Branch: Coast Guard
Duty Station: Coast Guard District 7
Number of Deployments: 9
Number of PCS's: 4
Share your military spouse story:
My Name is Christine O'Shields, I am a Coast Guard spouse of 11 years, mom of three boys, business owner, substitute teacher and a loving friend to many. I was born and raised in this lifestyle, so moving and change is nothing new to me. I met and fell in love with my husband when I was in College in Kodiak, Alaska. We moved clear across the country to Connecticut and welcomed the birth of our first born. After a short 2-year tour, we found ourselves moving up the coast to Southwest Harbor, Maine for nearly 5 years, welcoming our second and third children. The time to transfer came and we knew our options were slim, so our family decided to spend a year apart from my husband while he went to Bahrain. The kids and I moved to Charleston, SC where he would join us in thirteen months. We now reside in Charleston where he is stationed on the Coast Guard Cutter James, and I am the Ombudsman. I am a strong and independent person. You will find me either at the kids’ school, sports events, church, folding laundry, scrubbing toilets, cooking meals, or gathering with other women in hopes of uplifting and encouraging them. This military life isn’t easy and is not for everyone, but I have always strived to be a listening ear, smiling face, and encouragement to all spouses and their children. I’ve had my battles of anxiety and depression, where at times felt alone, defeated, and struggled to find happiness away from family. I have learned to create family wherever we are, to embrace the local culture, and to remember we all stand in lonely shoes sometimes. Though this life presents its share of challenges at times: it has opened so many doors, given me opportunities that many could only dream of, and has defined the values of our family. Our children know the value of friendships, leaning on prayer for comfort, how much a smile can change a stranger’s day, and that sacrifice isn’t always a bad thing.
Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
My children attend and I work for a school of primarily military children, I truly believe those children need to know that in a life where things are constantly changing, people who care will always remain the same. These kids are the strongest humans I know. I am currently the Ombudsman for our unit which gives me many opportunities to love and support other spouses. I am always making/taking families dinners, holding new babies and watching older ones so mom can have a quick break, offering relocation advise, providing insight into medial and childcare services. I am a part of the Family Readiness Council for Joint Base Charleston and have had the opportunity to work with the Palmetto Military Support Groups to provide meals for over 400 deploying soldiers and other events. Through our church I helped launch a Marriage Support Team and this spring we are branching out and starting a Military Family and Marriage Support team that my husband and myself will run.
Describe your involvement in the military community:
From day one of being a spouse I knew I wanted a sense of community and belonging, for spouses and children alike, I have strived from the very beginning to create that space no matter where we live, who comes, and who goes. I’ve always been the “spouse coordinator” hosting gatherings and creating events, I truly believe everyone needs to find their place and needs the support of others in their shoes. I volunteer where needed within the military spouse community. When you hold the title of “Ombudsman” many people think “you only do the things you do because you are obligated”. That is far from the truth. As the Ombudsman my hands are tied to many things including but not limited to offering babysitting services, hosting secluded social gatherings, giving people rides places, and the list could go on. When I offer to do such things, I do them out pure kindness and they are open to anyone inside or outside our unit. No spouse should ever feel lost in the spouse realm.
Describe how you support your community:
I believe that we are the representation for the military both when our spouses are present and absent. When we arrive at a unit and make it home, we aren’t just making the house a home but also the town in which we reside. I am heavily involved within the kids’ school as well as our church. My husband is a volunteer firefighter so when opportunities arise within the department, such as pancake breakfast, open houses, yard sales, etc. we are always there, setting up, running the events, cleaning up, helping wherever needed. I believe it’s extremely important that we represent our Active-Duty Members and the Military with a positive and goal-oriented mindset in every community we live in. If the military presence is seen and known for the greater good, the community opens their arms wider.
What do you advocate for? Why?
“Every Spouse Deserves a Chance”. I want NO spouse to ever feel left out. Every spouse no matter what rate, rank, or branch should feel as though they have support, a voice, and their own identity. Anxiety and depression are a real thing, and it is so often pushed aside and buried with the stigma "we have to be strong for the member and our children". Yes, I believe we shouldn't add to the stress our Active-Duty members face, but if our mental health isn't in check, we can't fully support them. I strive for EVERY SINGLE spouse whether they be new or well-seasoned to feel like they have a place within this community. I want them to all know their purpose and be comfortable. Anxiety and depression live within us all, some may never notice, and others can’t control it. Being shammed for reaching out and dealing with it is not acceptable and we need to make a change.
How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
Primarily through social media, and word of mouth here in the Charleston Metro Region. I would love to have the message "Operation Spouses Saving Spouses" plastered on every base with a message to go along with it that reads “Every Spouse Deserves a Chance”. My hope would be that every base would have opportunities for spouse to “find their place”, PT facilities would have the ability for mothers to work out and burn stress, and military affiliated social media accounts would be a place of strength and encouragement, rather than destruction and negativity.
What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year®
Being Military Spouse of the Year would give me the opportunity to bring awareness to Anxiety and Depression within our community. I would love to hear stories of those who are suffering, talk to and encourage them, as well as create programs and mentors on each base to support these spouses without them feeling judged, ridiculed, or as though their future is on the line if they seek help. I understand the stress of being at a small unit I know how little help is out there. Let’s make a change to how spouses feel and bring make morale and good times.
Christine always goes above and beyond for families and spouses around our community. She’s been involved with our Charleston community for several years now. Not only does Christine help fellow Coastie families and other military families in our community, she also gets involved with her local church and schools. She is the Ombudsman for her husbands ship and leads Bible study groups as well. She is a true jack of all trades and such an asset to the Coast Guard community and beyond.
- by Amanda Pardue