Branch: Space Force
Duty Station: Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam
Number of Deployments: 10
Number of PCS's: 8
Share your military spouse story:
As a new military spouse, I initially pondered what I should do as an officer’s wife as there is no handbook. I thought about what it means to feel welcomed into a new community and feel loved when you are scared and nervous about your new environment. I thought when you are away from friends and family a warm welcome is what you want whether you are just moving there, or you are in need. What makes you feel welcome and cared for like you are home? It is not the drab industrial buildings, utilitarian decor, or lack of plants. It is someone welcoming you in a homey space. I believe the extra touches, effort, and thoughtfulness on the part of the people in the military community can make it feel like a home. I put an artistic eye to an area or event and say how can I make it welcoming? I look for this need and try to fill it across the base. But feeling welcome goes beyond a smiling face or making an environment look homey as I soon learned firsthand. When we transitioned to the Space Force I realized just how unwelcome you feel when your flag is the only one that isn't flown, when the branch is not represented in AFES, when USO doesn't realize the scope of the branch's presence on the island and many bases did not celebrate the Space Force Birthday. Even worse is the public perception of the Space Force as Star Trek or some kind of Guardians of the Galaxy science fiction. It is often the brunt of many jokes as evidenced by the social media mockery of the Space Force flag at the Georgia vs. Alabama College Football Championship. I realized early on I had to speak up, advocate for representation directly with the site where I saw it lacking, and as SOY, I hope to become a public ambassador for the branch by educating the public about the newest military branch. Additionally, with my husband's first deployment, I learned firsthand what my children struggled with and it made me want to provide more support to the military kids as well.
Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
I planned, organized, actioned, and maintain the beautification of the outdoor space at Hickam Airman and Family Readiness Center. The flight chief wanted help to make a welcoming entrance for those Airmen, Guardians, and their families going through a rough time in their lives. I jumped in and planned, donated plants, asked neighbors for plants, cleared weeds, and directed and showed young airmen volunteers on planting day how to use garden tools that many had no experience with. I also organized schoolwide military community events such as the TMAS Tell Me a Story literacy and art event for the local school at which I also was the guest reader. I have planned and was the hostess of an aloha dinner for 72 Guardians as a thank you for their efforts at a high ops tempo exercise. I greeted all with a lei, had Hawaiian music playing, walked around, and offered food and refreshments to those who were deep in conversation. I am currently planning a similar event in the near future.
Describe your involvement in the military community:
I work as a Parent-Community Network Coordinator at Hickam Elementary. I am an advisor in the Navy’s Anchored for Life, a peer lead club that helps military students with transitions (PCSIng, deployment, reintegration) to build resiliency. I also substitute teach. I often volunteer my time to the school events to make military students feel welcome. I also plan and hostess unit functions such as dinners at our house. I help sponsor new members of the unit leaving groceries in their room so they can eat after a long day of traveling.
Describe how you support your community:
I have supported the military community in the following ways. I volunteered as a shopper/driver for the Store-to-Door program to ensure military families in quarantine had groceries. I also volunteered at Boutiki, a non-profit gift shop located on base whose proceeds benefit military support organizations on Oahu. I volunteer at Hickam Thrift and also in the historical tour of homes and opened our house to the spouses club on the tour.
What do you advocate for? Why?
I advocate for is changing where we underserve those who serve. I see how this unintentional oversight hurts the military community and want to help make it better. My passion is serving the underserved two subgroups of the military community Space Force and Military Children. As I see it the issue of the Space Force is twofold. One instance is the lack of recognition of Guardians as compared to other forces. The other issue is the lack of education of the general public as to what the Space Force does. Secondly, I also advocate for the emotional support of military kids because they serve too. It is often overlooked how much they sacrifice and how that can affect all facets of their life including education. I am currently trying to source fidget items for a de-stress box of military kids experiencing transitions. Children are the future and that is why I want to build their resiliency to bloom where planted.
How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
I have personally gone to AFES, USO, and places that forget to represent the newest branch of service and ask what can we do to rectify this? I have sent emails. I make sure to honor my husband's service on my social media. I have reached out to organizations in the community to support honoring military kids. I obtained over 500 books for the school from organizations and community donations For a youth service project I obtained donations from community partners to further the Anchored 4 Life club's welcome garden service project. I have asked the thrift store for decor for the aloha transition center. I obtained a donation essential oil diffuser for the center as well to create a calming environment.
What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year®
I hope to help globalize the support of the Space Force and Military kids with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year® title. This SOY platform will allow me to reach a larger audience in the following ways: through public education on social media. Also, wish to educate through public speaking as a teacher, I am well versed in speaking to a crowd. Rationale: I want the public not to forget the sacrifices of military children and support their emotional well-being by teaching others how to ease military youth transitions. I have heard many ignorant things about the newest branch the Space Force and I think how can I turn this around? A lack of knowledge seems to be at the root of hurtful comments online. I want to make a negative into a positive.
Karon eagerly represents Space Force through support to the community. In '21 she volunteered 30 hours making deliveries for the Store-to-Door program to ensure families in COVID restriction had groceries. She supported newly arrived families by providing supplies, rides, and hosting dinners. Karon shared advice and plant clipping exchanges with fellow Hickam Spouses Group members. She volunteered 24 hours at a non-profit gift shop whose proceeds benefit support agencies throughout Oahu. Karen is employed as the Parent-Community Coordinator and substitute teacher at Hickam Elementary. She is an advisor in the Navy’s Anchored for Life, a peer-led club that boosts youths' resiliency skills. She often volunteers additional time to school related events. Finally, she organized a dinner for 72 Guardians. The event was lauded by the temporary duty Space Force Commanding General and was used to show his appreciation for participants' tireless efforts during a high ops tempo exercise.
- by Anthony J. Zilinsky III