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

Laura Waite

Branch: Navy

Duty Station: Naval Station Rota

Number of Deployments: 0

Number of PCS's: 4

Share your military spouse story:
When moving overseas, there are so many unknowns and I wanted to know as much as possible prior to arriving. I sought answers by networking on social media, to assist in this new adventure. I am thankful for the support system that our military family provided. We had people whom we never met that picked us up at the airport, watched our dog while we secured housing; this is where my passion to help military spouses truly began! The manner in which we were integrated into Naval Hospital Okinawa became our gold standard for sponsorship. Shortly after being situated in Okinawa, I was introduced to the command Ombudsman and realized this was the way I could give back to the military spouse community. While being the Ombudsman in Okinawa I fell in love with this position and have continued to seek out opportunities to maintain this role during my husband’s career. NMTSC in San Antonio, Texas was a unique duty station, where many of the staff at the command were senior level service members and rarely required resources from the Ombudsman. But where could I make my impact at this command? I considered my time in Okinawa and how none of the new corpsman had ever heard of an Ombudsman, I then convinced the triad the importance of briefing the new sailors who arrived on a weekly basis about the Ombudsman program. As the largest training command in the United States Navy, these sailors were preparing to receive their first set of orders into the fleet, so what a profound impact that would have. Over the course of two years, I spoke to over 6,000 new sailors on the Ombudsman program and the resources available to them and their family members when assuming their first assignment. We recently moved back overseas, and I am looking forward to meeting new spouses and helping families transition to and from an overseas duty station. Life in a new country is challenging but I am looking forward to finding ways to meet new people and set up spouse involvement within our command.

Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
I am continuously seeking out opportunities to show that military spouses can be involved within the military community too. From being the only Navy spouse on the executive board of a non-profit run through an Army Medical Center, to saying absolutely yes when a mentor asks you to participate as a board member of a global Military non-profit. As a command Ombudsman, I have worked with some amazing members of the military that have provided me with endless resources and guidance. I find joy in helping others through the leadership opportunities I have been provided over the past decade, so any time I am given the chance to learn new things about the military and how we can improve the lives and morale of military families I will be first in line to help out and say yes.

Describe your involvement in the military community:
I actively search out military spouse involvement opportunities, usually in the form of spouse clubs. While in Okinawa, Japan, I was privileged to serve on my first executive board. I navigated through several different organizations around the island. Through this experience I found that my passion truly lies in helping philanthropic organizations within the military community. Before we even left Japan, I reached out to join the executive board of the Brooke Army Medical Center Auxiliary. Military Spouse clubs have seen a decline over the past several years as spouses have seen a return to the workforce. I am fortunate that I have the opportunity to stay home and volunteer my time so that I can be around for my children when they need me, which also means I can choose where to dedicate my time. At each duty station, I find at least one organization that allows me the opportunity to meet new people, set my own hours, gain leadership opportunities, and have fun all at the same time.

Describe how you support your community:
I have had the privilege of being a part of two military organizations that has helped all branches of the military and they have been some of my favorite memories. As part of the BAMC Auxiliary, I resourcefully funded over $50,000 in welfare grants to assist staff and patients with items that the government does not fund. I mentored over 30 BAMC Auxiliary members resulting 10 service projects across the BAMC campus. As President, I ensured the legacy of the BAMC Auxiliary through COVID-19 pandemic by maintaining capabilities through professional connections. As a member of the Executive Board of the AWWA (a vital organization in enhancing international relations between the Okinawans and the Americans stationed on Okinawa), I awarded $100,000 annually in welfare grants to both American and Japanese Non-Profit Organizations located in Okinawa and the surrounding Ryukyu Islands. AWWA partnered with the six military spouses’ clubs to direct funding and processing of the welfare grants.

What do you advocate for? Why?
After being a military spouse for a decade, I have found that military spouses are often inadvertently excluded. Often, military members get inundated with information at work and rarely pass information onto their spouses who are the ones who more often than not would benefit from knowing. Information such as a gate closure, while not necessarily important to the active duty member but to the spouse who has to spend an extra hour in traffic, could be critical. I advocate for the spouses to close the gap between military commands and military families and to ensure that families are being provided the resources to succeed. There are many times I talk to spouses about events or opportunities available to them and the response I receive back is “I didn’t know about that”. I want all military spouses to know that they have a never-ending list of resources available to them.

How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
I have learned to network everywhere I go. I try to meet as many spouses as I can and get to know at least a few things about them. I may not remember what their spouse does for a living, but I try to remember what they are passionate about. Just yesterday, I was able to provide a spouse with a great resource for a photographer when I saw her post on a local Facebook page. I have had friends reach out because they are moving to a duty station that we just came from and were looking for help with childcare or housing. I try to emulate one of my mentors who seamlessly provides networking. I have admired her ability to be able to give you a reference to a person or place at the drop of a hat when you mention a duty station or situation. I can only hope in the future that I can be that person to other military spouses.

What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year® title?
My hope is to show that military spouses have their own voice and place within the military community. Being a military spouse and a mother of two, I know that it can be a demanding full-time job with little reward. I found that volunteering my time and energy as a command Ombudsman was a perfect way to influence other military spouses who may be struggling. Over the past six years as fulfilling the role of command Ombudsman I have spoken to in person or via online platforms over 10,000 active duty members and spouses. Many of whom circled back to me with gratitude and appreciation for my support and resource navigation. In receiving this award, it would validate work I energy I have invested in not only my Ombudsman duties, but also in the philanthropic organizations I have impacted over the years. I would see this as a personal accomplishment which would motivate me to encourage other spouses to become involved in shaping the future of the of the new military.

Nominations

Over the past six years, I have witnessed Laura emerge as a community leader. Laura has served as a Navy Ombudsman at three consecutive duty stations, Okinawa, San Antonio, and currently in Rota, Spain. In each encounter, Laura provides a listening ear, sage counsel, and the resources needed for families and staff. She garners the complete trust and confidence of leadership and the families she serves. Specifically, she has collaborated with fellow Ombudsmen and has successfully transformed each program, closing gaps in training while mentoring those she surrounds. Laura's commitment and dedication go well beyond a simple position description. In addition to her exceptional leadership, her emotional intelligence, affable personality, dedication to family, and superb time management make Laura the real deal. Her lengthy resume of dedicated leadership in service to military families is deserving of the prestigious recognition of Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year!
- by Beth Weber