Branch: Marine Corps
Duty Station: Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune
Number of Deployments: 1
Number of PCS's: 2
Share your military spouse story:
I met Forest 16 years ago, when I was 15 years old. I will forever remember the moment he first returned from boot camp. We spent that weekend doing what we love most - cheering on the Cleveland Browns at the first home game of the season. While we have known one another for the majority of our lives, each day is new, with a new adventure, and a new lesson to be learned. There’s a letter that Jackie once wrote John Kennedy that has always reminded me of Forest & I. “You are an atypical husband—increasingly so in one way or another every year since we’ve been married—so you mustn’t be surprised to have an atypical wife—Each of us would have been so lonely with the normal kind. I can’t write down what I feel for you, but I will show you when I am with you—and I think you must know—.” We’ve never done things in the typical fashion. While working for the Department of State, I found myself working in Israel for nearly 6 months. When Forest received his most recent orders, we found ourselves once again navigating geo-bachelor waters. No matter the distance or duration of our time apart from one another, we’ve always found ourselves stronger than ever. While our careers have, more often than not, placed us in different states or on different sides of the globe, we’ve always chased our dreams in tandem. We’ve been one another’s support system, greatest challengers, and biggest fans. We are who we are because we made the decision to tackle this adventure together. This life has never been normal, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Semper Fidelis
Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
I am the Commander of American Legion Post #539, located in New Bern, North Carolina. In this role, I oversee programming that impacts veterans, spouses, and community members in Eastern North Carolina. Most recently, I organized and led a 22 mile hike, named March for the 22, which resulted in the fundraising of over $30,000. Additionally, I serve on the board of the New Bern Military Alliance (NBMA), which serves to improve the livelihood of Marines and Sailors aboard Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point. Within American Legion, I serve on the Global War on Terror Committee and the National Security Committee. The Global War on Terror committee is focused on ensuring a smooth transition from military service to the civilian sector, through economic opportunities and peer support networks.
Describe your involvement in the military community:
Throughout the year, I host movie nights for military, veterans, and their spouses. Each year, I volunteer on base, serving Marines, Sailors, and their families free dinners, courtesy of the NBMA. I am a sponsor of the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation Carolina Classic, as well as the Folds of Honor Golf Tournament. In August, I organized an open discussion, between veterans, spouses, and community members, to discuss the tragic loss of our Marines in Kabul. It's my fervent belief that by creating safe spaces for our loved ones to communicate their emotions, we build resiliency, and can ultimately save lives. Each year, we host active duty families, at our annual Christmas Party. In the past two months alone, the funding raised from the March for the 22 has provided financial support to 3 military families who were facing financial hardships and has ensured 2 veterans were no longer homeless.
Describe how you support your community:
From the funding raised during our 22 mile hike, free dinners are provided for military, veterans, and their spouses. Meals are aimed at bridging the gap between Post 9/11 & Vietnam-era veterans, educating the community about suicide prevention techniques, and ensuring all veterans have a friend to call when facing challenges. American Legion Post 539 recently revitalized a local, historically-black cemetery, which had been neglected. Members identified, cataloged, and cleaned the graves of veterans who were located in the cemetery. Afterwards, I participated in a flag laying ceremony, to provide these veterans the honors they deserve. This project, in particular, is one of the reasons I am so proud to be the Commander of Post 539. Additionally, our Post supports 3 veterans nursing homes. At Christmas, we provided gifts to each veteran, to ensure the sacrifices of those who have served are never forgotten.
What do you advocate for? Why?
I advocate for active duty military, veterans, and their spouses. As one, we are an indomitable force. It is my fervent belief that communities should work together to ensure the successful transition of all those who have served honorably in the military. Peer support programs, job training programs, and skill bridge programs should be easily accessible to our active duty, veterans, and spouses alike. It is not enough that we only support families while they are still on active duty. We must ensure we provide ample support during their transition, and for the years to come in retirement and post separation. It is only after we have a holistic support mechanism for our military, veterans, and spouses, that we will finally see the reduction in suicide rates across the military and veteran spheres.
