After months of nominations, voting and nerves Military Spouse Magazine and the Armed Forces Insurance announced their military branch winners and runners up for Military Spouse of the Year. This honor was open to all military spouses in every branch with nominations starting in November. After the first vote, branch installation winners were announced, the next vote was for individual branch winners with the final Military Spouse of the Year being announced at a luncheon on May 9th. With the level of competition being so strong Military Spouse Magazine decided on individual branch winners and runner ups to acknowledge amazing military spouses.
2013 Branch Spouses of the Year:
Army Spouse of the Year: Tara Crooks - I am the proud Work At Home Mama (WAHM) of Wrena and Chloe, and wife to MAJ Kevin Crooks, US Army. I love Mexican food, the color red (Field Artillery kind), primitive decorating, crafting, and baking. I'm known as a “glass half full” kind of gal who can craft a serious belly laugh. I believe it's safe to say that anyone who has ever spent more than five minutes with me knows I love my animals. Our journey with the military began in 1998 when Kevin and I PCS’d to our first duty station, Ft Hood, TX. We have since been stationed at Fort Stewart, GA, and Fort Sill, OK. We are originally from Southwest Missouri – Springfield (Nixa). Our family has been living the military lifestyle for fifteen years and we have endured one unaccompanied tour to Korea and three deployments.
Navy Spouse of the Year: Alisha Youch - I am a proud Navy wife, and a mom of one wonderful son. I am also a clinical social worker who has dedicated over 20 years to helping people manage both personal and psychiatric crises. In addition, I am a volunteer with Hospice and the Boy Scouts of America. My joy in life is singing, and I am thrilled to be making music with my military spouse sisters as part of the American Military Spouses Choir. I believe that we are a community with limitless possibility. We need only to define our goals and chart our course. I am committed to ensuring that military families are able to obtain appropriate and timely mental health care when they need it, and I have founded Military Families Count to advocate for this purpose.
Marine Corps Spouse of the Year: Karen Guenther - After seeing a need to help our wounded during Operation Iraqi Freedom, Karen helped found the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund. Since its inception in 2004, the IMSFF has granted over $64 MILLION to our Injured, and families of the Fallen. This year, after, again, seeing a need at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C., she has started America's Fund to help the catastrophically wounded.
Air Force Spouse of the Year: Verenice Castillo - I am Verenice Castillo, a military spouse, a mom, and a Social-Psychology student. I love to spend time with my family; movie nights on Fridays, cook with my husband, and create memories that last a lifetime. I also serve as the OSC’s Parliamentarian and I am very passionate and dedicated to help my fellow military spouses.
Coast Guard Spouse of the Year: Shelley Kimball - I am a Coast Guard spouse, an Air Force daughter and an Army sister. I could not be prouder to raise two Coastie kids. My life has always been about military family. When my family was transferred here, I had to give up my university teaching job. I decided instead to redouble my volunteering efforts. I opened the first CG Blue Star Families chapter, which has allowed us to serve in ways great and small – from donating books to military kids and libraries to getting turkeys donated at Thanksgiving.
National Guard Spouse of the Year: Alicia Hinds Ward - I am an Air National Guard spouse, the mother of three sons. I am a member of the Golden Key Honour Society, Alpha Beta Kappa Honor Society, Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society, and is a founding member of the Kappa Lambda Paralegal Honor Society. As a Key Spouse, I work closely with Command to organize and implement numerous events to boost morale, encourage camaraderie and support deployed members’. I work intimately with the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) representatives at Joint Base Andrews to support members and dependents in receiving Social Security Disability Benefits and within the Wounded Warrior Program. For this, I was the featured Exceptional Advocate in the Military Community and Family Policy, The Exceptional Advocate Magazine, July 2012. Co-founder of the JBA Business and Community Support Group established in October 2011 and Joint Base Andrews Spouse Forums Group established in March 2012. I was recognized by the 11th Wing for my contributions as volunteer in May 2012. In December 2012, my family was named the 2012 DCANG Family of the Year and I was named DCANG Civilian Volunteer of the Year. It is a wonderful honor to be a part of the National Guard Family and be able to serve those who serve us.
Congratulations also to the branch runners-up as I am sure that it was a close call.
2013 Branch Spouses of the Year Runners-Up:
• Army Spouse of the Year Runner-Up: Pamela McBride
• Navy Spouse of the Year Runner-Up: Christina Landry
• Marine Corps Spouse of the Year Runner-Up: Amber Robison
• Air Force Spouse of the Year Runner-Up: Susan Reynolds
• Coast Guard Spouse of the Year Runner-Up: Wendy Lachowicz
• National Guard Spouse of the Year Runner-Up: Christine Vance