It has been an interesting year as the 2013 Armed Force Insurance’s Military Spouse of the Year. I’ve been focusing on community support as MSOY, in addition to supporting my National Guard platform. Over the past few months I’ve hosted and supported many events, forums and outreach programs designed to support our families.
I’ve attended Wounded Warrior events in support of fellow Spouses of the Year to show how much they and their families matter. I’ve worked with an amazing team to continue to build up a food support network that assists struggling families at military installations in the DC area. In addition, I’ve helped design an intuitive web application that helps military members and their families find resiliency tools and additional resources in their local communities.
There have been wonderful opportunities to attend special events such as an Evening Parade. I was also fortunate to attend a lunch held in my honor by the Chief of Staff for the National Guard Bureau, and his wife Mrs. Pat Grass. Their support has been tremendous.
Interviews have also become a way of life for me, and it has been a joy to advocate for military families by sharing our stories and concerns. Some of my advocacy efforts thus far have included:
* I met with District of Columbia National Guard leadership and Senator Ben Cardin’s staff regarding furlough impacts on National Guard readiness, service members, and families.
* I attended the American Military Partners Association (AMPA) as a panelist to discuss the effect of DoD Partner changes on benefits..
* I organized and sponsored a ‘BSF Books on Bases Event’ on Joint Base Andrews in conjunction with Air Force Sergeants Association, Chapter 102; Jennifer Pilcher – 2013 AFI JBASOY; and Blue Star Families Books on Bases. http://www.dvidshub.net/image/1014056/blue-star-families-bring-books-bases-joint-base-andrews#.UtP4PdJDtCA
*I was a participant in Boys & Girls Club of America “Great Think” with DoD leadership, leadership spouses and large military corporate supporters to address challenges faced with providing resources to the military community. I was then invited to become a Board Member of the new Military Advisory Board.
*I addressed the 2013 Air Force Association Air & Science Expo Family Forum as an opening Speaker.
*I attended the Military Family & Veteran Summit at the White House.
* I helped distribute packages of coffee to Joint Base Andrews, and then personally shook the hands of Guard staff at the Air National Guard Readiness Center, thanking them for their support of our military families and their service.
* I received multiple grants from United Way and Capital One Bank through Catholic Charities of America. Through them, I was honored to be a part of a team that helped feed 350 impacted military families for three months starting in December 2013. We did this through the SHARE food network established with my team in 2012.
* I started meeting with NGB family programs (J1) leadership to discuss the challenges National Guard SOYS face in their states, as well as ways to bring their platforms and programs to state leadership. There was a reception at the Pentagon held in my honor by General and Mrs. Grass. Representatives from the White House and National Guard leadership, along with Mrs. Schwartz, were on hand to discuss issues regarding information about resources reaching families both near installations and geographically separated.
* Finally, I was an official co-sponsor of a DC area ‘Deployed Families Holiday’ event with Homewood Suites by Hilton, for the families of deployed service members. Family members that attended created holiday care packages, won prizes, participated in a scavenger hunt, and received discounted rates to stay at the property.
I’ve still continued working as a DoD contractor at a Military & Family Support Center and as a Key Spouse with the 113th Wing Logistics Readiness Squadron, District of Columbia National Guard.
It has been a pleasure to work with the state National Guard SOYs to create a collaborative practices platform to support all our families. We each have our strengths and programs driven by our passions. We’ve been able to start putting a system into place which will target our National Guard families. This is exciting!
What the MSOY award has meant to you so far?
The award has been an opportunity to represent our military community with a larger platform. Our families ask for support, but don’t always feel their concerns make it to the ears of those who can make a difference. The title of Military Spouse of the Year gave me the ability to access the decision makers able to make program and systemic changes to allow for the improvement of our welfare.
I’ve also met some amazing people whom I would otherwise not have met. These people have opened up my experiences and pushed me to be less introverted. They’ve become tremendous support and close friends.
How you plan to finish out your year as branch winner?
The rest of the year will be spent working with our State SOYs and the 2012 AFI National Guard Spouse of the Year, Christine Gilbreath. Together we plan to design a working system to support our families through the J1 NGB. We have quite a few ideas in the works that continue past the end of my year as MSOY. The work doesn’t end when the year is over for us as we are committed to being a part of the solution for the National Guard.
We’re establishing a council designed to improve communication and create practices for the dissemination of Guard programs. I will be chairperson, along with Christine, and we are in the process of drafting call to action for this council. We hop to include other NG SOYs, state leadership spouses, senior enlisted and officer spouses, as well as FRG and Key Volunteer spouses in our communities.
I also will continue spouse education and empowerment forums in the DC area, and continue to support the food network which helps feed so many of our military families.
I have also been invited to become a Military Child Education Coalition Parent Advocate Fellow and will start that training in February.