Duty Station: Not Affiliated With a Duty Station
Number of Deployments: 1
Number of PCS's: 3
Share your military spouse story:
When I was drowning my recently-broken heart in vodka Redbulls at a bar in Richmond, Virginia on a cold February night in 2016, I certainly did not expect to meet my husband, and I did not imagine in the first 5 years of our marriage to be so eventful. We’ve PCSd 3 times, experienced a deployment and more TDYs, field time, and late nights at the office than I care to quantify, while also adding 2 dogs, 2 precious sons, my first grey hair, and a few more college degrees to our lives. I know this Army chapter is exactly that, a chapter in the story of our lives, but oh my gosh I wish I could take that girl who was so scared for life as an Army wife by the shoulders and tell her that for every hard day, every tear, every job change, every see-ya-later, her life would be so balanced by the depth of friendships found in military spouses, the purpose found in caring for military dependents, and the power of connection with those who truly “get it”. I wish I could tell her that she was and always will be more than her spouse’s career, defined by her own unique gifts and talents, and that there was no one else quite like her (and what a good thing that would be!!). I was so scared that being a military spouse meant I wouldn’t get to follow my own career dreams to become a nurse practitioner, and instead I have the absolute honor of getting to do what I love, practice medicine, and care for the community nearest and dearest to my heart: military families.
Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
When we first arrived at Fort Bragg in 2018, I had exactly one friend, so I joined Association of Bragg Spouses as a way to meet people. Before I knew it, I was applying to the general board and this year (2021-2022) I have the honor of serving as the President of ABS. It has been my goal this year to be as inclusive as possible, and make every single member feel valued and like they matter. It has been an exercise in our ability to pivot with the ongoing pandemic, but I am working alongside an amazing group of women as we raise funds for scholarships for military dependents and community welfare grants. I also have been the SFRG leader at the company level which was such an amazing opportunity to foster meaningful connections with soldiers and their families, while subsequently being poured into by leadership at the battalion level and above. I have been honored to receive awards and recognition at the unit level, as well as the Iron Mike Award for my 500+ hours of volunteer service.
Describe your involvement in the military community:
I am a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner by trade, and my specialty is pediatrics. As a military spouse (and mom), I know the stress of finding providers when we PCS, so when the opportunity arose to serve as a PCM in a pediatric office, I immediately accepted. My patient population is about 80% military children, and it is the absolute honor of my life to get to be fulfilled professionally in my role, while also being so fulfilled in my soul serving my families. Having such a variety of experience in my personal life as a military spouse has made me a better provider. I was very worried in my early years of marriage that the frequent moves and “military spouse” title would hinder my professional career, but in reality, it has set me up to foster a more meaningful connection because I truly can empathize with the experiences of my patients and their families.
Describe how you support your community:
When I stepped into the President role for Association of Bragg Spouses, I was told by someone that I wasn’t qualified because I am “just a Captain’s wife” and I “don’t know what right looks like”. She was right in the sense I don’t know what I don’t know, but I do know how to be authentically me, how to foster an environment that values inclusion, and a community that builds each other up instead of tearing them down. I wanted to quit when she said that, but I realized that if I did, I would be reinforcing the idea that I wasn’t “enough” not because of my own personal qualifications, but because of my spouse’s rank. I didn’t quit and the best team of military spouses has drowned out that one negative voice with external validation that I am enough, because of who I am, not because of my spouse. I am proud to say I support my community by being authentic in my interactions and by deeply caring about each and every person I interact with in my various roles.
What do you advocate for? Why?
There is a large part of life as a military spouse that feels sacrificial- my husband’s career determines when and where we move, when we take summer vacation, if there will be an empty seat at the dinner table on any given day, etc. I want to empower spouses everywhere that you are not defined only by your spouse and his or her career, and you matter. This military life can be very hard, and I am serious when I say I would not have survived the crippling postpartum depression I experienced after the birth of my first son without my community here. We have had the unique experience of being geographically in the same place for 4 years now, although my husband has had different roles in different areas, and I wish every single military spouse felt like I do about my community here. I am an advocate for empowering military spouses to grow in their self-worth and personal identity, and connecting them to their communities to foster meaningful friendships and a sense of belonging.
How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
We live in a time where the flow of information is constant, so bringing Association of Bragg Spouses into 2022 with a strong social media presence was really important to me. Before serving as President, I was the Publicity and Newsletter Chair, which enabled me to really get into the nitty gritty of algorithms and how to post effectively. We at ABS have an absolute rock star of Publicity and Newsletter Chair this year who has only furthered this by getting us active on TikTok, as well as growing our following significantly on Instagram and Facebook. We also had the opportunity this year to be featured in an article in the Fayetteville Observer with our annual Holiday Tour of Homes on Fort Bragg. My personal social media is relatively public, because I want people to feel comfortable reaching out directly to connect. It is a balance of boundaries as a healthcare provider, but I pride myself on sharing “real life” as an Army wife and working mama of 2.
What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year®
I was so worried that my career would suffer for my husband’s, or that I would be unfulfilled and lonely as we moved around the world for (God-willing) 20 years, but I want to be an example that “military spouse” is not a one-size-fits-all mold; we are all unique and have our own gifts and experiences we bring to the various tables we will sit at in our lives. I have a career that I love, that fills me to the brim with joy, and I also am involved in my community, not from a sense of obligation, but because I want to be. I want spouses everywhere, from the day of commissioning or enlistment, to the day of retirement or separation, to feel included and secure in their worth, and like they have a place in the military spouse community that only they can fill.
I genuinely do not know how my wife does everything that she does. From being a mother to our two young sons, to being a nurse practitioner in a pediatric office serving primarily military families, to serving as the President of the Association of Bragg Spouses, she is one busy woman, but she still finds time to pour into the people she loves. She has volunteered over 500 hours in the last two years on top of her actual job taking care of military children as a PCM for Tricare. There is no one more deserving of being called Military Spouse of the Year, in my opinion, than my wife Hannah Bates.
- by Alexander Bates