Candice Lea Cartwright

Branch: Army

Duty Station: Fort Sill

Number of Deployments: 3

Number of PCS's: 7

Share your military spouse story:
I never imagined that I would end up where I am now. I was born and raised between Louisiana and Texas. I met my husband while working at the State Jail in Jacksboro, Texas. We started dating after he finished training, and just one year into our marriage, he informed me of his enlistment in the Army. I was in shock. Suddenly, I found myself as a new Army spouse trying to learn the PCS process while he attended basic training and AIT in Fort Leonardwood, MO. It was not an easy or friendly process in 2006, but we managed to get through it, and I've loved every second of it since. After his training, my husband was posted to Fort Bragg (now Fort Liberty), and my life as an army spouse began in earnest. We arrived with a Uhaul truck, packed to the brim. We were welcomed by our entire neighborhood, who are still like family to this day. My husband then went on a 15-month deployment. Having met the commander's spouse, Toi, I immediately signed up as a key caller and found my new love: volunteering. From that moment, I volunteered for anything and everything, including training and becoming an Army Family Team Building (AFTB) Instructor. Today, seventeen years later, I am proud and confident of the person I have become. I chose to view this change in my life as positive. I have met some of the most empowering spouses across seven states. Although I have often been frustrated, I found the military life full of opportunities, and I took them all. I have earned my bumps and bruises through this roller coaster and no longer stress the demands of military life; I embrace them. I have been through three deployments, seven moves, and breast cancer, and we are now only three years away from retirement. It has not always been easy, but it has definitely been worth it.

Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
To live in a great community, it's important to take an active role in building it. This requires both individual and team efforts. Personally, I find Spouses' Clubs and Thrift Shops to be great opportunities for community involvement. The variety of roles I've taken on, such as serving as a 5/10K Race director, Thrift Shop Liaison, President, Treasurer, and Community Grants Outreach, have allowed me to develop many skills. When our son was stationed with us at Fort Polk (now Fort Johnson), I contributed my time with the PTA, serving as the Homeroom Grandparent where my granddaughters attended school, which was a fulfilling experience for me.

Describe your involvement in the military community:
Since becoming an AFTB instructor, I've helped new spouses navigate military life and even become instructors themselves. While the Army has moved the program online, serving within the SFRG allows me to help our unit with training and empowerment. Like the phrase "It takes a village," we do and go through everything together, and I love knowing I've helped develop that resiliency. The experience I gained from so many years of volunteering with Spouses' Clubs gave me the skill sets that led me to my new job title, "Caterer," at the Historic Fort Sill Patriot Club.

Describe how you support your community:
"I always make myself available to help others. My mother instilled in me the importance of finding a balance between family and community, and I try to apply this principle every day. One of my beliefs is that we should strive to empower the next generation to be better than the previous one. This is how we can not only survive but also thrive in military life. Currently, I serve as the Treasurer for the Fort Sill Spouses' Club, and I am part of a team that helps both new and seasoned spouses to connect and build relationships. I firmly believe that effective communication and availability are essential for establishing successful connections in military life."

What do you advocate for? Why?
Advocacy itself! Advocate for yourself, for others, for the Army, and for your installation. Spend time in your community and commit to one small act a day that connects to your passions. When in a new duty station, find shared experiences, interests, and values in other military spouses. Join the SFRG, attend your unit's town hall, volunteer in the Red Cross, or serve on a committee inside and outside of the gate. Discuss issues that affect the Army with friends and brainstorm ways to effect change. Remember to advocate for what you believe in!

How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
Fortunately for me, I have a natural talent for speaking, so whenever I have the opportunity to address my fellow military spouses or colleagues during training or events, I always advocate for the cause. I also leverage social media to share relevant information about community events and invite other spouses to join us at our club-sponsored events.

What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year® title?
"We can do it, and we are not alone! I didn't choose to be a military spouse. I just happened to fall in love with an Army man. So, finding that I needed a new set of tools meant I had to first advocate for myself, train myself up, so that I was always mission-ready as well. My first set of friends were our new neighbors at our first duty station. Taking what they had learned from other spouses, and their own experiences, they reached out and made such a difference in my life. Military life can be extremely hard, especially for spouses and kids because they don't have ready-made support systems to walk into like our service members do. They have to find, build, and create one. That's why it's so important to always cheer each other on. Be there through the good, the bad, and the ugly.


It is my pleasure to nominate, Candice Cartwright. Candi is an absolute force when it comes to helping in her community. I had the pleasure to volunteer alongside her at Fort Johnson, with the then Fort Polk Spouses' Club. Always giving of her time and asking nothing in return, a true heart of gold.
- by Candy Olivares