Branch: Air Force
Duty Station: Cannon Air Force Base
Number of Deployments: 7
Number of PCS's: 6
Share your military spouse story:
My military spouse story really started when my mom joined the Air Force when I was 4 years old. I was incredibly proud to tell everyone that my mom and dad wore combat boots as a mil-to-mil couple and I grew accustomed to military life. After PCSing 5 times as a military child, I decided to enlist in the Air Force and follow in my parent's footsteps as an active duty Airman. I served on active duty for 12 years where I met and married my husband who was also on active duty. My husband and I lived a mil-to-mil life for 8 years before I left active duty and I got out to provide more stability for our son. It was not an easy decision to leave active duty but it was a powerful decision that I do not regret. I have been a military spouse and veteran for the last 10 years and even though military life is all I've known, I find that being a military spouse is one of the most challenging roles I've experienced during my lifetime of military experiences. In the 10 years that I've been on the other side of the uniform, I have felt a deep connection to my military spouse community as we go through the challenges of starting over, living in areas we would often not choose for ourselves, deployments, the deployment/TDY curse, helping our kids manage the challenges of military life, and being the glue that keeps our families together and thriving. Since leaving active duty, I have committed my time to connecting with other military spouses and sharing my lifetime of Air Force experience with them, and have benefitted from their support, friendship, and wisdom as well. Being a military spouse has taught me that I don't know everything and everyone needs support and help sometimes. I am proud to call myself a military spouse because being a military spouse means we are strong, resilient, and capable people who lead our families through the challenges of military life.
Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
I strive to be a servant leader and mentor in my community. I do this in a variety of ways, but the most significant and impactful way I lead in my community is through communication. I seek out and intentionally share information, resources, and opportunities relevant to my local military spouse community to empower other spouses to become more informed and resilient. I do this by creating collaborative connections, researching programs for military families, and in many cases, communicating with individuals in need of specific information and support. I also communicate with local and base leaders concerning the needs of the local military family community to increase awareness and make requests on behalf of military families.
Describe your involvement in the military community:
I am highly involved in my community and focus on military family resilience and quality of life concerns. I am most noticeably involved in my community as a moderator for a local social media group for more than 4,000 members. I seek to create connection, share legitimate and reliable resources and information, and maintain emotional safety for all when asking questions or seeking support. I also volunteer as a Key Spouse and mentor for 30 military spouses, serve as the Cannon Hiring Our Heroes Military Spouse Professional Network Social Media Coordinator, and as the Cannon Spouses' Club Vice President to bring a balance of general military life support, employment, and financial resilience and social resilience opportunities to military spouses in my community. I am also an active member of our local Patient and Family Advisory Board to help bring awareness about significant or recurring medical concerns and gaps in medical support for local military families.
Describe how you support your community:
There are many ways I support my community, but the most noticeable way I show up for my community is through social media communication and connection. I serve as a moderator in the largest local military family information group. As a moderator, I strive to create a safe, reliable space for families to ask questions about the area, military, and quality of life questions. I do not allow bullying of any kind and have often personalized information I share with the community to create a relatable and welcoming environment. This has led to countless connections with others needing information about employment, medical, financial, mental health, and general support during significant life events. I also volunteer with two nonprofit organizations where I am an advocate for spouse employment and education as well as social resilience events and community support through donation drives and random acts of kindness.
What do you advocate for? Why?
I am an advocate for military family quality of life and effective communication from leaders and to leaders about family-related topics in our community. I believe one of the biggest sources of frustration for military families is a lack of clear and consistent communication about topics that affect them. I have consistently requested and sought out clear and consistent communication from base and community leaders. I also actively seek out and share information about hot topics and activities happening on base and in the local community that are beneficial to know about. This information includes changes to medical care or coverage in our area, base closures, improved customer service hours, information about local support programs, information about wellness and mental health care topics, and social events. I want to help military spouses and families to have better access to information and resources that can help improve their quality of life and advocate for themselves.
How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
I am most active in local social media groups concerning military spouse and family topics and have occasionally sought additional guidance or support from base leaders through official email channels. Through social media, I share personal stories and provide reliable and informative answers to questions concerning a variety of military, Air Force, local area, and general life topics. I refer to governing regulations when appropriate, refer people to appropriate organizations and people, and bring important topics to base leadership for consideration and awareness when necessary. I have also engaged in a letter writing campaign to local officials concerning medical concerns of local military families and sought out detailed updates to share with others. I have not actively engaged media concerning military spouse topics, but I have been asked to review content from both base and local area media organizations to provide my thoughts before the content was released to the public.
What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year®
I am incredibly honored to be nominated and considered for the title of Armed Forces Military Spouse of the Year. I know all of the nominees are wonderful advocates and assets in their communities and I am humbled to be a part of this amazing network and program. My goal is to learn and grow from this experience as a person and as a leader and my hope is to spread awareness about the needs of military spouses and military families. We are a strong and mighty community, but there is still work to be done to improve our quality of life, grow our sense of connection, and develop the support programs we need in order to continue to grow and thrive as individuals, families and military communities.
Sandra has been a phenomenal key spouse for our unit and the greater Cannon community. She has led multiple spouse resilience events for our 20 squadron spouses and their families. She is a moderator for a Cannon social media group with over 4k members where she is constantly sought out by active duty and dependents for her in depth knowledge and support. She is a touch point for dependents/spouses who are not familiar with their unit key spouses and works tirelessly to advise on available resources and provide a helping hand when needed. She represents Cannon families at various quality of life events and meetings, voicing needs and concerns in issues from medical care to family activity areas to spouse employment. She is a stalwart advocate for spouses and families at Cannon and is most deserving of this award.
- by Matthew Hensley
Sandra has done incredible work for the Airmen, spouses, and families at Cannon AFB. She dedicates countless hours to the Spouses Club, Key Spouse Program, Peer Supporter Program, and so much more. She is a reliable wealth of information and I know of many individuals at Cannon AFB who turn to Sandra with questions and receive caring support and advice. Sandra is always willing to lend a helping hand and cares for our members and their families well. She is positive while remaining realistic and genuinely offers wise counsel. I have been blessed by Sandra’s dedication and genuine care. She is one of the most dedicated and caring military spouses I have met and Cannon AFB is blessed to have her.
- by Kathryn Wiley
Sandra is a pillar of our military community. She is very helpful to all the military spouses at Cannon AFB. She is quick to answer any and every questions and if she doesn’t know the answer, she seeks it out immediately. She is a great mentor and friend to everyone. She is involved in many different organizations and is a huge asset to them all.
- by Chrystal Caulkins