By Michelle Butzgy/ParaglideFebruary 25, 2013
Behind nearly 2.4 million active-duty, Reserve and National Guard servicemembers, stand an army of millions of Family members guarding the homefront with spouses ready at the front lines. Military spouses often juggle employment, children and volunteer opportunities while their Soldier, Sailor, Airman, Marine or Coast Guard member protect the United States.
This year, two Fort Bragg spouses were honored as military spouses of the year.
Ashley Broadway, representing Fort Bragg, and Susan Reynolds, representing Pope Field, won Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year awards at the installation level.
The award, started in 2008 by Military Spouse magazine, has honored military spouses nationally every year.
The two women epitomize the diversity of the Fort Bragg/Pope Field community, yet both have similar goals to give back to their communities.
Broadway was finishing her bachelor's degree in teaching at Columbus State University in Columbus, Ga., when she met her future spouse on the soccer field. Lt. Col. Heather Mack, currently the G-4 of 1st Theater Sustainment Command, was about to pin on her silver bars while they both played on the same soccer team.
"We started off really good friends then that was it," said Broadway. When Mack got orders to Fort Lee, Va., she moved with her.
Broadway said she was always able to find a teaching job wherever she and her partner went, including Texas, Korea and Kansas. She was also recognized for her teaching skills, winning teacher of the year in Columbus, Ga. in 2000, and teacher of the year in the district of El Paso, Texas in 2008.
The couple has been together for 15 years but Broadway said she has only experienced what it is to be a military spouse since September 2011, after the Department of Defense repealed the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' military policy.
One opportunity that opened up for her was being nominated for the Military Spouse of the Year award. She had the second most votes for the first phase of the voting.
"I think a lot of the people who voted for me, recognized me as a military spouse. They felt that I needed to be recognized," said Broadway. A military spouse who was up for the same award at a Navy base in South Georgia was telling people on her Facebook page to vote for Broadway instead of her.
Her spouse was also thrilled about the award.
"It's a pleasant surprise and I hope she is able to do things that she wants to," said Mack.
As Fort Bragg Military Spouse of the Year, Broadway wants more programs through Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation and to help lower enlisted Soldiers get the financial help they need and cut through the red tape.
"This is one of the most deployable places in the world. The last thing a spouse, whether it be a man or a woman, needs to deal with, is a lot of red tape," she said. Broadway said she is willing to talk with anybody in government to help Soldiers.
Broadway meets with smaller military spouse groups to work on various Family issues. She is currently working with the Fort Bragg Community Baby Shower, an organization of military spouses who collect donations so they can have baby showers for around 20 Families.
"If I can use this title to help at least one Family, mission accomplished. Of course, I want to help more," she said.
Susan Reynolds, Pope Air Force Base's Military Spouse of the Year, feels she has something in common with Broadway.
They're both educators, Reynolds has a degree in Social Science Education, and they both advocate for everyone to have the same equity.
In Reynold's case, having around 3,000 Reserve and active-duty Airmen surrounded by more than 57,000 Soldiers, makes her one of the minority.
"I think the biggest thing right now for Air Force spouses is we are facing inequities here. Our (Exceptional Family Member Program) registration process is different from the Army's so we have to go to Seymour Johnson (AFB) to register. That is a huge inconvenience."
That is one of many issues Reynolds would love to work on since she was selected for the award. She was also nominated for Air Force Military Spouse of the Year in 2011.
Reynolds grew up in Germany while her father, Lt. Col. Harvey Binns, was the post commander at Kreuzberg Kaserne in Zweibrucken.
"I always thought everybody had great parking like us but apparently not," she said.
She was still in Germany, working as a catering manager at Sembach Combined Club when she met her husband, Jeremy, currently a technical sergeant with the 18th Weather Squadron, 18th Air Support Operations Group at Pope Field.
Reynolds has been a key spouse, Army equivalent of an Family Readiness Group leader, for two years. She is currently acting as an advisor for the new key spouse of her squadron.
"I believe in the program and I want to make sure the relationships that I've established in the last two years with Army spouses and ACS just smoothly transition over."
She first heard about Military Spouse Magazine when she found a copy in the Airman and Family Readiness Center at Pope Field last year.
"I saw Crystal Cavalier's picture on the front cover. I thought that's local, that's Bragg, that's awesome!"
Cavalier, an Army spouse stationed at Fort Bragg, won Army Spouse of the Year for 2011.
Reynolds wanted to emulate what Cavalier did to become her service's spouse of the year. Her husband said she didn't need to change a thing.
"My husband looked at me and said 'What are you talking about? You already are!' Do you know where you volunteer; do you understand the things that you do? We got here last year and three weeks later you volunteered to be the squadron's key spouse (family readiness group leader for Air Force). Within a month of being here, you were meeting sixty plus FRG leaders, the only Air Force spouse sitting in there, looking at these women and asking 'How can we work together?'" said Reynolds.
She said she believes in active participation, something she learned early in life.
"I remember as a kid, the AFN commercials that we'd see that we were encouraged to volunteer and make a difference in our community. That's been thrusted upon me since I was in diapers. You give back to your community, you make a change, you be a positive force for good and difference and try to help because the military Family is who you have, you can rely on them," said Reynolds.
As for specific issues she would like to work on, Reynolds said there are many important issues for spouses. Her big issue is healthcare, specifically pediatric healthcare, an issue that hits close to home for her. Her son, Ian, 2 and a half, has plagiocephaly, a condition where an infant develops a persistent flat spot, either on one side or the back of the head.
"It's not because it's awful, it's because I think the military is not geared towards pediatric health care … and that's okay. It's okay that our Army and Air Force hospitals are not geared specifically towards pediatric healthcare. They're here to take care of a servicemember who has broken legs from jumping out of an airplane or shot up," said Reynolds.
When she took her son to a primary care physician, she did not receive accurate information on how Tricare would cover his treatment. Reynolds said she had to do a lot of research to find treatment for her son, specifically a cranial helmet to help his skull reform.
Her solution for better pediatric care?
"Partnerships with hospitals. Norfolk has a partnership with the Children's Hospital of the King's Daughters, the best children's hospital (in the area.) They do partnerships with Navy and military servicemembers. It would be wonderful if we got a great children's clinic for something in this area that we could partner with through Womack," Reynolds said.
Reynolds started an online support group to inform other military Families on how to find different kinds of funding for treatments not covered by Tricare. When she was nominated for Air Force Spouse of the Year the first time, she was able to meet Kara Oakley, a lobbyist with the Children's Hospital Association. The association was actively working on the Tricare for Kids legislation, identifying coverage gaps in Tricare's pediatric healthcare.
Other issues Reynolds would like to work on are making sure the Airmen have the same opportunities as their Army counterparts, such as meeting uniform needs and cutting deployment respite care through Child Youth School Services.
"If our men and women in uniform can figure out a way to work wonderfully together in an awesome cohesive unit, Family care needs should be like this as well. It's just that simple," she said.
The branch winners will be announced today and the Military Spouse of the Year will be announced May 9.
For more information about the Military Spouse of the Year award, visit http://msoy.militaryspouse.com/Page/msoyhq.