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

Wendi Iacobello

Branch: Army

Duty Station: Fort Sill

Number of Deployments: 0

Number of PCS's: 1

Share your military spouse story:
My name is Wendi. I am much #MoreThanAMilspouse, although that is one of the many hats I wear. I am a boy mom, published author, avid volunteer, advocate for my community, work FT as an Instructional Designer, and freelance write. I have a Masters Degree in Educational Technology and a Bachelor's Degree in Early Childhood Education. My military spouse story, like other military spouses, embodies both strength and perseverance. I have been by my spouse’s side for 8 out of his 11 years of service. We have been married for 6 of those years. In that time, we have faced many obstacles including: employment, infertility, childcare, a tough PCS, and more. I left my career, village, and the life I built for myself behind when I married the man of my dreams. I never imagined how losing much of my identity would affect me and how long it would take to recover, rebuild, and find myself again. After suffering through pregnancy loss in 2017, I noticed how little support existed for milspouses who were childless, grieving, and going through infertility. I advocated by sharing my story on blogs, with military leaders, on many podcasts, and in the book “Brave Women, Strong Faith.” In 2019, we were blessed with a beautiful rainbow baby. In 2020, our family faced our first PCS during the pandemic and the housing crunch. I knew it would be difficult to be far from support. Our first year in Oklahoma was one of the most stressful years of my life. My child was sick constantly and there were few resources nearby. My husband’s work hours were long. I was alone so much more than I could have ever imagined, a common thread amongst military spouses worldwide. Keeping my son outdoors seemed to help both of us stay positive. So, we spent our time in parks. This is when I noticed how much litter existed where children play and it broke my heart. The parks here were beautiful, but they were covered in litter. I began park clean-up initiatives in 2021 and have continued them into 2022.

Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
I have taken on the task of advocating for safe, clean, and inclusive parks for all to enjoy. I started park clean-up initiatives in 2021 and have continued them into 2022. In addition, I advocated for renovations to begin (which had been delayed due to Covid), a more inclusive and safe park, as well as a crosswalk ramp in the city of Elgin, where we spent our first year stationed in Oklahoma. I just partnered with the Economic Development Council of Chickasha to host a park clean-up on Martin Luther King day to encourage others to serve their community, get out and about, and encourage litter-free parks. In addition, I am seeing what areas in our current community could use updates to be more inclusive to those with disabilities such as sidewalks, parks, etc.

Describe your involvement in the military community:
I empower others to develop inner strength through four pillars: fitness, faith, volunteerism, and finding purpose. Through my social media channels, my blog, and volunteering in the community, I encourage other military spouses to do the same and to find their purpose. I constantly use my voice to advocate for the resources, changes, and support that my family and other families may need. When I see a need, I jump right in to help. Giving back to my community is a priority and I do so in any way that I can. I hold a board position as the Director of Adult Education for The Bautista Project, a position on the Parent Advisory Board at my son’s preschool, I volunteer on a Staff Senate committee at my place of employment, and I sit on the volunteer committee for Keep Chickasha Beautiful-an initiative to keep our community beautiful and litter-free.

Describe how you support your community:
I offer encouragement through the ups and downs of military life, authenticity about my own life and experiences, empowerment to be yourself, influence for others to volunteer and get involved in their communities, my own volunteer efforts, and inspiration for military spouses to create something for themselves that lights their fire.

What do you advocate for? Why?
I advocate for clean, safe, and inclusive parks. Now that I am a mom, I spend a lot of time outdoors and in parks. Unfortunately, I have noticed litter, outdated equipment, safety hazards, and/or lack of inclusivity in some parks I have visited. This, along with my professional background working with those with disabilities, have driven me to organize local park clean-ups throughout the year and write to local city councils to advocate for updating parks, while keeping safety and inclusivity in mind.

How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
I do not sugar coat any of my experiences in military life. I am very open about them on my blog and social media accounts, as I believe authenticity is what helps others know that what they are feeling is not wrong and they are not alone in their struggles. My platform encourages military spouses to develop their strength through fitness, faith, volunteerism, and finding purpose. I live my life by these pillars. Each pillar has helped me develop the inner strength and perseverance needed to get through some very tough times as a military spouse. I spread this message through my social media channels, through blog writing, podcast interviews, and in published works.

What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year® title?
If I won Military Spouse of the Year, I would be winning it for every other “average” military spouse like me. It would be for those of us who might not have 12K plus followers on Instagram or be the most popular, but we are making strides in our own communities, without bragging about it, or without even being noticed. You don’t have to be a global sensation to be great. As the amazing Martin Luther King Jr stated, “Not everybody can be famous, but everybody can be great, because greatness is determined by service.” With the MSOY title, I would encourage all military spouses to live a life of service to others. No matter how great or small the act of service-it always matters.

Nominations

Wendi embodies what a military spouse is and can be. As someone I look up to, Wendi helps others find strength in military life through four pillars: fitness, faith, volunteerism, and finding purpose. She is a person that despite personal hardships, encourages others and brings so much value to the military community. She is someone that truly sees you and helps by simply being who she is. I wouldn't be where I am today without Wendi's unwavering encouragement and support especially in the difficult seasons military life can throw at you.
- by Anne Villano

Wendi is a servant leader at heart. She started the blog Strength for Spouses to help other military spouses navigate the ever-changing army life. She has helped milspouses even amid her struggles, and to me, that's powerful. I am proud to call her a friend and colleague.
- by Marla Bautista