Branch: Coast Guard
Duty Station: Coast Guard District 1
Number of Deployments: 0
Number of PCS's: 1
Share your military spouse story:
My life is exciting and compelling in the way most are; I thought I had a plan and aspirations to achieve, and then life and love happened. I met my spouse in my home state of Illinois in 2016. I graduated college the year before and was working my first teaching job. My husband had already been in the Coast Guard for eight years. That first year together in Illinois was joyous until it became a trail of faith; faith in us, faith in our spiritual beliefs, and faith in the Coast Guard. In late 2017 my step-child received a serious medical diagnosis that rocked my spouse’s reality and put our relationship in a pressure cooker. Reflecting on that time, I am moved to tears recalling the support my husband and our blended family received from the Coast Guard, thanks to my husband's decision to serve. My amazement at the support from the Coast Guard was expanded further when we relocated to Staten Island in 2019. At this point, I genuinely feel my military spouse's story began. This was my first PCS, and I had my own life in Illinois. My husband was at a small boat unit in IL, and most members lived on the economy. So, there wasn’t a military feel. I remember clearly talking with other spouses at a holiday party and saying I have my job; my husband has his, and that’s his job to handle the transfer paperwork; oh, how naive I was! Upon our relocation, we were a family of four, my step-child and our 6-month-old, and considered a Special Needs family due to my step-child’s previous medical diagnosis. At first, I was apprehensive about relocating to a borough of New York, but now I feel fortunate. Since meeting my husband, my life has pivoted. Seven years ago, I had aspirations of becoming a competent, caring educator with the hopes of contributing to the field of Physics Education Research, all because of an underlying passion for helping others. However, life and love happened. Now, my passion for helping others manifests through helping our Coast Guard community.
Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
My decision to accept leadership opportunities was guided by the actions of the fantastic spouses I met when we first transferred. I felt the benefits of how those spouses welcomed, included, and supported us in times of need. Staten Island being my first PCS, the intensity of how helpful those spouses’ were, moved me and intensified my passion for helping in my new community. I have served on the Spouses’ Club board for three years. First, as club treasurer, I helped serve our wider community through the financial management of social and philanthropic events. As president, I oversaw planning social and charitable events, which required fostering and maintaining relationships with the command, other military morale organizations, and relationships within the civilian community. As vice president, I support the club president and fellow board members with these events—each time to promote the morale and well-being of our service members and their dependents.
Describe your involvement in the military community:
When we first PCSed, I attended any community event I could to make connections, connections for my husband and myself and our kids. To increase our chances of community connections and to be of service, I became an FCC provider for approximately two years. I also became active in our Spouses’ Club, attending club meetings and sub-club events. As a result of my participation, after our first-year station in New York, I was nominated for club treasurer and then subsequently as president and vice president. While serving as club president, I was notified by our Chaplain and Joint Associations that the Department of Veteran Services NYC received funding to facilitate an emergency feeding program for Service Members, Veterans, and their families. Recognizing the need for nutritional support due to the impact of the pandemic and resulting food insecurities, I took the lead in facilitating the distribution of this resource to military families tied to Ft. Wadsworth.
Describe how you support your community:
I coordinate volunteers to drive to Brooklyn and back to Staten Island to facilitate distributing HelloFresh meals. The meals contain fresh fruit, vegetables, protein, and other ingredients, along with a recipe card. A Google Form is distributed via email and on our community support Facebook page. During Thanksgiving, I coordinated turkeys and side items to be distributed thanks to DVS. Due to the quantity, I called on a member of our CGEA to transport the meals in a box truck. Last year I contacted our local BSF Director about support for a Touch a Truck event for the Month of the Military Child. This inquiry turned into BSF facilitating an inaugural Dandelion Festival: A Community Celebration to recognize our past and present Military Kids. I volunteered, emailing businesses to support the event. I also involved the elementary school CG dependents attend. During December I collaborate with Housing, CGEA, and spouses to facilitate a Santa parade in housing; Santa rides on a CG boat.
What do you advocate for? Why?
I advocate for inclusion and knowledge. The human race has a desire and a need to be included. The need for inclusion is intensified for military spouses and families. Transferring every few years and often being away from family support makes being connected and included vital to our social and emotional well-being. However, social inclusion is just a part of it, inclusion concerning resources is also vital, and that’s where knowledge comes into play. As Francis Bacon put it, knowledge is power. It has the power to inform and help interested parties make the best decision possible. Taking an active role in my community allows me to be informed as a “new” military spouse and inform other spouses of the resources available to them and their families. When one or both of these aspects are supported, time and attention can be dedicated to the other, and overall community morale is increased positively.
How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
I take advantage of the communication line between the command and the community and utilize our unit ombudsmen and CMC. I also took advantage of participating in a roundtable discussion with Senator Gillibrand and several other military spouses. The purpose of this meeting was to discuss the high cost of living in NYC, military pay, and BAH rates. As a result of the discussion topics, I brought up the emergency food program through DVS and why our community needed to take advantage of it. I also met with Mrs. Jones, our Ombudsman-at-large, in October. Once again, this was alongside other military spouses. Lastly, I participated in a human interest story about service/family members who have benefitted from the emergency food program at the request of our DVS contact. By doing so, I was able to play a small part in the continuation of the program and its funding.
What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year®
I hope that through my answers to the questions above, I have shown that I am a capable individual with a passion for assisting others by distributing information and resources. Therefore, if awarded the title of AFI Military Spouse of the Year, I would utilize the platform to both advocate for military members and their dependents and gather information and resources to relay back to them. Currently, I believe that would involve assisting with food insecurity. However, as the economy changes and the needs of military members and their dependents grow/evolve, I will need to be flexible to stay up-to-date with their needs and therefore serve in the community's best interest.
Jaime is currently our VP of the Sector New York spouses club. She previously served as the President. She has assisted in putting countless events together. But the one thing she has done for the last couple years is organize a Hello Fresh distribution for the New York CG housing community and other Army reservists here on Fort Wadsworth. Almost 200 Hello Fresh meals are distributed monthly to military families. She realized a need, saw an opportunity, and organizes a driver and person to handout the meals two to three times a month. It has been such a blessing for a lot of families here. Jaime has a servant heart and is always looking for ways to benefit and being together the military community.
- by Shannon Beattie