By MC2 Kayla Jo Finley
As most service members know, the military likes to acknowledge hard work and dedication by awarding service members with various awards. Service members are not the only ones being recognized for their hard work though. Military spouses, who show their dedication by enhancing the military community and maintaining the home front while service members are deployed, are also recognized every year. Since 2008 Military Spouse magazine recognizes the hard work and dedication of military spouses, by awarding the Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year award (MSOY).
This year Alicia Hinds-Ward, a National Guard Spouse, was the announced as the MSOY during a ceremony held at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall in Arlington, Va. Hinds- Ward, along with five other finalists, was up for the award. Each finalist represented a branch of the U.S. armed forces. In the six years the award has been in existence, Hinds-Ward was the first National Guard Representative to win.
Hinds-Ward, spouse of Air Force Tech Sgt. Edwinston J. Ward of the 113th fighter wing at Joint Base Andrews, Md., was chosen for her creation of support groups for military families and businesses. Hinds-Ward co-founded the Joint Base Andrews Business and Community Support Group that reaches out to military business owners and she also started a spouse forum at the base to educate military families about benefits. She has also presented National Guard issues before Congress.
“It is no surprise to those that know Alicia that she was selected as the 2013 Military Spouse of the Year, said Chief Master Sgt. Ronald Anderson, 113th Wing command chief. “She works tirelessly not only for our Capital Guardian family, but our extended military family across Joint Base Andrews. I am incredibly proud of what Alicia has accomplished for the families of our National Guard and can’t wait to watch her elevate the entire military spouse community. I know she will serve as a phenomenal advocate for all of our military families!”
While accepting the award, Hinds-Ward said, “I’m so proud to be here and I love the fact that I’m able to work with all of you (fellow spouses), and I hope to bring attention to our National Guard families, our unique circumstances, and the plight of our families.”
Last year the MSOY program solicits nominations for the award. All nominees must be the spouse of a current member of the U.S. Armed Forces. Reserve military spouses are eligible if their spouse has been activated for more than 180 days. Nominations are made by the military community, friends, relatives, neighbors or colleagues. Spouses can also self-nominate.
Once nominations are collected and organized at an installation level, three rounds of voting occur: an installation vote, a branch vote and a national vote. The national winner is selected based on the highest combined score derived from both the popular vote and the judge’s panel. The judges’ panel includes individuals from the following organizations: Military Spouse Magazine, Armed Forces Insurance, Joint Chiefs of Staff spouses and previous MSOY winners.
The service-level finalists this year included:
Alicia works closely with the command to organize and implement numerous events to boost morale, encourage camaraderie and support deployed members. She also works intimately with the Exceptional Family Member Program representatives at Joint Base Andrews to support members and dependents in receiving Social Security disability benefits and with the Wounded Warrior Program. Alicia is also one of the co-founders of the JBA Business and Community Support Group. The group was established to encourage monthly interaction within the military community and marketing resources for military business owners.
Tara has been living the military lifestyle for 15 years. During that time, Tara’s family has endured one unaccompanied tour to Korea and three deployments. During her husband’s first deployment, Tara started Army Wife Talk Radio. In 2009 Tara cofounded Army Wife Network and in 2011 she published “1001 Things to Love about Military Life. She is a military Spouse Community Manager with USAA. She was also announced as the American Legion Auxiliary “Woman of the Year 2008.” Along with numerous volunteering efforts, Tara has served as a speaker in many venues.
Karen holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing and started the Semper Fi Fund in 2004. The Semper Fi Fund is a nonprofit organization that provides financial assistance to injured or critically ill service members and their families. Starting out with just $500, the fund has provided over 55,000 grants, totaling more than $72 million in assistance.
Alisha a psychiatric social worker committed to ensuring that military families are able to obtain appropriate and timely mental health care. For this reason, Alisha founded Military Families Count. Military Families Count is a program that enlists the support of the Department of Defense and Congress to develop a comprehensive program of mental health for military family members at every U.S. military installation.
Verenice serves as the Officers’ Spouses’ Club Parliamentarian. As a Key Spouse Mentor, she leads a team of four spouses in a Security Forces unit. The unit provides care and support for more than 106 families while their spouses are deployed. To help cope with deployment stress, Verenice developed Strength for Spouses (S4S). The program helps fill the void between deployed Airmen and their families. S4S also helps spouses to prepare for redeployment complications caused by family reintegration, separation and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
When Shelley had to give up her university teaching job she used it as an opportunity to take part in more volunteering. Shelley opened the first Coast Guard Blue Star Families chapter, which has served in many ways, from donating books to military kids and libraries to getting turkeys donated at Thanksgiving. Shelley also worked with the Department of Defense Military Spouse Employment Partnerships to develop a new program for military spouses looking for work. Shelley shares her knowledge by serving as an E-Mentor and traveling around the county instructing military spouses on ways to enhance their resumes.
All of these women are great examples of military spouses who work hard to improve the lives of other spouses and service members and their families.
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