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

Ashley N Owings

Branch: Navy

Duty Station: Fort Bragg

Number of Deployments: 5

Number of PCS's: 3

Share your military spouse story:
My husband and I met in Virginia Beach Virginia. At the time I was in the process of switching over from the Army National Guard to the Navy Reserves. I was working part-time at a restaurant called, "Restaurante Ole!" as a bartender. I wanted to work this job to learn the secret queso dip recipe ( I did) lol and work on my Spanish language skills (I did not so much). Jeremy and I met at Restaurante Ole on September 30th 2013 and have pretty much been inseparable since; well, except for those deployments lol. We bonded quickly over "Top Gun", baseball and Wawa. We knew early on we wanted to start a family and unfortunately that was not in the cards for us. We began our journey with infertility in 2013. We started our infertility workups in Virginia Beach and since have had 4 separate infertility work ups, lasting until September of 2020. Infertility was very hard on us and our marriage; but, through counseling and love we worked hard and put our marriage and each other first. It wasn't easy; I remember during one of the infertility workups, I was put through experimental tests, I remember them being so painful and coming back to get the results and finding out that the place we had been going to had been shut down due to malpractice. Infertility was really hard on us and we went through some tough times, but over the years we kept trying and sometimes that's all you can do, take the good days with the bad and just keep on trying. In 2020 after doing two failed IUIs and 1round of IVF we finally became pregnant with a little boy. Today our little boy Henry is 7 months old and thriving and I think about a conversation with my husband, him telling me, " I wish more military families knew about IVF and how there are options to help them pay for it." It has become our mission to help others dealing with infertility and to help them to get information about paying for infertility treatments/surgeries, embryo donations, treatment facilities, counseling, IUI's /IVF & support.

Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
I truly believe in leading by example. One of the ways I show leadership through the military community is to take challenges head first to help others, to make the time and provide a way. One example of leadership that I am most proud of is taking on the cause of Suicide Awareness. I volunteered for this cause while in the Army after a few of my battle buddies were lost to suicide. When I switched over to the Navy I saw that there was a great need for this program in our community. I was told by leadership that we didn't need this program and I continued to fight for it. Unfortunately we lost another service member before they changed their mind and allowed us to have the program. Once out of the military I have spearheaded this cause and what many don't stop to look at is that spouses and children also live with suicidal thoughts, depression and mental health issues. It is important to see the whole family and to help the whole family.

Describe your involvement in the military community:
I like to participate in a myriad of areas of the military community. I have worked with the Army, Navy and Marine in both volunteer work and with the Marine Corps Community Services (MCCS). I have worked for the Single Marine Program, Wounded-Warrior Battalion East at Camp Lejeune and the Marina and Gyms on New River Air Station where we helped Marines and their families to get out and have a little fun. I have also volunteered in the USO kitchen on Little Creek Naval Base and at the ASYMCA on Fort Bragg where we made quilts for deployed service members families. My involvement in the military community is three-fold, as a former service member, a military spouse and a wounded warrior, I work hard to incorporate everyone into a fun and safe environment. I work to get the community out to have a little fun and also aid by being that ear that sometimes we all need and spreading awareness and recourses/help options to help during hard times.

Describe how you support your community:
I support my community by hearing their wants/ needs and by trying to help build the members of our community up. One of my biggest passions is to help others dealing with infertility and post-partum. Many don't know/ understand just how hard these situations are and just how much they need us. I also support my community by trying to get together events such as infant/baby swim lessons to create a social atmosphere and to help the little ones to learn to swim (and helps us to work through the mommy stress).I support my community by helping to bring together the gaps that separate us all through fun. I have seen first hand how people can be treated differently just because you don't meet the expectation that others may have for you. It took my husband and I seven years to have a baby and a lot of time we were treated differently because we didn't have kids even though we had been trying for seven years. It is so important to embrace each others positives and fun sides by being kind.

What do you advocate for? Why?
I advocate for the military spouse and for kindness within the community. There is this idea, that going into the military spouse lifestyle there is this linear path of marriage, followed by children, etc; but, that just isn't that case for most spouses. Some choose not have children, some had children before marriage (or the military) and then there are those like us that struggled with infertility for seven years. You never know what others are going through and it is important not to judge or hurt others because you are hurt. It takes alot to recognize that in our community and more times than not our spouses are deployed, our loved ones hundreds if not more of miles away and we are all in a new places, trying to find new friends and ways of being ourselves again all outside of our norms. Through my advocacy I work to bridge the gaps by bringing spouses into fun situations, that help them to feel more like themselves; to help with their wants/needs and to make new friends/hobbies.

How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
I stepped out of my box in a big way In 2018. I injured my spine in the military and had to get out of the military because of this. I gained a lot of weight and felt helpless there for a while but I decided I wanted to be happy again. I told myself if want to help others to get to where they want to be I got to take a bold step for myself. I finished both my Bachelor and Master's degree (many thought I would never even go to college, much less make it through) and I did it. Then I wanted to do something fun because I we all deserves a little fun; something that I could use the platform to speak on my causes of suicide awareness, anti-bullying, mental health, infertility, support for injured veterans, the Chris Kyle Foundation and help for military marriages. I stepped out of my box and entered the Mrs. North Carolina America Pageant. I wasn't the tallest, skinniest or the prettiest; but, what I did have was heart and I was able to spread awareness as Mrs. Eastern North Carolina 2020.

What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year® title?
To spread help, resources & awareness that their is no perfect person, spouse or perfect military spouse. I've spent my whole life not being good enough in certain areas and that is ok, because I kept going and did things anyway for me. I took the time for me when I needed and rested when it was important to do so. Helping others has always been a way of healing for me. When it comes to becoming the Military Spouse of the Year, this award would not be just mine; it would be for every amazing military spouse that I have met in the last 12 years. What I plan to do with this award is share their stories and I want to challenge us, as military spouses to have this honest conversation with ourselves, "I have had a hard time, I may have even lost my way a little bit; but, I am worthy and I do have so much to bring to this world and why not start now and If I can't today than I can take the steps to get back to being happy by doing one thing that I love and taking some time to invest in me."

Nominations

My wife is one of the most caring woman that I know that is selfless and goes through hardships to help others. She has has fought through so many things such as a military spine injury, weight gain from this and ultimately becoming Mrs. North Carolina America 2020 to battling 7 years of infertility and battles to us having our first baby this year through in-vetro. She did so much of this alone, with me being deployed often, she worked almost through her whole pregnancy and fought through a difficult delivery. She helps service members and their family with infertility, injured service members, mental health,postpartum and bad birthing experience helpand suicide awareness.My wife served herself both in the Army and Navy and had to get out due to military injuries but she has fought hard to support her community through service and showing up for others through the hard times. Currently she is working on getting together a military baby swim lessons class to stop drowning's in babies.
- by Jeremy Owings