Duty Station: Fort Belvoir
Number of Deployments: 3
Number of PCS's: 6
Share your military spouse story:
18 years ago, I was a recent college graduate with adventure in my heart and a handsome Army guy by my side. We married, and moved across the country from Huntsville, AL to Fort Lewis, WA. Upon arrival, we learned that my husband would be deploying to Iraq. I called my parents and asked if I could move back home for the duration of the deployment. I will never forget my dad saying, "No. You need to be where your community is." I was hurt, I wanted nothing more than to be in my hometown with my family. But I was also empowered; Dad thought I could do this. And it turned out Dad was right. I needed to be with people who understood what our family was going through. I stayed in Washington; making dear friends, finding meaningful work in research, and falling in love with my Army community. We left Ft. Lewis and PCSd several more times across the southeast. I struggled along the way, becoming a mother and trying to find a career of my own to compliment my husband's, but I was always blessed with the support of installation programs, military spouses, and the larger Army community. I found ways to serve through volunteerism inside and outside the Army gates. Our most recent PCS to the National Capital Region brought me into contact with other branches of the Armed Forces. While making the drive to Ft. Belvoir, I noticed a Facebook post asking for a volunteer "Speaker Coordinator" for Belvoir Military Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS). I had very little information, but I jumped in with both feet before we had even set foot in our new home. I eventually became the Coordinator for the Military MOPS group at Belvoir. Listening to the needs of military-connected mothers of young children and finding ways to meet those needs ignited a spark within me. When my time with MOPS ended, I found a career doing what I love: amplifying the needs of the community that has supported and nurtured me and my family for nearly 20 years.
Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
During my time as a military spouse, I have held several leadership roles within the military and civilian communities. I have been a Family Readiness Group leader serving to keep military families informed. I acted as Speaker Coordinator for Belvoir MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) for one year, finding engaging leaders and subject matter experts to speak at bi-monthly meetings. I also served as Lead Coordinator for Belvoir MOPS for two years, managing an all-volunteer leadership team of 25, planning curriculum, coordinating child care, and working with Chapel Staff to execute bi-monthly meetings. During my tenure, I expanded the MOPS program to serve triple the number of military families, resulting in the creation of three distinct groups meeting twice monthly and serving over 120 women and their children. In the civilian community, I currently serve as Vice President of the school PTA and help plan Month of the Military Child events.
Describe your involvement in the military community:
Since becoming a military spouse, my involvement in the military community has evolved. From joining in spouse coffees, playgroups, and spouses clubs, to organizing and leading military groups on installation. I currently am involved in the community through my professional life as the Research and Insights Manager for the National Military Family Association. My daily work serves to inform advocacy and policy that impacts military spouses, children, and families.
Describe how you support your community:
I have always supported my community by being an enthusiastic participant or stepping up when leadership opportunities call. Currently, I support my community through my work for the National Military Family Association (NMFA). By putting credible research into the hands of our nation's key decision-makers, I advocate for military spouses, military children with special needs, and our unheard military child population: teens. In 2021, research I helped conduct at NMFA was cited by the White House in their Joining Forces report and also used by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services (SAMHSA) and the Military Interstate Children's Compact Commission (MIC3) in an effort to advocate for the mental wellness of military children and teens. I also work to execute boots-on-the-ground programming for our military children. In 2021, I helped execute summer camps for our military kids in Alaska, Virginia, and Ohio, serving children whose families are currently in a deployment cycle.
What do you advocate for? Why?
As my own children and career have grown, I have been fortunate to find support. More recently in my professional life, we have been made aware of an underserved segment of the military family: teens. Change is a constant in their already turbulent lives. Constant transition means making new friends, adapting to new houses, losing credits at school, and saying more goodbyes than the average civilian adult. We know that changes and transitions shape military teens into resilient, adaptable adults, but change comes with a fair share of struggles. Helping adults understand the impact of military transitions on teenagers can be crucial to providing them empathy and support they need and improving their mental wellbeing. My two kids are growing. We were so supported in infancy, toddlerhood, and early childhood, but there is a distinct lack of support for the military teen. We need to talk to them and amplify their voices so that they aren't lost in the shadows!
How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
Currently, my advocacy efforts are being spread through the research I help conduct. This research has been used to inform congress, the White House, MIC3, and SAMHSA, and has also been featured in People magazine.
What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year®
With the AFI Military Spouse of the Year title, I hope to amplify the often-overlooked voices of military teens to highlight their struggles but also their resilience. We are raising the next generation of leaders within the civilian and military communities, and it is our job to listen to their unique perspectives to help them thrive in the military community.
Aspen has been a military spouse for 18+ years and has shown amazing dedication to our community throughout her many moves. She has led the FRG, mentored spouses, led the military spouse MOPS group at Fort Belvoir and now serves the military spouse community as the Research and Insights Manager for the National Military Family Association. There is no one more dedicated to the military spouse community.
- by Terri Lichlyter