Duty Station: Fort Riley
Number of Deployments: 5
Number of PCS's: 7
Share your military spouse story:
My story actually began with being a soldier myself. I enlisted in the Army to create a better life for my son, and to escape an increasingly abusive relationship. Joining was the scariest and most amazing time of my life. I met my husband while we were both stationed in Hawaii in '06. We were in the same unit just different sections, and we began dating soon after meeting. We deployed to Iraq the same day and spent every moment we could together. We were married at the end of '07, shortly after returning from a 15-month deployment. Seems like quite the whirlwind, of course, but we knew it was meant to be. Plus, my son adored him! After I ETS'ed from the Army, I continued to follow my husband and support his career in every way that I could. Like anyone else, we have had many wonderful experiences, and almost as many negative ones, but each one created a story that we could share and guide others with. From the very moment I became a MilSpouse I knew I wanted to help others. I vowed to help every soldier that I could, and every spouse that needed my assistance. We have been that financially struggling family. We have suffered from food insecurity and had a time where we feared the inability to pay our bills. If we had just been aware of the resources that were available to us back then, maybe things could have been different. So, for 15 years I have volunteered my time within our different units and other beneficial organizations. I have mentored many soldiers and family members who just needed to be heard or guided to the right resource. Helping them in all the ways that we ourselves, had needed. Over the years I have fought for improved programs and better communication at different installations. Even if it was something as simple as more involvement between SFRG's and on post programs, or recruiting others to volunteer and serve beside me. Sometimes this military life can be rough, but more often, it can be the most incredible journey.
Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
I began the rebuilding of the Fort Riley Thrift Shop in March 2022. The project was a complete blank slate. I started with constructing the SOP, recruiting volunteers, and working alongside our MWR and DPW in securing a new building for our Shop. I have organized days for material movement and collections of donated items from our community, as well as the marketing and promotions for all this has entailed. In less than a year, we have taken an empty building and have made our vision come true. Our doors will officially open in March 2023, and it will be filled with clothing, furniture, toys, and so much more at a greatly discounted cost for our military families. The best part of the Thrift Shop is that the greater portion of our income will still go directly back to our community through grants and scholarships! I have spent countless hours rebuilding this much needed Thrift Shop for our community. But there is no way I could have done it without the team of spouses I had beside me.
Describe your involvement in the military community:
Since 2021, I have served as 1st Vice President for the Fort Riley Spouses Club. I lead monthly programs for our spouses, am actively involved in our fundraisers, and help to connect our members with many military friendly organizations. Last year, I began the task of rebuilding of the Fort Riley Thrift Shop from the very ground, up. The Thrift Shop has become my biggest passion project, and it is one that will benefit every one of our military families. While being the SFRG Coordinator for our Unit, I ensured that our single soldiers came back from deployment to barracks filled with new linens, hygiene products, and snacks. I have also organized multiple events for our unit, including the distribution of over 1,700 school supplies for all the kids in our Battalion. I have also volunteered with for Operation Santa Claus; working to help many lower enlisted families receive free toys for their children during the holidays and spending many hours wrapping hundreds of those very toys.
Describe how you support your community:
Support for the local community is what truly drives me. I strive to bridge the gap between our military and civilian communities. Through networking with community leaders during different events, I was able to begin volunteering with the JC Main Street program. I began helping with focus groups geared towards military spouse and veteran entrepreneurs, helping them find ways to grow and improve their small businesses within our city. I have recently been busy helping to coordinate a community market. The Main Street Market will encourage small and home-based businesses to becoming fully functioning, and possibly long-term, businesses within the outlying community. The majority of which are Fort Riley spouses, veterans, and retirees. All of this has allowed me the ability to help support military members and help their home businesses thrive. In turn, allowing these business owners to produce more income for themselves and their own families and creating more financial security.
What do you advocate for? Why?
I advocate for the soldiers and all family members. I advocate for their quality of life from the start of their military career to the time beyond their end of service. Too often do the channels of communication become disrupted causing a multitude of resources to go unused or the correct information to be dispersed. Our soldiers and families deserve to be taken care of and not feel alone in their military journey. I advocate for those military members who struggle to receive the necessary resources and assistance they are due. I do not want to simply uphold the standard that we have become so adjusted to dealing with. I want to create a new and higher standard for each and every one of us in this wonderful, crazy, and rewarding military life.
How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
Like most others, social media has been my largest platform. Whether it be on my personal page or many local group pages. I have also worked diligently to express my message through community involvement and multiple nonprofit organizations. My community platforms have been from leading focus groups and vendor relations on both veteran and spouse home-based businesses with the Flint Hills Regional Council and JC Main Street, to speaking during both the Military Relations Committee and the Military Affairs Council events. I was also afforded the opportunity to speak on a local radio station about some of our programs. More importantly, I have had consistent contact to local military and civil leaders, as well as many of their spouses, in order to continue pushing my advocacy forward.
What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year®
I hope to open doors I never knew existed. I hope to rebuild the communication structure from the very top, to the very lowest ranks. I want that larger platform to advocate for all our military and family members. I want the ability to be a voice for those in need, or for those who do not know where to turn. This title would also allow me the opportunity to be an even larger voice for many of the nonprofits that I support and am involved with. I yearn to make a difference in our military and surrounding communities and help others in whatever capacity that I can. My greatest hope, however, would be to share my experiences and knowledge with others so that they can then advocate for themselves as well as others in the future.
Autumn is a phenomenal representation of what is to be an outstanding military spouse. She holds the position of Vice President of the Spouses Club where she organizes monthly luncheons, being the lead on our Thrift Shop Committee, and volunteering countless hours in the club’s charity of the months and philanthropic endeavors.
Autumn is an SFRG leader for her unit. She volunteered with Operation Homefront to pick up school supplies and disperse them to the children. She has also helped organize and execute a supply/donation drive for one of the unit families who lost everything to a house fire.
Autumn has jumped head first into working with Junction City to enrich the town closest to base organizing the Christmas Festivities this year and is appointed a Rural Champion by Governor Kelly.
As prior service, she understands the need for support of all within the military community. Autumn pours her heart into making Fort Riley a better place through service.
- by Erin Gallatin
Autumn has dedicated a lot of heart and time to Fort Riley and to the surrounding area. She has spearheaded the opening of the thrift shop on post which is not an easy task. She is always helping in the community, whenever there is a volunteer opportunity out there she is the first to jump in and get her hands dirty. She is sweet, kind and passionate.
- by Shelley Howell
Her willingness to make the post better with starting the thrift store and overall charitable heart.
- by Robin Berthod
She is just incredible involved with the FRSC 1VP Programs & helping with 2VP Fundraising, SFRG Coordinator, Junction City Main Street & more. Loves helping the community, fellow spouses, & some businesses. Her organization & event planning is beyond amazing. I can't put into words how amazing she is.
- by Valerie Keith