Duty Station: West-Point-Military-Academy
Number of Deployments: 3
Number of PCS's: 5
About the nominee: I'm a proud New Jersey born, Ohio raised, Italian-American girl who fiercely loves her family, friends, and country. My sense of patriotism stems from my grandparents, all of whom were first-generation Americans. For as long as I can remember, I have known my family's history and understood the struggle it took for my ancestors to not only travel here, but also achieve success in a place that offered them what their homeland could not. My maternal grandparents would take my sister, cousin, and me to Liberty State Park in Jersey City, NJ (my first hometown), and wax poetic about what their parents told them about seeing "Lady Liberty" for the first time. They took me to Ellis Island more times than I can recount and would relive the difficulties of their childhood as they were born not long after their parents graced American soil. We always finished our trips there with visiting the beautiful wall etched with thousands of names (including my ancestors') outside in the museum's courtyard. During my grandparents' teenage years, World War II broke out and my paternal grandfather honorably served as a Seabee in the Navy. My maternal grandfather, being handicapped from birth, was not accepted into service. He desperately wanted to fight for his country and although he was a student at Greenbrier Military School and explained to his cadre that his "trigger finger still work[ed]," the Army would not take him. The feeling of longing to serve forever remained with him. Fast forward to my courtship and eventual marriage to my husband, Tom, my maternal grandfather always had a quiet respect for my chosen one. Tom is the only service member that my family has, and according to my grandfather, this vindicated the notion that he, himself was unable to serve. I have always been proud to be an Italian-American and my grandfathers' granddaughter, and am even prouder to be an Army wife.
Hobbies: For me, life is all about people. I absolutely love social activities (volunteering, teaching, and spending time with my family and friends), but find enjoyment in more individualized ones as well (reading, writing, cooking, running, and sewing). My non-momming brain enjoys all things scholastic (i.e. learning new skills or trivia, diagramming sentences, and playing "Scrabble"). On any given Saturday or Sunday during the season, I'm either attending or watching football games, and when not in season, I'm counting down to kickoff. When I'm not at work, chauffeuring my kids to and from their various activities, or running around Post, I can typically be found tucked safely in the comfort of my home, playing with my littles, and making home-cooked meals for my family and our sponsored cadets. I love a good kitchen dance party, but in the quiet, I don my sweatpants, curl up with my husband and a book, and most likely have some sporting event playing in the background.
Interesting Facts: When I studied abroad in Florence, Italy while I was in college, I had the excellent fortune to meet and spend quality time with my namesake, Luciana Manaresi (my mother's best friend from when she and my father lived in Bologna, Italy).
What is something you’ve learned from being a military spouse? Whenever I am asked for advice by other mil-spouses or someone dipping his/her toe into the dating-the-military pool, I always give my "Top 5" list: 1. Get a subscription to Amazon Prime -- you never know where you'll be stationed, and it comes in handy when you're in a remote location and/or if you have little ones at home. 2. Practice adaptability and write everything in pencil -- dates, times, locations, and everything tend to change a moment's notice and it's not worth the investment in White Out. 3. Get involved! Consider joining a spouses' club or any group of the like, even if it's out of your comfort zone. You never know, you could sit next to your future battle buddy at your first event! 4. Accept and respect that not everyone has the same philosophy about the military as you do. Do what you can to be positive in every situation; it will make the trying times less difficult. 5. NEVER compare -- everyone's marriage, career, and journey is different and there are SO many opportunities for growth and greatness in the military and beyond. There's no limit to how much you can learn and experience if you stop talking and listen and embrace the situation you've been handed.
In your opinion, what is one of the most important issues facing military families? As military families, we are constantly confronted with the paradox of attempting to create stability while living an unstable lifestyle. Many of us have collections of the colored PCS stickers still affixed to the back of our furniture because it's not worth the time to peel them off, and they are a visual reminder of the journey that we (and our banged up furniture) have been on. Military families are forced to navigate some tumultuous waters; the ever-turning deployment or TDY wheel, multiple PCSes, changing schools, reinventing civilian careers, and hoping to find a new "battle buddy" at every duty station, forces us confront these inconsistent byproducts of the military life head on. As a wife and a mother, I often have trouble balancing all the nuances the military throws our way, while trying to stay true to creating a steady lifestyle for my family and combating complacency during the "down time." We do our best, but knowing when and where to ask for help is key to maintaining our own, personal steadfastness.
What is one of the best aspects of being in a military family? The best part of being in a military family is the opportunity to be part of the military community. Often, as military spouses, we are the anchor of the home. We provide consistency for our service-members, kids, and communities. We are the people who are there to help our neighbors with school pick up/drop off, shoveling snow, or cutting the lawn when their service members' duties have called. We organize "meal trains" and will race across post in rush hour traffic to deliver a hot meal to a new mom. We are there to leave places better than how we found them and bloom where we are planted. We are experts at "figuring it out," even if we have to write everything in pencil. Even when it seems like we can't count on anything, we know we can count on each other. The military lifestyle is challenging, no doubt, but has been exponentially rewarding and I could not imagine living any other way.
