Duty Station: Not Affiliated With a Duty Station
Number of Deployments: 2
Number of PCS's: 1
Share your military spouse story:
I met Andrew in 2004 a few months after his second tour to Iraq. He shared his story of how he was in the Marines and and got out for 6 mo and went back in with the Army. He had been home a few months but was broken. We were both going through ugly divorces and that's what originally bonded us. It was long after I moved in with him right before his 2nd trip to Iraq I noticed he was different. When he cam back it was worse. He got out in 2006. For years no help or understanding of what was happening, I will skip the heart ache and tears of the ugliness from 06- 14 when he realized he needed help. We packed up our entire life and moved to FL. Him leaving a $100k job and me being a stay home mom of 2. We came to FL on a whim for him to start over and go to school and find purpose. We both hit rock bottom and I found myself alone and contemplating leaving with the kids but was afraid he would hurt himself if I did. I knew nothing about veteran services or how to get him help or what a caregiver was until I went to a family support lunch with wounded warrior project. That day was the 1st day of our amazing life now. That day I dove into finding all the resources and help I could for my family and decided I wanted to make sure no one else felt the way I did. I started volunteering and leading other veteran spouses in finding their way and helping their veteran. 7 years later I am a facilitator for 2 support groups, work at the VA and am my husband's full time caregiver while raising 2 beautiful smart girls. We thrive on helping other families make sure they know it's ok to ask for help and help them with finding resources and getting them connected. This world this life is not for everyone and often we as spouses feel alone and lost. If I have made a mark and helped just even 1 person by sharing our rough journey then that is worth all the pain to be here on the other side. I love hearing from others how by us being so open it has helped them. We can never give up!
Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
I work at the VA on Orlando, I am emursed in the veteran community daily. It is my mission and my job to make sure the veterans get the care they need. Not just by smiling and making appointments but by showing empathy and compassion with their needs. I do the same with volunteering for the spouses and showing them the same.respect and kindness.
Describe your involvement in the military community:
I am a peer leader for family support members with the Wounded Warrior Project and the Veterans Caregicer group of Operation Homefront. I have ran these groups here in Orlando.for the last 4/5 years. This is my community my family. We do monthly meetings either virtual or in person.
Describe how you support your community:
The best way to support my community is by learning and sharing what I have learned. Be it resources or experiences it's important to be transparent so others can see they are not alone.
What do you advocate for? Why?
I advocate for my Veteran 1st because if I don't stand up for his care and.mental health who else will? Then I advocate for my fellow spouses, again this isn't an easy life. It would be easy to walk away but nothing worth having is ever easy
How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
With my support groups I do a lot of social media post.I share my 8 page resource list at every meeting .I make myself available to who ever needs me when ever they need me. I love networking and meeting new people
What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year®
I am honored that Teja nominated me. I was overwhelmed with emotions when she told me what she did. I don't do what I do for awards or praise I do it because it helps me in my own journey. If I were to win it would just push me even harder to continue being a voice for those who feel voiceless.
Since Ive met Erin she has been nothing but a helpful hand too whomever comes in her path. She is consistently sharing valuable information for military veterans and spouses. She is always volunteering and making sure those in need gets. She is someone who needs her flowers now!
- by Teja Ray