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

Barbara Lercara

Branch: Army

Duty Station: Fort Jackson

Number of Deployments: 1

Number of PCS's: 3

Share your military spouse story:
I am an Army spouse of 5 years, a loyal friend and an insurance account manager for life and health policies. I consider myself the person you can go to for advice about any concern or how to get yourself out there and make connections. I am adaptable to new situations, resilient, independent, resourceful, and dedicated. I am not a mom yet to any two legged children, but adore my 3 four legged companions. I fell in love with a young man from North Carolina when he was in Captains Career Course, and married him a year and a half later. He is such a dedicated officer and I love to cheer him on in any way I can. I wear many hats in my life, but my favorite is being an advocate for military spouses in any way I can or I am needed. I have lots of big plans to continue to do good work and make sure no one feels left out or lost, especially as a new spouse. The last 5 years have been exciting, stressful, and a whirlwind, but I wouldn't have it any other way. We are very blessed to be near family right now in Fort Jackson, SC and I look forward to where God places us next, which looks like Fort Leavenworth, KS. I know our little family will continue to do great work and grow stronger with each move, because home is where your heart is and that is anywhere my Soldier is.

Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
Since I have become a military spouse, I have been blessed to be able to participate in many leadership roles. I have served as an FRG leader and helped with many events like trunk or treat or our deployment sessions to help families get ready for deployment. I have also worked with the USO helping with feeding soldiers, spouse events and also stuffing care packages for deploying units. I have also served as the vice president for spouse's club and put on a very successful Vice night for our organization. Lastly, I have served as an instructor for Army Family Team Building and held military ball classes for units on post to help spouses feel more prepared. Currently I am paving a way for Fort Jackson to have a Blue Star Families chapter, and have held several events for our spouses here. We have had much excitement for this and I love meeting spouses and making this post feel more like home for them.

Describe your involvement in the military community:
I believe it is very important to be involved in any community you are a part of, inside the military and outside of it. You have to find a balance for yourself and for your family so every installation for me is different in the level of involvement I have. I attend installation events such as unit parties, and coffees. I also love to attend USO coffee connections to connect with spouses from across the globe since Fort Jackson doesn't have a coffee connection in person here. I am very passionate in advocating for making sure no military spouse ever feels left out. At Fort Jackson, it can be tricky since it is very heavily focused on trainees and not permanent party. So I have been really advocating for more things for military spouses that are here for a few years to feel like they can be involved. I also attend open focus groups and town halls when I can to make sure I keep myself up to date with what is going on at our installation. I am also involved in our local boxing studio.

Describe how you support your community:
I am very passionate about informing and uplifting military spouses. I do firmly believe that no spouse should ever feel left out, lost or feel left behind. I like to say my platform is "Find Your Tribe" because it really is important to have that sense of belonging where ever you go so that you find your purpose. It is important to me to make sure military spouses know what resources are available to them and where they can go for support. I also believe in supporting the community outside of the military. For me, this includes making sure non military friends understand us. People I speak to are always fascinated by learning something about the military way of life and I do feel like they feel disconnected from us and don't understand us in a way. If I can build that bridge, that to me is an accomplishment. We should all feel like part of one community always.

What do you advocate for? Why?
I advocate for all spouses to feel like they are included. I want military spouses to know what every tool available to them is and to feel like they are a part of the community. I enjoy helping people find their way at an installation and making sure they do not feel lost, especially as a new spouse. I also believe firmly in building the bridge between civilian and military families so that we can all feel a little closer, because we are not as different as we think we are.

How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
I spread my message through social media and spouse events. I think it is very important to just get out there and start talking to people. No matter how small the outlet may seem to be, if you can touch one person with your message that is a very big accomplishment. I love to just sit down and get to know spouses, and teach them about things that I have learned within the community in things like AFTB classes. It is the most rewarding thing when you explain something to a new spouse and then their face lights up because what was confusing to them is now clear. That is something I strive to try to do every day.

What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year® title?
As a candidate for this honor, I hope to accomplish what I think most spouses want to accomplish and that is to have everyone feel informed, empowered and included. I want spouses to always feel like the community they are a part of is a safe place for them to ask for help and ask for information. As a military spouse my goal is always to build community in and outside of the installation and make sure that our families are taken care of in every way possible.

Nominations

From the first day we met Barbara has been sweet, kind, uplifting and inviting. She is always reaching out to spouses to help build a strong community and support system for all she meets. She is generous with her time and always willing to give. She has joined multiple organizations that allows her to help other spouses whether it be through advocacy or creating events that brings unity among spouses. She has also dedicated time to educating other spouses by teaching Army Family Team Building Classes. She is a strong supporter and heavily involved in Blue Star Families at Fort Jackson, work that she has continued from when she was stationed at Fort Campbell. She is highly dedicated to helping fellow spouses and she well deserving of the nomination.
- by Cheryl Puga