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

Rebecca Emerson

Branch: Army

Duty Station: Fort Belvoir

Number of Deployments: 0

Number of PCS's: 4

Share your military spouse story:
I met my husband Joe in Israel where we both worked attached to the US Embassy. We got engaged at the top of Masada and were married at my husband's college, the US Merchant Marine Academy. We then had two little boys, Lincoln and Winston. Joe has been TDY but no long deployments since we have been married. However, both of us have deployed several times prior to the start of our marriage. We met in our mid 30's and at that time I did not think having a family was in the cards for me. It's ironic how I traveled all the way to Tel Aviv to meet and fall in love with an American soldier. My role as a military spouse changed significantly in 2020 when I left Active Duty Service due to childcare and medical issues associated with my youngest son who is in the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP). I went from dual military to an instant stay at home mom at the beginning of a pandemic. I found myself thrust into many new roles I hadn't expected, such as teacher. I have learned more about Special Education and Early Education in the past year than I ever thought possible. I feel lucky that my timing for leaving the service enabled us to manage during the pandemic, but at the same time it left me missing work outside of the home. I had watched the Feb 2020 testimony to Congress on EFMP and felt compelled to volunteer to help EFMP families. I started volunteering with Exceptional Families of the Military (EFM) and ended up finding my passion. I now volunteer my time to help lead the organization with other military spouses. It is 100% telework and I make my own hours which enables me to be there for my kids. I find volunteer work rewarding but think that there should be more paying jobs for military spouses in the nonprofit space. The spouse lift is a heavy one and we are often left filling gaps in DoD programs with unpaid work.

Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
Within the last year as the Executive Director of EFM, I have provided leadership for 18 military peer-to-peer support groups, case management services, and advocacy efforts for EFMP families. EFM as an organization has about 14,000 followers across several social media platforms and about 7,000 group members. We work with DoD to share and promote official program resources. My passion has targeted not only EFMP spouses nationwide, but all spouses. As a panelist for the 2021 Military Family Caucus on childcare, I gathered data and weaved together the access impacts of childcare from three different perspectives: Active Duty, Spouse, and EFMP family. (Time stamp 2:21) https://exceptionalmilitaryfam.com/21-military-family-caucus Spouse and family issues are command issues that directly impact force readiness. The modern military family requires to be given as much weight as other force readiness issues such as equipment or training priorities. I lead with this philosophy.

Describe your involvement in the military community:
My history of supporting spouses started when I was an Airman back in 1997. I was often put into the traditional female role of planning for morale events which meant partnering with the various spouse groups. As I moved up in rank I grew to appreciate and support the spouse role even more as I witnessed the countless hours of unpaid work supporting a variety of military families. I saw firsthand the difficulty of full-time work and military spouse expectations after marrying Joe. My involvement was spotty, based on work schedule. It bothered me that there seemed to be zero expectations for my husband, as my spouse, to be involved. My level of involvement since I left service in 2020 has been primarily focused on helping EFMP families by direct contact and assistance. My vision for involvement from spouses is that it reflects the modern military family dynamic and its problem sets. I would like to see spouse involvement that is realistic and representative of the 2022 force.

Describe how you support your community:
I am on the Special Education Advisory Committee to the School Board. We are in a community with many military families in the DC area. I have brought the military perspective to the school board by sharing our unique education challenges. In my role with EFM, we have organized with other non-profits to form the EFMP coalition so our voices are stronger representing military families. I led the startup of an adults only group because disability and adult health issues within the spouse community has a void for support. In my direct assistance role for EFMP families I have found resources to support topics with a wider scope such as unemployment, food insecurity, and base housing. In my direct discussions with spouses I am able to point to more resources as my knowledge base increases. I believe in meeting people where they are at to provide assistance. I support all military spouses and will fight for the issues that impact us collectively.

What do you advocate for? Why?
My current advocacy is centered around EFMP issues. I advocate for the reversal of DHA's new policy cutting care for Autistic families because families deserve to access the same level of care as their civilian counterparts in the Federal Government. I advocate for assignment reform because EFMP families deserve to be in a location where care is available. I advocate for accessible and affordable DoD childcare for military families so the servicemember(s) can focus on the mission. I advocate for respite care for EFMP families because caregivers in the military family dynamic need support. I advocate for a seat at the table for EFMP families when policies/processes are discussed that impact us. I am open to collaboration on issues because we are stronger together. Although EFMP is my area of expertise in advocacy, I will support all spouse issues because I care about the military family. I started as a Coast Guard dependent, then became an AF veteran and Army spouse.

How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
I was a panelist for the Senate Armed Forces Committee EFMP closed door roundtable to highlight the differences between the Army and Air Force programs, to talk about childcare, and to urge the Senate to allow EFMP voices into the decision-making process of DoD and DHA that impact families. I was also interviewed to bring my unique military family perspective to the end of the war in Afghanistan by The Independent. I am passionate to communicate that this war impacted entire military families, not solely the servicemember. My husband and I both served in Afghanistan and have seen the cost of war up close as well as the impacts at home. https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/afghanistan-taliban-military-spouses-b1905333.html Lastly, I am a member of the Tricare for Kids Coalition. I am passionate about communicating the needs of military children to anyone who will listen. I believe that the military spouse community is unique and supportive, and desire to uplift more voices.

What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year® title?
There needs to be a voice for the modern military family spouse at the table where policies and processes that impact us are discussed. The voice should be fully inclusive and represent the diverse population of military spouses. I can represent you well. My virtual door will be open to anyone who wants to share their voice or uplift an idea that will contribute to the success of the military family. I am open to expanding my knowledge base and hearing how issues impact your life from your point of view. I will drive real change by providing direct feedback that gets to the right decision-maker. I believe this platform would give me the opportunity to push for positive change that can be implemented for the benefit of all military families. My top issues include EFMP improvements, DoD Childcare accessibility, family representation and feedback on DoD/DHA policies, spouse unemployment, Afghanistan war impacts, and Tricare coverage improvements.

Nominations

Rebecca’s role changed significantly when her son was born with Trisomy21. She went from a dual military couple to a stay at home mom and now volunteers in a telework role with Exceptional Families of the Military (EFM) non-profit. Rebecca has provided leadership for 18 peer-to-peer support groups, case management services, and advocacy efforts for EFMP families. Her passion has targeted all spouses. As a panelist for the 2021 Military Family Caucus on childcare, Rebecca weaved together the story from three different perspectives: Active Duty, Spouse, and EFMP family. Rebecca was a panelist for the SASC EFMP Roundtable and spoke about branch differences, child care, and the lack of an EFMP family voice for policies. Rebecca was interviewed on her perspective about Afghanistan where she described the impact it has had for the entire military family. Rebecca is a member of the Tricare for Kids Coalition where she advocates for the needs of all military families medical needs
- by Austin Carrigg