Branch: Air Force
Duty Station: Goodfellow Air Force Base
Number of Deployments: 2
Number of PCS's: 6
Share your military spouse story:
I'm an Air Force spouse of 10 years, mother, nurse, and advocate. However, I am unable to talk about my military spouse journey without first explaining my path towards that choice. My AF journey started as a military dependent at Grand Forks AFB, ND where I was born. I watched my father selflessly serve in the USAF for 29 years with my mother by his side. After high school I decided to serve alongside my father and 2 brothers in the USAF as an Intelligence Analyst. During my 8-year military career I remained focused on service before self. After my deployment to Haiti, where I provided humanitarian relief, I separated and began to pursue my dreams of becoming a nurse. After I graduated with my nursing degree, I was met with a decision to either serve in the military as a flight nurse or begin my military spouse journey. I decided to take off my military hat and serve my country in the way my mother did, as a military spouse. Not even a month after being married, my husband left for a “quick” 3-month deployment that ended up turning into 9 months. I was a brand-new military spouse, nurse, and in a new city on my own. I didn’t receive the support I thought I was supposed to as a spouse with a deployed member. Instead of the desertion turning into anger, I turned it into motivation. I was inspired and determined to never let another military spouse or family feel abandoned from the military and its mission. During our 10 years of marriage, we have had 2 deployments, 3 kids, and 6 PCS’s. Throughout my husband’s military career, I have been the voice reminding military members “but what about the families?”. I found my voice through AF’s Key Spouse program and quickly dove into my new role. The KS program allowed me to be heard at the unit level as the voice for our military families in various settings. I strive to be an active part of the change I want see by volunteering as a KS Mentor, with the spouse's club and community organizations I hold dear to my heart.
Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
I have learned through our many military moves that it takes a military family around 8 months to become acclimated, connected, and settled in their new duty station. The importance of self-identity, community relations, friendships, and a sense of belonging all impact military families profoundly. I always strive to be a mentor and resource to other military spouses regardless of their background, needs, time on station, or goals. The idea that families must come first so the mission does not suffer has always been a motto of mine. During my time at Goodfellow AFB I serve as a founding member of the 17 TRW Five & Thrive Team to fill that gap and help military families acclimate to their new duty station in a quicker and more efficient manner. As an executive board member of our Spouse’s Club, I re-wrote the bylaws to ensure the full support to our military families and safeguard the connection with the San Angelo community through scholarships, volunteer work, and grants.
Describe your involvement in the military community:
I have served as an active KS mentor at Goodfellow AFB, Fort Meade, and Cannon AFB. I currently work closely with the MFRC and the Community Action Team to streamline best practices on building robust KS programs for all units in the Wing. We’ve helped spouses build support networks, advocated for accessible resources, and ensured program’s sustainability and continuity. I had the honor to escort Mrs. Sharene Brown during a command visit to represent the 17th TRW’s KS Mentors and provided unit-level perspective on the quality-of-life areas that affect military families. The Mayoral program at Fort Leavenworth helped give families a voice and helped produce actionable fixes in military housing across all military installations. Through the GSC thrift store, we have been able to support military families in need of clothing/household goods free of charge during crises. We use funding for scholarships to help military families pursue their dreams of education and certifications.
Describe how you support your community:
I served with the San Antonio Rape Crisis Center for 3 years and volunteered as a victim advocate for the military and civilians. As an ER nurse during the COVID-19 pandemic, I was able to use my expertise to build an overflow ICU in the ER while mentoring/training military and civilian spouse nurses. I am using my platform as a Key Spouse Mentor to help another spouse in my unit build a Spouse Resiliency Day for Mental Health while involving other military spouses and local community organizations. We want to advocate and show our passion for mental health awareness while also providing military spouses resources.
What do you advocate for? Why?
I advocate for military spouses to feel empowered and engaged throughout their military spouse journey. I want spouses to feel empowered to have a voice for their family and their struggles at the unit level, base level, and in the community. Military spouses need to know that it is ok to serve next to their spouse while also pursuing their own careers, dreams and education. They should feel empowered to be able to balance family, life, and the military. Having self-identify and self-worth outside of being a military spouse is key. In order to pursue those dreams, they need to know their resources. Creating accessibility to resources and having advocacy tools at their fingertips is crucial. Diversity, equity, and inclusion is always something I advocate for since my family struggles with DEI during every military move because of our diverse background. I advocate for change and am willing to put in the work to make the change happen, I want all military spouses to have the same voice.
How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
I have actively participated in Wing meetings/events to help advocate for families and spouses. This has included helping to stand up a ‘Thrive Team’ at the 17th TRW level which is in essence connecting spouses and families to their communities and base quicker and more efficiently. Representing this team, I have spoken at the Chamber of Commerce of San Angelo, TX, been on the local new stations promoting initiatives of the GSC, and presented our Key Spouse Program to Mrs. Brown, the spouse of the CSAF. I have created/helped maintain continuity within the wing by speaking at Roundtables, where key spouses are able to have an audience with the Wing CC, and present issues to the different groups/agencies on base. I am traveling to the geographically separated 517th TRG in Monterey, CA with the Thrive Team to speak and brief on my unit's Key Spouse Program and the entirety of what the Thrive Team does. We are in this fight together and families know I will be their voice at all levels.
What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year®
I hope to be able to use connections built through the AFI Military Spouse of the Year title to continue advocating for my military families and spouses. I want to use the platform to empower and engage spouses in their military and local communities. I want to ensure military families are being supported in the five areas identified by the Five and Thrive team as concerns for military families.
Heather is a veteran and military spouse who goes above and beyond for her community & military families. She is an amazing mentor and motivator for others and is always willing to jump in and lend a hand for the benefit of the military community. Heather helped orchestrate more than 3,400 charity acts in the month of December alone. She plays an active roll in the spouses organization at Goodfellow, as well as being a key spouse mentor for our base & helps to bridge the gaps between the branches in our joint service environment to ensure families of all branches have the support they need and deserve. This is our first joint assignment, and I am not part of the branch of majority. Heather has taken an instrumental role in my professional growth within the military community and helped me to learn how the branches operate differently and the difference in regulations that guide us & the organizations we volunteer with.
- by KateLynn Heavilon