Duty Station: Fort Benning
Number of Deployments: 3
Number of PCS's: 6
Share your military spouse story:
My military story started like most. I was 20, in college, and met a guy through some friends who happened to wear a uniform. We dated, got married, and moved to what would be our first duty station, Fort Polk, LA. I immediately had wives reach out to mentor and teach me through our new life as a military wife and family. Fast forward a few years and we were entering our 2nd deployment and third duty station with one child. I threw myself into creating a community and getting involved in anything I could. Anything from volunteering with local community events, PT, USO, and Soldier and Family Readiness Groups. I wanted to help those in the military community just like I got when I first got married. While I didn’t know everything (and still don’t) I knew where to go to get help if I didn’t have the answers. In 2020 we had just finished our time in Boston where my husband was a recruiter. I didn’t have that community while we were not near an Army post, we were entering the pandemic, my husband was deployed, our son had unknown medical needs, and I had just given birth to our third child. To say I was feeling alone and lost was an understatement. I decided to do something for myself and go back to school to finish my bachelor’s degree. At the same time, our middle child was enrolled in the Exceptional Family Member Program and we added another layer to our military family story. I had to learn how to navigate doctors, the program, and a PCS soon after. Now we have done 6 PCSs, 3 deployments, and have 2 kids with exceptional needs. I dedicate my time to serving our military families each day. The last 13 years as a military spouse have held some of my most defining moments and the military has played a part in shaping me into the mother, wife, friend, leader, and citizen I am today.
Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
Throughout my years as a military spouse I have been given opportunities to take on leadership roles. I’ve learned through this time you don’t need a title to lead. I’ve spent years with SFRG working in various capacities from co-leader, treasurer, to key caller. I’ve also become part of the CARE team. I volunteer with multiple organizations creating social media content, creating events for spouses to get together and meet others, & help run programs that serve military kids. While at Ft. Campbell I helped create a welcome packet for incoming families that was adopted by other units. I am also the Chief Operations Officer with Exceptional Families of the Military, a non-profit supporting our military families enrolled in EFMP. We support over 11,000 families in our support groups. We do case management for 1:1 support & work on government and legislative priorities that affect our families. We also work with other organizations & take part in coalitions to better serve our families.
Describe your involvement in the military community:
I consider myself a serial volunteer. If I can volunteer, find time, and it impacts even just 1 person in our military community I want to do it. I have spent my time dedicated to connecting with other military spouses, organizations, and our local community so that all military spouses feel included. In 2022 I was a Giving Tuesday Military Ambassador to help impact our community with kindness projects.
Describe how you support your community:
My greatest hope is that everyone I come in contact with feels loved. To me the phrase it takes a village is true. If there is a need, a spouse needs help, has questions, or just needs someone to talk to, my goal is always to meet them with support and love. Our home is always open and we have hosted cookouts, holiday meals, and play dates to create community. If there is a need for a volunteer at PTO or in our local community I’m always willing to step in. I have helped gather food for our local food banks and collected donations of hats/gloves/coats for those in need. I always try to bring a military family perspective to everything I do. The greatest way to honor those spouses who came before me is for me to do the work to create a better military community for the spouses who come after me.
What do you advocate for? Why?
Military families are undervalued and underrepresented especially where representation is needed. Our military families give up so much through their time with the military. These families are hurting when they shouldn’t be. My goal is to bring awareness to all issues impacting our military families. Housing, food insecurity, mental health, education for spouses and military children, childcare, spouse development, etc all directly impact our military families. No one is immune to everything. Many of these topics have affected our family directly. I advocate for those families, who don’t know anything different, or can’t advocate for themselves, or are afraid. I advocate for change with a desire to solve our issues so that maybe one day our military families won’t hurt as much. Sharing our personal stories can create the change that’s needed.
How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
I spread my platform by living it every day. Actions speak louder than words. I live my life authentically and share what we’ve done and how we’ve made it work. During the last 13 years, I have dedicated my time to creating a community and serving those military families around me. Whether it is finishing my degree, getting a job, learning about navigating TRICARE, and resources, or navigating EFMP I walk beside every spouse I can to help them develop themselves to create a better life for their family. I have been a guest speaker on podcasts to share our military story, what it is like raising military kids, and EFMP. Social media has given me the ability to meet other spouses, walk alongside them, and reach people I would not have been able to without social media.
What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year®
I’m incredibly honored to have received the nomination for the award. It’s not something I take lightly. I would use the platform to bring awareness to the issues our military families are currently facing. Our families need a voice that is heard. I hope to share not just my story but other military families to create change and progress in healing our military families. Thank you to Armed Forces Insurance for giving us the opportunity to promote change within our community.
I am nominating Kirtley Adams for AFI Military Spouse of the year, a spouse who gives so much to our military community. She volunteers hundreds of hours with multiple organizations to support fellow spouses, their children and service members, through deployments, complicated military programs, and military life. She remembers having to learn the military life by living it and seeks to be there to help guide others. She does this while working from home, being a caregiver for her children with exceptional needs, and completing a degree program. Not only is she an advocate for her own children, she advocates for, and supports other families. It is a special person who will give so much of themselves to work so passionately for changes that will likely come too late to ease their own struggles, but will instead benefit those who come after. Kirtley is one of those special people and I am so proud to know her, and enthusiastically nominate her for AFI Military Spouse of the Year!
- by Cara-Lee Alford