By Sgt. Jessica M. Kuhn, XVIII Airborne Corps PAODecember 5, 2011
As a child, Keri Stevenson acquired the knick name of 'Wonder Woman.'
Now days, Stevenson spends her time helping as many people as she can along with raising two children alone while her husband is deployed. Needless to say, many would argue Stevenson is in fact a wonder woman.
It doesn't matter if they are related by blood, Stevenson will go out of her way to help anyone who needs it, said Kaye Dunham, a fellow military spouse.
For the Stevenson Family, that's just a part of it, and with that said, no one was the least bit surprised when they were named the 2011 Fort Bragg Family of the Year during a ceremony at the Main Post Chapel December 1.
"The Family of the Year is nominated by units based on a couple of things their involvement in the unit, the community and their interaction as a Family as well as a combination of how they balance their family life with their military life," said Cathy Mansfield, the Volunteer Services Coordinator for Army Community Services.
Chief Warrant Officer 3 James Stevenson, who is currently deployed with the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade to Afghanistan, and wife Keri along with their two children Baylee, 10, and Madison, 12, are actively involved with their unit, church and community in various ways.
"Today, I'm baking for my church," Stevenson said. "Tomorrow, they are reaching out to the homeless with meals for those lost Veteran's and others who just are down on their luck right now."
"There is always a time when someone is in need; it may be you one time it may be someone else so we have to be there for one another," she said. "That is what community is, being there for one another in the good and bad times."
However, don't be mistaken, Keri isn't the only one in the Family who goes out of her way to help those in need.
"When Jimmy is home, he will go out of his way to help anyone with stuff broken around their house," she said. "One of our neighbor's windows got blown out, and he replaced them all without any sort of payment."
Stevenson is also the co-leader for her husband's units Family Readiness Group where she goes out of her way to help those Spouses not so familiar with the challenges of separation from deployment.
"I feel like I have an advantage because I was in the military so I have more of an understanding of deployments and the challenges that accompany them," said Stevenson, a former sailor with the Navy.
It was while the Stevenson's were both serving in the Navy at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba they first met.
"Ever since we've been together the military has been a part of us," she explained.
As a result, the Stevenson Family feels as if their Family reaches out further than just the four of them.
"Our Family extends to our neighbors and friends we have met through the military," Stevenson said. "All the people we can rely on when we're having a hard time."
Stevenson's positive outlook on life is what helps her and her Family overcome any challenge like having two children with autism.
"We have a Family that has been blessed with two children with autism," Stevenson expressed. "In our Family, we don't think of it as having a disability. We look at it as a challenge to overcome which the Army really helps with."
For this Family, they can even see the good when being separated by deployment.
"All the things we go through, for instance the separation, it doesn't have to be negative; it makes us stronger and more resilient while realizing how strong of a love we have for each other," Stevenson said.
Even after she explained all her Family has done and been through, she still didn't feel her Family warranted the title of the 2011 Fort Bragg Family of the Year.
"The people who nominated us I look up to and I aspire to be like them, and to me, they should be the Family of the Year," she said as tears rolled down her cheek. "I am just so honored and humbled. There are so many people who make a unit and the Army able to survive; it's not just four people. It's all of us together who lean on each other like one giant family."