Duty Station: Fort-Lewis
Number of Deployments: 2
Number of PCS's: 6
About the nominee: I am a proud Army wife of 11 years and mother to two children: Jordan, 10 and Ethan, 8. I grew up in the suburbs of Atlanta and later went on to attend the University of Florida where I earned my B.A. in Linguistics. Though I always intended to have a career in the legal field, life had different plans for me. After several years as a stay-at-home mom, I decided to launch my own business, Westhouse, a home decor and lifestyle business aimed at meeting the needs (and wants!) of the military community and its supporters.
Hobbies: I enjoy the arts, spending time with family and going junking for awesome pieces I can give new life.
Interesting Facts: When I started my business, I had no graphic design or craftsman skills. I've learned everything from how to use a host of power tools to how to use design software as I go along and now I probably own more power tools than the average person!
What is something you’ve learned from being a military spouse? Flexibility is key. This life is full of ups and downs, last minute changes, joys and disappointments. As a young spouse I remember how hard it was to find my place and how much I struggled with the demands of this life and feeling as if my dreams had been derailed. Through the years, openness to change, increased flexibility and more relaxed expectations have truly been the keys to making this life work for our family.
In your opinion, what is one of the most important issues facing military families? I believe one of the most important issues facing military families today is the overall need for a sense of community and support. With so many units in constant training cycles and deployments, many families are missing the support and community experienced in years past. Spouses are feeling stressed, taxed, over-comitted and alone which only makes this life more difficult. We often underutilize one of the greatest resources we have: each other. We undervalue the impact of fostering relationships--meeting people where they are. The modern military spouse looks very different from in years past, but our struggles and triumphs often remain the same.
What is one of the best aspects of being in a military family? I would absolutely say the opportunity to live all over the country and the world. We have lived places I've loved and places I could live without, but I wouldn't trade any of the experiences we've had or people we've met. Each place is a new opportunity to explore and meet lifelong friends.
What is one thing you want to accomplish with the Military Spouse of the Year title? I would love to encourage an even greater sense of community among military spouses. We share a commonality unique to only us, but bring a host of experiences, points of view and a wealth of knowledge to the table. In a time where a sense of belonging is so important, I believe military families can be strengthened and more apt to deal with the stresses of this life when spouses feel the support of those who walk in their shoes. In my own business, I am currently working on putting together a campaign aimed at focusing on what we have in common as military spouses rather than that which separates us. The Military Spouse of the Year title would allow me a greater platform to be able to reach spouses across all branches, not just within the Army.
Reasons for nominating:
I am nominating Serena West for Military Spouse of the Year. Serena is an amazing Mother, Wife, dedicated volunteer and phenomenal entrepreneur that constantly adds value to other military spouses. I have known Serena for almost 3 years. We were introduced by a mutual friend (and West Point Military Spouse of the Year for 2016, Rebecca Hyleman) because I was searching for a unique “Home is Where the Army Sends Us” sign to add to our home décor. Little did I know when we met via her business page that the West family would end up here at JBLM just a year later or that her husband and I would end up working in the Field Artillery community together. I’m so fortunate to know Serena in every capacity – Mom, Wife, Military Spouse, Volunteer and Friend! Serena is an amazing wife to MAJ Bernard West, a Battalion Executive Officer for 2-17 FA BN, and fabulous mother to two adorable littles. Even with her husband focusing most of his time at work, she is a dedicated volunteer with the Lewis Community Spouses Club. Serena not only joined the spouses club, she became a member of the board and was instrumental in turning their Cottage Boutique into a profitable business. Through her efforts at the Cottage Boutique, the LCSC is assisting in supporting the JBLM community through various grants and scholarships. Through her Cottage position, Serena has been able to talk to a multitude of family members from all walks of life and give them an additional outlet during their day. Her kind-heartedness and exceptional drive to help others inspires people to be strong and contribute to the well-being of others. She is also an integral part of the 2-17 FA BN Command outreach. Although she does not hold a formal role in the organization, Serena is always sought after for her experience as an Army spouse that has endured deployments, station changes, and hardships. Her gentle nature provides a respite for overwhelmed spouses of all ranks to vent and know that everything will be better because people care. As if being a Super Mom, Wife and Volunteer aren’t enough, Serena is also a home-based small business owner. She is the owner and founder of WestHouse. She designs handmade wood signs, t-shirts and many other items for home décor catering to the crazy lifestyle we call “military life”. Serena has also used her business as a platform to advertise and collaborate with other military spouses from around the world. She is constantly encouraging other military spouses to express their talents and “Bloom where they are planted." She is incredibly talented and driven to succeed in every endeavor she takes on and tries to get others to be the same. She is such a kind, caring, compassionate, wonderful Military Spouse who carries herself with such grace and determination. I cannot think of anyone I’d rather nominate for Military Spouse of the Year. -- Leah M. Kenfield, Colleague