Congratulations!
Below are the Top 18 Base Level Spouses of the Year who will be moving on to the Branch Level voting process. Voting takes place on Wednesday, February 4th 2015!
View All Candidates Here

Army

Rachel O’Hern

Pentagon

I’m originally from Texas, and a proud graduate of Texas A&M – gig’em Aggies! I completed my Master of Social Work degree Rachelvirtually while helping my husband recover from injuries resulting in multiple amputations sustained in Afghanistan and eventually continue on active duty. I’m fortunate to be able to use my personal and professional experience to lead the Quality of Life Foundation, a nonprofit organization, and run the Wounded Veteran Family Care Program, designed to serve families who provide a substantial amount of care for a catastrophically wounded, injured, or ill veterans at home. Over a million military families are expected to transition to civilian life over the next five years. Through my time working as an analyst for the Navy’s transition program, I was able to see how much emphasis is placed on employment for the transitioning veteran, but there is more to the story than just employment including housing, medical facilities, insurance coverage, and finding cultural fit in a new community. This challenge extends the families of the severely wounded that I work with through the Quality of Life Foundation. The important issue of transition preparation must to be addressed going forward to ensure our military families are set up to thrive in their new civilian communities. With the MSOY title, I would hope to remind the American public that “supporting the troops” means supporting the whole military family. Rather you’re a caregiver as I was, or a military kiddo, the military lifestyle is a total-family effort!

Corie Weathers

Fort Gordon

CorieI am 38 years old and the wife of Matthew Weathers, a US Army Chaplain. I have two sons, Aidan (10) and Jackson (7). I am a licensed professional counselor; most of my education specialized in PTSD treatment, including internships as well as certification from The Department of Defense’s Center for Deployment Psychology in Bethesda, Maryland. During our first duty station in Colorado Springs, CO, My husband deployed with his unit to a remote location in Afghanistan. Because of my skill set, I was asked to be the head coordinator for the Care Teams and a member of the Go-Team. I was tasked to work with new widows once they were notified of their soldier’s death and train other military wives how to care for these new widows. Offering support during their own grief and anxiety during the deployment was also crucial. We could not have anticipated losing the 12 soldiers we did during that deployment. Eight of them were killed during a mass casualty attack on their forward operating base by 400 insurgents who infiltrated the outpost . Out of that battle, now historically called the “Battle of COP Keating”, has resulted two books, two Medals of Honors, and a group of highly decorated soldiers that continue to struggle with PTSD and their families who daily support them. My close work with the senior command rear detachment, senior spouses, the widows, family advocacy, and our military family developed a passion for not only treating soldiers, but also the ongoing work with spouses. I was given the Honorable Order of St Joan D’Arc award as well as the Commander’s Award for Public Service for my work during that deployment, including my involvement during a press conference covering the aftermath of the battle. I hope to shine an equal light on the mental state of spouses rather than just the soldier by being a real voice of a hurting but resilient group. I will never forget a documentary I watched about a soldier struggling with PTSD that came home and almost destroyed his marriage and family. Throughout the documentary, his wife was vulnerable about how difficult it was to try to support him while he struggled to find purpose and healing. Towards the end of the program, he was praised for his amazing efforts in creating programming for other soldiers who were struggling. The last segment showed his wife holding back tears as she said she looked forward to continuing to support him. There was no doubt, that there was pain and weariness behind her eyes. Her eyes haunt me. Military spouses need more help, need a place to talk, to hurt, to be real without feeling it is unpatriotic or out of place. Bridging the gap will help provide the support and resources to help them thrive in their marriages, their personal goals, cope with the changes in their soldier, as well as the coming changes in the Military.

Melissa Gomez

Eglin AFBMelissa

I am a proud Latina from Philadelphia, PA; born and raised…I decided to join the Army at a very young age. I entered the service at the age of 17 and it has been the best decision I ever made. I met the love of my life while serving and now I am more than happy to fully support his Army career as a Special Forces Soldier. I have made it a goal of mine to pursue my passions as much as possible while living as a military spouse. This year I earned my Master’s Degree and plan to continue my studies in Mental Health Counseling. My deepest passion being to ensure the voice of military spouses worldwide is heard and acknowledged. These pursuits may be difficult at times but they are certainly the most important and rewarding to me! With the MSOY title, I would love to accomplish the task of ensuring that the military family issues I addressed above were heard at the highest levels. I would like to have the ability to help create policy and/or be a spokesperson for the spouse community at the higher echelons. I would also love the chance to represent and advocate for the Latin community of Veterans and spouses amongst our military branches. At the end of the day, for me, it is about showing that military spouses are more than competent, capable, and just as passionate about this lifestyle as their service member. We are ready to tackle any issues and support our service members in any way we can. We are a strong community and we have a unique and desirable perspective on life that is of great benefit to all.

