Married to: Darrell Brookins
Current location: Kentucky
Years as a military spouse: 15
Volunteerism and the art of listening is at the heart of why Shelia Brookins is the 2018 Armed Forces Insurance National Guard Spouse of the Year®. The list of organizations for which she volunteers is a mile long and the people she has helped in her family and community reflects the immense amount of time and energy she puts into everyone she meets.
“I volunteer and do the things I do because I’ve struggled and at times there were people there to help me and then there were times I was all alone,” says Shelia, whose own family once experienced a house fire that left them homeless. “I strive to ensure that those around me in need always know they are not alone. If they are willing to help themselves then I am willing to do all I can to help them.”
Together, Shelia and her husband Darrell have six children, raised two of Shelia’s own sisters, and were foster parents for several years. She is employed as a Family Assistance Center Specialist (FACS) and ensures service members and their families receive the education, resources, and information they need before, during and after deployments.
It was in 2011, during her own husband’s deployment and when she was also working as a Family Readiness Support Assistant (FRSA), that Shelia felt the weight of the responsibilities of her role combined with the emotions of being a military spouse herself.
“During that time, I learned I was a lot stronger than I thought and that for some odd reason people look to me for guidance,” says Shelia.
The long list of volunteer positions Shelia holds includes being president of the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of Kentucky Auxiliary, an area director and chaplain for the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States Auxiliary, many volunteer positions within her children’s schools, sports and her church which include being the parent representative for her children’s high school Site Based Decision Making Council. Shelia says that she identifies and supports a lot of demographics and causes, including teen pregnancy, domestic violence, sexual assault, congenital heart disease, and more.
But if Shelia had to choose one nonprofit closest to her heart it would be The Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States. Shelia is a big advocate for National Guard service members, seeing the need for their voices to be heard in both her job and volunteer work.
“People assume we only do the ‘military thing’ one weekend a month so they don’t even acknowledge that we do have that role and that our service members deploy as much and in some cases more than active duty, that trainings and schools can keep them away from home just like any other branch,” says Shelia. “I feel like National Guard spouses have to be resilient because their community may not offer the resources afforded to active duty spouses.”
What does she hope to do with the award?
“I hope to bring awareness to the need for volunteerism in our community. We as a society have gotten so far away from togetherness, building relationships, and community involvement. I believe if more people practice being a blessing to others it would make a difference in how we treat each other.”
Shelia seldom watches “regular” movies and television shows. “I love cartoons,” Shelia says. “You will rarely find me watching anything but movies and they are mostly cartoons.” Her wedding day was “filled with craziness,” Shelia says. “…our pianist was adjusting his chair and went flying out of the music pit feet up in the air so the beginning of our wedding looks like a clip from ‘America’s Home Videos.’ But with all the mishaps it was still a fairy tale day.”
Congratulations Shelia! The National Guard community has gained a great ally in you! You have already accomplished so many wonderful things for service members and their families and I know will continue to do so and grow even more. National Guard spouses are unique groups of people and along with that have unique needs that I know you are ready and willing to tap into and expand on. Always remember that you are never alone and we are all here to help out on whatever you choose to pursue! We are proud to welcome you to the family of Armed Forces Insurance National Guard Military Spouse of the Year! -Rhiannon Knutson, 2017 Armed Forces Insurance National Guard Spouse of the Year