Branch: Air Force
Duty Station: Offutt Air Force Base
Number of Deployments: 3
Number of PCS's: 6
Share your military spouse story:
Driving cross country on a 2,000-mile road trip, Grandma riding shotgun, and all our household goods overflowing from a hand-me-down car trailer... how else would you start a new career? My husband had just joined the Air Force and my new career was to be a stay-at-home mom to our two young boys. At least for a while, I thought. I had worked since I was 15 years old and thought it was what I was supposed to do. I quickly discovered my idea of “work” had to change. Staying at home was more challenging than I had anticipated, but I found it much more rewarding than a traditional job. I did find myself missing adult interaction and friends from home, so I sought opportunities in our new community. I got involved with the Spouse Club (SC) and held various positions on the Cub Scout board when my boys decided to join. I encouraged other parents to help, and with all the volunteers we gathered, our Scout group was a great place for our young boys to learn and have fun. My original idea of what “work” was supposed to be disappeared. I loved volunteering my time and giving back through the Scouts program and the various projects with the SC. We moved to Offutt AFB just before the world shut down for COVID-19, compounding the challenges that come with moving. During the summer months of both 2020 and 2021 we hosted Friday night drive-in movie-style evenings, socially distant yet still able to come together in a fun, safe way. When things opened up again, I joined the SC board. I organized various fundraisers to help offset costs of social functions, our biggest was to flock front yards of people on and off base, surprising them with a yard full of pink flamingos. This raised quite a bit of money and also encouraged members and non-members to volunteer their time. When I look back at the young wife and mom travelling cross-country for the first time, there was much anxiety about the unknown but hope for the adventures that were to come.
Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
I have engaged in several leadership roles within the military and local community since becoming a military spouse. I have served as Vice President on several Spouse Club boards and was responsible for creating an inclusive environment where everyone felt welcome. I have been a Key Spouse of a geographically separated unit, connecting with other spouses of military members from our unit via a social media page created to share the goings-on of the squadron, forming a sense of community even though we were all scattered throughout the US. I have managed multiple fundraising endeavors, leading over 50 volunteers and collecting more than $40,000 to provide scholarships to graduating high school seniors. I have advocated for special needs children within our community to get programs and services needed to support both the child and the family.
Describe your involvement in the military community:
Each duty station has had both positive and negative experiences, but we have tried to teach our children that “it will be what you make of it”. We are always involved with the many activities the Military and Family Readiness Center provide. I attend as many spouse socials and subgroup functions as I can, though trying to maintain a balance with time with my family and small business. I volunteer my time with the Offutt Thrift Shop as well as the Icing Smiles non-profit. My youngest son and I also volunteer at Heartland Equine Therapeutic Riding Academy (HETRA) by helping to organize fundraisers and as well as cleaning stalls.
Describe how you support your community:
Whether through my children’s school, scouts or the sports they play, I am always very passionate about being involved and encouraging other parents to do the same. I have volunteered on multiple committee boards both on base and civilian groups. I love to create a “village” of families to support our children and one another, creating a positive atmosphere where everyone feels empowered and included. I have hosted many events over the years to encourage the sense of community and to build friendships. I coordinated food and clothing drives for our local area when affected those around us, collecting 5 truckloads of clothing and more than $3,000 for the food pantry. I partner with Icing Smiles, a non-profit that provides custom celebration cakes and other treats to families impacted by the critical illness of a child
What do you advocate for? Why?
My advocacy is more general, but I have seen the power in empowering others. I advocate for everyone to get involved and volunteer with something that is personal to them. The community that is built when more hands are involved moves mountains. Each person has the opportunity to make a positive impact on others if only they take a bit of their time and invest it in their community.
How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
As a military spouse, I have been asked to speak at schools, newcomer meetings at various military installations as well as local non-profit organizations. I always encourage those listening to get involved where they are, no matter how big or small the involvement. I have interviewed with local radio stations and base-wide news outlets. What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year® title? I hope to encourage other spouses to get involved, to meet new people and make connections they otherwise might not make. We can all make this military life better for each other by simply being there.
What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year®
I hope to be able to demonstrate to even more people that getting involved and volunteering your time are just small acts that can make an incredible difference in the lives of those near and far.
Teresa selflessly gives so much of her time and effort in making Offutt AFB a better place for military spouses and their families. She serves on the Executive Board of the Officers Spouses Club as Social Vice President and also coordinates several successful fundraisers for the Club. She volunteers several hours a week at the Offutt Thrift Shop. Her dedication to both the Thrift Shop and the Board of Directors is invaluable. Without her, neither would be nearly as successful. She is a key spouse and also serves as a mentor for new key spouses. She has her own baking business and often donates baked goods for fundraisers, families and organizations such as the Red Cross and Icing Smiles. Perhaps her biggest contribution to Offutt is being a part of the Patient Advocacy Group, helping families who have a child in the EFMP program. Teresa is always the first to step up when there is a need and I am honored to nominate her for the Military Spouse of the Year.
- by Shannon Howard