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

Sonia Garza

Branch: Army

Duty Station: Joint Base Lewis-McChord

Number of Deployments: 9

Number of PCS's: 2

Share your military spouse story:
I am a proud Army Green Beret spouse of almost 14 years. My husband and I met in college and while dating, I created the Military Wives and Girlfriends Club during his 15 month deployment to Iraq. We got married and started our journey as a military family in 2008. Our first duty station was Fayetteville, NC and I absolutely loved it because it’s where I found my passion for working within the community as an employee of the Chamber of Commerce, met my first lifelong Army friends and I felt completely embraced by the local community. We PCS’d to JBLM, WA in 2011 and became the proud parents to two beautiful military kiddos, Diego (8) and Viviana (6). I have been called a “social butterfly” and “resource guru” since I delight in gathering all information and spreading it to every military spouse I know to keep them informed and connected to each other and their communities. Over the last 14 years, my life has been shaped by the military and I am made better for it. I have learned to be adaptable, resilient, and strong under pressure. I discovered early that my passion and purpose is serving my community and helping others, so during a deployment and during the birth of my firstborn, I pursued and achieved a Master’s in Non-profit management. This past year I was invited to participate in the Tacoma-Pierce County Business Leadership Academy and was recently elected by the City of Dupont as a City Councilmember, representing our local city and giving voice to military families. In everything I do, I ask myself, "What is true," "What is just," and "What is kind." Through these guideposts I am able to make a big impact in my local community and spouse community. Being a wife of a Special Forces Green Beret has come with it’s deep honor and constant sacrifices. We have endured numerous deployments and TDY's, but I am truly blessed to live this life, have the support of a loving husband and family and could not have imagined any other life for us.

Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
From the moment I became a military wife, I felt a huge sense of pride in serving those who were walking alongside me as a military spouse. Over the 14 years I have taken on many leadership roles within the military and local community, including the FRG, from the battalion leader, to the company POC, to the team POC/key caller, to the fundraising chair. As the Special Oppettes chair (a playgroup formed for special forces families) I created monthly events for families including luncheons, coffees and field trips. I am currently the Content Developer for MilHousing Network, a military spouse run organization, crafting their social media posts. In 2020 I was hired as the Hiring Our Heroes Military Spouse Fellowship Program Manager for the Seattle/JBLM area. I love the work I do, helping spouses find employment and connecting them to resources. It doesn't feel like work. I feel hugely fulfilled knowing that my impact is far reaching and real to those who are in most need of my help.

Describe your involvement in the military community:
Community means so much more to me than just the zip code. To me, “community” is my family. I enter the community knowing that it is truly what I make of it. Over the years, I have made it my mission to bridge the gap between the installation and the surrounding community by leading and serving on local boards and events…all with the intention to make sure that military spouses feel included and connected to their community. I attended the Inspire Up Foundation conference as well as the Military Influencer Conference. I was the 2021 Giving Tuesday Military Ambassador, leading our community in kindness projects and hosting a welcome event for military families. At Hiring Our Heroes I work with spouses through hiring fairs and workshops and volunteer with The Rosie Network. I am a contributing writer to local publications on and off base, and was also a featured author in the 2020 military spouse book, Brave Women, Strong Faith.

Describe how you support your community:
As a newly elected city councilmember, I act as the voice of our local military families and have big plans to support our military families by bridging the military/civilian gap. I serve as the fundraising chair of the PTA at my children's school, with a highlight of creating and serving as Clark the Astronaut mascot. I serve as an active Blue Star Families volunteer, hosting welcome events for military families, giving out over 800 brand new books to military children and participate in the Yellow Ribbon Tree project. Other volunteer roles include participation in the planning of the Speak Up Conference for military spouses and IF: Military Gathering for military spouses seeking Christian fellowship. Lastly, I am always welcoming and opening my home to military spouses. I have held Sunday dinners during deployments, annual holiday gatherings, brunches, baby showers, cookie decorating, block parties for our street and more in the hopes to create a thriving and welcoming community.

What do you advocate for? Why?
My platform is "Making Community Impact". I strive to create a pathway for military spouses to go beyond the base and into their surrounding community. With service members leaving so often, it is up to the military spouse to get involved in the community. I love to help spouses get connected and make an impact, no matter how small. I would love to build a thriving program where military spouses could be better welcomed and integrated into their local community. Equipping the military spouse would not only create a thriving surrounding community, but also military spouses who feel valued as a part of each community they move to. With this title I could have more support behind this idea and work with the local Visitors Bureaus and Chambers of Commerce to create a leadership pipeline program for military spouses. Ultimately, I would love to see each military spouse be a community ambassador, learning the local area and spreading the knowledge they have of the community to others.

How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
I am a walking billboard of my platform and mission. Over the last 14 years, I have built networks and leveraged those networks to get spouses connected to the greater community. Building community creates a wonderful experience for spouses and their families. It could even lead to a potential retirement location for the family. I continue to make connections and use my involvement to connect spouses through promotion on social media and planning events. I have done live feeds at spouse events like Amplify (giving insight into the employment training), MilSpouseFest and the Hiring Our Heroes Military Spouse Hiring Fairs at JBLM. I have been a guest speaker for local military spouse employment panels and represented military families as a contributing author of articles to our JBLM newspaper, The Ranger, local online publications, and have had published articles in many military spouse publications. I am using my city council seat as a platform to be the voice of military families.

What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year® title?
Firstly, let me say how incredibly humbled and blessed I am to be nominated! I just love this community! I would be thrilled and honored to hold this title as I would love to be a part of the sisterhood/brotherhood of amazing military spouses. However, whether I am awarded this title or not makes no difference on the work I will continue to do for the community. If given this title, I would like to grow Spouse Connexion and see Connection and Community Impact grow in our community. It is also my desire to use this initiative to bridge the military/community divide by providing military spouses with community resources and have a community advocate and certification program in each community for military spouses to go beyond the base and be well integrated into their local civilian community. Thank you to Armed Forces Insurance for giving us this avenue and for the opportunity to spread my passion. My greatest joy has been giving back to this community that has given so much to me.

Nominations

Sonia is consistently selflessly serving our military and local community year after year. When I first met Sonia years ago, she was leading our FRG. Since that time she launched the Spouse Connexion an online media platform that helps military spouses connect. Her larger goal has always been helping military families connect to their local communities and get beyond the base. She is very active working with Hiring our Hero's as a military spouse program manager, The JBLM Chapter Lead for the Rosie Network, Blue Star Families Volunteer, Giving Tuesday Military ambassador, city volunteer, and newly appointed city councilwoman in a predominately military town. She also was featured as an author in an anthology called 'Brave Women, Strong Faith' with other military connected authors. Sonia is one of the kindest persons I've met and is very deserving of this recognition. She would be a wonderful representation of the MSOY community.
- by Richelle Futch