Duty Station: Naval Air Station Jacksonville
Number of Deployments: 5
Number of PCS's: 0
Share your military spouse story:
I was born to a Jacksonville area pastor and missionary family. I went to college at Asbury College in Kentucky and played varsity tennis for them while graduating with honors with a degree in Journalism. After returning to the Jacksonville area for a few years, I married Mike Toenies, a Naval Aircrewman, in 2014. In 2018, we welcomed our first son, Isaac, to our family and discovered that he was born with several neuromuscular medical complexities. I am on a journey to turn my medically-complex parenting experience into one of hope and help by advocating for Isaac publicly and telling our story openly. In 2021, Mike and I welcomed our second son, Adrian, to our family and also went through a 6-month deployment just weeks after Adrian’s arrival. I am currently employed as the Chief Operating Officer at 1-800-BOARDUP, Inc., and work full-time in addition to being a full-time wife, Navy spouse and mother to sweet Isaac and baby Adrian. I blog daily updates on our family’s journey on Facebook.
Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
I served on the VP-10 FRG board as Vice President for a year, then as President for two year-long terms before I had my first special needs child. By now living in a world going through a pandemic and being immunocompromised myself and now having an immunocompromised son, I am looking to help shift the military family community to be more virtually-inclusive. I would like to set up a FRG set of protocols that include both the OSC and ombudsman and create a safe group online for the families to interact together and receive messages, which is very important especially during deployments. When my husband joined his current squadron (and for an entire year after that), no one reached out to me like I used to do to all in-bound sailors and their families when I was FRG President. I don't want another military family to feel excluded because they can't make in-person events. We can change this!
Describe your involvement in the military community:
I have served on a FRG board as Vice President for a year, then as President for two year-long terms. I am very active in several social media groups for military spouses and one for medically-complex parents. I'd love to raise more awareness that these support groups exist and help other families not feel so alone when they walk through this journey. Some of my best life-long friends were military spouses that I met before the pandemic, and I want to try to help other families #1 to recognize that they aren't alone, and #2 to provide a way for them to get involved and find friends virtually. Our world has changed. And we should too.
Describe how you support your community:
I have raised money and awareness for the March of Dimes, the Ronald McDonald House of Charities, Wolfson Children's Hospital, the Kelsi Leah Young Respite Care Endowment Fund, Community Hospice & Palliative Care Foundation, through campaigns, creating teams for walks, and promoting them online and on television. I am also a sitting board member of the Wolfson Children's Hospital Family Advisory Council and on Len Ministries Board of Directors.
What do you advocate for? Why?
I advocate for my medically-complex son. He can't speak...but I can! I want others to know that although he is differently abled, he is incredible so I share his story on Facebook @thestoryofisaac and openly share the ups and downs of our lives. We've done some news and awareness specials on his feeding tube and raising awareness for that, and also for other medical complexities like cerebral palsy. It is life-changing to receive news that your child won't be able to live the life you've dreamt for them. I also want to help other families who have received similar devastating news face it, then find their new normal, like I have. Yes, their futures will be different, but they can still be beautiful.
How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
I have been on several tv interviews, radio shows, and been a keynote speaker at several conferences and fundraisers. I blog daily journal entries about my experience being a special needs family and regularly engage other outlets to help this special needs community also.
What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year®
By being the AFI Military Spouse of the Year, I hope to be a role model to other parents going through a similar walk in the EFMP program and share resources that are otherwise hidden from us as spouses. I would like to create an online group to help families in each command be able to communicate and interact together, by creating standardized procedures. No military spouse or family should feel alone. We can change this.
Beth Marie is an outstanding mother and spouse. She is a mentor to me and guides me through trials and tribulations that the Navy offers. She has been an FRG President twice of VP-10 helping families of deployed. As a mother to our two sons, one who is an undiagnosed special needs child named Isaac, and another, a 9-month old named Adrian, she defines resiliency with every turn. Beth is also the Chief Operating Officer of 1-800-BoardUp, a victim assistance company. As a faith filled spouse, she also dedicates her time to other families of special needs via various awareness programs. She pioneered an awareness Facebook page called, "The Story of Isaac" which encouraged over one-hundred families to date to not face trials alone that being a special needs family encounters, while also telling our son's story. She has taken to local Jacksonville, FL radio stations and conducted TV Interviews to speak on behalf of Isaac and other special needs families. She is the definition of SOY.
- by MICHAEL SHAY TOENIES II