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

Monica Bassett

Branch: Army

Duty Station: Fort Riley

Number of Deployments: 3

Number of PCS's: 5

Share your military spouse story:
My military spouse story started in my thirties—I had a thriving career, owned my own home, was settled into who I thought I would be. Then one day I met a stranger and all of that changed. We quickly learned how to navigate a marriage of two independent people in a world where the Army comes first. Like many military spouses, my story is a roller coaster ride of emotions and careers. When we moved to Germany, I lost all sense of who I was. I couldn’t take my career with me, jobs were few and far between, and so was childcare. I remember the day I broke down in tears. I was angry, upset, and I blamed the Army. I blamed moving every two years; I blamed my spouse. Knowing my soldier respected my feelings was a pivotal moment in our military story. It didn’t magically erase my struggles, but it did give me permission to work through them. To find new, brighter solutions that would lead to friendships, entrepreneurship, community, and adventure. Adventure that took our family to forty-seven countries—a spirit we carried on until March of 2020. A pandemic hitting months after giving birth via emergency c-section, in the midst of a deployment, at a new duty station, while halting all education for our oldest child brought me to my knees and pushed me to seek support. While I was always accustomed to giving a helping hand, building a supportive community of spouses, and lifting others up, I was not ready to be on the other end. However, in the moments that I needed a shoulder to lean on or an ear to hear my cries, there was a military spouse. I've grown from my experiences as a military spouse. I’ve been resilient. I have chosen to become the ear and shoulder for others—creating neighborhood groups that assist one another. I have made the connections between local community leaders, military spouses, and units. I have built a community worth living in, worth protecting, and I can’t wait to see how it grows.

Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
Throughout my years as a military spouse, I’ve dedicated myself to building a strong community and being a voice that advocates and inspires others. Last year, I joined a spouses board to chair Community Outreach, running the Charity of the Month and community service programs. By actively engaging with the community, bringing awareness to programs and services, and leading through influence, my programs have shattered all preceding year records by over 350% of funds given and hours volunteered to organizations supporting our soldiers, military spouses, and families. I bridged a gap between local community leaders and military organizations and brought awareness to causes that impact our military families, like food insecurity, resulting in the creation of a new military board to track and measure progress toward resolution. I believe that my commitment, passion, and energy for service has been contagious and inspired others to serve and believe that together we can make an impact.

Describe your involvement in the military community:
I have always hosted gatherings, special events, and activities for military spouses and families, however, getting involved with organizations has been the most rewarding. The last few years I’ve organized, prepared, and delivered hundreds of backpacks and toiletry kits to children in our community. Last year I also gathered and assembled Thanksgiving Totes filled with turkeys, pies, bread, and sides for our military families in need. Recently, my involvement with Operation Santa led to motivating our community to supply over 50% of their volunteer force, raising over fifteen times the amount donated in previous years, on top of collecting 600 toys. While serving as the Community Outreach Chair for the Spouses Club, I have raised more funds for local non-profits in half a year than the last three years combined. As the Communications Chair for the Scholarship Fund, I have raised awareness of the program, increased application rates, and implemented new features to attract applicants.

Describe how you support your community:
As a Community Outreach Chair I have built a diverse group of volunteers who want to connect to and create a lasting impact in our community. I have successfully launched a community service program where projects are diversified to promote inclusivity of military spouses and families at different stages in life. One rewarding project was a campaign that donated over 1,000lbs of nonperishables in a month (providing 830 hot meals). This initiative not only sparked our youngest volunteer to start a food drive at school but it amplified the awareness of food insecurity in our military thus driving units to volunteer alongside us. I’ve established partnerships with non-profits and military organizations to promote the health and welfare of our military community. Most recently, this meant gaining volunteers to cook, serve, and host Victory Wellness Dinners, the purpose of which is to provide soldiers and families with home cooked meals in a familial and welcoming environment.

What do you advocate for? Why?
My voice is power and I use it to advocate for the underserved and underprivileged in the military community. The heart of our military is suffering—many of our military families are straddling the low-income line and struggling to put food on their tables, pay bills, and provide basic necessities for their family. It is a growing pandemic—a crisis disguised by shame, fear, and embarrassment. Through my personal experience as a child and by connecting with military families facing these struggles, I have made it my mission to shine a light on food insecurity within our military communities. Our soldiers and military spouses have many things to worry about but providing food and basic necessities for their families should not be one of them. I’ve started this advocacy at Fort Riley this year, with amazing results, and plan to continue wherever I go.

How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
Since I was child, “actions speak louder than words” has been ingrained in me. However, having both the action and the voice creates greater impact. Thankfully I have had the opportunity and privilege to share my platform as a guest speaker at Military Affairs Councils, Chamber of Commerce events, Town Hall meetings, board meetings, local news outlets, radio stations, fundraising events, and personal one-on-one sessions. Still, a majority of our military community receives its information via social media, a resource I enjoy using. I am able to bring my advocacy to life on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter through live feeds, videos, graphics, and impactful messages. I have witnessed connections being built, conversations started, and resources shared through these networks. I look forward to each day that I can cultivate relationships and partnerships that allow me to share my passion and platform.

What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year® title?
First and foremost, I am extremely honored to have received a nomination for such a prestigious award. If selected as the AFI ‘Military Spouse of the Year’ I would use this unique platform to advocate and bring awareness to a crisis currently soaring in our military, food insecurity. I will continue to advocate for the underprivileged and underserved while promoting volunteerism and community-building. I would use the resources, networks, and AFI Military Spouse community to learn from others, build on others’ successes, and capitalize on opportunities to not only share the difficulties many military families are facing, but also open up solution-finding discussions among the amazing spouse community and related networks. I hope to replicate the success we’ve had at Fort Riley and find ways to adapt the programs so they are readily repeatable for other installations worldwide.

Nominations

Monica has been deeply involved in her local community for the last year (and maybe even longer). Just in the past few months, she’s worked with a variety of charities in the Fort Riley area to help service members, their families, and the local community. All of this is done out of the goodness of her heart and she works diligently to meet whatever the needs are in the area. She truly demonstrates what it means to be an involved military spouse, not just in what she does for Fort Riley, but in all the ways she gives back to the community around her. And every time, she does it with a smile that shines from her heart. She is an absolute delight, and Fort Riley should be honored to have someone of her caliber.
- by Sarah Peachey