 

Air Force

Alexandra Brown

JB San Antonio

AlexandraI have been very fortunate in this life. I have an amazing man to call my husband and three phenomenal children. I’ve grown up in a family full of aviators, so it came as no surprise when I married into the Air Force. My earliest memories are flying with my grandfather and helping him restore airplanes. I grew up in a large Greek family and love baking and cooking for a crowd! I enjoy cooking large meals for all of our squadron’s Tasty Tuesday events. I worked in sports broadcasting for many years prior to the military life. My family and friends are my greatest joys. With the MSOY title, I hope to increase social media and online safety awareness for military families. There are significant vulnerabilities and challenges to military families and children online. They range from OPSEC/PERSEC concerns to intimidation/bullying, PTSD, suicide awareness, and so much more. Our service members and their families are more connected than ever before. Our responsibility to our mission and our people requires us to be safe and responsible while online and in our electronic communication.

 

Hannah Salem

Pope AAF

Hannah Salem is the founder of Salem Strategies, a full service-consulting firm offering strategic communications, advocacy Hannahand public policy solutions. A veteran of numerous political and public affairs campaigns, Hannah has over 10 years of experience working for candidates, elected officials and Fortune 500 companies, as well as unique insight and experience working with the U.S. Military. Prior to founding Salem Strategies, Hannah served as Chief Aide and Campaign Manager to NC State Sen. Ronald Rabin. In this role, Hannah coordinated and implemented the Senator’s legislative agenda and was also responsible for the campaign strategy that led to the victory in Rabin’s first run for political office. Before moving to NC, Hannah spent three years in D.C. serving as staff to House Financial Services Committee Chairman Spencer Bacchus and later as a legislative aide at Capitol Counsel, where she focused on health policy issues for one of the country’s most prominent public policy and advocacy firms. Before moving to D.C., Hannah worked as a Legislative Aide to LA State Rep. Hunter Greene and coordinated crisis communications during one of the nation’s most devastating natural disasters, Hurricane Katrina. Hannah later served as an aide to LA Governor Bobby Jindal in the Louisiana Oil Spill Coordinator’s Office. In 2011, Hannah was recognized by AFCOS Norton Schwartz as the AF Key Spouse of the Year for her efforts to strengthen and streamline communication among military spouses. Hannah combines her political, government, business and military experience to create customized campaigns and solutions for her client’s strategic challenges. With the MSOY title she hopes to improve and streamline our communications efforts among spouses across the Air Force and create a standard of operation that is easy to use and effective.

Jana Kingery

Beale AFB

JanaI am a proud Air Force spouse of 17 years!! In 1997, I married my wonderful husband Matt and started our journey to Dyess AFB, TX where I attended McMurry University on Academic Scholarship. In 2003, my husband received orders to Schriever AFB, CO, and I started my next teaching job of Honors Biology and served as a special education consultant for science at Widefield High School in Colorado Springs for 3 years. I was awarded the Who’s Who of American High School teachers twice during my time at Widefield. In 2006, orders sent us to Elmendorf AFB, AK where we became parents to our son, Declan Joseph. In Alaska, I educated grades 8-12 through Family Partnership Charter School. Our next assignment took our family to Goodfellow AFB in San Angelo, TX where I taught science at Lakeview High School. Finally, the Air Force sent us to Beale AFB, CA in 2010. Since teaching opportunities were limited around Beale, I focused my efforts in volunteering in my children’s school, my husband’s squadron, and the Beale AFB community, We just received orders that we will remain at Beale AFB, and I plan to continue volunteer and serve our Air Force community. As MSOY, I will encourage awareness and change for military spouse requirements for retirement to be transferred 100% by petitioning senators and representatives to support this measure. I will also continue to advocate for military children to be part of a “complete” community of support by creating and participating in programs to ensure kids succeed and excel at each of their new locations through local schools, youth programs (on and off base), and the military installation.

