Spouses honored
(FROM LEFT) Dana Owen, Kasinda Thomas, Jennifer Autrey, Misty Garner and Gina Owens stand with their Heroes at Home certificates indicating they were finalists for the inaugural Fort Lee competition.

FORT LEE, Va. (May 17, 2012) -- Fort Lee leaders and community organizations gathered to celebrate military spouses at a luncheon at the Lee Club Friday where one Fort Lee spouse was named the 2012 Heroes at Home Military Spouse of the Year.

Military Spouses Appreciation Day is celebrated every year on the Friday before Mother's Day and Army Community Service organizes and facilitates the luncheon to honor the sacrifice and dedication of military spouses.

This year, in addition to the ACS recognition, Military Newspapers of Virginia (the Traveller's publisher) launched its Heroes at Home Military Spouse of the Year award at Fort Lee. It has been successful in the Hampton Roads and Camp Lejune communities since 2005.

Five finalists were selected based on nominations submitted by service members, community members and other spouses. They were Jennifer Autrey, Misty Garner, Dana Owen, Gina Owens and Kasinda Thomas.

Like many military spouses, the finalists have long lists of volunteer efforts in the community in addition to their responsibilities as spouses and full-time employees, yet they always have more to give. (See insert for more information about each finalist.) Since the program began more than 1,200 military spouses have been nominated for the award. The contest is open to all active duty and retired military spouses in each of the three regions.

"We are here today to honor our local unsung heroes for their steadfast support of our active duty service members, their Families and communities," said Laura Baxter, Military Newspapers of Virginia, publisher. "These active duty and retired spouses have volunteered literally countless hours assisting in our schools, our area churches, local charities and the list goes on and on. They maintain their home front while facing challenges on a daily basis."

Baxter thanked community sponsors including GEICO, USA Discounters, Hampton Roads and Central Virginia USO and others.

The spouses and their guests had lunch and participated in door prize giveaways sponsored by Family and MWR and ACS while waiting to learn which of the five finalists was chosen as the Fort Lee Spouse of the Year.

Bruce LaLonde, president and CEO of the USO of Hampton Roads and Central Virginia, who served as master of ceremonies said community service members are rewarded for superior job performance with medals and promotion ceremonies but spouses get less fanfare for their sacrifices and commitment to service.

"Typically all the spouse receives is a kiss and a thank you," he said. "That changed when the Flagship military newspaper launched this landmark event to highlight the accomplishments of the hardest working members of the Armed Forces -- the military spouses."

After each of the finalist was introduced, LaLonde announced Autrey was the inaugural Fort Lee Heroes at Home Military Spouse of the Year.

"I'm stunned," she said. "All of the finalists are remarkable spouses who give so much time to serving their Families, the military and the community. I am so honored and humbled to have been recognized among such company."

Page last updated Thu May 17th, 2012 at 12:04