Family Forum / By Judy Konitzer: With a myriad of wonderful organizations providing outstanding programs in support of our military spouses, I would like to showcase one for your consideration, thus giving you an opportunity to nominate a deserving spouse for their upcoming 2018 Military Spouse of the Year event.
The author at home researching her article. / PERSONAL PHOTO BY TOM KONITZER
For the past 9 years, Armed Forces Insurance (AFI) has sponsored this ceremony in May in Washington, DC and it has been attended by Congressional members, senior military, DoD leadership, and military spouses. The awards honor spouses who are committed to bettering not only their military communities but also our country, with nominations opening in January for representatives from all ranks and all branches of service. Eighteen Base and Branch candidates are showcased thru Military Spouse magazine and down-selected to six branch winners with a final awardee thru a combination of online votes and a judge’s panel. To learn more about the program and timelines go to http:msoymilitaryspouse.com and link to MilSpouse of the Year Timelines.
In 2016, AFI National Guard Spouse of the Year, Cara Loken, was genuinely energized by many of her fellow awardees. She told me that she had not been aware of many of their or prior year awardees’ accomplishments and was surprised that there was no platform to collectively share their experiences. She felt that people in general, especially civilians, needed to know what these volunteers were doing to make a difference. With the assistance of Lori Simmons the CMO of AFI, Cara began collecting the stories of 30 spouses, although not all AFI awardees, each writing a chapter from their perspective of life during continuous wartime operations and from scattered locations throughout the U.S. and overseas. I found their creation Behind the Scenes: The Tales of American Military Spouses Making a Difference very enlightening, as well as inspiring.
Roughly 1.1 million military spouses of the U.S. Armed Forces are entrepreneurs, volunteers, educators, lawyers, authors, elected representatives, stay-at-home parents, free-lance writers, counselors, and advocates. With the contributors being representative of them, there was a lot to be shared. Each of them had to conquer their own challenges.
For example, being “sponsored” and becoming a “dependent” after being on active duty, or enjoying a successful civilian career and deciding to be “geo-bachelors,” loving being a mom, but also loving having a job with two incomes but now being underemployed, transitioning from co-parenting from afar to co-parenting together after a deployment, being a male milspouse, being an immigrant or vice versa moving to a foreign land and away from a base, losing a child, having a spouse and a child deployed to a war zone, living thru spousal addictions and PTSD to name a few.
Contributors founded not-for-profit, as well as for-profit organizations, established counseling services, started in home businesses, hosted military podcasts, are corporate professionals, and the list goes on. I found myself highlighting many ideas throughout the book, and I especially loved knowing that it is a charitable endeavor with 100% of the sales proceeds going to selected not-for-profit or charities of the authors. I was given permission to share some lessons learned.
- “Who were you before you became a military spouse and who are you now? Who would you like to be?” “Find your passion and use it for good.”
- “Be open to the new, the different, the unusual, even if it’s scary.” “If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door and if your goals don’t scare you, they are not big enough.”
- “We hold the power to spend the majority of our military journey not losing a piece of ourselves each step along the way, but finding our true self, our evolved heart.”
- “Find a cause you care about and start to make a difference. Every organization needs supporters, however large or small your contribution.”
- “Relationships are key and everything in life is about people and change is made for people. Invest time in people and get to know them. Build relationships that last.”
- “Advocacy involves knowing when you’re the right voice, and when you are not. If you want people to help in achieving your goals, it’s important to help in achieving theirs as well.”
- “Establish a Base Bucket list of all the things that we would be disappointed missing out on if we didn’t see or do before we leave that duty station.”