Coast Guard

Angelina Marcano

USCG District 7

Angelina

As a military spouse, I have learned to appreciate everything, including other military wives. Growing up, I never realized all that my mother did as a military wife, especially with 5 kids in the house. I believe this because if we ever had a hard time growing up, she was our strong leader. As an employee of Fleet and Family Services, I truly believe that support goes two ways: Family to Service and Service to Family. It is my honor to serve families, and as a spouse I have the unique opportunity to be in both roles. If I were chosen with such an amazing honor, I would see it as a responsibility to raise awareness for the benefit of others. I feel so strongly about helping and supporting individuals in the military community with issues such as Domestic Abuse, Sexual Assault, Suicide, PTSD, and in general coping with difficult times such as Deployment, PCSing, and Loss.

 

 

Jill Simcox

USCG District 5

I am a 38-year old mother of two who has loved having the opportunity to raise our children Jillwhile also supporting my husband’s career in the United States Coast Guard. One thing that most people don’t know about me right off the bat is that I used to work for the Los Alamos National Laboratory where I held a high level security clearance while conducting research related to our nation’s weapons systems. I am published and have an extensive presentation list, but I walked away from that when husband asked me to join him in his Coast Guard journey. I think the most important issue that military families face is that of providing a stable environment for our children. In a lifestyle where change is more common than routine, it can be challenging to provide structure. Our children are some of the most resilient children out there, but with the frequent moves, there is the chance that their education and emotional growth can suffer. I think it is vital that military families are made aware of the resources we do have available to us, and that more resources are continually evolved and/or developed to to help us and our children with the many changes we face in our lives.

 

Stacey Benson

USCG District 1

StaceyTo say that I am an USCG wife is not entirely true. – I have also been an Army wife—same husband but two different careers! I am a mom to my wonderfully witty and handsome 10 year old son Zachery and married to my best friend, and the love of my life, Larry. Fifteen years ago we met while I attended Winthrop University. At that time, he was fresh out of SERE and jump school while being assigned to 3/7 Group in the US Army at Fort Bragg, N.C Being in a military family to me is not defined by my personal family. It is defined by a close knit family made up of many branches; Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines, and Navy; different families, thousands of people, who come in and out of your life. There is a huge spot light on veterans getting gainful employment upon retirement, but the same cannot be said for military spouses. I want to change that and start with local businesses located around military bases. I want to bridge the gap between military spouses who want to work and need resume experience with local businesses that need quality help. I want to show these businesses the advantages of hiring a military spouse. I want these businesses located near military bases, to create quality job opportunities for military spouses. These jobs can be part time, full time or even consultant work. If employers give a military spouse a chance, they will get a hardworking, dedicated, and well educated person who will give them 110% in return. Eventually I would love to start a non-profit organization, Hiring Homefront Heroes, that would allow me to connect military spouses with respected local businesses.

Navy

Richard Ortloff

NSA Naples

Richard
I am a retired Firefighter and a Vietnam Era veteran; I served as one of the last Army draftees in the early 1970’s, in order to allow more flexibility with my wife’s assignments. We have been at 11 duty stations since we have been married now for 30 years. I think stability is a very important issue. So many of us, Spouses and other family members, have a lot of adapting to do each time we move. Having a great Family network or Ombudsman is critical in managing that, and being engaged with your local military communitiy helps you stay up to speed on changes. This helps a Spouse feel stable. I was the 2008 USO Volunteer of the Year for the Pacific and as the USO, Naples, Italy Volunteer of the Quarter, 4th Quarter 2014. With the MSOY title, I would like to show everyone, military and civilian, that spouses are such a pivotal part of a military career and its future. We are as different as spouses, as husbands and wives, as our military members are different in their rate/MOS’s/Specialties and we bring to the table a point of view and support that is often behind the scenes, yet unforgettable.

