Duty Station: Naval Base Point Loma
Number of Deployments: 8
Number of PCS's: 1
Share your military spouse story:
My own military experience uniquely influenced my experience as a spouse. Like many, I was unsure of myself entering the Navy. Could I survive, even thrive, during boot camp? Would I, a woman, fit into what civilians view as a “bro” culture? Would I succeed as a Sonar Technician? Suffice it to say I discovered so much about myself and about serving. The experience helped me understand that I could do more than I realized. I could accomplish more than I believed. I could contribute. And I could give back. These lessons about leadership, contributing to others in my community, and helping those that needed it provided a foundation for what would come next. Like so many others, I not only fell in love with the Navy, I fell in love while in the Navy. When I found out that I was pregnant with our first child, Aldo and I decided together that he would continue his Naval journey. I would transition out to support that journey in several ways, not the least to help the Navy community become stronger. My leaving the Navy didn’t have to mean disconnecting from the community, which was so important to me. Indeed, it was an opportunity to contribute in new ways-especially with my unique perspective born from having served and experienced many of the joys, challenges, and opportunities the community has to offer. I’m surrounded by many who give back here at Naval Base Point Loma. They helped me understand how to balance ‘giving back’ with immediate effect against ‘giving back’ for a long-term impact. Their experiences helped me understand the significance of quickly building a food drive for people whose income didn’t carry them through the entire month. While these approaches don’t have a long-term impact, the significance of helping in the moment solves an immediate problem. It reinforces to the broader military community that we are here for one another-leaning in with my fellow military spouses shaped who I became as I made the transition out of the military.
Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
A personal tragedy and fellow "milsos," taught me to be a leader. As Covid hit, we found ourselves cooped up more and more in our military housing. Unfortunately, one harrowing day my son, Robbie, pushed against a second-floor screen window that did not have a proper guard installed. He fell 15 feet to the hard ground below. It was a painful experience, and given airlines were grounded and family was across the US, my husband and I had to marshall it on our own. It was a long road, but the community was there for me to help us and to solve the problems I couldn’t while I cared for Robbie in the hospital. I could have used that experience to grow angry. Instead, I looked at how the community rallied around us and felt blessed. And once things were settled, I knew I had to give back even more. That led to me co-founding the Armed Forces Housing Advocates. From a small community initiative that started just a few years ago to today, we have helped over 1,800 military families nationwide.
Describe your involvement in the military community:
Over the years, I have served as an Ombudsman and FRG President. I started a homeschool co-op for all those in my military housing community during the pandemic, where we each took turns educating our children on different subjects, providing snacks and lunch from donations I solicited, and giving parents much-needed breaks during a very chaotic time. I enjoy engaging with my husband's command, offering up assistance for activity planning, and housing issues, providing goods for fundraising drives with the Petty Officer's Association, and being a spouse that is there for new families-I had always wished that outside of an Ombudsman that there was also a "regular person" who would welcome me and be a sounding board. I decided I would do just that! Other experiences I’ve been able to lead or be a part of include those food drives, ‘welcome home’ rallies where we’ve raised money to provide books for our military children, care packages, and support when our Sailors re-enter the port.
Describe how you support your community:
I’m so proud of what we have been able to do at our nonprofit and how we turned our family's tragedy into so much good for our military community, bringing energy and focus to an essential component of military service. In San Diego alone, I have successfully assisted in enforcing that window safety devices are either offered in the lease and/or installed in all 70,000 homes managed by Liberty Military Housing. I have also been able to get LMH to provide window safety awareness every April, which is Window Safety Awareness month. I have smoothly opened communication between the NBSD leadership and the housing company to ensure that the voices of military families San Diego-wide are being heard to ensure that they are safe in their privatized military homes, whether it be with issues of area safety, mold, window falls, floods, food insecurity, and more. This open discourse improved our living conditions and gained more considerable trust in the command leadership!
What do you advocate for? Why?
As a military spouse and leader at AFHA, I advocate tirelessly volunteering full-time to ensure our service members and their families can access safe and habitable housing, mental health care, and food. As someone who has experienced adverse housing conditions and food insecurity, I know the importance of operational readiness and how it can be negatively affected by those issues. Additionally, access to healthy meals and mental health care are fundamental human rights and imperative in the functioning of our troops and their families-those who dedicate their lives to serve our country ought to be treated with dignity and respect. Operational readiness is the crux of national security for the United States, and I have made it my mission to ensure I am providing advocacy for hundreds of service members and families across the nation that solidifies their ability to support the military mission they are assigned every day. Readiness starts with a safe home!
How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
I make sure to utilize my LinkedIn and, more often, our social media for AFHA to spread knowledge that service members and families need to help advocate for themselves. I have been running accounts for TikTok, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to ensure we reach as many people as possible. I've been in multiple news publications such as the Washington Post, Associated Press, Reuters, Bloomberg, Military Times, Stars and Stripes, and many other print news resources. I've appeared on television frequently, including local news stations across the U.S. and on CNN. I regularly communicate with legislators in Washington DC and locally, to ensure they are aware of housing issues and will work to bring about lasting change through NDAA initiatives and investigations. "Banging the pots and pans," as I like to call it, is the most important action I can take to ensure that those who are afraid to come forward about their deplorable living conditions have a voice to speak for them.
What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year®
Of course, the honor of the MSOY can bring even more attention to my cause, driving an even better result. Equally, it can provide others with an example, a guide on turning challenges into growth and action that can benefit all of us in this community. And yes, it would be a tremendous personal honor that would undoubtedly make my heart explode. But, and I believe in my bones that this is the most critical point, winning can help all military spouses recognize that their role can be even more significant than they realize, more critical, and more inclusive. They can look at regular, old me and see that they can turn tragedy into victory. They can see that thanks to support from fellow military spouses, they can grow into something greater than they imagined. And it shows that while we hold things down, our spouses down range can focus on their commitment to the country, knowing their families are just a bit safer and stronger today than they were yesterday. One team, one fight.
Kate Needham deserves the honor of military spouse of the year because of her tireless work fighting for military families to have safe and adequate housing for our military spouses. As a founding member of the Armed Forces Housing Advocates she works to make sure military families are aware of their rights; and fights in Washington to make sure our voices are heard. Her genuine passion makes her more than deserving for this honor.
- by Tiara Daniel