Duty Station: Fort-Benning
Number of Deployments: 3
Number of PCS's: 3
About the nominee: I was born and raised in San Antonio, TX. I met my husband while I was attending school at Texas A&M in Corpus Christi, TX and working as a water safety instructor at Naval Station Ingleside. I am currently stationed at Fort Benning, GA where we are assigned to the Air Ambulance Detachment. Everyday has been a new and exciting adventure as I continue to grow as a military spouse. I have been on this amazing journey this for about 10 years and no two days are ever the same. I am a mother of two beautiful children with my older daughter on the spectrum. As their mother I have learned a great deal more about them every time we move. Their struggles are essentially my struggles and I am working to find ways for them to grow as individuals; just as we grow as a military family in constant transition. The best part of who I am is getting to share my story in our local communities and teaming up with different organizations. My end goal is to continue moving forward with partnerships and growing as an individual so that our military families can thrive. Working with these organizations like Operation Homefront,Team Depot, AUSA Family Programs, Student Veterans Of America, the USO, the American Legion, the VFW, DAV, Soldiers Angels, Army Community Service and USAA have opened doors for many families needing just a little extra support. I have loved working and watching the Phenix City Pearlz Military Sorority Inc. and the Kappa Lambda Chi Columbus Detachment Military Fraternities give back to their communities without limiting their support to simply military families. I have been honored to help families be provided meals by Pezold Management, Village Coffee, Golden Corral and Starbucks in many different communities. I have be able to continue working with the local and non local family readiness support groups who encourage small businesses to get out in their communities like Fort Benning Game Stop, North Carolina Packs 4 Patriots, Love Charms USA, and Rhyme Time in Fayetteville. Being active in my community allows me to become more familiar with my new setting as well allows me to to continue bridging the gaps. I get to be the small part of a family who is taken care of by an amazing soldier. My family is also apart of a team of volunteers at Fort Benning. Many times I have been told; Life Is Better At Benning Because Of Them!
Hobbies: Volunteering, Swimming, Coaching Soccer, Learning how to Coach Pokemon, Collecting Coca Cola Antiques, even though I do not drink it, Collecting Texas A&M memorabilia, Walking all around the Dollar Tree for hours on end with no kids, Last But Not Least! I have a habit of putting things in a very safe place. So safe that I still haven't figured out where that safe place might be!
Interesting Facts: I actually have two you might find pretty interesting! I have two beautiful babies who share a birthday in August on the EXACT SAME DAY just 6 years apart and I'm allergic to ICE!
What is something you’ve learned from being a military spouse? Failure does not mean you will not be successful or you did not finish what you set out to as planned. It only means that I have become better at understanding HOW TO KNOCK DOWN THE BARRIER! We all know where the yellow brick road leads. I do not want to go down the yellow brick road. I want to take the mud trail. I want to get a little dirty. I want to learn how to dig my way out when stuck and still arrive at my destination. I want to look back and say; WHAT NEXT! Something I have learned along this amazing journey as a Military Spouse is that not one of us is alike. I needed to know all I could about what it was going to take in order to make in this world as a Military Spouse. I enrolled in all the classes Army Community Service (ACS) had to offer while Matthew was attending Basic Combat Training (BCT) and Advanced Individual Training (AIT). I tried to follow the RULE BOOK and I tried to understand my role as a junior enlisted military spouse. I was learning a great deal about what I could and could not do. I was even informed according to the rank structure about who I could speak to or hang out with. One day I woke up and heard about a military family who needed help. I've know many military families have heard the word "NO" or have been too afraid to ask for help when they have needed it. So I put all my books down and I thought to myself; not today! Today is the day we begin helping each other and building each other up. I am not just the wife of a junior enlisted soldier. My name is Marissa and my husband just so happens to be a US Army Soldier too. I have families who need us and families who depend on us when they have no one else around to turn to. This was not just my moment; it was our moment where the love of helping military families and our community began.
