Duty Station: Camp Zama
Number of Deployments: 2
Number of PCS's: 10
Share your military spouse story:
My military spouse story is a melting pot of re-written resumes, volunteering, relocations, new communities, new schools, new friends, new jobs, sad good-byes, celebrations and growth. As you read my story I hope that you will see beyond me personally and see the many military spouses that may not be recognized by this award but are serving faithfully wherever duty calls. In the military you might hear the expression, home is where the Army sends us (you can fill-in any branch of service). My “home” has included multiple countries and many states. I’ve been a military spouse for just about 17 years and the years have definitely flown by. I was initially an active duty service member married to a fellow active duty service member. For the last 10 years I’ve been a full-time non service member military spouse. During these last 10 years, I’ve learned to lean-in quickly at new locations, to get connected and most importantly, to seek opportunities to add value within my community. Our first assignment where I jumped in with everything was in Korea. I joined the weekday women’s bible study (that I previously didn’t know existed), the Career Spouses groups/chapters, volunteered with the Financial Readiness team at ACS, volunteered with the Chapel Children’s programs within the community and volunteered at our daughter’s school. Although it might sound like I was giving quite a bit, our community really gave to our family. It was at this assignment that we experienced a very heartbreaking family loss and our military community “held us up” with their unending compassion and support. Our community provided countless meals during a time that I remember crying most days, they prayed for us, helped in anyway we needed and are forever in my hearts. So although you will hear quite a bit about my story, I want you to think of all the other military spouses that are contributing to their communities just like me.
Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
As a leader within my military community, I purpose to ask the question “where do you need me and what do you need me to do?” I’ve found that contributing what’s needed is a way to make a positive impact. Last year in 2022, I had the privilege of serving as the Director of the Camp Zama Vacation Bible School (VBS). It was an opportunity to take an idea/concept and plan everything from start to finish. We developed an 8-month plan that included recruiting, training, and overseeing background check processes for volunteers, ordering materials, and getting t-shirts for around 60 volunteers and 150 children. While planning VBS, I connected with other VBS Directors in Japan and this is where the magic happened. We learned of the planned VBS dates for the various locations and were able to share decorations. This is what the military spouse community is all about…teamwork. https://www.army.mil/article/259276/children_meet_friends_learn_lessons_in_weeklong_bible_school .
Describe your involvement in the military community:
A little girl in my community once said “I see you everywhere”. I mention this because although I never planned to be “everywhere” that’s how my efforts unfolded. I’m currently serving as PTO President for Zama Middle High School (ZMHS), which involves volunteering at the Thrift Store, growing membership, and so much more. In our local PWOC, I serve as the Prayer Coordinator. When I’m not volunteering in these roles, I’m contributing to a virtual military group called Active Duty Passive Income (ADPI). This team within the Asia Pacific Region collaborates to offer quarterly virtual series on Real Estate investing. Finally, I volunteer at my youngest daughters local International School. As you can see, my involvement and support reaches back 10 years and is filled with countless volunteer hours at grassroots meetings for Career spouses to a now budding PTO that started with just 2 board members for SY22-23. Everywhere we go, I find an opportunity to get involved and give-back.
Describe how you support your community:
Supporting my community is a way of life. From offering rides to others that may be hesitant to drive in a foreign country, to dropping off food to families that may be in quarantine/isolation. I’ve found that the military spouse community is filled with people like me, ready to lend a helping hand and be a family away from family. Our small community in Japan has a strong social media presence and I’ve found that using Social Media to share information for those newly arriving is a great way to build community. For example, when we arrived, we learned that there would be a 6-month wait for our youngest daughter to get into a local school…fast forward to once enrolled. Once enrolled, I shared the waitlist projections and many inbound families were able to apply early and decrease their in-country waitlist time. Insightful information can help ease a PCS, and I’m hopeful that my efforts have been received as helpful within the Camp Zama community.
What do you advocate for? Why?
I’m an advocate for military children and career focused spouses. I believe my heart is with these groups because I see/experience their struggles and successes. At the beginning of this application I mentioned the many places we’ve lived. With every PCS, our children also experienced change that at times was difficult. I’m hopeful that my local school involvement has positively impacted the parent-school partnership in our communities and demonstrates that we are "stronger together". My advocacy for the career-focused spouse can be traced back to my earlier description of myself as a “melting pot of re-written resumes”. Going through resume rewrites over and over every few years can be exhausting. So when the application question asked "who do you advocate for and why"? It was quite obvious to me, the career- focused spouse who is believing in themself over and over again yet not giving up on their professional goals as they start and restart their careers countless times.
How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
My advocacy is expressed within my volunteer involvement in military children programs and education and military spouse career focused groups. In my role as President for ZMHS PTO, with the support of the PTO Board, we are offering the first ever PTO scholarship for our community. We are able to offer this scholarship because of our collective fundraising efforts and the amazing support from our community. Offering financial scholarships demonstrates to our community that we believe in our students and want to support them as they take their next academic steps. In my volunteer role with the ADPI - Asia Pacific Region virtual team, I’m able to help our military communities (with lots of military spouses) deepen their education and understanding of real estate investing which may also translate into career opportunities. The opportunities we offer are shared across multiple social media platforms and reaches military communities around the world.
What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year®
I hope to continue to contribute to our military community while bringing awareness to the opportunities we have to join together for the greater good. I’m hopeful that this years' Spouse of the Year title recipient will be a reflection of the Military Spouse community at large. Wherever the title lands this year, let it be used as a platform with an emboldened voice to communicate the great work and support being done behind the scenes (and often without compensation) by our military spouses who are upholding our military communities.
Shari Evans is a steady force for good in every military community in which she serves. Her passion is to empower those who are the most vulnerable or overlooked. For the past year at Camp Zama, Japan, Shari has volunteered in numerous unsung capacities. In the Zama faith community, Shari inspired a team of 60+ volunteers to plan and direct the largest Vacation Bible School in the history of the installation, enriching the lives of over 150 Zama kids with affirmation of their value and purpose. As the Zama Middle High School PTO President, Shari oversees a board that has grown parent engagement in ZMHS activities by over 50%, enabling the PTO - for the first time ever - to award scholarships to graduating seniors. Shari also volunteers her expertise as an Accredited Financial Counselor to assist Soldiers and families in maximizing their finances and preparing for the future. Shari is a light and pillar in the Zama community; her care and quiet professionalism are a force multiplier.
- by Craig L Evans