Branch: Air Force
Duty Station: Whiteman Air Force Base
Number of Deployments: 4
Number of PCS's: 0
Share your military spouse story:
I’d bet many women, at some point in their life, have identified with a Disney Princess. A singsong tale of independence, rising over adversity, and a handsome prince. I, on the other hand, identify with Dory, from Finding Nemo. Much of my time as a military spouse, particularly in more difficult moments, I’ve found myself repeating the mantra, “Just keep swimming.” I met my husband, Russell, in my early twenties, just as he was preparing for a deployment. On our first date, he informed me that he’d be deploying the following year, and he would understand if I didn’t want to see him again. Although the prospect of spending several months without him was scary, I couldn’t imagine walking away from him. His love for our country only endeared him to me more. We spent a year together leading up to that deployment, and when he left, I felt my heart shatter for the first time. I found ways to keep myself busy, and the four months we spent apart passed by quickly. I’ll never forget the moment that first deployment ended and I was finally able to say my favorite hello. Our relationship has seen three more deployments since then, too many TDY’s to count, the birth of two beautiful children and the loss of a precious angel baby. Through all of the ups and downs, and unexpected moments in this journey, I have repeated to myself, “Just keep swimming, Sara." I truly believe that without our strong devotion to each other and to our country, Russell and I would not be able to serve in our own ways. Pursuing our individual passions, while cheering each other on, has made our life in the military richer than I could have imagined, and I’m so thankful for the support Russell has given along the way. Over the past twelve years, I’ve also experienced the unique camaraderie that can be built between military spouses, and the support and encouragement of several Key Spouse Mentors who I respect greatly. I now strive to be an example of support that would make them all proud.
Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
I’ve had the honor to serve my husband’s squadron as Key Spouse for the past nine years, and have recently been selected to serve as the Wing Key Spouse Mentor. A role I do not take lightly. Thanks to my position in the squadron, I’ve been able to lead our team in the direct support of squadron families with a school supply drive that provided items to over 80 children. Our team also assisted First Sergeants with collecting items to provide over 250 holiday meal kits for members and their families. Seeing a chance to provide a little extra love to some of our families I was a strong advocate for an Angel Tree gift collection that blessed more than 20 kids. Along with a large Christmas store where more than 300 members were able to shop for free gifts. I have seen the difference these services have made and believe that even these small things we do for others are just as important as the large ones. And my purpose in this life is to love those around me, in any way that I am able.
Describe your involvement in the military community:
Throughout my time as a military spouse, I have had the pleasure of serving in many different roles. When my husband's squadron has deployed, I’ve spent countless hours baking cookies and filling care packages for our service members. Life as a Reserve spouse can be difficult and lonely to navigate as we often do not have a military community close to us. As a result, I have always looked for ways to help my fellow Reserve spouses to feel loved, encouraged, and included. In 2022 I was able to support the importance of strong military marriages through becoming a Military Marriage Day Ambassador. This is just one of the wonderful opportunities that I have been afforded to assist with strengthening military relationship. I have also been able to help advocate and build stronger community partnerships for our wing/base with Blue Star Families, Operation Homefront and the USO. These partnerships bring amazing support to our military community.
Describe how you support your community:
I believe the importance of supporting others with genuine love and compassion cannot be understated. Cultivating relationships is a work of heart, and with the investment of time and care, can make all the difference in someone’s life for years to come. I sincerely hope my willingness to support the community in any way that I can, whether it be lending a listening ear, bringing a home cooked meal, laughing/crying with someone, or offering information on the best resources for any given situation, has had long lasting effects of the lives of those within my community. I’m thankful for people who share these same goals, such as our unit’s First Sergeants, who have helped identify the needs of our families and who help support the Whole Airman Concept. And, thanks to my wonderful son Bradley, I have been honored to support our local community, by serving in his school’s PTO, and through volunteer opportunities in his classroom.
What do you advocate for? Why?
I advocate for strong military families with the mindset that it may be your struggle, but you do not need to fight it alone. The Air Force Reserve’s motto is “Fly, fight, win...airpower anytime, anywhere,” and family is the backbone supporting that mission. I have a heart and passion for people and ensuring our military family is strong, supported, and loved. I, personally, struggle with anxiety and depression that was worsened by the loss of our daughter, April. Many military spouses and dependents share these same struggles and we must make everyone feel safe in asking for help when they need it. Finding ways to support others in mental health struggles, along with feeling connected to a strong support system, has become my strongest driving force. Furthermore, taking care of families in every situation has led me to become a Resiliency Training Assistant on track to become a Master Resiliency Trainer. A title that will only further enable me to serve military families better.
How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
Thanks to my work as a Key Spouse, I've been able to make strong connections throughout my husband's wing. This has allowed me the opportunity to be part of a wing wide working group that allows me to bring the needs of our families to the attention of leadership. Within the state of Missouri, I have had the pleasure of being able to speak with several organizations about some of the needs our military families face and how they might be able to help uplift them. In January of 2022, I was honored to become a Reserve Spouse Mentor with the Military Spouse Advocacy Network. This incredible platform allows me the ability to uplift spouses all around the globe and to encourage them when they are struggling. My hope is to always ensure spouses of the community that is ready to surround them, and to help spouses know they are not alone in this journey.
What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year®
I hope to use the AFI Military Spouse of the Year title to shed additional light on the mental health needs of military spouses and dependents. We all serve; yet the mental health struggles that many military families face are over looked. These struggles can be especially difficult for families of members that are often away for work and those that are geographically separated from their member's duty station. Reserve and Guard families can find military life a little more difficult to navigate at times due to the lack of a strong military support system, or community, that they are able to lean on in difficult times. My hope it to shed light on these struggles and highlight more support for those who serve in the silent ranks.
One thing that I love most about being a military spouse is the opportunity to be mentored and to be a mentor. Sara Roberts is an example of this form of selfless service. She serves as a Wing Key Spouse Mentor for the 442d Fighter Wing, MSAN Reserve Spouse Mentor and Giving Tuesday Military ambassador. I have the pleasure of working alongside Sara as a Military Marriage Day Ambassador as we volunteer to further the mission of strengthening military families. In every role Sara strives to meet the practical needs of our service families and share her experience. She’s helped organize, collect and distribute backpacks and school supplies for families within the wing, raised support for Angel Tree gifts, and researched suicide statistics and mental health resources for spouses and dependents in need. The 2023 Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year® should be an amazing leader and mentor, which is why Sara Roberts is an ideal nominee.
- by Bree Carroll