Branch: Marine Corps
Duty Station: Marine Corps Air Station Futenma
Number of Deployments: 6
Number of PCS's: 8
Share your military spouse story:
My “Military Spouse” story began while I was serving in the United States Navy and I fell in love with a United States Marine. The first couple years of marriage, as a dual military couple we experienced several deployments and geographical separated duty stations, which lead me to realize the complexity of military families and how much military spouses endure. So upon completion of 7 years of military service, I decided to take off my Navy hat and leave my military spouse hat full-time and serve the military spouse community. In my current 18-year military spouse journey, I have served and invested in military spouses at every place that the Marine Corps have directed us to be. While my husband has served in Iraq, Afghanistan, Japan, and multiple Marine Expeditionary Units, I selflessly poured myself into the military community to ensure spouses were informed and empowered. With my servant’s heart in hand, I have lead various military chapel organizations, community school clubs, and military unit family organizations. Also I have had the privilege to provide help and support to military spouses of international military branches while at the United States Army Sergeant Major Academy location. My “Military Story” has been very rewarding and challenging, but I cannot wait for what else lies ahead in my journey.
Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
An example of my leadership is service as a liaison between unit leaders and spouses. I always aim to be informed, resourceful, and share with others what I have learned, so have always stepped up to fill that position. It began as a Key Volunteer Network Coordinator, which has now evolved as Family Readiness Advisor. I plan, organize, and execute unit family functions in support of pre/post deployment briefs, holiday morale events, mentorship of spouses, and resource fairs. An event I helped organize was a Department of Defense Yellow Ribbon Program event for military spouses of reserve component service members, while attached to a Marine Forces Reserve unit. This event was invaluable; due to the fact military spouses that lead normal civilian lives where now challenged with a military deployment. It was very rewarding to share military resources, stories, and meals. In attendance was a combination of 200 military service members, spouses and family members.
Describe your involvement in the military community:
My involvement in the military community is very diverse and in-line with the season in my life. It began as serving as President for Women of the Chapel organization during the peak of Operation Iraq Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. This organization provided encouragement and support to all those that had loved ones deployed. Following this, I had my first child and became part of the Mothers of Preschoolers and Fit for Moms groups at my local military base. Then I moved into a military housing home and became involved with my military neighborhood and served as the liaison between military housing office and residents. We hosted family gatherings and conducted surveys on how to improve our neighborhood. And currently I am part of the Mental Health Peer Alliance of Okinawa, which help with mental wellness and friendship building while stationed in Okinawa. It is very vital to have resources and relationships as you navigate this military life.
Describe how you support your community:
The way I support my community is by currently serving as my children’s school Parent Teacher Organization President. I have the privilege to lead an organization of 100 members, 75 school staff, and 400 students. In this position, I connect with military spouses as we manage households and parent in this military lifestyle. Within the organization, we provide volunteer opportunities for military spouses to assist teachers during daily routines, read to students, conduct health screenings and help around the school where needed. Being part of children’s school environment plays a positive impact in parent, teacher and student relationship. Parents become partners with teachers in education and support for students. In the organization we have held movie nights, vendor fairs, heritage celebration events, donation collections and fundraising efforts. Over 1000 volunteer hours have been poured into this organization by active board/committee members and parent volunteers.
What do you advocate for? Why?
I advocate for balance within your surroundings. Living this military lifestyle is demanding and consuming of time and energy. So in order to manage this lifestyle, I recommend finding balance between Mind, Body, and Spirit. To mind balance, I suggest volunteering in organizations that align with your values for brain stimulation. Also I support mental health, such as seeking counseling to help with mind balance. For body balance, I advise to take time for self-care such as exercising, triggering your senses by sight seeing, or pampering oneself. In spirit balance, I encourage spiritual guidance from your faith group, to build a network to be available when you need support. Majority of military life is navigated without you service member, so ensuring balance in Mind, Body, and Spirit will equip you to embrace this lifestyle. Personally I have sought all these methods to ensure balance in my Mind, Body, and Spirit.
How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
I have spread my message by personally being a resource finder for those in need. I seek and inquire for those that need help. And then I research their needs and find them the best resource available. Currently being stationed in Okinawa is challenging for most of us, as resources are scarce and overbooked, so I try extra hard to find that light of hope for those in need. My personal motto is "Serve" where the need is, in the "Season" of your life, and in the "Space" you are at.
What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year®
With the title of AFI Military Spouse of the Year title, I will strive to instill hope in all military spouses. Hope that is always at the end of deployment, at a duty station, and/or in parenting in this military lifestyle. If one recognizes that hope is attainable then all life's challenges can be navigated with success. So I want to arm all military spouses with hope.
Iris is an exemplary member of our military community in Okinawa, Japan. She is active in her schools PTO and her spouses unit. She takes on so many different roles and and gives so much of her time. It would be great to see her receive the honor of a nomination.
- by Michelle Alvarez