulfilling. Helping just one person or working with a group of key spouses across the base to advocate for families, children and solve problems that benefit our entire military community helps me stay energized, keep asking questions, understand more about military spouses, and better serve our military community.

Describe your involvement in the military community:
I've been an Air Force spouse for almost 16 years. At each duty station I've been involved with the squadron spouses' groups where my husband was assigned. At our first duty station together and before smart phones and social media really existed, I was the travel file coordinator and helped compile and distribute the monthly spouse newsletter. When we moved back stateside, I became involved with a local Mom's of Preschoolers group that served many military and local moms in the area. As my children grew older, I volunteered with Youth Sports on the military installations as a soccer and basketball coach. I have been a Cub Scout and Boy Scout adult leader in several duty stations and I became a substitute teacher in 2017, and have continued that in each school district since. I currently serve as a Key Spouse Mentor and have worked with our community key spouses to help us all weather the pandemic, care for families and continue to improve the Air Force family experience.

Describe how you support your community:
I am a substitute teacher in my children's school district, and have seen the importance of supporting our students and teachers in that role during these pandemic times. I love the feeling of teamwork and esprit de corps you can build with educational staff to help students succeed. I have been involved with Parent Teacher Organizations and volunteered in school libraries where my children attended. My favorite volunteer jobs have been with Meals on Wheels in Illinois, delivering food to seniors and shut-ins, and having twice joined church quilting groups, learning how to hand-quilt and improve machine sewing skills that often contributed to fundraisers for youth and Vacation Bible School as well provided items to donate to hospital NICUs, nursing homes and veterans. I feel that being active in the local community is the best way to represent the capability of military spouses and also helps me better understand resources and opportunities available to serve our military spouses.

What do you advocate for? Why?
I advocate for the person who is struggling, experiencing hardship or is experiencing the unjust situation. Military spouses endure hardship and change daily, military children do too. If we can question processes, identify the need for change, and adopt better practices to help families better manage the military lifestyle then servicemembers and family members alike can thrive. I don't have a specific advocacy group, but I love to problem solve in whatever situation I'm presented with. I like to smooth the way for people who will travel the road after me, and as a Key Spouse Mentor in a pandemic, I've tried my best to make fellow military spouses and our squadron families feel seen, heard, supported and resourced.

How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
I feel communication transparency and education is the key. We cannot fix processes and mitigate hardships if we don't know there is a problem or a hardship. We cannot learn from our mistakes and improve without first understanding then adapting. I encourage military spouses to do the survey, attend the town hall, ask the leadership, and to speak up. Sharing critical information in a timely manner helps families and units be better equipped for what the military life throws at us. Learning how to manage that information to get the help we need is what helps us thrive. Responsible social media usage, person to person communication and sharing experiences and best practices with fellow military spouses helps me best serve those I am responsible for and forge the strongest bonds with the spouses I walk this military life path with.

What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year® title?
Anyone who receives this honor has the responsibility to use it to encourage other military spouses and empower them. I would use the title to tenaciously bridge communication and process gaps and find ways to improve life for military families at the squadron and base level that need service level and higher attention to initiate change. This title would reflect the humble ability of a military spouse like myself to empathize, care and listen and the strength to use it to promote others and encourage the further development of military spouses throughout each of the services.

Nominations

Amy is an amazing woman and military spouse. She used to be in the Army herself so she has a unique perspective to military life as a woman. She always gives all of her heart and much of her time to there. She has volunteered to be a Key Spouse, she is the commander’s spouse/ head spouse champion of their squadron, she has volunteered with Boy Scouts of America, Meals on Wheels, and many more organizations. She does all of this while caring for her two sons AND being a substitute teacher. Endless TDYs and many deployments have never held Amy back. She is a straight talker who is truly the best support that a military spouse of any length of time can count on and receive support from.
- by Shelby Esses