Branch: National Guard
Duty Station: Arkansas
Number of Deployments: 3
Number of PCS's: 0
Share your military spouse story:
My husband and I met for the first time in jail. Of course, we did. We were both officers and had to fight a drunk inmate into a cell. Almost got ya there, didn’t I? Several years passed, and we often saw each other in our chosen profession. He married, had a son, and a year later, his wife passed away, leaving behind an 8-year-old autistic daughter and a six-month-old son. After some time, we decided to date, and then as you can imagine, we got married. Shortly after we were married, he was deployed with the 39th Arkansas Army National Guard to the horn of Africa for a year. When he returned, we adopted his late wife’s daughter, and I adopted his and his late wife’s son. We became mentors to a beautiful 14-year-old lady in foster care a year later. We went on to adopt this young lady a year later. She is now 21, married, with a handsome 2-year-old son and one on the way. We have hosted multiple exchange students as well. Together we have begun working towards our doctoral degree in counseling and theology at Central Arkansas Bible College In Jacksonville, Arkansas. Michael is my best friend, my heart, and my soul. When signing letters or little notes to him, I always close with “Your Favorite Rib.” We push each other to be the best versions of ourselves. Recently he has supported me in my calling to missions in Uganda. As a proud veteran’s daughter, this tilt-a-whirl ride of a military experience has gone on for many years. We love, pray, and support them through this journey.
Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
Leadership is something I don't take lightly. It is both a blessing & an immense responsibility. A leader empowers people. Even if that empowerment is a hug, a box of food, or an encouraging word, I accept that responsibility daily! People trust, & look to leaders during some of the most challenging times, to help make clear decisions when their mind is unable to. I took on SFRG for our Company and a coordinator position with Battalion when there were no other volunteers. I saw needs and met them. After many of phone calls from different levels of command to recruiters, and even the families themselves, I saw a need decided to do something about it. The biggest hurdle I knew would be finding the space. small. We started with a small pantry space in our armory in Searcy. People heard we had a pantry; before I knew it, we had enough supplies to cover four other armories. Helping in this way, When you address things like food insecurities, it greatly helps with other social aspects.
Describe your involvement in the military community:
I am the SFRG coordinator for Headquarters Company, 2-153 IN, and one of the coordinators for the Battalion. I help with Youth and Child sign-ups and Christmas for families. Advocating for families is my biggest drive. As we once needed those advocates, I decided to dig in and make community connections so I could “connect the dots” between service members and the community, to better serve the soldiers I work with. Every Sunday on drill weekend I work for as many hours as needed making sure to make connections with all, if not a large majority of the soldiers, to ensure there are no needs to be met. We have coordinated many Family Days to bring togetherness as well. Also in August we connected with a church and brought free school supplies, clothes, backpacks, and a shoe drive for all members of the local armory.
Describe how you support your community:
I connect soldiers to the community, families to resources, & coordinate any help they may need. National Guardsmen are civilian soldiers. The majority make more money on orders than they do at their civilian job. This can cause many issues, including home & food insecurities, leading to other social problems like divorce, suicide, & homelessness. Connecting those families & servicemembers to someone/thing in the community that can serve their needs. Bridging the gap between service members & the community. Our family focus is on volunteering. We are community centered. Each year, I visit the schools & hand out certificates of appreciation to the military children. Our family does one service project each month as a family. By now you have read my bio & may have asked why “we” not “I?” Bc I don't do this alone. My husband & my kids are with me. From talking to soldiers to delivering food to homes, my husband and kids are just as involved as myself. It is NOT me.
What do you advocate for? Why?
National Guard families & members need to be more represented. Paying & help available, benefits aren't the same as full-time members. Statically, Guardsmen make more money on orders than in a civilian job. My family & myself have been rejected from participating in a few things because my husband is not full-time. I want to help lower the Tricare premium for retirees. After 20 years in NG my family was asked to pay $1206.59 a month if it was a traditional retirement. A veteran with 3 combat deployments & 20 years service. He is now having to work through his MEB to get at least 30% to get free Tricare. This is extending his service in the NG for at least another 12 to 24 months. He joined at 17 years old. Understanding NG struggles are not the same as active military service. There are many programs my husband, myself, or my children would benefit from, but we don't qualify for them bc he isnt on orders full-time.
How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
I have communicated with State Representatives and Senate members about changing this. I make blogs, post on forums, and post often to reach those that need to hear and see these pressing issues. I have also traveled to the capital to work with members on this. I have networked with attorneys and other members of the National Guard to bring many of these issues to the foreground.
What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year®
I pray that with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year title, I, along with my family, can continue to inspire and help make positive changes for the National Guard members and their families. The National Guard is one branch that is underrepresented. I want to help with benefits for civilian soldiers and lower the Tricare rate. I promised that when this group returns from deployment at the end of 2023, I would have made significant progress in the change, and I very much plan on keeping my promise. Being persistent and involved in many aspects, from my community to my capital building, all the way to our Nation’s capital. I want to become an active, persistent, and loud voice for our Guardsmen and their families.
—Julia gives me—along with the other soldiers and their families—peace of mind knowing we can give her a problem and she will have it solved for us in little to no time.
—She is currently serving 8 armories as the SFRG.
—She started a pantry called the “Guardsman’s Guardian” at the Searcy, AR unit (all on her own) and it provides for 4 other units.
—She has organized multiple family days.
—Julia consistently puts together informational meetings for spouses/parents to attend.
—She connected the community with the Guardsmen and has influenced the community to help support their deployment needs.
—Julia passed out Christmas for the Guardsman families (more than once).
—She is present every drill, ensuring soldier’s and their families needs are met.
—While Julia was hospitalized in 2021 due to serious illness, she was so dedicated to her position for the Guard that she got the Military Marriage Day Proclamation signed by the governor while still hospitalized.
- by Beth Anne Minyard