Antonia Wilber

NB Guam

AntoniaFor eight-years, I have been on an extended break from employment to focus on being a supportive submarine wife and mother. It has been during this “break” that I learned that my greatest achievements are the product of my struggles to maintain a positive and nurturing relationship with my Sailor, to provide a steady and reliable home for our transient family, and to flourish as a “single” mother throughout countless under-ways and deployments. I have had the honor to serve as a Command Ombudsman with four different Commands, to include my current appointments with a Submarine Tender, Joint Region Marianas, as well as the Chairperson for the Ombudsman Assembly in Guam. I saw a tremendous need for the COMPASS program at our last two, duty stations and I had the privilege of working with a phenomenal group of peers to lead a volunteer team of spouses in Charleston, South Carolina and Guam: I am currently serving as the Team Leader for COMPASS Guam. I have over 1000 volunteer hours as a Caseworker and knitter for the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society and I am the treasurer for the Parent Teacher Organization at our DoDEA school on Naval Base Guam. I will continue to work hard to connect with my military family and I look forward to the many adventures that await me throughout our military career. I am extremely honored to have been nominated by a fellow Navy spouse for this position. If selected as the MSOY, I will take advantage of the position to research and identify the needs of our military families and advocate the importance for family support services and programs amongst the Department of Defense budget cuts. Education, guidance, and support are the key factors to the success of our military families. HOO-YAH!

Stefanie Sanders

NS Mayport

I am originally from Michigan and the oldest of four children. After graduating, I joined the Navy to see the world and to beStefanie able to get my education. Then I met my Sailor when I was active duty 18+ years ago and we have been married for 16+ years. He is by far the Love of my life. I have a huge passion for helping others and it is what lead me first to the FRG President role, then right into Ombudsman for USS GETTYSBURG (CG 64). I want to be the one that the families can turn to and feel comfortable with in their time of need. It is something that we need as a military spouse, to know that we can turn to one person and they will help and not judge. I hope to someday run a daycare center or to open a center for military children to come and just be who they are. With the MSOY title, I would pursue every opportunity to expand existing grass roots efforts supporting America’s military families in our communities. Grass roots efforts are where the rubber meets the road — it’s where people are most strongly impacted in our communities around the country and it’s where I can personally make the most impact. I would first look to broaden my current efforts to educate families on the availability of resources today; then continue to empower military families to be proud of themselves and pursue their passions as we seek additional support from communities. Given the length of deployments today, our military families need to know that they are not alone.

 

Marine Corps

Curtisha Grant

NAS JRB Fort Worth

I’m no stanger to change. I’ve lived in 6 different states in support of my husband’s military career. I’ve been blessed to have Curtishademonstrated victory in surviving the battle over Crohns Disease, raising a child with special needs, successfully maintaining a career on the move and walking in marriage restoration. I have taken a personal interest in investing in our future professionals, yes our children, by creating an all inclusive kid friendly professional development organization called S.T.A.R (Simple Techniques Are Rewarding). The programs are designed to meet the comprehensive needs of all children by providing a full range of mock interviewing tools and practice techniques that will serve as basic fundamentals in identifying skills, building confidence and dressing for success. Becoming the military spouse of the year would extend my reach beyond my level of influence and allow a greater opportunity to share effective tools for a successful military family experience. I would like our next generation of military better prepared for employment readiness. My initiative would be to continue helping children identify their natural skills and prepare them for becoming 21st century professional. My goal is to introduce comprehensible interviewing tools, on all levels for any age group so children understand, courage comes through effective communication and communication is enhanced through practice. I would like to see the school systems incorporate more employment readiness and entrepreneurship preparedness so professional conversations become natural for our children. I want our military children to see their future in any state or country because they recognize and are able to articulate their natural gifts and talents.

Nicole Spaid

MCAS New River
NicoleI am a proud wife of a United States Marine, a mother of 3 wonderful kids and could not imagine my life any other way. I am grateful that God has chosen this life for me. It is not an easy path, but one well worth the journey. Along the way I have had the opportunity to serve as a Key Volunteer Coordinator for several Squadrons, ACE’s and even a Battalion! I volunteered with MCCS Family Readiness Program to help develop the Command Team Program and volunteered as a SAVI educator for NATTC Pensacola and served as a Mentor for LINKS. Throughout our years in the military my passion has always been serving within the squadrons or battalions. I wanted to be among these amazing spouses of these amazing Warriors and to help them make the hardships easier to handle. With the MSOY title, I hope to empower our families and to ask them to volunteer-to teach each and every military spouse and military child how special they are and to help them see that strength, determination and power within. To encourage our spouses and families to reach out to one another and pay forward with their individual gifts, talents and knowledge they each have. In my time as a Key Volunteer Coordinator and a Command Team Advisor, I find over and over that spouses and families WANT to become involved in each other’s lives: they want to help, they want to serve. They just have not been asked and did not know where to start. I would love to be able to empower these families to volunteer their time and efforts. Imagine what we could do!

