Branch: Air Force
Duty Station: Joint Base Charleston
Number of Deployments: 2
Number of PCS's: 6
Share your military spouse story:
My story as a military spouse isn’t very conventional. I mean that in the sense that I did not marry my husband knowing that he would one day be in the military, which in my experience, is not the norm for the military spouse. We were actually married 6 years before he went active duty, so we had a whole life “before Air Force”. When my husband decided to join, I was caught off guard, especially since I had just started law school. Even though, I never got to finish law school because of the constant moving, I quickly learned to love being a military wife. Yes, it’s hard. Yes, it absolutely tests my patience almost on the daily. Yes, I often feel lonely or misunderstood. Yes, I’m left alone a lot. But it’s also one of my greatest blessings. My husband’s career in the Air Force has been a wild ride, full of medical minsdiagnosises that led to his job going from pilot, to cyber, then finally back to pilot once the Air Force recognized their misdiagnosis. We have moved 6 times during his 8 years of active duty service. We have started over 6 times. We uprooted our whole lives 6 times. Almost once each and every year. It’s been chaos. It’s limited our ability to start a family. I often miss the years when we were married before the Air Force. But then I think about what all I’ve learned and gained from this life style, and it’s so much! I honestly am a better person than I was before 8 years ago. I’m more adventurous, flexible, resilient, and courageous. I’m a business owner who has learned to hustle and flourish despite the moves and setbacks. I’m a friend to people all over the world. I’m a daughter and friend that loves deeper because of what can sometimes be years of separation. I’m a girl that dives right in to the spouse groups, and opens my home to host others quickly because I have learned the importance of community. I could go on! It’s been a wild ride of unpredictable ups and downs, but more than anything, it’s been character building. I am thankful.
Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
At our second duty station, I was presented with the opportunity to hold a board position with the base spouse group. I accepted despite hearing rumors of negativity surrounding the group. I wanted to be a part of something good that helped grow community on my base, and the best way to do that was to step up and get involved and create that change myself. I eventually became Vice President of the group and was able to help launch a Cinderella’s closet on base, I started a monthly wine night in my home that grew to spouses coming from all over the base and off base community, I became a Key Spouse for my husband’s squadron as well, all by simply taking one opportunity presented to me, and choosing to step up and work to create something good. That one opportunity placed me in a position to lead several other initiatives, and that assignment will always be a favorite. I am told that wine night still happens today, and that to me is leadership.
Describe your involvement in the military community:
I have served as a Key Spouse at 3 duty stations.I love feeling like I am a part of my husband’s squadron in some small way, and giving back in this way is such a blessing. Being a wedding and event planner, I also always volunteer to help with squadron events, and even base wide events. This is such a joy being able to serve in these ways! I always join the base wide spouse group, and often hold board positions, trying to create positive change. I love gathering with other spouses and growing community with them! No one understands our lifestyle like another mil spouse does! We need each other! In addition to these things, I host my monthly wine nights at each duty station! It’s such a fun thing to open my home to any and all spouses at my base, and I encourage them to being friends they know in the mil community as well. I make fun charcuterie boards, and just ask everyone to bring a bottle of wine to share. It’s always a hit, and someone always leaves with a new friend!
Describe how you support your community:
I support my community through action. I step up to hold positions available to me that may position me to be able to create positive change. I open my home. I volunteer to plan, organize, decorate, host, or support. I check in with others when their spouses are gone, I invite everyone to go to socials with me. I organize donation drives when there is a need, and I raise money to help with causes that touch our military community in some way. I use my own business to support my community through offering my services when available to fit their needs. I show up to functions, and talk to everyone and help others connect with new friends. I head up initiatives that support my base and squadron. I take meals to the Meal Train mommas, I wrap baby gifts to welcome new little members of our pack. I work my schedule around the functions of the squadron, so I can make consistent connections and show I’m there to support. I simply act. I use my actions to support my military community.
What do you advocate for? Why?
I advocated recently for the Afghanistan refugees that were in need after what happened after the withdrawal last August. I helped organized a huge fundraiser and donation drive, that was an amazing success! I advocate for those in need, whether it’s refugees, or a new spouse on base that has no friends, and needs help getting connected. I advocate for those I see that have a need, no matter what the need may be. I do not like seeing others hurting. Hurt can be from hunger, persecution or poverty… but it can also be from loneliness, stress, helplessness, or isolation. Which are common feelings for the mil spouse. I want to help anyone in my path that has a hurt like that because I understand those feelings. That’s why I always try to spur others to be all inclusive, and never be in charge of creating an opportunity for someone else to feel left out. I’m sensitive to those hurt feelings, and never went make someone else feel that way. That’s why I advocate for those that hurt.
How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
Social media is a great tool! I have used it to spread the word about the fundraiser/ donation drive for the refugees that I helped head up. I use it to create event invites for my wine nights, and to post about base socials and functions to help encourage participation. I use social media to send out flyers for spouse, squadron, or base events, to help grow community. I use it to share articles or videos about things that bring awareness to the military community and the struggles we face, or the efforts we aid in around the world to try and make people aware of all the positive things our military does as a whole all around the world. Social media is a great tool to grow community, and to bring awareness to a great cause. There’s always a way to help others on social media!
What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year®
I hope to bring awareness to the loneliness the average military spouse experiences, and to the fact that if we all did our part, they loneliness wouldn’t have to be a reality for many. I hope to use this title as a means to spur others to start creating more inclusive environments and opportunities themselves at their current duty stations for the good of others. I would love to be able to have a platform through this title that allows me to grow the mil spouse community through sharing my experiences that can help others feel comfortable with sharing too. I want to be in charge of helping create an all inclusive group of mil spouse friends that always have each other's backs from all around the world. I can do that through my actions and stepping up at each base and making small differences through the events I host and the community I cultivate, but I could do that on a bigger scale through the audience this title would potentially open me up to.
This past year, I had the honor of watching Jessica organize a supply drive for refugees. She gathered many items, such as diapers, basic hygiene needs, clothing and more. In years past, I got to work along side her as a key spouse, and the amount of love, kindness and generosity she has is immense! She loves to open her home to allow spouses a safe place to connect, which in turn, allows them to feel more secure if and/or when they may need assistance. Jessica is truly MSOY material, simply because of her deep love of service, ambition, all around giving spirit.
- by Sara Rodriguez