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'Spouse of the Year' Program Looks to Expand Winners' Influence

You remember that voting we asked you to do early this year for the annual Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year award?

The minds behind the award program and Military Spouse Magazine said they are now looking for ways to help the winners of that award program have an even greater impact and presence representing you, their community, after the award is said and done.

First, a little background. The Military Spouse of the Year and winners for each branch are chosen through a nomination process, online popularity vote and input from a panel that includes military spouse leaders as well as past winners. The ultimate winner, chosen by the panel, is announced at a D.C. area luncheon each May.

What the winners do with their new designation is largely up to them, with many of them doing some pretty big things for the military community. Corie Weathers, the 2015 winner, has just published a book supporting military marriages. Jeremy Hilton, the 2013 winner, has become a vocal advocate for military kids.

But officials at Military Spouse Magazine want to give the winners even more opportunities to publicly represent the community, said Suzie Schwartz, who was recently promoted to president of military spouse programs at the magazine. With a new division of roles within the magazine, she said she’ll now have more time to help make sure winners are being given every chance to be in the forefront of the military spouse world where they can promote the causes they care about and represent their branches.

“I’m trying to give these people opportunities to grow and learn the fabric and ins and outs of the spouse and military community,” Schwartz said. “I’m trying to give them that opportunity to learn how it all works. These are all relationships that you build and those relationships last a long time.”

Expanding that will also allow the winners to become more well rounded people who have a strong impact on their communities, she said. And when they leave the military community, those experiences could make them better citizens, she said.

Mentoring younger spouses is a subject close to Schwartz’ heart. After graduating from the Air Force academy in 1973, her husband, Gen. Norton Schwartz, served as the Air Force Chief of Staff and retired in 2012 after almost 30 years of service. Now Schwartz spends a large part of her time passing on the experience she gained over her family’s time in service.

“I want our military spouses to have a good experience, and take advantage of the opportunities given to them,” she said. “I want them to leave with a good taste in their mouths.”

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