Duty Station: Fort Irwin
Number of Deployments: 4
Number of PCS's: 8
Share your military spouse story:
I grew up in Norfolk, Virginia, and although that is very much a military town I never felt fully connected to the military. My grandfathers served in World War II (one in Finland with the Finnish army and the other with the U.S. Navy in the Pacific), and my father served with the Air Force during Vietnam. It wasn't until I met and married my husband however, that I truly understood all that military life entails, from the hardships to the incredible experiences. I met my husband during our first semester of law school at the University of Richmond T.C. Williams School of Law. We were in the same section and apparently I grabbed his attention by typing very loudly on my laptop during our Civil Procedure class. He was on an educational delay for the Army so I knew military life was in his future from day one. What I never expected was how much I would come to love military life and how much this life would change me. We dated all through law school and he joined the JAG Corps in the fall of 2008 after we graduated. He went off to Fort Bragg, while I stayed in Virginia to fulfill my judicial clerkship. After we married in June of 2010 I moved to Fort Bragg to join him. Six months later he deployed for the first time to Iraq for a year. I was thrown headfirst into the challenges of military life as a brand-new spouse learning the heartbreak of deployment but also discovering just how strong and resilient I could be. Fast forward eleven years and we have PCSed eight times, weathered three more deployments, and had two beautiful children. My military journey has now grown to become "our" military journey as I now see the world through my children's eyes. Watching how excited they become with each move and realizing how many states and cities they have seen I have discovered they truly are becoming citizens of the world. Their resiliency and positivity constantly amazes me.
Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
While stationed in Germany, I worked as a Legal Assistance Attorney at Rose Barracks. I was also the OIC of the Rose Barracks Tax Center. This was truly one of the most rewarding career experiences of my life. My practice focused heavily on immigration as I helped Soldiers obtain immigration visas for their spouses or fiancees so they could move to the United States upon PCSing and begin their lives as a family together. Helping these families cut through the red tape of the immigration process was incredibly fulfilling. When we PCSed to Fort Carson from Germany I was able to work as a Legal Assistance Attorney once more and I helped Soldiers, spouses, and retirees with a wide-variety of legal issues. Sometimes it was simply helping an elderly retiree make a phone call to find a lost insurance policy and other times it was working through more difficult problems like responding to a GOMOR or providing guidance through a divorce. Each case no matter how big or small was important.
Describe your involvement in the military community:
When my first child was born I stepped away from my work as an Army attorney, but I couldn't keep away from working to help the military community. In the fall of 2018 I began volunteering as an editor for InDependent, a military spouse wellness non-profit. I have always loved writing and editing and sharing my skills by helping to edit, and occasionally write, blog posts about wellness issues for the military spouse and significant other community has been an amazing experience. There are so many facets to military spouse life and InDependent works hard to share both the positive and the negative experiences spouses and significant others face while walking in this life. In addition to editing for InDependent I have been active in ensuring that InDependent is inclusive of all voices and a welcoming environment for everyone.
Describe how you support your community:
Here at Fort Irwin my daughter is in elementary school for the first time. The elementary school here is a California school district school located on a military installation. The population here on post is immensely different from the population within the rest of the school district. I ran for election to the School Site Council for the elementary school and was elected in August. Serving on this council allows me to advocate for our military parents and ensure that their voices are heard. Additionally, I have created a new role within the PTA where I serve as a parent contact where parents can email me their questions, comments, concerns, or ideas and I then share this information with the school administration to provide a forum for parents and to ensure that information is traveling both ways. There are many challenges with a school district school operating on a military installation and I am passionate about making sure our community has a voice.
What do you advocate for? Why?
I am passionate about both the wellness of military families and the early childhood education of our military children. Military life comes with so many unique challenges and I am so grateful that there are organizations out there like InDependent working to promote both physical and mental wellness and to talk about issues that were once considered taboo. Opening up dialogue is vital, especially letting our community know that it is ok to ask for help. Now that I am a parent to a school-aged child I am also realizing the importance of advocating for our children as well, especially as they navigate the trials of school for the first time. What makes our military community so incredible is the diversity of our population, but along with our unique population comes unique challenges. I am proud to use my experience as an attorney to advocate for our community.
How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
I spread the message of advocacy for wellness by working with InDependent to generate content that is relevant and helpful to our military families. Ensuring that the challenges facing military spouses and significant others are discussed in a public forum allows military families to realize there are resources out there and that they are not alone in their struggles or triumphs. I spread the message of advocacy for education by serving on the School Site Council and by working as the parent contact for the PTA. To me the best way to help our community is to serve as a conduit of information. It is vital that the issues facing military families are brought forward in a manner that is professional and conducive to change. My past experiences both as an attorney and as a writer provide me with the skills necessary to champion our military families.
What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year®
One of the biggest challenges facing military families is the Department of Defense moving away from DoDEA schools and utilizing school district schools instead. Military children have not chosen military life. The hardships they face when separated from their parents or caregivers for extended periods of time can mean they need to take time off from school to spend time with family before a deployment or prolonged separation period. This can often lead to issues of truancy with a school district. There needs to be a broader discussion about the best way to serve our military children in these district schools and to find a path forward that works well for all involved. I am also very passionate about physical and mental wellness for military spouses and significant others. Sharing the stories of our community and providing resources can mean the difference between a person feeling completely isolated versus feeling seen and heard. Promoting family wellness makes us all more resilient.
Anna-Liisa and I volunteer at InDependent together and I am inspired by her work ethic and ideas that she shares with the team. She wants our organization to make an impact and put out quality resources, but also reminds our team the importance of prioritizing our own well-being. As a team that focuses on the wellness of others, sometimes we forget our own. Anna-Liisa also ensures that we stay authentic to who we are and that our message is inclusive to all military spouses. I always enjoy my conversations with Anna-Liisa about how we can have a greater impact, and how we empower our team of military spouses to be leaders. It is a privilege to work alongside her on this mission.
- by Evie King