Nominations are closed. Come back February 3 to meet the candidates!

Ivania Castillo

Branch: Army

Duty Station: Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall

Number of Deployments: 3

Number of PCS's: 3

Share your military spouse story:
I never dreamed of leaving New York City and traveling with my spouse through the military. Together, my family and I have traveled to many parts of this country and have lived in three different states! We even got the chance to visit South Korea and Spain together. We have explored different areas, have learned different cultures, tasted different foods, and have done much needed shopping in these different places. We have met so many wonderful people, who have blessed our family in so many ways. We have lived both on base and off base throughout the years. Although living off-post has many advantages, we prefer to live on post simply because of the people we have met. Through them, we have learned what it is to be cared for, loved, appreciated, and understood. We could not imagine such an increase in our personal growth without them. They have helped us to know and understand what it is to give back with great intention. As the spouse of a U.S. Army Chaplain stationed at Joint Base Myer - Henderson Hall (JBM-HH), we are particularly grateful for the chance to serve people in their times of need. It has been a pleasure to demonstrate what it is to be a part of a local church, ministry, and also what it is to be part of the United States--a generous and blessed land. I look forward to what new people, places, and duties this journey has for us!

Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
In Fort Bragg, NC, my family and I hosted Thanksgiving for single Servicemembers consecutively and provided them with small gifts during the Christmas season. We have hosted for leaders at our home as well as block parties in our neighborhoods. My husband and I led a Bible Study at John F. Kennedy Memorial Chapel where we provided dinner for all attendees. I was also able to lead a drive for Veterans at the local VA Hospital where we spent time with them while they helped themselves to blankets, books, toiletries, and puzzles. The most memorable time was when I randomly distributed bags of food and Bibles outside of the military base and prayed with the women. At Fort Leonard Wood, MO, I served as the Hospitality Leader for PWOC. This is where I also began advocating for self-care and addressing issues pertaining to mental health among women. I continue to lead children's church on occasion during my time at Fort Belvoir, VA and at JBM-HH as I have in NYC, Bragg, and Leonard Wood.

Describe your involvement in the military community:
Involvement persists through the church, my neighborhood, and my husband's unit. I take part in church services including special services such as holidays, groups, meetings, and events. Part of our church community is PWOC, where I have been part of the ministry’s leadership team. One of my favorite times is when I am able to join my husband for family retreats, where I help put materials together and even become part of the events! I look forward to being part of prayer luncheons for fellowship within the unit on a yearly basis. I have been involved in bake sales, different drives to aid the military community, served as Treasurer for Family Readiness Group, have contributed financially for several causes, participated in fitness groups among wives, hail and farewells, and personal and professional celebration of milestones of Servicemembers and spouses. Through these involvements, I have been able to connect with spouses on a personal level, meet their children, and have some fun.

Describe how you support your community:
I enjoy spreading joy through feeding the masses! I have been able to provide dishes for several events and find fulfillment in preparing meals for families for baby arrivals, PCSing, new neighbors, or for medical reasons. I have babysat, had play-dates, double-date nights, and have ministered with presence and prayer. I have connected with others by sharing challenging experiences, insight, and joyous moments. In our community, we attend each other’s birthdays, cookouts, and have special treats such as outdoor family movie nights with bouncy castles. I like to encourage others in their strengths because it can make someone’s day to know their contributions are essential to the community. I love to take care of people when they are sick and I do not mind dropping off a batch of soup or tea at someone’s door for some wholesome healing! During spring 2021, I helped shop, sort and pack 20 boxes and 4 barrels of goods for a relief for St. Vincent & the Grenadines.

What do you advocate for? Why?
I advocate for personal development and self-care because I truly enjoy watching others reach their potential. I advocate for people who need a voice, who feel powerless, misunderstood, and helpless. There are many women who suffer mental health issues or different ailments and feel alone. Many of them are afraid of sharing their burdens for fear of being judged. Other women do not have the means or education to change their circumstances and therefore feel hopeless. I believe that the approach to healing is multifaceted and personal. Healing should involve physical fitness, nutrition, medicines, spiritual contemplation, quality time with self, pampering, and self-realization. I love to be part of the growth of individuals and find it rewarding when others succeed. This is important to me because each individual is a component of a whole and the strength of the whole relies on each piece. This is one reason why I enjoy working with children - they are genuine in their development.

How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
I am a one-on-one type of person because it is more personal and meaningful to me. I am known to share different ideas as to how one can feel better, look better, and be better. Every chance I get, I am looking for ways that can improve a situation. This happens through building relationships, having conversations, learning about people, paying attention to them, and listening to what they have to say. I constantly share with people about nutrition, provide meal ideas, give suggestions as to how to prioritize goals, give information about communities of people with the same interests, and so forth. This happens almost anywhere I go especially at church, work, different groups, through friends, neighbors, and family, including my children!

What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year® title?
I hope to get to know people who share the same passion of uplifting the military and veteran communities. I would like to build a community of uplifting and motivating women who believe in themselves and their potential. I would like to meet more women who share similar interests in how to help others who are in need of help and support.

Nominations

Ivania Castillo always makes a positive impression in support of military, veteran, & civilian communities. She served meals for the homeless, is a Vacation Bible School teacher, & provided food & holiday gifts to families. She hosted a block party & started a chapel bible study. She & her son distributed meals & bibles to random people as they prayed with them. She served as FRG Treasurer, led veteran donation drive, & is a PWOC Hospitality Leader. She hosted family events & unit prayer luncheons. Advocacy for health, mental health, & trauma among women are her platforms. Ivania works part-time, supports weekly religious education for all groups. She co-hosted a family Trunk-or-Treat event, visited spouses, engaged multilevel groups, & volunteered for St. Vincent & The Grenadines Volcano Relief. She packed & distributed 20 boxes & 4 barrels filled with food & toiletries. Ivania’s commitment to selfless serving & to being present has made her deserving of this MSOY nomination.
- by Carla Moss

Ivania Castillo always makes a positive impression in support of military, veteran, & civilian communities. She served meals for the homeless, is a Vacation Bible School teacher, & provided food & holiday gifts to families. She hosted a block party & started a chapel bible study. She & her son distributed meals & bibles to random people as they prayed with them. She served as FRG Treasurer, led veteran donation drive, & is a PWOC Hospitality Leader. She hosted family events & unit prayer luncheons. Advocacy for health, mental health, & trauma among women are her platforms. Ivania works part-time, supports weekly religious education for all groups. She co-hosted a family Trunk-or-Treat event, visited spouses, engaged multilevel groups, & volunteered for St. Vincent & The Grenadines Volcano Relief. She packed & distributed 20 boxes & 4 barrels filled with food & toiletries. Ivania’s commitment to selfless serving & to being present has made her deserving of this MSOY nomination.
- by Carla Moss