2013 has been a whirlwind year for my family, and it has hardly slowed down since I was forced to prematurely depart the MSOY festivities in DC last May. I was asked repeatedly what in the world could have kept me from attending the White House Mother’s Day Tea that took place after the MSOY Award Luncheon. I couldn’t share the reason then, but most of you now know that I was busy catching a flight to Chicago to audition for America’s Got Talent with the American Military Spouses Choir. I may have missed meeting the First Lady and Prince Harry with my fellow SOYs, but I did get to hug Nick Cannon!
When the Choir and I embarked on our America’s Got Talent experience, it required my commitment through September (and potentially beyond, if we had won.)This, unfortunately meant putting my MSOY platform of military family mental health on hold. However, my fellow AMSC members and I were excited and honored to realize that our AGT adventure proved to be a military spouse platform all its own. The support we received from the public – especially the military family community – was overwhelming, touching and inspiring. During our rehearsals at Radio City Music Hall, we frequently discussed our musical and emotional “motivation” for our performances, and military members and their families were always at the heart of the conversation.
For example, while we were rehearsing the song, “Hero” for the stage, we all smiled (and cried a little) as we all agreed that, while the general television audience would presume the hero about whom we were singing was a military member, the heroes we really had in mind were our fellow military spouses – those who were silent, strong, dedicated heroes to their servicemembers, their children, their families, their communities and their nation, whether the nation knew it or not. Reminding military spouses that, in fact, a hero truly lay in each of them, was tremendously meaningful to all of us, and the opportunity to share that message with the world was a platform I could never have imagined for myself. The intersection of these two incredible blessings in my life seemed to have a plan all its own, and I will be forever grateful for having had the opportunity to raise all military spouses in song!
The PCS cycle waits for no one – not even if you’re singing on national television! In fact, my family moved from Georgia to New Hampshire while I was in New York on AGT. (Fortunately, we were moving back into our own house where we had lived previously, so there was no house hunting required. Whew!) After I conducted our pre-moving survey (and set up all the utility shut-offs and start-ups, and gathered and transferred all the medical and school records, and put all the paperwork into multiple three-ring binders, and separated all the essential paperwork into “pack” and “hand carry” boxes, and . . .) my husband and son handled the move on their own. Once I was finally able to join them at our “new” home, we decided that it was time for some dedicated family time. We spent the next few months enjoying the beautiful weather and gorgeous scenery that fall in New Hampshire always offers, and watching our son play football and settling into our new home and town.
Now that the excitement of fall has come and gone, I am eager to get to work here in New Hampshire. I am honored to have been invited to work with Senator Kelly Ayotte’s office in their support of the Deployment Cycle Support Program, which is a collaborative effort of the Department of Defense, the Department of Human Services and the New Hampshire National Guard. This innovative program provides a wide variety of services and resources to New Hampshire military families, particularly our NH National Guard families who are scattered throughout our local cities and towns and may not have ready access to DoD offices, staff and services. The Deployment Cycle Support Program provides support by way of NH’s local social service organizations, and services include individual and family counseling, case management, emergency financial aid, housing support, fuel assistance, child care, transportation, financial and legal counseling, help in accessing medical care, or support with any number of crises that may occur during the deployment cycle, as well as assistance to veterans in applying for VA benefits. I am grateful to Senator Ayotte for her strong, consistent support of our military and for the opportunity to work with her on behalf of our military families.
Even with all the adventure the past year has brought to my life, the things that have mattered the most were the things that have always mattered most: my family, my friends and my faith. They remain my greatest source of joy and my greatest source of strength. The opportunity to serve as 2013 Navy Spouse of the Year served to reinforce the importance of my “personal village,” as my dear sister-friend Alicia Hinds Ward so aptly calls it. The opportunity to grow my village has been the greatest blessing this year has brought me, and my faith, as always, guides me in building and nurturing that village and ensuring that my affection and trust are well-placed. No matter where I lay my head (or how may sets of PCS moving stickers are on the underside of my kitchen table), my personal village goes with me. They lift me up. They keep me grounded. They make me laugh. They let me cry. They reassure me that family and friendship mean more than shared genes or zip codes.
While I have been honored to have borne the title of 2013 Navy Spouse of the Year, the titles of wife, mother, daughter, sister and friend are those that mean the most now and always, and I am deeply grateful to my own, personal village. I am grateful for the kindness, the support and the encouragement I have received from the military spouse community during the past year. I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to know, support and represent such a remarkable group of people, and I look forward to continuing to do so.
Alisha Youch, MSW
2013 AFI Navy Spouse of the Year