Duty Station: USAG-Benelux-Brussels
Number of Deployments: 2 deployments plus a year of countless TDY's to Korea every two weeks
Number of PCS's: 14
About the nominee: I grew up, an only child, in the military. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I would marry a Soldier. A graduate of Tulane University, and married young, my husband and I have grown up and grown together over our 18 years of marriage and 14 different moves. We know what it is like to struggle and have nothing and fully appreciate where we are today. I am the mother to 3 wonderful children; Meridyth (9), Olivia (11) and Evan (17). I homeschooled all of them until recently when we arrived at our first three-year assignment! Aside from my family, I am passionate about the communities I have been a part of, past and present. I have served as a sports coach and Girl Scout Leader throughout the years at our various assignments. I also work with Soldiers and military spouses to build resiliency for themselves and their families in an environment that is constantly changing. I enjoy working with others to help reduce the feelings of isolation many Soldiers feel by organizing a variety of resiliency activities. These activities can be a welcome change to their daily routines and additionally, help to foster new supportive relationships among one another. I also found that I had a passion for empowering others when I began my work as an English as a Second Language instructor and then as a Victim Advocate with ACS and their Family Advocacy Program’s fight against domestic violence. This passion continued to grow and I soon became an advocate for new mothers. Over the years I have taught breastfeeding courses as part of the Centering Pregnancy classes, lead La Leche League meetings, and have continued to use my knowledge to assist new mothers at all of our assignments. As a new mother, often far away from their own family, it's comforting for them to know that they have someone they can call at all hours who will support them and help them to make the decisions that are best for their family. Someone once cared about me, my family and my Soldier and it left a lasting impression. Over the years, I have worked to pay it forward. We once had the privilege of serving under a Brigade Commander that had a three-word vision statement - “Give a Damn”. I have adopted this into everything I do. It is my hope that the work that I do leaves a positive lasting impression on others and empowers them to go forth and do great things!
Hobbies: There is so much that I enjoy doing! Over the years I have really learned to embrace our family motto: "Experiences Over Things." Currently, I am embracing the opportunity, afforded us by our overseas assignment, to travel. When I am not traveling I am volunteering in our community, at our children's school and within my husband's organization.
Interesting Facts: As a child I developed JRA, Junior Rheumatoid Arthritis. I also underwent two extensive knee surgeries as a teen. Later, as a young mother, I suffered from partial paralysis a few short months after the birth of our third child. Today I am walking and I have learned to find a new “normal”. However, in spite of all these adversities, I have never given up and have found a new appreciation for life. Most recently I learned to SCUBA dive and went as far as becoming PADI Advanced Open Water certified. I have learned that life is a gift that I will not go to waste!
What is something you’ve learned from being a military spouse? As a military spouse I have learned that we all need each other more than we think. We are in this together and learning to ask for help, as humbling as it may be, is crucial. Without each other's support and understanding, we as spouses can fall apart. As a military spouse I have learned that my family is far bigger than I ever imagined. There are individuals out there who would drop everything in an instant to help me no matter what it is that I might need. Together we can weather any storm. Being a military spouse is hard but through the love and support of fellow spouses I know that I am not alone and that I am stronger than I ever thought I could be.
In your opinion, what is one of the most important issues facing military families? Amongst many other important issues facing military families today I feel drawn to address the the over arching policy changes being made that affect Soldiers and their families. Often times these decisions are made based off of numbers and projections without anyone having "boots on the ground" to accurately assess how a change(s) might impact a particular military community. In my opinion, every assignment is unique and needs to be addressed accordingly.
What is one of the best aspects of being in a military family? One of the best aspects of being a military family has been the opportunities that we have had to travel extensively and become "Citizens of the World". This experience has opened our hearts and minds and broadened our knowledge of all the cultures and people in the world. This is a gift we otherwise would never have been able to give ourselves or our children. For that we are thankful.
What is one thing you want to accomplish with the Military Spouse of the Year title? As the Military Spouse of the Year I would like to address the importance of the support service programs for the Soldiers and their families. The mission of the Department of Defense is to fight and win our Nation’s wars. I, as a military spouse, feel it is my mission to build resiliency amongst spouses and families to allow our Soldiers to focus on their mission at hand. Are these services truly addressing the most important needs of the individuals? Are we doing the best that we can to address these individual needs? Are we reaching everyone? What is it that those in our community need and will benefit from the most? Are we adequately supporting those who are striving to be that beacon of light within their community? What more can we do? There can not be a "one size fits all" approach because every assignment, every family, and every Soldier is different. In the end, a happy individual makes a successful individual, both at work and at home. As the Military Spouse of the Year I will “Give a Damn”!
Reasons for nominating:
Ashley is a fellow military spouse that all of our neighborhood families families love. She is the true definition of family. While stationed at Fort Leavenworth, my mother in law was in end stage heart failure for the entire time we were there. She was on Hospice and I was her primary caregiver. Ashley came through for our family in the most unselfish way ever, my mother in law had taken a nasty fall and I was able to get in touch with Ashley and she was able to get into my house to help my mother in law. Ashley stayed with her and chatted with her, she helped her, she had some laughs with her. She kept her company until my husband returned. I was out of town when this happened, and it completely broke my heart that the one time I was gone, not even a day that something like this would happen. My mother in law passed away in her sleep the following morning, I took the first flight home as soon as I found out. Ashley spent hours of her afternoon with my mother in law keeping her happy and calm, and I will forever be indebted to her. Our entire family will be. It is people like her that make military life feel like family. She not only helped us in such a difficult time, she went on and took a collection in the neighborhood so we could buy a memorial stone there at the museum on Fort Leavenworth. We were able to see it when we passed through town this summer. I wanted to nominate Ashley because she not only is a true friend, but just a wonderful example of a selfless military spouse. Always smiling, had good words for everyone she came across, and just a genuinely great person. Life has thrown her a few curve balls and you'd never know, for her spirit is beautiful. Thank you for taking the time to read my nomination. -- Estella Hulse, Friend
Ashley Clark is one of the most amazing military spouses I have had the pleasure of meeting… I mean, come on! I’m a Navy spouse nominating an Army wife! ;) She’s just that spectacular. My husband attended an Army school with Ashley’s and we had the good fortune of living across the street from the Clark family. I witnessed her draw our entire neighborhood together and encourage each and every one of us. She started a book club, a cooking group, was a regular at bunco and was always willing to listen to anyone who needed to talk. She was the first to help one of our number who’s mother passed away. She was open about her own struggles throughout the years (including being a young mother and the main money earner while her husband did the Green to Gold program years ago and dealing with severe medical issues as the mom of three) but she had this amazing ability to put a positive spin on everything. This may come as a surprise to even Ashley but I was struggling with severe post-partum depression when we became neighbors. Hearing her speak so frankly about her past struggles while still seeing her thrive as a military spouse in an environment that can have an air of “tough it out” encouraged me to seek out the help I so desperately needed. Many from that neighborhood have moved on to new duty stations but I have spoken to some who stayed behind and they sadly lament the loss of the glue that held our community together and made our experience so spectacular- Ashley! She deserves recognition for being a ray of sunshine in this gypsy life that can leave so many jaded. -- Gabrielle Juskiewicz, Military-Spouse