By J.D. LeipoldMay 13, 2014
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, May 13, 2014) -- Reda Hicks, an Army wife and attorney who works to improve the lives of military families, was recognized Friday as Army Spouse of the Year.
Hicks received her award Friday, on Military Spouse Appreciation Day, at the seventh annual Military Spouse of the Year luncheon. Sponsored by Armed Forces Insurance, Military Spouse magazine created the award in 2008 to honor military spouses of all ranks and from all service branches who support and maintain the home front.
Hicks was presented the Spouse of the Year ribbon and medallion by Ann Campbell, wife of the Army's vice chief of staff, and Jeanne Chandler, wife of the sergeant major of the Army.
Hicks is married to Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jake Hicks, who is stationed at Fort Riley, Kan. They have a 3-year-old son.
Hicks was cited for her work as a leader of the Military Spouse JD Network, a group of attorneys who work to improve the lives of military families. As a partner in a Houston-based law firm, Hicks also represents professional military spouses who pursue a career while also supporting their service member.
"I love raising other military spouses up," Hicks said. "The one thing that we often say is that we are our spouse's greatest resource; we are their front line. So the more coordinated we can be, the more good we can do. We need more military spouse voices.
"I do a lot of work teaching people they have to be the best advocate they can be for the issues they care about, whether it's mental health, or commissaries, or health care for our kids," she added. "Teaching people how to hone their messages, how to tell their stories and how to get our broader community to understand what the Army needs. I looked forward to using this network of spouses to do an even better job of it."
Ingrid Herrera-Yee, who holds a doctorate and works as a clinical psychologist, researcher and licensed mental health counselor, was recognized as Spouse of the Year for the National Guard. Her husband, Staff Sgt. Ian Yee, serves with the Massachusetts National Guard. They have three sons.
Yee was presented the Spouse of the Year ribbon and medal for her work as co-founder of the Military Spouse Mental Health Professionals Network and her drive to spotlight mental health issues for National Guard Soldiers and their families.
She plans to push for initiatives and legislation that increase awareness of and treatment for the unique mental health needs of military families, especially through wrap-around services, preventive services, improved crisis intervention, in-home access to services, and seamless transition/continuity of care to stem the tide of mental illness within the National Guard community.
"We know with all the attention that's been paid to these tragedies like Fort Hood, really the mental health issues of not only our service members but also of our families are really important," Herrera-Yee said. "To me, it's particularly important in the National Guard because we tend to fall through the cracks more, because we're not usually connected to a base.
"When our members come back from deployment, there's no base, no support system to help, so I would like to lobby for best practices, increasing education, decreasing stigma around mental health and making sure our families are counted," Yee added.
Lakesha Cole, wife of Gunnery Sgt. Deonte Cole, was selected as Military Spouse of the Year for the Marine Corps and was also honored as the overall winner. They and their daughter are stationed at Camp Butler, Okinawa, Japan.
Tammy Meyer, wife of Cmdr. Gordie Meyer, stationed in Gulfport, Miss., was selected as Military Spouse of the Year for the Navy.
Chris Pape, husband of Lt. Col. Dana Pape, stationed at Joint Base San Antonio, Texas, was selected Military Spouse of the Year for the Air Force.
Danielle Medolla, wife of PO1 Robert Mendolla, stationed at Kodiak, Alaska, was selected as Military Spouse of the Year for the Coast Guard.
Following the luncheon, Chandler said one of the reasons why the U.S. Army continues to be the best in the world was due to the tremendous support of military spouses who she visits and talks with while traveling with her husband.
"When I talk to spouses and survivors, what I'm looking for is to see how our family programs are working, how the schools and day-care centers are working for them," she said. "My husband is visiting with Soldiers, while I'm visiting with families and the various family program managers.
"Collectively, the two of us scout. He writes a trip report, which is delivered to [Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Ray Odierno] and [to Secretary of the Army John McHugh], and I sit on Secretary Hagel's Family Readiness Council as the Army representative," she said. "That council gives recommendations to Congress, so I can speak authoritatively about the Army's family programs and how they're helping our families."