A White Sands Missile Range Air Force spouse was recently named the WSMR Base Spouse of the Year by Military Spouse Magazine. Theresa Poling, who has lived at WSMR for the past four years, with her husband Staff Sgt. Gabriel Poling and their two daughters, is this year's winner. She is known throughout the residential community for leaving gift baskets at their doorsteps when they first arrive and baskets throughout the holidays as well.
"We have to help each other in a military community because sometimes all we have is our military family," Poling said. "Being a military family can be hard so we need to help each other and since we don't have immediate family near us our military family becomes our family."
Every year the Armed Forces Insurance sponsors the Military Spouse of the Year award by Military Spouse Magazine to recognize military spouses' commitment to the military, their country and their family. Poling was selected as WSMR's MSOY out of 400 overall entries submitted.
"At Military Spouse Magazine, we are honored to give a voice to these amazing spouses so we can help share their commitment, dedication and sacrifice," said Suzie Schwartz, president of Military Spouse Programs. "Every 2017 Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year base winner is striving to improve the lives of others in their communities. Their work, efforts and messages are truly inspiring and simply outstanding."
Poling was nominated by her husband, who has served in the Air Force for eight years, and other military spouses on post. She suffers from severe vertigo, so severe that she can't drive, but she said she would rather volunteer and make a difference than feel sorry for herself and get depressed. She said took on volunteering when they PCSd to WSMR not only as a way to distract herself but also as a way to help her local military family.
"My sickness shows me that instead of being depressed at home I can get out and make a difference," Poling said. "Even though I suffer from a chronic illness I always try to help when I can. Volunteering shows to my kids to help when you can and keeps us active in the community."
Her volunteer work includes hosting a Protestant Women of the Chapel Bunco, she serves as the secretary for the White Sands School Elementary Parent Teacher Association and she also helps with spouse events around post. She is also the acting liaison in several Spouse group Facebook pages where she posts information from the Community Information Exchanges, a monthly garrison meeting where events and pertinent information is shared, Family Advisory meetings and PTA meetings. Aside from her long list of volunteer assignments, Poling has also been making welcome and holiday baskets for new families moving on post and is in the process of setting up a welcoming committee with the main White Sands Missile Range Spouse Group. She said she knows the things she does when volunteering are small, but sometimes those things can make a big difference.
"We have such a wonderful community to call family," she said. "It's difficult to deal with issues without having your family close to you, we have to rely on our military family a lot."
The WSMR Garrison Commander's Spouse, Christina Brown was one of the individuals who helped nominate her for the award. In the nomination submission Brown said she refers to Poling as WSMR's Unofficial Ambassador.
"She does so much for our community while also juggling her own family and her personal challenges," Brown said.
Although at times it may be difficult to juggle everything and stay positive as a military family, she said a lot of it has to do with perspective. She said she makes the best of it and looks at each new challenge as a new adventure.
"Try to surround yourself with positive people and always stay positive," Poling said. "Try to look on the bright side and see the positives of being a military family."
During her spare time Poling said she likes to work on Disney crafts and she recommends all military spouses find a hobby or something to invest themselves in to keep busy during a deployment.
"If you have kids get them in sports and, if you can, volunteer to coach," she said.
Poling said having her kids in sports definitely kept her busy, she said her oldest does every sport there is and her husband volunteers to coach all the time.
"It keeps us busy, constantly," she said.
The best advice she said she can give to a new military spouse is to get out there and be active in the community.
"You might hate a new base or post but you would be surprised how that changes when you get involved in the community," Poling said.
What sets her apart, Brown said, is how she welcomes newcomers on this remote and isolated installation with cupcakes at their doorstep. She said she also initiates fun holiday activities and gifts; "boo" gifts for Halloween, "gobble" gifts for Thanksgiving and "elf" gifts for Christmas. She said the small and thoughtful gifts are the reason some people claim this is the best post. Aside from her extensive volunteer work, Brown said she also opens her home to those who are far from home during the holidays.
"She exemplifies the caring military spouse who is always looking for ways to help others," she said. "She was an ideal candidate for the award."
Poling will be featured in the April issue of Military Spouse Magazine.