Duty Station: Fort-Rucker
Number of Deployments: 18
Number of PCS's: 2
About the nominee: I was born and raised an Army brat near Ft. Campbell, Ky. I met my husband, Nick, there when he was stationed there with the 160th. We have been together for 12 amazing years and have four amazing children- Hayden (13), Kaylyn (11), Myer (7) and Conner (4). I'm your typical "stay at home mom" you could say. My kids have basketball, football, band, BETA club, etc and that takes up most of my time. I love being team mom and classroom mom, as that will be what my kids remember when they are grown and look back on their childhood, not the material gifts. My experience as an Army wife has not been your typical one. I gravitated more towards the spouses and families and helping them feel how important they were to their spouse and their spouses career. From small get togethers to holiday meals, I love having our extended Army family involved and feeling a part of the family. We spent almost 10 years stationed at Ft. Campbell with the 160th and those years are what shaped me into who I am today. It was a lot different than where we are today. Within the 160th, family was very important even though it was a smaller group of soldiers,spouses and families. We were all very tight knit. Us spouses always stuck together and made sure no one went without or felt alone. That is what made me fall in love with the role of military spouse. I have a huge soft spot for military families because they always seem to get the back seat, or they are looked down upon because of negative actions on some other people. And the stigma on mental health and financial status are the biggest two areas I focus on when I come up with different programs and events.
Hobbies: I absolutely love Florida Gator college football and basketball, cooking, baking, volunteering at my children's schools, being team mom, music, and I can admit it, junk reality T.V. shows =)
Interesting Facts: I don't drink coffee and I don't care for chocolate of any sorts.
What is something you’ve learned from being a military spouse? We are stronger and more independent then we all think. Looking back on my first deployment, I cried for days and screamed " How am I EVER going to survive all of this, by myself, with kids, and the worry of how he is??" I learned very quickly just how strong I could be, and how leaning on your fellow spouses makes that time much easier.
In your opinion, what is one of the most important issues facing military families? Stigma. The stigma of mental health illnesses and soldier's financial status. We all want to believe and be confident that both of these things are taken serious but not labeling a soldier and family for the rest of their career. But let's be honest, it doesn't always happen that way. The current protocol for suicide watch and mental illness outbursts are not working and in many cases not even put in place. With financial concerns, soldiers are afraid to ask for help because they are worried it will reflect negatively on them and career. That is why I did a Secret Santa program here, families could ask for help during Christmas, without anyone knowing who they were. Regardless on why a solider has financial issues, their children should never be without, even if it is just toys. Military kids go through a lot in their young years, we need to lessen that and not add too it.
What is one of the best aspects of being in a military family? The best aspect about being in a military family is the resilience and strength. Moving every 3 to 4 years, deployments, kids changing schools six to nine times, the unemployment rate of military spouses, the injuries and permanent mental damage. yet you wouldn't see that looking at a military family. You see strength, love, courage and respect.
What is one thing you want to accomplish with the Military Spouse of the Year title? I would love to use the title of Military Spouse of The Year to help change how we, as a community, help our fellow families. I would love to help change/brainstorm on how we handle mental illness outbursts and protocol, especially within smaller posts that civilian doctors/clinics are used.
Reasons for nominating:
Amanda Gardner is more than worthy as a candidate for the Military Spouse of the year. I actually met Amanda Gardner on a "Roak Group" ( Random acts of kindness) on Facebook, several years back. She was secretly sending others gifts out of kindness. We instantly clicked. From her giving heart, to seeing how much she puts on her plate everyday and gets done. She is not only a wife, she is a mother of four perfect children, PTA member, Team mom for her kids sport, classroom mom and my best friend. She runs the house like Supermom and never complains. Like being a mom isn't enough work, she also volunteers non stop on post and off. For the 2017 school year she started a backpack program to fill backpacks of all school supplies needed for any child in need in her community. Amanda contacted all local businesses for donations to raffle off to help pay for the supplies needed. It was a complete success all organized and done by Amanda, with the help of her sweet children to help those less fortunate. During 2017 our Nation was hit,not once but twice, with two major hurricanes, leaving many people in need. Amanda instantly knew she needed to help but the miles were too much and she has responsibilities at home. It didn't stop her... She created a social media group for the Hurricane Harvey and Irma families to collect and ship clothing, baby items, personal hygiene items and health care items to many displaced families. Along with working the rescue efforts with the Cajun Army on dispatch from her home at Fort Rucker Alabama. She spent 72 hours awake, non stop on dispatch with those stranded in their homes and in the flood waters. She remained that voice of comfort when people needed it the most. That alone made me respect and love her even more. When so many wanted to help but didn't know how, she let nothing stop her even hundreds of miles. She doesn't do anything to boost and brag. And you will never hear her talk about her deeds. Even though she deserves to brag about her self every once in a while. Many of her contributes has been done anonymous for her local community including books for kids, clothing, food, birthdays and a huge Secret Santa program that supplied thirteen families with all their gifts and meals for the holidays. Amanda really advocates for her fellow spouses and families. Her main focus may be on the small community of the Ft. Rucker community but that doesn't mean she doesn't help elsewhere. She held a toy drive for a group of children in Florida that suffered an apartment fire in which left 6 families, 15 kids homeless and with nothing. All 2 weeks before Christmas. She may look like a petite little princess but she is more giving than Saint Nick himself. Amanda and her two oldest children help a free Halloween costume “stand” a few weeks before Halloween. She had over 200 items from full costumes to face paint and accessories. And with Valentine’s day approaching she already has extra Valentine’s Day cards coming in to donate to the schools and kids that maybe wouldn't have any to pass out otherwise. She is very involved in working with mental health facilities to change how outbursts of PTSD and other mental illnesses are handled on and off post. She has had many calls from veterans and active who just needed someone to talk to to remember they are needed and appreciated. She has a way of making everyone she meets or comes in contact with feel important and needed. That speaks wonders to me and is a "gift" to be cherished. Amanda isn't your typical Army spouse, she doesn't only focus on our active duty. She is all about giving back to the families and community also and that makes me feel she is more than qualified to be the military spouse of the year! -- Amanda Saltsman, Colleague
I am nominating a dear friend of mine, Amanda Gardner. She has been the wife that so many ladies go to for advice on family, and the military life. Every year she donates school supplies to those kids who aren't equipped, she does a Secret Santa in which she leaves gifts for families on their door step without them knowing. She honors her husband, his job and her country. Even with all this debate and harsh words on our new president she has remained the role model for military wives everywhere. Humble, kind and never fails to remind us all to simply be kind and respect one another as a human being. She has been on the home front for almost 20 deployments with her husband, remains strong and faithful with her 4 amazing kids. She teaches her kids respect and kindness along with how to respect our country and leaders. You will see her 4 children outside playing and every day at 5pm, you will be amazed at how they all stand, facing the flag, still along and motionless. She may not be involved with the FRG heavily, nor programs as such but she definitely is respected highly in her community. -- Amanda Saltsman, Friend