Duty Station: Naval Support Activity Mid-South
Number of Deployments: 3
Number of PCS's: 7
Share your military spouse story:
I grew up in Annapolis, Maryland in a civilian family, my dad was and still is a professor at the Naval Academy. I had a basic understanding of what military life was like from afar, but never a true understanding of what military life consisted of until I met my husband at the age of 19. We were married right before I turned 23 and my life took the exciting and adventurous path that so many military spouses find themselves on. Some of my greatest friendships began during workups and deployments while spouses were at sea and I bonded with the families at home, wherever in the country we were stationed at the time. Throughout our moves, I have always worked in some capacity. Whether part-time or full-time and throughout the time we had three children, it's been an important part of my military spouse experience. And, in each place we've lived in, I've actively participated in spouse groups because of the support it provided me starting at our first duty station. Presently, we are stationed in Millington, Tennessee. Our last tour was in Norfolk where I owned a fitness business for moms, FIT4MOM Norfolk. The majority of my clients were military spouses who were looking for support and camaraderie. Many of my favorite memories there were seeing a new mom walk up to our group anxiously, greeting her, and seeing the ease and comfort she felt when she was accepted in the group. Also during the tour in Norfolk, my husband was in command of a helicopter squadron, a squadron that had not had a spouse's group in a number of years. While he was PXO, I started the group back up and organized meetings and social get togethers to support one another. Now, we are in Tennessee. When we moved here, I sold FIT4MOM Norfolk and began working for Hiring Our Heroes. I absolutely love giving back to the military community and helping other spouses find employment and find a way to excel and use their gifts in the workplace.
Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
When we arrived for my husband's command tour in Norfolk, Virginia, we found the spouse's group of his helicopter squadron had not been active for a few years. Knowing how much this group had helped me in the past, I felt it was essential to have an active group to support the spouses in his squadron, the pilots themselves, and their families. After speaking with the Executive Officer's spouse and receiving her approval (there wasn't a Commanding Officer's spouse at the time), I decided we would begin to meet casually to gauge interest. My husband met with his fellow officers one-on-one and asked if they had a spouse or were in a relationship with someone who would be interested in being a part of the group. We compiled a contact list, set up a page on Facebook, and organized get-togethers at restaurants, opened our house for dinners, and welcomed those who were interested in attending.
Describe your involvement in the military community:
In every place we've been stationed around the country, I've been involved in the military community. From spouse group meetings and gatherings in my early twenties as I was learning what life as a military spouse was like - to now, as I continue to evolve as a spouse and work for Hiring Our Heroes - I cannot imagine the path I've taken without my involvement with other spouses and the military community. My most recent involvement and interests in the military community have been twofold. I've enjoyed working with schools in the community to promote an understanding and support for military children and their needs and challenges as they move from place to place. I've also enjoyed working for Hiring Our Heroes and being able to directly support fellow military spouses to help them find employment. I truly believe having a spouse who feels supported by the military community and children who feel cared for by the military community are both essential to our active duty service members.
Describe how you support your community:
I support our military community on a daily basis through my career and my passion for helping other spouses and families. As I mentioned previously, one of my greatest joys was seeing other mothers, typically a military spouse, come to their first FIT4MOM class and watching her find her place and comfort within in the local community. Here in Tennessee, we are living out in the country for the first time, and our street has numerous military families. Whether in a small or large way each day, I give back to the military community in some capacity. Just this past weekend, I organized a farewell dinner for friends on the street who are moving back to Virginia Beach, while our oldest daughter babysat their children. This is touching a small part of the military community who over time touches a large part of the military community. Daily, I work for a company who empowers spouses and helps them find employment around the country.
What do you advocate for? Why?
I advocate for military children and families with passion. During our last tour in Norfolk, I volunteered at our children's elementary school as the PTA's Military Liaison. I set up events to connect military families at the school - organizing breakfasts to book readings. When we arrived in Tennessee, I advocated for military children all around the country who may move to the district we live in. Through a challenging situation, I realized a shortfall in the district's policies - a policy where two of our children had tested as gifted learners in Virginia, were required to take another exam when we arrived, and struggling to pass. After extensive research into the policies, I spoke with the Assistant Superintendent on multiple occasions as well as leadership at their schools, and was able to overturn the policies. Students in the Lakeland School District are no longer required to retest when they have tested as gifted in another state. It was a huge win for military families!
How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
Currently, my role with Hiring Our Heroes is as a Communications Manager. I work with our internal teams to promote our programs to the military community - military spouses, military caregivers, veterans, and transitioning service members. I feel my position with the company has allowed me to tie my passion for serving military families with my profession. I am grateful every day for the chance to give back to the community that has supported me for half a lifetime. As a Communications Manager, I work to promote our programs and events on installations, virtually, and on social media. Previously, as the owner of FIT4MOM, I engaged with the media to promote our program and inclusiveness to other military spouses through social media and local news outlets. During the pandemic, I was invited and participated in interviews on a podcast and two local news stations.
What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year®
I believe the AFI Military Spouse of the Year holds a great deal of responsibility in educating others on the role military families provide in the life of an active duty service member. I would thoroughly enjoy advocating for military families and children and helping them feel supported in their community and schools. I would continue to look for ways to support families as I did when we first moved to TN and ways to be active in the community to unite spouses, children, and active duty members with one another. As Walter Ruether stated, "There is no power in the world that can stop the forward march of free men and women when they are joined in the solidarity of human brotherhood."
Caitlin is a powerhouse! Not only does she work tirelessly to help members of the military community know about resources available to them as a Marketing Manager for Hiring Our Heroes, but she is also one of the best community builders I have met. As many other military families experience Caitlin has lived in areas for rather short periods of time due to orders, but she has this ability to connect and grow a community very quickly. Though currently in an area with a very small military presence, Caitlin has helped create a strong network for each family to support one another. She is a great example of resiliency and would be a wonderful addition to the military spouse of the year program!
- by Victoria Harvey