Amy Kathleen Hayes

Branch: Navy

Duty Station: Naval Support Activity Mid-South

Number of Deployments: 7

Number of PCS's: 7

Share your military spouse story:
I was a 20-year old E-4 in the Air Force, with fighter pilot dreams, when I met my sailor. We spent the first nine months of our marriage on separate continents, which influenced my choice to separate from active duty to support his career. While it was definitely the right choice for us, I often found myself grieving the loss of a dream I had since I was twelve years old. During my fourth pregnancy, I became aware that being a military spouse and a mother had taken over my entire identity. As much as I love being those things, it was time to make new goals that were just for me. I couldn't fly F-16s. But, maybe I could make some time to pursue something beyond "holding down the fort"? I started with online classes and ended up using every last penny of my GI Bill to earn a bachelor's degree and then an MBA. I joined the YMCA to use their child care services while I swam laps or jogged on the treadmill and ended up running marathons, competing in Ironman triathlons, and even swimming solo across the English Channel. I examined our finances by taking a Dave Ramsey class and ended up budgeting, thrifting, couponing, and sacrificing luxuries until our family could do a debt free scream. Each of these things took me WAY out of my comfort zone. But, the rewards have been immeasurable. It's easy to delay pursuing personal goals because "It will just be too hard while we are living overseas," "...while my spouse is deployed," or "...while my kids are so young." I have learned, over and over, that WE CAN DO HARD THINGS. I believe this is an essential philosophy for all military spouses, and not just because we need be able to survive six back-to-back overseas moves. It's essential to our fulfillment and our confidence as individuals, who invest so much of ourselves in the success of others. It's worth it to invest some time and energy in ourselves, too. Most goals will be just as hard in the next season of life. So, I've learned to just go for it.

Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
I have participated and served on boards for multiple military spouse organizations, most notably as the president of the Commander 7th Fleet (C7F) Family Readiness Group (FRG) during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. A few minutes after I was elected president of the C7F FRG, a helicopter ditched into the ocean. A month later, a sailor had a heart attack and died while on deployment, leaving behind his wife and four children. A month after that, the world shut down while the command was deployed aboard the USS Blue Ridge. That deployment ended up setting the record for the most consecutive days that ship has ever spent at sea. I was struggling with the state of the world, right along with all the other C7F families. We could not plan in-person social events to achieve togetherness. The mission was simply checking in with each other. The FRG board organized engaging social media content that kept everyone feeling connected and supported through the hardest parts of that year.

Describe your involvement in the military community:
As someone who seeks to make connections and meet individual needs, I've volunteered with multiple military organizations in ways that I can directly impact people in a positive way. I have served as a board member and a mentor for Military MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers), an outreach organization that gathers parents of young children to fellowship and learn together in base chapels across the world. I have volunteered as a youth religious educator in multiple base chapels. I have served as parliamentarian for a joint service military spouse organization, rewriting the bi-laws and constitution and developing guidance relevant to a scholarship program for military dependents. I have served as the president of the executive board for a command family readiness group. I volunteer for USO events, MWR events, and command events, as availability allows. This kind of involvement allows me to meet people, especially those who are new to the area, and become part of their support system.

Describe how you support your community:
My impact and influence is most often made on a personal level. I want to form meaningful connections. I want to earn trust from my peers, so when they are in a position to need help with anything, they are comfortable coming to me. I will hem your navy ball gown, sew patches on your spouse's uniform, give you a ride to base, take you thrift shopping to furnish your new home for cheap, watch your kids while you attend that festival in Tokyo that is not appropriate for kids, help you write a federal resume when you've decided to return to the workforce after a lapse in employment, walk you through preparing your tax return with free military software, share my amazing fruit pizza recipe with you, help you research the processes for requesting an early return of dependents from overseas, share all my AMC flight tips, and be there when you need to cry or vent about anything. I aim to model the kind of solidarity and support that I wish to see everyone embracing as we do life together.

What do you advocate for? Why?
I advocate for maintaining or reclaiming our identities. Know thyself! I want other military spouses to be confident in identifying and communicating their needs and wants, and let themselves prioritize their health and mental wellness, their goals and dreams, their fun and JOY! Being a military spouse can be a blessing and a much that it seems like making time for ourselves is a chore in itself. It's a title I wear proudly, but it doesn't define me as a whole person. I want to shout it from the roof tops that military spouses can be a military spouse AND a doctor, a military spouse AND a private pilot, a military spouse AND an artist, a military spouse AND a children's book author, a military spouse AND a competitive surfer, a military spouse AND a business owner. I want to encourage military spouses everywhere to commit to making time for something that is just theirs, for them. Perhaps it's never too late to pursue a dream. But, it's also never too early. Start now.

How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
I have been interviewed on multiple podcasts and have spoken at schools( and one military spouse symposium), on the topic of balancing military spouse life and parenting with setting big goals. I do not have a personal public platform for spreading this message, but it's something I am constantly encouraging other military spouses to do to maintain their agency. It doesn't have to be a big, big goal. Whether it is a hobby, self employment, athletic challenges, education, financial literacy, or returning to the work force after a long employment gap, I want military spouses to be able to be fulfilled by intrinsic and extrinsic rewards as a result of hard work they put into serving themselves in the same way they are constantly serving their families.

What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year® title?
I hope to encourage military spouses to do hard things that will fulfill them. I hope to inspire military spouses to give themselves permission to seek out what serves their hearts. I hope to convince military spouses that they are so much more than military spouses and that, while that title comes with a badge of strength and resilience, they deserve to have an identity separate from their partner's career. I hope to remind military spouses to define themselves as whole people, who are made up of a part that serves their active duty service member, a part that serves their children/families, a part that serves their community, AND a part that serves themselves.


When I think about Amy, I think of someone that "always shows up". When your spouse is deployed and you just need a break - she's there. When the FRG needs someone to lead - ask Amy. When your loved one passes away and you can't imagine grieving and taking care of your 2 year-old - Amy will take care of you both. Compliment her shoes? - "here, take them, my gift." Whether you are a stranger or an old friend, no one is safe from Amy's ability to make you feel like you are loved, supported and a part of a community. She is relentless in her giving, and has had a tremendous impact on the lives of everyone around her during her time in the Air Force and 18 years as a military spouse. While their current duty station looks a little different than the previous tight-knit Naval communities, the lasting impact she has made during the last two decades, to me, embodies what it is to be Military Spouse of the Year.
- by Ellie Jackson