In your opinion, what is one of the most important issues facing military families? One of the biggest problems I see military families struggle with is CONTINUITY and the availability of services as they move from one location to another. I wish it was simple to just narrow down one important issue military families are currently facing; however there isn't just one. We should be working together to educate, collaborate, and continue building on programs already in place. Each day we are faced with issues like; Unemployment, Suicides, Financial Readiness, Educational Delays, Isolations and long drawn out separations. When working together we become stronger, we grown in numbers and numbers show results. I met a family who asked me about a resource they knew I was familiar with at one duty location and when I went to research that particular program it simply wasn’t available to them. It’s difficult for military families to begin new lives when they PCS. Then add in school aged children, spouse who are working or volunteering, and soldiers who have their own process of transitioning. What happens when those families have special needs which need to be addressed? A perfect example is a middle school student receiving therapeutic services while in school. From one one duty locations this allows that student to remain in school during these sessions. When moved to the new duty those services were no longer available. This means the student would be missing a significantly larger amount of school now causing a ripple effect for that student and their family. We can help alleviate some of the difficult challenges military members and families are faced with when we optimize by more collaboration and unification throughout the different military bases. We have so many great programs that could work together to provide a ‘one stop shop’ without having to run a marathon to obtain transitional support. When we collaborate it then becomes easier to help research services that aren’t available; but now we have a starting point. Being apart of a movement which allows us to use these resources to the fullest extent can also helps families become more independent and unified every time they begin or end their transitioning.
What is one of the best aspects of being in a military family? The best aspects of being a military family for me has to be the endless opportunities we have been given and the amazing families we have met. I've learned more about who I am and just how strong we are as a Military Family. We learned together that as a military family you aren't in this alone, that somewhere there is a team standing behind you ready and willing to do what it takes to help one another. We were reminded of this last year when our family received an award for volunteerism. The award didn't just recognizes us as the 2017 Fort Benning AUSA Volunteer Family Of The Year, but it recognized the hard work of an amazing team that was more than just my immediate family. We had the foundation for success and a program who needed help. So we did what anyone else in our shoes would have done and joined others who wanted to help give back. Not only did our family get recognized but so did the team that was made up of almost 38 volunteers. Team Benning Operation Homefront was recognized by Fort Benning as the 2017 Volunteer Organization Of Excellence. What started out as just four volunteers became a game changer that created support for our military and civilian community. An impact I never imagined was possible. This family of volunteers pulled together to help stuff back packs with school supplies. They helped organize parades, youth programs, collect holiday toys, food, you name it and it was done. They helped encourage partnerships for storage space, Enterprise Rental Car that helped ensure we would have a way to transport donated items across three different states to support Fort Benning which included NC, TN and AL. They were my voice when I wasn't sure if I still had one. They are the team who became our family! So to my family I say so THANK YOU! To my soldier I am forever grateful that you share the same passion and vision as I do. This wasn't just me, this is us and this is who we are!
What is one thing you want to accomplish with the Military Spouse of the Year title? It's rewarding to share the success with other family members that sacrifice and take pride in what military families do on a daily basis. Given this opportunity would allow me to continue making a positive impact for our soldiers and their families while creating an opportunity for awareness. Our military children are struggling in the educational department, families are struggling every time they move, spouses are struggling with employment and more than one soldiers voice is struggling to be heard and their voice needs to be heard. This continuity would open doors to improving our communities by helping make survival to the fittest a support system that is universal. To be able to work with these different programs at each base and help bring this collaboration to life would be an honor. Remember we have the foundation, we have the programs, so now is the time to allow me to collaborate and activate what our families and service members really need. If you allow me the opportunity to be apart of this journey it will mean no matter where you go, whatever you aspire to be or do, there will be someone there to help guide you in your transition. When these families move, it shouldn't matter if it's your first move or the last, there should be some sense of continuity. When given this opportunity I want our cohesiveness to be the loud voice in the back of your mind letting you know we aren't going any where. I'll be there cheering you on and if you can't find your voice; I WILL BE YOUR VOICE!
Reasons for nominating:
Marissa's nomination and representation would be monumentally moving in continuing to pave the way for more Spouses, Service Members and their families to get out and make a difference while impacting the Military community as well the community in which she serves through volunteerism. She has set a pace and never accepted no to finding ways of helping Military Families in need, meet those needs. She has arrived at a duty station that has been difficult for Non Profits to participate with and build a program of support that started with nothing and has grown to well over 28 volunteers in partnership with surrounding agencies. She has also continued to build a program for Youth Volunteers to excel and shine in service while also earning Operation Homefront its first ever Non Profit Of Excellence Award for 2017 at Fort Benning in less than 12 months. Her passion and drive has helped build stronger Military Families, Changed Lives, Opened Doors and helped pull communities together during times of crisis. She is the description of Selfless Service and an example to be followed! -- Matthew Wentling , Family