Branch: Coast Guard
Duty Station: Coast Guard District 5
Number of Deployments: 0
Number of PCS's: 6
Share your military spouse story:
I have had many titles or wore many hats in this military spouse life over the last 18 years. It all started with teacher and volleyball coach, military spouse, mom, law enforcement wife, XO’s wife, special needs mom, CO’s wife and currently student. My favorite quote has always been bloom where you are planted. Our roots are short, but the connections made with others on this journey have been deep and impactful. My husband is about to retire after 20 years of service and I find myself at an intersection to both describe this incredible journey yet try to let go of that military spouse title that has been my identity for 18 years. I could explain all 9 moves and 6 PCS and all the accomplishments, volunteer opportunities, empowering others, and legacy of making each duty station better because we lived there. However, that is just a piece or part of who I am as a person. I found ways to best support my husband, my family, and make the lives of those we met in this journey better. My main goals as a spouse have been the core values of the Coast Guard: Honor, Respect, Devotion to Duty. I have been there at the pier, saying goodbye to part of my heart as it left for extended periods. I understood that there is a mission to be done out on the water as a wife of a black hull/ ice breaking sailor. It was my duty to take care of everything at home which meant teaching our children what honoring the call to serve looks like and the definition of integrity. Perseverance has to be my favorite core value. Its difficult to be a military spouse, but even harder to be a mom of a special needs child and a family who serves. A diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder, 7 years ago for our youngest son, changed our family forever. It was in that moment, that I believe no one should have to get a diagnosis alone. I have helped so many navigate the special needs journey both civilian and military. Every special needs family that serves should get a gold star and a standing ovation.
Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
One leadership experience within the military community goes back to 2011 when the Commandant of the Coast Guard declared it the year of the family. I worked really hard to create a much needed Spouses Network called TSN (Tracen- Yorktown Spouse Network). I collaborated with Coast Guard lawyers, the Chaplain, Tricare Representatives, and much more to get the spouses connected to the proper resources and more importantly each other. To quote Ret. Capt. W. J. Milne “I have been impressed and very thankful for your efforts to create such a valuable service to our families-a service that provides important life lines to those who are new to Yorktown and those families who are seasoned veterans to the area. One of the tenets of my command philosophy is to create and maintain a first class working and learning environment. Without realizing it, you have made that possible through your efforts, caring and concern for others, often above yourself, within and outside the TCY family.”
Describe your involvement in the military community:
In 2012, we were stationed in Detroit on the USCGC Bristol Bay. I took on the role of XO’s wife. Those two years were tough as many winter storms called polar vortex hit our metro area . My husband deployed to the lakes 18/24 months and I was left to take care of three small children. I was the “unofficial” ombudsman between the crew and the command. I wanted to make sure all families were taken care of during their time at sea which was all the time. I organized baby showers, holiday get togethers, Bunco, craft nights and just fun family activities. In 2017, we moved to Green Bay WI and I took on the role of CO's wife on the USCGC Mobile Bay. While here I worked with the local Sturgeon Bay Coast Guard Committee and created a proper welcome home back to the pier after a year away from home port. I had support from local law enforcement, fire department, and even the Sturgeon Bay High School Marching Band. The crew had no idea this was planned and was a great experience.
Describe how you support your community:
In 2014, we moved to Cleveland, Ohio. That was my absolute favorite duty station. I was heavily into volunteering with our church (MOPS), the special needs population, and PTA at school. I was on the Leadership team for Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) at our church. I was asked to attend the Annual MOPS Conference that was in Milwaukee WI. It was here that I learned how to empower other women about raising kids in today’s world. It was also at this duty station that our youngest son was diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum. We spent countless hours in the Cleveland Clinic Pediatric therapy. Chase learned how to button, write his name, use a pencil, scissors, and life skills. Because of the impact that the clinic had on our family, I donated to the cancer cart at the clinic. It was books, puzzles, and games to put a smile on the face of those going though chemo. I was also the VP of the PTA. That was the best volunteer job that I have ever had making an impact on students and teachers.
What do you advocate for? Why?
The first thing I advocate for would be that the Coast Guard is part of Homeland Security and not the Department of Defense. When the government shutdown happened, I was educating everyone I knew about that simple difference. It was when we had to be the light in a very dark time. The second thing that I advocate for is the special needs population or just getting that initial Autism Diagnosis. I have helped so many both military and civilian navigate through all the paperwork and the process. It is an isolating and exhausting journey to navigate alone. Mainly parents just need the reassurance that it will all be ok and I was there to help with every single step. The third thing that I advocate for is supporting my husband through the covid pandemic. His change of command ceremony was virtual and our immediate family could not attend.I made a Tribute video for him with so many of his former and current shipmates sent their congratulations virtually.
How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
As a special needs mom, I have spread my message to anyone who will listen. I am very transparent about this journey both the good days and celebrating successes and the bad days. Its hard with three kids and all different needs. Our middle son, Gavin, is gifted in math so making sure that he is challenged academically though our moves was certainly difficult. I mainly want to let others know that you are never alone. The process is not easy but we are warriors for our children and want to see them succeed academically. The IEP ( Individualized Education Plan) process also changes from state to state that we live in. Each school will offer different services as well based on the current IEP. We have been very blessed with amazing educators in each state we lived in. They have helped all of our children grow into successful individuals by supporting them through their own military journey they are on as well.
What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year®
First it is an honor to just be nominated into his amazing group of inspiring people. Just looking back at the past 18 years gives me a sense of hope and so much joy. Hope because our children Jessica(16), Gavin (13), and Chase(10) have had some amazing lifelong adventures that not everyone gets to experience unless they are affiliated with the military. With each PCS, came with its own challenges, however our children have grown into amazing individuals with compassion, kindness, and life skills or lessons. They have learned it was their duty to share their dad as he left on his icebreaking ships to do the mission. They learned kindness and had friends from different ethnic and religious backgrounds. While some days I wear many hats, sometimes multiple ones at once, but always with a smile because it is my legacy to give back to others. Our children learned grit, determination and perseverance which was my best accomplishment I have ever done.
Elizabeth is a Coast Guard spouse who is passionate about supporting military, veteran, and special needs communities. She is an active volunteer and has been a volunteer Ombudsman, a Vice President for a PTA, on a leadership team for MOPS, a parent representative for PBIS (Positive Behavior In Schools), and much more. Elizabeth currently belongs to the Tidewater Autism Society, took classes to understand the Virginia IEP process for her special needs son, and is in school to pursue a career as a Physical Therapy Assistant. Her husband has served in the Coast Guard for 20 years this spring. He and Elizabeth have been married for 17 years and have three children, Jessica (16), Gavin (13) and Chase (10). She has moved nine times, and has made a difference at every location. As a fellow special needs mom, Elizabeth is a blessing on our family's special needs journey. Her years of dedication and passion is inspiring, which is why she is being nominated for Military Spouse of the Year!
- by Elizabeth Fought