Jessica Draper

Branch: Army

Duty Station: Fort Carson

Number of Deployments: 12

Number of PCS's: 3

Share your military spouse story:
I was 19 when I started my journey as a military spouse. My husband and I had been friends in high school in Idaho, during which time 9-11 took place and he had decided to join the Army as soon as he could to serve our country. We reconnected after he had joined the Army, then promptly eloped. Classic Army marriage tale! With over 17 years of marriage now, we think our family finally thinks we weren’t entirely crazy! Once married, we trekked from Fort Bragg, NC to Fort Carson, CO. My husband joined his first Team and we were off and running. We welcomed a baby and said goodbye to my husband who deployed to combat 2 1/2 weeks after the birth of our child. Which to be fair, I consider us lucky compared to all the military families I know who weren’t afforded the opportunity to share the birth of their children together due to deployments. However, I would still say our path was anything but easy. From that moment on, I spent early deployments visiting family when I could but otherwise immersed in an incredible community of other military spouses, who aside from my amazing family, I consider to be my heart and soul. Between deployments we added another child and I also started taking roughly one class a semester from Pikes Peak Community College for 10 straight years and eventually graduated with Honors. We PCS’d to Monterey, CA, which as Murphy would have it, included me in a neck brace the entirety of our moving process and spinal surgery with no HHGs. We then PCS’d back to Fort Carson, sans neck brace, thankfully! We have also added 3 dogs, a home pottery studio for me to work out of and many more deployments. I began volunteering in my husband’s unit in the early years and have continued ever since. Throughout the challenging times that military life has to offer, the most consistent and arguably valuable part of my military spouse journey has always been the fellow military spouses on the path alongside me. I would never know what to do without them.

Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
I attribute my development as a leader in our military spouse community to the highly driven and caring spouse leaders that have mentored and cared for me and my family along my military spouse journey. I was welcomed as a young spouse and included in opportunities to grow and lead. Which I am forever grateful for. Over time, I have gained the confidence to lead and be an advocate for the needs of other spouses and families. The most important aspect of leadership for me is to be a voice for spouses and families who feel isolated or otherwise underserved and to include any and all families in our community if they choose. I strive to listen and learn what fellow families are needing and saying and put plans into action on an individual basis. I feel a deep commitment to families who have felt disconnected from resources and I work to hard to bridge those gaps. My greatest leadership skill is facilitating an environment where others feel empowered and connected.

Describe your involvement in the military community:
Currently, I share the Battalion SFRG Advisor role with another fabulous spouse, Sheryle Miller. We are part of an an incredible team of volunteers in our BN, which includes both spouses and service members. We also work with and benefit from the other powerhouse volunteers in other BN’s and our Group SFRG Program. Prior to this current role, I volunteered as a Company FRG Leader for 5 years, working amongst too many other capable volunteers to list. Before that I volunteered at the Team level for several years, learning from seasoned spouses. I have also been a member of the CARE Team, designed specially to help families in times of crisis. I have had the opportunity to help plan Group-wide family events and be a part of fundraising committees but my personal favorite is growing the involvement of other volunteers. As many of my military spouse friends would tell you, they have been gently coerced into volunteer roles right along side of me. The more the merrier is what I always say!

Describe how you support your community:
I support our spouse community through volunteerism with a special emphasis on being myself! I try to be a true and fair representation of who I am, if I am in a leadership role or not, I always want to be true to myself. I have found that the best way to build community is to create a safe environment for others to be themselves and in order to do so, I must always be myself as well. There is always space at the table for any spouse to feel included if they choose. Each spouse has something unique and valuable to add to the greater community and through inclusion we can learn and lean on one another, building a stronger network for which we can each call on when in need.

What do you advocate for? Why?
I advocate for the need to further our outreach within our community, so that those struggling, never have to do so alone. From the time a spouse enters the military community to after they leave, my hope is that each individual feels they have made at least one meaningful relationship that they can call on. Through welcoming families, to including them, to providing opportunities to help and be helped, we can make a difference in each other’s lives. We all need a helping hand at times, I know I have and there should never be a reason there isn’t a hand to reach for in our community. We can further our connections through existing volunteer programs and also by adding funding to lessen the load of volunteers and provide respite for the helpers.

How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
I often speak any chance I get to further my message of community building and the need for outreach. Specifically in 2010, I was afforded the opportunity to attend the USASOC AFAP conference at Fort Bragg. Along with another incredible spouse from Fort Carson, I was able to represent and advocate for the families of 10th SFG(A). I was awarded the Fort Carson Volunteer of the Quarter in both 2014 and 2022. I also was a Maggie Raye Award Recipient in Washington DC in 2016. During these times, I have been able to communicate the gaps in connection that I see in our military spouse community with others who have the same drive to alleviate the struggles of military spouses.

What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year® title?
First, I would like to say that it was the greatest honor to be nominated by one of the strongest women I have ever known, Allison Burrier, Army Veteran and fellow Army Spouse. To honor the sacrifices of fellow military spouses, particularly our Gold Star Spouses, I wish to continue to push for each of our voices to be heard when we ask for help in building our community up and the resources necessary to do so.


Jessica Draper is one of my very best friends, and one of the most selfless, Army wives I've ever encountered. We met when both our husbands were serving together on their first team assignments with 10th Special Forces Group at Fort Carson. While she has been there for me in countless way, her devotion to my family became crystal clear when my husband began suffering from PTSD/TBI following multiple combat deployments and his eventual medical discharge from the Army. Jessica continually showered our family with love and support during that difficult transition, and on multiple occasions has dropped everything to support us during stressful times. While we are not living at Fort Carson anymore, I know that she has been vital to the 10th Group FSG, and helped so many other families feel welcome. She has also selflessly supported her husband Barron as has achieved the rank of CW3, while raising two amazing sons. She is the best example of a dedicated and admirable military spouse.
- by Allison Burrier