What is one thing you want to accomplish with the Military Spouse of the Year title? This title is not about me, but about the community from which I hail. I have long recognized that I am a cog in a mighty machine, and although a relatively shiny cog (which prompted my nomination), the best way to epitomize this title is to properly represent my tribe and discover new ways to help it thrive. Attending the Military Spouse of the Year Town Hall and Awards Ceremony puts me in a room and a realm unlike any I have gained access to before. I would like to listen more than I speak and take others' ideas, experiences, and knowledge and bring them back, implement them, and help our community continue to flourish. There is no amount to how much you can learn if you just listen. As a young military spouse, I was taught to leave every place better than how I found it, and winning the AFI Military Spouse of the Year would enable me to do that by launching me into a network of people who dedicate their lives to bettering themselves and their surroundings. I relish, welcome, and look forward the opportunity to join their esteemed company.
Reasons for nominating:
In 2017, I was afforded the opportunity to participate in the AFI Military Spouse of the Year program. It was an amazing experience that I will not soon forget. The events in our nation’s capital introduced me to other proactive and involved people in the military spouse community, which in turn strengthened my own ability to support my local military community. A year removed from my own nomination, I understand the depth of this award. That said, I nominate Luciana Herman for the AFI Military Spouse of the Year award. Luciana is deeply committed to supporting and enhancing her military community. Her countless volunteer positions can attest to this, including her work as FRG and Care Team leader, President of the West Point Spouses’ Club, and cadet sponsorship to name a few. Therefore, I highly recommend that she be given the AFI Military Spouse of the Year award. Luciana has been a deployment and FRG battle buddy, fellow spouses’ club board member, and dear friend. I have known Luciana longer than both of our marriages to the military. Our husbands met through their desire to join the Army and we had the opportunity to become great friends well before our military lives would physically station us together. Time and experience have only made our bond stronger. When stationed together at Fort Hood, Luciana and I were FRG leaders for our respective companies at the same time. Deployments abound, undesirable things happen as they do and we both had our share of unfortunate situations to handle with the Care Teams. Luciana has always been well spoken, with grit and tenacity, but to handle situations, like the death of a soldier within the company, with the grace that she has, is both admirable and inspiring. Most important to me was her strength through the birth, and simultaneous loss, of my first child. Our unit was days away from NTC training, a few short months from deployment, and my world came to a complete halt. Those were very dark and lonely days for me, but with the strength of my husband and a few close friends, I was able to pull through the nightmare. Luciana was one of my dearest helpers; guiding me through the loneliness of deployment after such loss, showing such strength on my behalf and allowing me grace when I stumbled again. On a professional note, in her role as President of the West Point Spouses’ Club, Luciana continually shows her commitment to bettering our community by organizing and facilitating meetings, fundraisers, and most recently, a donation drive in support of Puerto Rico. In addition to the many hours that Luciana volunteers for the spouses’ club, she also makes time for cadets in her busy schedule. Half of her work day is donated time; she works in the Center for Enhanced Performance as a Writing Support Specialist (Academic Support Volunteer) and is often not only meeting with cadets during conventional hours, but is also attending nightly study tables for cadet athletes, or offering professional comments on cadet writing far after close of business. As a cadet sponsor, she and her husband Tom have taken in several cadets to mentor. The cadet sponsorship program fosters a relationship between cadet and officer that reaches far past surface military knowledge, leading by example to answer personal questions about military, adult and family life. Luciana continually welcomes cadets into her home as family and offers them and their families support however she can. I find that military spouses often struggle to not lose their sense of self when they are constantly being labeled as ‘dependent’ in this military life. Luciana’s lifetime passion for teaching English has continued to flourish, despite the many hazards that military life includes. Luciana fuels her passion to teach English in two ways - by assisting cadets as a Graduate Writing Fellow at the Mounger Writing Center, and as an Academic Support Volunteer at the Center for Enhanced Performance (previously mentioned), both at the United States Military Academy. She has very much grown herself professionally, all while moving with the military, raising a family, and volunteering heavily within her community. She’s an expert at “adjusting fire” and blooming where she is planted. A great ambassador of the AFI MSOY program engages their local community, assists in bringing concerns and proactive solutions to leadership, and sets an example through leadership. I have witnessed Luciana doing these things over the last 10 years and her momentum grows with her experience. She strongly embraces the military lifestyle and loves the community aspect of it. One of the ways that she champions the military community is by not only bringing her strengths and skills to the table, but also recognizing others’ attributes and showcasing them for the betterment of the group. Winning the AFI Military Spouse of the Year would afford her the opportunity to yet again enter another community, learn from fellow nominees and winners, and bring those impactful experiences back to her community to continue to make it better. As you can see, it is without reservation that I highly recommend Luciana Herman for AFI Military Spouse of the Year. Kindly, Lauren Hope 2017 Armed Forces Insurance United States Military Academy Spouse of the Year HopeDesignLtd@gmail.com -- Lauren Hope, Fellow Military Spouse