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

Wilma Potts

Branch: Air Force

Duty Station: Fort Meade

Number of Deployments: 3

Number of PCS's: 4

Share your military spouse story:
My husband and I met before he joined the military. Our journey began in San Antonio, Texas. I was a single mom of two with no desire to get into a relationship, so we became friends and spent our time getting to know each other. One Saturday we were outside, and he was playing soccer with the kids. It was that moment that I realized I had fallen in love with him. He was, and still is, one of the sweetest men I know. Of all of the qualities I love about him, the way he treats our kids has always stood above the rest. The military adventure took us from Texas to California, where our two youngest were born. Here's a fun fact: We found out we were pregnant with our youngest daughter the night before he left for basic training. Talk about a surprise! From there, we have been to Virginia, Idaho, and Maryland. Our move to Idaho was particularly challenging, and it is when I realized that military children are some of the most resilient and compassionate humans that I have had the pleasure of meeting. We moved there in October. Six months later we were on our way to Maryland due to how sick our youngest daughter became. She is EFMP with a number of allergies. It turned out that she was reacting to the environment itself. She had rashes and open wounds. Her skin was breaking down and causing infections to the point that she couldn't stay warm. Doctors were trying different treatments, but nothing was working. We had reached a point of desperation when a doctor suggested putting her on a chemotherapy and immunosuppressant drug. My husband says that I have supported him throughout all of these years, but I have to say that at that time, he was my rock. Thankfully, leadership was able to step in and we were reassigned to Fort Meade. While living in TLF for months, finally moving into a house, only to move again, all my children wanted was to make sure their sister was okay. Today, we have four healthy and amazing kids, two crazy poodles, and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
I have held multiple board positions within spouses’ clubs and school PTA. I have also been on the committee for Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts in the military community and had the privilege of being a Key Spouse for my husband’s squadron. Currently, I am the President of the PTA at my son’s school, President of the council that runs the Post Thrift Shop, and Vice President of the Fort Meade Spouses’ Club. The roles I have taken in these organizations have allowed me to, not only give back to my community, but to also grow as a leader and as a person. This has transitioned into mentoring new spouses into a lifestyle that I have fallen in love with. At the end of the day, one of the biggest benefits is watching other spouses take this mentorship and use it to grow and create new programs and efforts for the community.

Describe your involvement in the military community:
Over the last 13 years I have provided multiple levels of support to different military organizations. In my husband’s first duty station, I helped run and renovate the base Airman’s Attic to support the local military community and ensure those items received were made readily available. I also helped start and run the squadron’s key spouse program to give support to military members’ spouses during deployments and other times of need. I also returned to this role when we became stationed in Maryland and brought the prior experience to help reinvigorate the Squadron program. Currently, I am leading the Post Elementary School’s PTA. I am the Post Thrift Shop president overseeing operations, and the Vice President of the Fort Meade Spouses’ Club – whose outreach projects directly benefit the community through dependent scholarships and events I led, such as the Back to School Bash and Children’s Holiday Party.

Describe how you support your community:
One of the biggest things the military community has shown me is that it takes a village. I love being a part of the Post Thrift Shop and a spouses’ club that is open to all spouses. The Post Thrift Shop donates its profits back into the spouses’ club, which in turn uses it for their outreach programs. We provide scholarships for graduating seniors, dependents, and spouses. Our yearly Back to School Bash and Children’s Holiday Party provide backpacks, school supplies, gifts, books etc. to the children of the community. There are times when I enjoy doing work behind the scenes. I make sure to always let fellow members and spouses know that they can reach out to me for any last minute help or tedious projects. I am also always happy to provide a meal, watch kids, or even just be a sounding board when someone needs it. All in all, I want spouses and anyone I have a relationship with to know that I am here to support them!

What do you advocate for? Why?
I want to advocate for all military children, especially those who need extra help! Our two younger children were born with severe food allergies. This caused many heartaches since we had to learn to navigate how to deal with their medical concerns while also ensuring they enjoy their childhood. During this time, the support network we had made an incredible difference. One of the biggest things that has helped in this journey is educating ourselves about medical conditions and community resources, but this support is not always easily found. I use our experience to help spouses and families who may be new to an EFMP situation and try my best to help advise and walk them through the steps so they don’t feel alone. Regardless of what an EFMP situation may be, it’s always critical to ensure people know what resources, support systems, and advocacy are available. I love to support military children. Their resiliency, adaptiveness, maturity, and boundless love inspire me.

How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
In the realm of EFMP, I use multiple outlets between social media, group gatherings, and other settings where these issues may come up to share my experience and the resources to utilize. While I’m not an expert on all of the details, I share my experiences when people make mention of having issues, whether it’s a social media post or just simply a fellow spouse venting at a meeting or just a conversation. I want to educate others about what I’ve learned and share what helped me navigate what seemed like an initially daunting task. I have learned how helpful the resources can be and would look to use multiple outlets to ensure there’s no stigma associated. These resources can take a very stressful situation and help ease the burden.

What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year® title?
I hope to help foster a sense of belonging with spouses like me who simply like to help others. I value those people that have helped me grow into the person I am today. Looking back, I couldn’t have predicted this life. Not only can I call myself a military spouse, but I am also a mother, a friend, and due to my experiences, a leader. I see being a leader as an opportunity to help those around me flourish. I want to honor all who came before me, appreciate those that serve alongside me, and inspire the military spouses that will succeed me. “Military Spouse” is so much more than just a title, it is a lifestyle that we have agreed to. It gives a sense of pride to be able to give back to both those military families who sacrifice so much to support our military members as well as the communities that support our military families. I would love to share my journey and inspire others to flourish within this wonderful experience of being a military spouse.

Nominations

Wilma inspires me to be the best military spouse that I can be. She is the President of the Post Thrift Shop Council and Vice President of the Fort Meade Spouses' Club; her leadership ability has helped those organizations give back to the military community of Fort Meade. She led a very successful Children's Holiday Party for Fort Meade which was open to all military children. Her passion for making the drive-and-go event the best that it can be and her attention to detail really showed through and impressed everyone who came. She runs the Post Thrift Shop well in a climate of change; she communicates what is going on with her team and empowers them to work hard for the Fort Meade community. As a mother, she is also involved in PTA and works with her husband to encourage volunteerism in their four children. She is an inspiration to me and many other Fort Meade spouses.
- by Alexa Greathouse

Wilma is a mother of 4, a supporter of the local community and a Military Spouse. She makes time for family and clubs supporting local military communities. In just this last year she is holding the positions of Elementary School PTA President, Thrift Shop President, and Spouses’ Club Vice President. As PTA President, she led many events supporting the school to bring positivity to teachers and students. In running the Post Thrift Shop, she has volunteered countless hours to ensure families are supported and resources are appropriately divided among organizations to go back to the community for events and scholarships. As Spouses’ Club VP, she led an effort to provide school supplies for over 250 students for needed supplies for the upcoming school year. She was also fortunate enough to lead the Children’s Holiday Party for almost 300 families, to bring cheer to local military families. She is not only an amazing supporter of the community, but also a role model to everyone around.
- by Arianna Braley