Duty Station: Fort-Sam-Houston
Number of Deployments: 2
Number of PCS's: 5
About the nominee: I've been an active duty Army spouse for 11 years and was a National Guard spouse for two years prior to my husband receiving his commission and going active duty. During our time in the Army, I've been employed full-time, stayed at home with our daughters, volunteered part-time and full-time, been a full-time student, and now I own a growing communications business. The freedom to work from home from almost any duty station and continue to grow my business (I just hired my first part-time team member!) has been empowering and the absolute best move for our family. I'm excited about the potential to take on new clients and support my business growth by hiring talented, motivated military spouses who enjoy working virtually! We have two daughters, ages eight and 10, and although they've faced challenges as military children, their resilience and adventurous spirit is a direct result of their experiences as military kids. When they were younger, I was heavily involved in a MOPS group on Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany and loved the connections and support I received from other moms. As my girls have gotten older, I've craved that same kind of relationship, but have found it difficult with our frequent moves and general craziness of life. Recently, I started a group (open to anyone with children ages 8-18) called Supporting Parents of Tweens and Teens. Our Facebook group has close to 500 members and our church in San Antonio has adopted the group as a ministry. I've arranged for professionals to come in and provide monthly programming for parents (in the San Antonio area and streamed live to our Facebook group) to help achieve the group's goal of empowering parents to raise their children to be productive, contributing members of society through education, connection, and grace.
Hobbies: I love yoga and fitness, especially running with my dog Milly and creating challenging workouts for myself. Traveling and exploring new places with my family also brings me an immense amount of joy! I enjoy volunteering for a number of organizations. I've volunteered to assist our church with their website overhaul and future social media integration. I'm also a Co-Leader for the Joint Base San Antonio chapter of Hiring Our Heroes - Military Spouse Professional Network and I'm the VP Communications for the San Antonio Delta Gamma Alumnae chapter. I help with both of my daughters' Girl Scout troops whenever I have time and am very excited to speak with my oldest daughter's troop about entrepreneurship this spring. Coaching my daughters in volleyball and basketball is one of my favorite hobbies, as well.
Interesting Facts: I played basketball in college for two years for Washburn University and love coaching my daughters' volleyball and basketball teams. I'm most comfortable on a court teaching young players important skills and encouraging them to be great teammates. My husband still recalls our first game of one-on-one where I beat him pretty easily...of course, we're both quite a bit older now and I'm not sure either of us could come out of a one-on-one game injury-free!
What is something you’ve learned from being a military spouse? My life as a military spouse has taught me how to be flexible and resilient. Prior to our first active duty assignment, I had a five and 10-year plan with my life mapped out in a straight line. That plan got lost during our very first PCS move and I haven't seen it since. I've had experiences as a military spouse that I couldn't have imagined in my wildest dreams 13 years ago. Nothing prepares you for having your first baby during your husband's first deployment, moving to a foreign country, flying Space A with two kids under three years old, or having to leave friends or a community or a church that has a piece of your heart. You learn that there are amazing friends you just haven't met yet and you find career opportunities in forms so camouflaged that you barely recognize them. My short 12 years as a military spouse have transformed me into a more empathetic, motivated, and successful person who knows that I can handle big challenges that come my way.
In your opinion, what is one of the most important issues facing military families? Listening to other spouses tell their stories and having my own personal experiences, I strongly believe that military spouse unemployment and underemployment are the most critical issues facing military families. We are slowly making headway with initiatives that help military spouses transfer professional licenses from state to state, but I know this is still a struggle for many. Fair employment compensation in the private and public sectors is a discouraging matter for many spouses. Our entire military community should lead from the front by recognizing the value and talent that military spouses bring to the table and compensate them fairly. Simply because a type of work is noble and honorable does not mean that it should be done for free. Our service members do noble and honorable work every day and are compensated accordingly. I believe military spouses should be, too. Pursuing my career has been challenging at times, but I am thankful that my husband has made a conscious effort to walk with me on this path. He understands that my job fills my soul and he works hard to ensure we are both able to pursue our careers. He has been blessed with senior military leaders who are open to him adjusting his schedule as needed to ensure that our family is cared for when my job takes me out of town. I know this isn't the case for all service members, but this small amount of flexibility ensures the mission is complete and helps us feel like our family is valued by the Army.
What is one of the best aspects of being in a military family? Our family is incredibly close. When you move from place to place, it takes a while to adjust to the new duty station and to find your groove. In that time, we really rely on each other. We spend extra time together and listen to each other when things are tough. This is especially apparent in our two daughters. Though they are 2 ½ years apart, they are each other's best friend. They play together for hours and are always looking for ways to include each other. I know it might change as they get older, but I feel like the military has instilled a solid foundation of appreciation and devotion in them and in our whole family.
What is one thing you want to accomplish with the Military Spouse of the Year title? To bridge the civilian-military divide that is so apparent in our country we need more military spouses to stand up and say, "here I am." I want to help civilians better understand that military spouses are far more diverse than is typically represented. We are professionals, leaders, educators, organizers, and caretakers with our own goals and dreams. I would love to empower more military spouses to be involved in their local communities - to open their own businesses and join local Chambers of Commerce, to run for office in local elections, to become leaders in their local churches. When Americans have positive interactions with military spouses and when they hear our stories in one-on-one conversations they are able to better understand our lives and have a deeper appreciation of the service commitment our entire family makes. To be nominated amongst this group of trailblazers is a huge honor and I would be excited to use this title as a vehicle to introduce Americans to our community of amazing, diverse military spouses.
Reasons for nominating:
Erin has been an integral part of every military community she has found herself in over the past 15 years. Volunteering, leadership, and passion guide her in many ways. She is also a fearless business owner who continues to hire spouses as she grows. She truly embodies what it means to be a woman, mother, spouse, and military community member. -- Marie McLaughlin, Fellow Military Spouse