Summer-Rain Bussard

MCB Quantico

I’m a business owner, entrepreneur, team leader, educator and stay at home mom. I enjoy empowering and educating women Summer-Rainabout their bodies and starting their own businesses. I volunteer with my husband unit, my son’s school, and on the base with LINKS program. One of the most important decisions facing military families has money management. Whether living and budgeting on one income or finding themselves in serious debt and living paycheck to paycheck, it has to be the biggest issue next to intimacy and communication between spouses. There is not nearly enough resources to help keep the spark between deployments, trips and dets.  Just as in the civilian lifestyle, the extremely high rate of divorce, that creates a high amount of broken homes, seems to boil down to those two issues; money and sex. The one thing I would want to accomplish while holding the MSOY title would be, traveling to meet and speak with as many spouses as possible about what we can do as a sisterhood to get the necessary resources duplicated across the table to make sure money and intimacy issues have solution-oriented programs offered for every single branch, enlisted & officer, without command & unit repercussions.

National Guard

Jovanda Fields

Louisiana National Guard
Jovanda

I am 33 years old and the oldest of 3 girls. I have been with my spouse for almost 15 yearsand we have been married for 7 1/2. I have worked for an NBA team for the past 11 seasons. While I have a very creative side, there is not as much time for my crafts. I have 3 children, 2 boys and 1 girl, ages 8, 6 and 3 months. I love being a mother and spouse. PTSD and suicide are high priority for me. I would like to see soldiers taken care of better post deployment. I would like more counseling for soldiers. I would also like for the VA to make it a point to get all veterans imputed into the system. I want to work with the VA Health System to see what we can do on a unit level to assist in making sure soldiers are taken care of. I would also like to work with suicide prevention in revamping the course that is given to soldiers yearly.

 

Julia Kysela

Pennsylvania National Guard

Since 2012, my husband and I have organized the “I’ve Got Your Six 6k and Memorial Mile” (www.ivegotyour6k.org) which is a 6k and 1 mile race which support a Pennsylvania charity called the VALOR Clinic Foundation. All the proceeds go towards Juliasupporting their mission of helping struggling veterans in crisis and homeless veterans. We have successfully expanded our race from one location in 2012 to four locations this year and have been able to raise just over $18,000. Additionally, I have been the Family Member Support Director for Steel City Vets (www.steelcityvets.org) since June 2012. We strive to support and guide post-9/11 veterans within the Greater Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania area, throughout their transition and maintain continual support thereafter. Finally, I was recently accepted as an Events Co-Chair for the Bee Squad for Veterans’ Charities ( https://www.facebook.com/bsfvc ). This organization plans events and donates the proceeds toward deserving veterans charities. I am a firm believer that you make a living by what you get, but you make a life by what you give. I would love to be granted the honor of Military Spouse of the Year. I would hope to bring greater awareness of the potential difficulties of transitioning from military to civilian life and work to improve the transition process. Creating a real life guide for military families and military members for their transition would be an invaluable tool that I hope would ease the stress and whirlwind of transitioning back to civilian life. We are in a world where information is at our fingertips yet often the correct information can be hard to find!

Ashley Ella

Oregon National Guard

AshleyI’m a business owner here in Oregon (I appraise commercial agricultural properties with a focus on vineyards and wineries). However, my family always comes first, and I’m the proud spouse of a National Guard soldier. When my husband is not serving the National Guard, he is a full-time state trooper – making me a Mil Spouse by weekend (and trainings and deployments) and an LEO Wife the rest of the time. Needless to say, bullet proof vests / life-style are a part of our every day life. I want to bring more recognition and understanding to the unique challenges of being a National Guard (army, air, or reserve) military spouse. These spouses are typically in communities that do not understand the military way of life nor the sacrifices that come along with it. Even amongst the military community, I want all of the branches to work in unity – they serve the same nation. They serve the same people. They serve you. They serve me. Army National Guard families, and other part-time military families, are often the “forgotten” ones. We’re looked at just as the “weekend warriors.” However, we’re just as much a part of serving this nation as any other branch. The Army cannot do it on their own. The Marines cannot do it on their own. The Air Force cannot do it on their own. The Navy cannot do it on their own. The Coast Guard cannot do it on their own. They must work in unity, in oneness. They are equal.

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