How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
I am incredibly active on LinkedIn. My content focuses primarily on military and veterans affairs. I discuss events that are happening in the area and ways for the community to get involved. Additionally, I frequently share updates about pending local, state, and federal legislation that impacts veteran and military families. I use Facebook to connect with veterans and military members, along with their families. I share event announcements, along with financial/economic opportunities (such as grant opportunities and loans) via Facebook. Over the past year, I have had the honor of being featured in the American Legion magazine, to share our experiences with suicide prevention programming. I am the co-host of a weekly talk show, which allows me the ability to share upcoming events in the military and veteran community, along with advocating for causes that benefit military, veterans, and their families.
What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year®
As Military Spouse of the Year, I hope to inspire the next generation of military spouses. I hope to show those around me, that caring for, volunteering, and supporting our military community is one of the most rewarding things an individual will ever do. If I can inspire one person to volunteer their time or money to military families, this will have been a success. As Military Spouse of the Year, I also hope to bring greater awareness to the biggest issues impacting our military families. Whether it's the lack of reciprocity for licensing, difficulty in locating childcare, or mental health awareness - I hope to bring a voice to those in the military and veteran spheres, by illuminating issues of concern and presenting constructive solutions. It is truly an honor to be considered for this award.
I’m nominating my spouse, Liz Hartman, because she is the embodiment of inspiration, empowerment, and advocacy.
Presently, she is the youngest female Commander of an American Legion Post in North Carolina. In her role, she has brought the community, military, and their families together in a way that has never been done before. In November, she led a 22 mile hike, which saw over 260 participants march from Maysville to New Bern. This event not only brought awareness to veteran suicide rates, but raised over $30,000 for local programming. With that money, she ensured her post financially supported a Vietnam widow, and two active duty spouses, that came upon financial hardships.
She also serves on the boards of the New Bern Military Alliance and Young Professionals of Craven County. She does all of this while working full time, as a Financial Advisor in New Bern, raising our daughter, and traveling across the country to ensure veterans are best cared for.
- by Forest Hanke
Elizabeth is the perfect nominee for Military Spouse of the Year. As a commander of the American Legion Post 539, she is constantly engaging the local community into supporting the military. She was instrumental in bringing the "Wall that Heals" to New Bern and is co-founder of the March for the 22 recognizing the veterans that commit suicide daily. As an Edward Jones financial advisor and Marine veteran, she specializes in helping veterans make the most of their post-military life. As hard as she works for the military community, she works just as hard to support both her daughter and active duty husband and encourages them to participate in the many events she organizes. I am very proud of the woman that Elizabeth is and even though I am her senior, she inspires me to be a better woman. I highly recommend Elizabeth for Military Spouse of the Year.
- by Jennie Hartman
I assisted in recruiting Elizabeth to our current employer for many reasons, but the ones that made her a standout candidate are without a doubt, leadership & a passion for whatever she is involved in. As a Commander of her local American Legion post, she’s been integral in facilitating veteran events in our area and for supporting the military community. I have seen her travel to meetings at our state level, and countrywide to share her ideas and bring support back to her community.
While she is a great financial advisor, her involvement in veteran and military affairs cannot go unnoticed. She is somehow able to juggle multiple organizations and events simultaneously and her passion for them radiates in all that she does. Our firm is lucky to have her, and I hope I may speak for the military community when I say they have undoubtedly benefitted from her being such a strong voice and leader for them. We thank her for her service, both past and present, active duty and retired.
- by Angela Bodinus
As a prior service Marine herself, Liz knows the demands of the job. With her husband still on active duty, Liz has throw herself into the New Bern/Cherry Point/Lejeune communities. As a financial advisor, she specializes in helping active duty service members and veterans retire comfortably. She is involved in many influential organizations that have put her in prime position to support military members and their families. Most notably, she is the Post Commander of American Legion Post 539. She has used her role to increase opportunities for camaraderie, direct attention towards veterans issues, and provide funding to those in need. She works directly with several units around Cherry Point and Camp Lejeune to provide morale and welfare events to their Marines. Liz has a heart not only for caring for Marines, but also for taking action to make their lives better.
- by Abigail Seitz