Duty Station: Fort Drum
Number of Deployments: 1
Number of PCS's: 2
Share your military spouse story:
I am an Army spouse of ten years. I met my husband when I was 19 years old and he was 24. He had just graduated college, but then decided he had a bigger calling. So, one month into our relationship he enlisted in the Army. We both had no idea what this really meant. We didn’t know if we would last, but we decided we wanted to try. I continued with college, and he finished training. Then he was assigned to his first base, where he was immediately sent on a deployment to the Middle East. This was my first taste of what it was like to be a military spouse. The constant worry, the confusion, the faith needed that he will be okay and the knowledge that there was nothing I could do except wait. While I waited, I studied abroad, learned about a new culture and finished my bachelor's degree. When he got back to the states, we got engaged, then married and realized we had a lot of learning to do. Both together and separate. As a couple, we had to learn what marriage was, what life would be like as a military couple, how to communicate when we lived together and when we lived apart. Separately, I had to figure out what I would do now. I had no friends, a four year degree and no job experience. Who was I? And what did I want? Now, I am happy to report that I figured out what I would do. After years of jobs that weren’t quite right, I started my own business to help fellow military spouses achieve their professional dreams. I guide women using both my professional and personal experiences to break societal molds, uproot self-doubt and be unapologetically themselves. I help women know undoubtedly that they are worth more than words can express. These last ten years as the partner of an Active Duty soldier have been a roller coaster, but I wouldn't trade them for anything else in the world. They have made me strong, independent and given me the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of other military spouses.
Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
In the military community, I am currently serving as a program coordinator for the Ft. Drum Hiring Our Heroes Military Spouse Network. I host free workshops to help military spouses find jobs and build their careers. I work with Marla Bautista as a Grant Manager and volunteer with her organization, The Bautista Project Inc. I have created a journal to use in the veteran's giving boxes project and connect with local organizations to provide donations to our homeless community. I am serving as a judge on the North Country Spouses Club Education Scholarship board. I have served as the co-moderator of a Ft. Drum Facebook Group with around 270 members. I organized events for military spouses to connect and meet new friends.
Describe your involvement in the military community:
I am on a mission to help my fellow military spouses explicitly know their value. I have seen a pattern in our military spouse community that concerns me. We undervalue ourselves. We don't realize what we bring to the table. To help adjust this pattern I have worked hard to be a part of the military community around me. I attend the local North Country Spouse Club (NCSC) events and donate my time for NCSC fundraising efforts. I host military spouse get-togethers such as potlucks, game nights, and movie nights. I work with the FRG leaders to build up comradery within the spouses in the company. And I work with the Ft. Drum Hiring Our Heroes - Military Spouse Network to provide free goal setting workshops. I take every chance I can to spread the word about what it's like to be a military spouse too help bridge the gap between what people think it’s like and what it’s really like. I make sure other military spouses know they can reach out and ask for help from me whenever they need it.
Describe how you support your community:
I have made Ft. Drum and the surrounding area my home. I have taken the time to get to know the businesses and people in the area and find ways to support the needs of our community. I have connected with the community through the Chamber of Commerce and at local networking events. My husband and I went through the process to certify our home as a foster home. I have taken on roles within local groups such as Watertown Toastmasters and Upstate International Coaching Federation. I participate in local events. And I host events at local business revolving around goal setting, vision board creation and self-development. I truly believe that anywhere can be your home. And as the saying goes, home is where the army takes you. So, I always make the best out of wherever we are by finding the hidden gems, supporting the community, and showing anyone new to the area all the best places to go.
What do you advocate for? Why?
I fully believe that when you know your worth, you can accomplish anything. My passion is helping women, especially my fellow military spouses, see the value they bring to the table. It took me multiple toxic work experiences, broken friendships and bad bosses to realize how powerful I could be if I just knew my value. I looked around me and realized that I wasn't the only one. I noticed we are stuck in a loop of negative self-talk and limiting beliefs. We talk ourselves down, before we even have a chance to prove ourselves wrong. We let the beliefs of other determine who we are. But, I had enough and now I remind anyone listening that they are worthy for just existing and anything is possible for them. I advocate for a strong belief in our self-worth, not apologizing for who we are and working through our obstacles one day at a time. I do this because I see the possibilities we can accomplish when we know who we are and how valuable we are. I want everyone to see that too!
How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
I have spread my message through multiple avenues. I have spoken at networking events, both virtual and in person, where I had the opportunity to share my story and connect with military spouses and military spouse advocates. I have spoken on radio interviews and podcasts about what I do and what it's like to be a military spouse. I use my social media platforms and website to provide guidance for others who can learn from my experiences. And I organized and hosted a Self-Discovery Summit for Women in Niagara Falls, NY where I and fellow military spouses spoke about the limits and obstacles that are affecting military spouses today.
What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year®
If I am honored with the title of AFI Military Spouse of the Year, I hope to take my message of self-worth into the minds and hearts of more people. I hope to spread the word that you are valuable just by existing. I hope to help military spouses realize that they matter, they are worthy and they are more than their job titles. I hope to help people uproot their negative self-talk and stop apologizing for taking up space. I hope to make an impact on the military community and show people how believing in your value can help you accomplish anything you want.
Devan created a program to empower both military spouses and civilian professionals. She uses her skills as a professional coach to empower women to strive toward their goals. Devan also volunteers her time to support other military spouse organizations as well.
- by Marla Bautista