Branch: Air Force
Duty Station: Ramstein Air Base
Number of Deployments: 2
Number of PCS's: 7
Share your military spouse story:
My journey as a military spouse began eleven years ago, after avoiding the man that later became my husband for nearly two years. Don't get me wrong, he had more than enough charm, wit, and absolute husband potential. For me, I was comfortable where I was at, and everyone who knew me would say that I am not a mover and I knew exactly what marrying that man would entail. Turns out, love always wins; he had a change of duty station and I went out to visit him and we married shortly thereafter. Fast forward eleven years, deployment, three little boys, and seven moves later, here we are. I would move seven more times for that man (though, I would prefer to keep it to two or three more). Throughout this journey as a military spouse, I have learned the importance of support, involvement, and what it means to have a military 'framily' (friends who become family) within the community. Whether it is a deployment, snowed in winters, starting over each time you move to a new base, the village you create and the relationships you form are what make or break your time at each station. I pride myself on jumping right in, forming playdate groups, volunteering in the local community, and creating bonds that withstand change of duty stations. Being a military spouse isn't always easy, but it is absolutely worth the wild ride!
Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
Shortly after arriving in Alabama I joined the ACSC Spouses Club Board. It was a great place to meet other spouses and get involved. At the first event, I realized just how many families had children and how many people found it tough to find a way to get together with families being spread out over a few different areas. I quickly put together a play group page, available for ACSC members and their families to host or join playdates with other families in their area or surrounding areas. It may seem like something so little, but when your spouse is spending more time reading and writing then there are hours in the day, having other spouses and parents to adult with was crucial. When you are in a location for such a short period of time, it tends to be harder to create friendships, and we wanted to ensure this was not the case!
Describe your involvement in the military community:
In the recent years, I have felt a huge pull to get involved in the military community. It began with joining the ACSC Spouses Club Board in 2019, and has since led me to branch out from there. I am currently a Community Outreach Lead for the American Red Cross in the Kaiserslautern Military Community and I serve on the Ramstein Elementary School PTA Board on Ramstein Air Base. I am so appreciative to have the opportunity to be involved, whether it is with the school and board members, Red Cross staff and volunteers, community members, and operations.
Describe how you support your community:
I support the military community by being involved with organizations that give back to military families. It may be something as simple as setting up volunteers to help out in different locations on base, or creating events for student's and their families, or my favorite, helping out with the planning for Month of the Military Child, Purple Up Day. This is one of my favorite days of the year, and with last year being extra difficult due to Covid, we wanted to ensure it was something special for kids. From a cheer line filled with teachers, admin, and Security Forces, to purple balloon arches, confetti, and horns honking, we made sure our military children walked into the school with a smile.
What do you advocate for? Why?
I advocate for the military family and the community you may find yourself in, whether for eleven months or four plus years. Moving is hard, moving frequently is even harder. It's rough being the newcomer, the new student, the new military spouse, but with a community that becomes your village, it doesn't have to be.
How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
I spread the message by simply being there for spouses. When a new military spouse asks for a playdate or someone to walk with, I respond. I check in, I ask questions, I make sure that they know that I am here for them. We have all struggled with being the newcomer, so why not help someone else kick that feeling and make some friends that become 'framily' along the way.
What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year®
With the AFI Military Spouse of the Year® title, I hope to bring more awareness and support to incoming spouses and their families. It would be wonderful to connect spouses with friend groups that welcome them quickly and ease the stress of finding new friendships for them and/or their children. Unpacking is hard; why not make finding friends to help you out a bit easier?
With the influx of refugees from Afghanistan to Ramstein Air Force Base, the local community of servicemembers and military families rose to the challenge of housing them, feeding them, and helping them decompress from their trauma. Emily coordinated efforts as a Red Cross volunteer. As she continued to care for three young boys in the midst of a pandemic in a foreign country, as well as support her military husband, she also worked overnight shifts with the refugees. One story she shared with me involved using extra clothes from her boys to clothe a young girl. When wearing the clean oversized shirt, the little girl began to twirl and giggle as if it was the best dress she'd ever had. I have no doubt that Emily, and many volunteers like her, have also carried trauma from the events of the Afghan evacuation- but she continued to show up. Through the tears, trauma, and exhaustion she exemplified everything that military spousehood is in our community, even to those we've just met.
- by Heather Campbell