Branch: Air Force
Duty Station: Kirtland Air Force Base
Number of Deployments: 0
Number of PCS's: 3
Share your military spouse story:
In the fall of 2013 I married my high school sweetheart, Marc. He and I were on the traditional college path when he decided he wanted to follow in his father and grandfather's footsteps and join the military. After he graduated from Central Michigan University, he completed OTS and crossed into the blue! We completed our first DITY move to WPAFB and welcomed our first child. During our time at Wright-Patterson, I was heavily involved in the community through the local MOPS group, I made so many friends during our time there and I hoped to continue creating a community at our next duty station, Kirtland AFB. During our PCS to Kirtland AFB we packed our son, our pets and all our precious belongings into our 28ft travel trailer and we traveled west into the unknown. When we arrived, there was no housing, no restaurants and COVID was brand new. We were lonely and stuck in our camper. I decided to reach out to the local base Facebook page asking about a spouses club to join to start creating my community. My post turned into a bullying session overnight and I felt like I was not welcome. It was at this moment I could either dislike the situation or make a change for inclusivity for all spouses, so I joined the Kirtland Spouses Club. At my first meeting, I had no clue where I belonged but shortly fell into my position as co-coordinator for community outreach. In the Spring of 2020 the KSC found ourselves without a club president where I filled in as acting president and was officially elected by my peers in 2022. Throughout my time in the KSC I learned how to become a leader, navigate COVID protocols, learn about private organizations and thrift shops; ultimately facing challenges I wouldn't have otherwise. Our next PCS brought us to northern Virginia, where I am currently the social media coordinator for the local spouses group and plan to continue my mission of creating a positive and supporting atmosphere for all military spouses.
Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
In my time as the acting KSC President, our club has supported our local community by awarding over $20,000 in academic scholarships, $10,000 in community grants and supported over 1,000 local unaccompanied airmen with the aid of our Blue and Gold Star Mothers and local community. We celebrated 75 years with our base thrift shop in 2021, and assisted with planning an official ceremony to include base leadership. I personally coordinated relief efforts for Afghanistan refugees by partnering with the Holloman Spouses Organization to gather and deliver clothing and toy donations to the Holloman Air Force Base refugee camp. In spring of 2021, more than half of our board PCS'd leaving multiple vital board positions vacant. My personal motto is: "see a need, fill a need". I took on multiple roles while recruiting for these positions and modified the duties to ensure the KSC ran effectively during this hardship.
Describe your involvement in the military community:
In the fall of 2020, the morale of local airmen and families were very low due to the pandemic. COVID continued making it impossible for service members to travel for the holidays. A fellow spouse and I decided that the unaccompanied airmen living in the dorms needed more than cookies to celebrate the holidays so we created a plan to decorate their day rooms ultimately naming our mission: "Deck the Dorms". To brighten the dorms for holidays, we decorated each of the 7 day rooms for the season and set out hundreds of snack donations from local and base community organizations. We were truly overwhelmed with the donations from the Kirtland community and have continued to support our airmen through this tradition each year.
Describe how you support your community:
As a key member to the spouse community, I led by example. I volunteered at our base thrift shop on a regular basis, attended and marketed local military events and searched for opportunities to spread compassion to others. I counseled anyone who needed support during TDY's, deployments and life, in general. With the help of my peers, I was able to meet the need of local spouses by creating an inclusive community that supports one another and treats each other as family. Since my involvement, the Kirtland Spouses Club has made an impact on the local community by combating the negativity against spouses clubs and organizations while providing inclusivity and support to local active, reserve, retired and veteran spouses. I supported the spouses who lived farther away from the base by recommending off base gatherings and virtual social options. Spouses were given the opportunity to involve their family during many volunteer activities that are available during the course of the year.
What do you advocate for? Why?
I advocate for effective communication through base wide organizations to effectively reach spouses through the proper channels via social media, email or word of mouth. Effective and concise communication is important to me to get the community involved in events for individual mental and emotional health. The military lifestyle is very challenging due to being away from friends and family so it is important to build that type of community very quickly when PCSing. I hope that I can continue to create a safe space where anyone can feel comfortable chatting with me about personal and professional issues without feeling judgement against them.
How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
Spreading the word about events and opportunities through word of mouth has been the best way to create community. It is so important to be the face of an organization through leading by example and creating a safe space for people to enjoy themselves. Social media has taken away the human aspect of conversation and relationships. It is so important to pay attention to facial expressions, body language and verbal cues in order to effectively communicate and maintain a relationship with peers. Handwritten letters or personal invitations through text message, phone calls or in-person conversations are the best way to include others.
What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year®
I hope to share the positivity that can come out of a negative situation. I hope others can learn to turn lemons into lemonade and make a difference in their communities. The spouses that I had met at Kirtland treated me like family and leaving their side was very emotional. I am so glad that I was able to build a community of spouses that supports others and can think outside of the box when it comes to inclusivity. I hope to continue to inspire others while supporting their goals and aspirations.
She has been a pillar at Kirtland AFB. Even with her newborn she volunteered many hours and is always willing to help a spouse. She held many volunteer positions with the KSC- Kirtland Spouses Club but most recently she was the president of the club. With very few volunteers she had to fill multiple positions at a time.
She is also very active on the local Spouses Facebook pages and always tries to answer questions of new spouses or anyone in need. She has been selfless in the year they have been at Kirtland. They are PCSing soon but she has been a silent hero and not many know how much she has really done for the base.
- by Marizel Mihal