Tara Crooks, with daughters Chloe and Wrena, welcomes home her husband, Maj. Kevin Crooks, 214th Fires Brigade, from his deployment to Afghanistan earlier this year. Tara Crooks is one of 18 finalists nominated for servicewide military spouse of the year.

FORT SILL, Okla. (28 Feb. 2013) -- A Fort Sill spouse has been named as a finalist for the Military Spouse of the Year award 2013 by Military Spouse magazine.

Tara Crooks, wife of Maj. Kevin Crooks, 214th Fires Brigade, has already been named Fort Sill spouse of the year, top three overall Army spouse and she was selected as a top 18 military spouse overall Feb. 21.

Crooks, a mother of two daughters, ages 11 and 5, is a work-at-home mom who started her military spouse journey in 1998 at Fort Hood, Texas.

In 2005, during her husband's first of three deployments, she started Army Wife Talk Radio as a hobby. This led to her co-founding the Army Wife Network four years later and publishing a book "1001 Things to Love About Military Life."

Crooks is also a Military Spouse Community Manager with USAA. In 2009, she was named in the "Who's Who Among Military Spouses" by Military Spouse magazine. She was also named American Legion Auxiliary's "Woman of the Year" in 2008.

She has served as an Army Community Service master trainer, ACS volunteer course director, spouse coffee group leader, family readiness group adviser, lead adviser for a security force advisory team deployment this year and officer spouses' club first and second vice president, among other volunteer projects and duties.

"[Winning the overall spouse of the year] would only further our reach to military families," said Crooks. "I would love to continue to do more of what I've been given the opportunity to do on my journey thus far.

"Specifically, I would like to see more communication from military leaders directly to spouses and answers to issues," she said. "We understand a lot more when we know why things happen. I'd love to interview some of our top leaders and ask them questions straight from real-life everyday military families. I'd love to share the successes and challenges of our military families with the civilian population in a way that the mainstream media cannot. We're more than just deployments and homecomingswe're amazing."

Kim Baxley, wife of Sgt. 1st Class Scott Baxley, 214th FiB, said Crooks has been an inspiration.

"Tara sincerely cares for her fellow wives and for our Soldiers. She is the first to step up when something needs to be done, always volunteering her time. Even if she is having a bad day herself she puts others first. Her passion for the Army and its values are like no other. It is a true pleasure to call her my friend."

Lt. Col. Robert Picht, 1st Battalion,14th Field Artillery commander, said Crooks lives the Army Values.

"Tara exemplifies selfless service, and her contributions to the Leader's Brigade and the Steel Warrior family are immeasurable," Picht said. "We cannot thank her enough for the amazing work she's given us for the past two and one-half years."

Crooks said military spouses must work together and get involved.

"They're not in this alone, but if they choose to sit in their home in a corner and be miserable, miserable is what they'll get," she said.

There are many resources out there for our military families to access, Crooks said. Military life can be challenging, but it is also an amazing life full of wonderful journeys.

Crooks' group Army Wife Network has more than 45,000 fans on Facebook and has been described as a first stop for military spouses who have questions regarding anything Army to include Space-A travel, FRGs and things to do on post, among other informative topics.

The spouse of the year award for all branches is based on online voting that ends March 5. The winner of the Military Spouse of the Year award will be announced May 9 at a luncheon in Washington, D.C.

Page last updated Thu February 28th, 2013 at 16:46