This post is sponsored by Armed Forces Insurance.
Holly Vega was so sure that she would not be selected as the 2019 Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year that she didn't even screen the edited acceptance speech she was asked to write and turn in just in case, nor did she worry about what she should pack for the winners' trip to New York City for a TV appearance.
But when the cloth was dropped from a poster showcasing the 2019 winner, the photo was of Marine Corps spouse Vega and her family.
"I was very, very shocked," she said. "I'm very honored and very emotional because I didn't expect to win."
The honor comes with many opportunities to meet and work with influencers and officials in the military and veteran family space. But how those connections are used is up to the winner.
Vega said she has spent the weeks since the May 9 announcement absorbing the surprising news, getting to know the other spouses she met at the annual event and its corresponding town hall, and listening to the advice of past winners.
Vega, who lives at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, was nominated and selected as Marine Corps Spouse of the Year and Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year for her volunteerism and community support. Co-leader of Military Hearts Matter, a group that supports those impacted by heart disease or stroke, Vega is a heart advocate, an ambassador to the South Tampa Chamber of Commerce, co-leader of a Girl Scouts Brownie troop, and co-leader of multiple book clubs.
How winners spend their year is up to them. Some have walked in knowing exactly what they want to do, while others started with one project but ended up with a different focus. Still others spend the year building relationships.
Vega said that instead of developing grand plans for the coming year, she wants to listen to others and learn how her seat in the spotlight can help support their worthy passions and causes.
"What I think, what I feel, is that maybe the reason I'm in this position is I'm a big lover and, when I see something that aligns with my heart, I want to help promote it," she said. "I really want to continue that, letting our other spouses who are doing amazing things, letting them shine."
The support of officials at Armed Forces Insurance, which owns and operates the awards program, has been key in helping her grasp what the award can help her and the community around her accomplish.
"They do such a good job," she said. "It's not Miss America but, oh my gosh, they make you feel special."