After spending more than a decade as a military spouse, I know this to be absolute fact: The military spouse community is packed with amazing people, quietly doing incredible things for their communities.
You know who I'm talking about, right? She is your neighbor and friend, your Family Readiness Group leader, the owner of that small business down the street or your wine night buddy. He is the spouse who pushes you and your community forward -- quietly, firmly, dynamically. These people lead by example, but not because someone pays them to do it or because they are bored. They do it simply because it is the right thing to do.
These spouses are real and raw, open and honest, kind and compassionate. They are who you want to be when you grow up.
Did someone specific in your circle jump to mind while reading? Great. Because here's what you should do next: Nominate this person for the Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year award.
You might wonder why you should spend time nominating someone for an award that seems like a popularity contest run by an insurance company.
This is a valid question, but the AFI Military Spouse of the Year award is not an insurance company's popularity contest. It's a program with a long history of not just recognizing military spouses who do good things, but elevating them to continue their leadership on a national stage, thanks to AFI support. The company sponsors these honors because they matter. They push this award forward, because supporting the people who support our community is not just meaningful -- it's life changing.
The AFI Spouse of the Year program is a road to empowerment for the spouses out there doing the hard work of community building and base support leadership.
But to put these movers and shakers on the path to national recognition and empowerment, AFI needs you to do a little work too.
Now is the time to nominate the amazing spouse you know for the Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year award. Nominations are open from Jan. 2 to Jan. 31, and the form can be found here. The more details you can give, the better.
Do this for anyone who deserves a bigger stage, a better way to make a difference in their communities and their country.
Nominations are just the start of the AFI Military Spouse of the Year process. On Feb. 5, the profiles of nominated candidates will be announced, and voting will be held from Feb. 8 to Feb. 12 for base-level winners.
Base-level winners will be announced Feb. 18. After that, a panel of experts goes to work, selecting 18 candidates from bases around the world to continue on in the process, contending for recognition as the AFI Spouse of the Year for their sponsors' respective branches. That vote will be open Feb. 25 to Feb. 26. Then, on March 1, these 18 winners will be announced, with the last vote for AFI Military Spouse of the Year open from March 7 to March 8.
Finally, on May 9, the Military Spouse of the Year overall winner will be announced at an awards dinner at Fort Myer, Virginia. Of course, Military.com will be there to livestream the whole thing.
It's an involved process, but that's because AFI wants to get it right.
And it has. Without the AFI Military Spouse of the Year program, we would never have met Corie Weathers, the spouse of an Army chaplain and licensed mental health counselor whose work and friendship has had a profound impact since her selection as 2015 AFI Military Spouse of the Year. We might not know Lakesha Cole, the 2014 overall winner and a Marine Corps spouse and dynamic entrepreneur whose hustle and dedication inspires me and so many other military spouses daily. And then there's Jeremy Hilton, a military spouse and advocate for special-needs families whose work has bettered my personal ability to tell the military family story.
Thanks to AFI and the Military Spouse of the Year awards, these people are a part of my personal journey, as well as those of so many others.
If you know a Corie, Lakesha or Jeremy, now's the time to share him or her with the rest of us. Make a nomination today!
-- Amy Bushatz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.