Military life can be hard for Families with mothers or fathers in uniform. Fort Jackson has honored the military family for more than 25 years and will announce the 2016 Family of the Year Friday in a ceremony at the Solomon Center.
"It's important to recognize military families for their sacrifices and contributions in support of the military and to our nation," said Marilynn Bailey, the post's volunteer coordinator. "Military families are passionate, strong, and resilient."
All 11 Families nominated for the award volunteered in their communities, units, schools, and chapels.
For 1st Sgt. Robert Berry, first sergeant of Bravo Company, 3rd Battalion, 13th Infantry Regiment, being in a military family is challenging despite growing up in one.
My father taught me a lot things "as far as being a Soldier and a father," he said. Berry and his Family have been nominated for top Family on post honors.
Even though the Army takes a large chunk of their time together, the Berry Family aims to make every moment count.
"I always told my kids and my Family it's not about the quantity of time I spend with them, but the quality," said the 17-year veteran who has been married 14 years to Jennifer, who works in Army Community Service. "With the little time I have and the (operational tempo) we have here you just have to seize every moment you have."
The couple met in North Pole, Alaska when Berry was stationed at Fort Wainwright.
Berry said one of the things he looks forward to every day is coming home and getting a hug from his boys. The Berry Family has two sons Jaxson, 5 and Gavin, 7.
"I know when I walk through that door the boys are always going to be there," he added.
"The piece of mind knowing that I am here and not deployed helps my Family cope with the hours," Berry said while preparing for a new cycle of trainees to arrive. "I might work here long hours, but I will be home at the end of the night."
When I first heard about it I kind of smiled and to me it's very humbling. My family, my wife and I are not like 'hey look at us,' we are not looking for any recognition. It is very humbling for people I work with, and even my superiors, to identify us (nominees for) family of the year. It's a great honor, it's very humbling, but it makes you feel that someone recognizes you."
Berry said his wife didn't believe they were nominated until he showed her an email. He told her "you may not think you do a lot, but you do a lot for this battalion and this community."
"You are working, at times, 12-18 hours so one of my philosophies here is that I refuse to be unhappy. If I am coming in unhappy then something's wrong. I always tell them, 'If Rob is unhappy, then 1st Sgt. Berry is not going to be happy." If you are not happy in your personal life, it is going to transfer over to your professional life. There has to be a balance."
Berry said to help create the balance he occasionally kicks Soldiers out the door and says, "Go home and enjoy your Family."
Chaplain (Capt.) Edward Harris, of 2nd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment, grew up in a military family with strong military heritage, but in his position of overseeing the spiritual wellness of troops, he has a special view of marriage.
"We consider it a blessing … that we do something that Fort Jackson would consider worthy of the nomination," Harris said. We try to do things "in terms of value and character. As a chaplain, I always try to help point people and remind people what is good about them.
"I don't just preach on Sunday I try to live what I preach on Sunday."
The Harris Family volunteers significantly in the community. Among other things, Jennifer helps her child's first grade class, and volunteers at the book fair.
Jennifer and Edward have two children, Sheldon Josiah, age 8, and Abigale, 6.
Edward spends a lot of time with his children trying to teach them what right looks like. Edward goes on a date each week with Abigale demonstrating how a man is supposed to treat a woman, he said, so when she gets old enough to date she will know what a good man looks like.
What makes a strong military family is what keeps them together, he added.
"To be real, let's start off with the person who keeps everything together -- that's my wife," he said. "My Family calls her 'Saint Jennifer,' that's my Dad's nickname for her. She has done two deployments with two infant children. When I was in Washington D.C. I was (on temporary duty) seven months of the year and we had two toddlers. Now I am here in the basic training world and I work 60 -- 65 hour weeks. She keeps things going.
"She doesn't seem to get to do a lot as my kids and I get the glory -- but she's the rock."
Living in a military family is a complete different experience for Dana Wangsness who grew up in a small town with a population near 500 people.
"I really didn't even think of the military until I met Scott in 1998," she said. "It is different, I grew up knowing my entire family. We didn't move after two years. I knew everyone from Kindergarten up to my senior year. It harder nowadays to grow up in the military. Sometimes I think I am taking away the opportunity my kids have of being stabilized."
Dana and her husband Staff Sgt. Scott Wangsness volunteer with scouting and other groups around post. They are also Red Cross volunteers and work with VolunTEENS.
It's an honor that someone would take the time to recognize them the Wangnesses said.
"I feel no different, I don't do volunteering to be recognized," Dana said about being nominated for Family of the Year.
"We do it to give back to the community," Scott added.
"It's my way of giving back to our community that we live in," said Dana.
Having a strong Family is very important to us, she said. 'My son's in the military now. He just went in over the summer. You've got to stay connected to have a strong Family living the lifestyle we do."
The Wangsness Family stays strong by investing heavily in their children and making sure they don't quit something they start. Dana and Scott have three children: two boys Trevor 20, Skylar, 17 and a girl, Brieanna, 15.
"It's important to me to be a part of my kid's activities," Dana said.
2016 Family of the Year Nominees
193rd IN BDE
Staff Sgt. Erik Brandon & Mrs. Cherish Brandon and Family
Children: Sahara (17), Gracie (8), Brooke (7), Krista (4)
Charlie Co., 1st Battalion, 13th Infantry Regiment
1st Sgt. Robert Berry & Mrs. Jennifer Berry and Family
Children: Gavin (7), Jackson (5)
Bravo Co., 3rd Battalion, 13th Infantry Regiment
Chap. (Capt.) Edward Harris & Mrs. Jennifer Harris and Family
Children: Sheldon (8), Abigale (6)
Headquarters, 2nd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment
Staff Sgt. Alan Allosada & Mrs. Amber Allosada and Family
Children: Nevaeh (11), Malakhi (9), Makealani (6), Kainoa (4),
Alpha Co., 3rd Battalion, 13th Infantry Regiment
Capt. Kimberly Goode & 1st Sgt. Michael Goode and Family
Children: Michael Jr. (2), Jennifer (11)
Headquarters, 1st Battalion, 13th Infantry Regiment
Sgt. 1st Class Leon Myers & Mrs. Jenna Myers and Family
Children: Hailee (8), Rilee (5), Emilee (3), Natalee (1)
Brave Co., 1st Battalion, 13th Infantry Regiment
165th IN BDE
Sgt. 1st Class Cain Schuler & Mrs. Damaris Schuler and Family
Children: Barrett (5), Ellery (3), Jethro (1)
Charlie Company, 3rd Battalion, 39th Infantry Regiment
Army Training Center
Staff Sgt. Scott Wangsness & Mrs. Dana Wangsness and Family
Children: Trevor (20), Skyler (17), Brieanna (15)
Headquarters, Headquarters Company, Army Training Center
US Army MEDDAC
Staff Sgt. Benny Wright & Mrs. Brandi Wright and Family
Children: Elizabeth (11), Savannah (10)
US Army DENTAC
Maj. Tyler Burningham & Mrs. Crystal Burningham and Family
Children: Emersyn (8), Peytin (6), Gwenyth (3)
Sgt. 1st Class John Cushman & Mrs. Monette Cushman and Family
Children: Zachary (18), John (14), Ezna (8)
U.S. Chaplain Center and School