Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Military spouses receive recognition for valued service
5/11/2009 - WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- Five military spouses received recognition for their valued service to the nation at an award ceremony here May 7.
The Military Spouse of the Year awards honor individuals that embody the best characteristics of today's military spouse, said Babette Maxwell, a Navy spouse and the co-founder and executive editor of Military Spouse Magazine, a co-sponsor of the program, now in its second year. USAA, a financial services firm that serves military members and their families, also co-sponsors the program.
The five honorees were selected by a special committee that read more than 650 nominations from Military Spouse Magazine readers, Mrs. Maxwell said. Honorees received crystal-glass trophies.
Military spouses have provided important and distinguished service for the nation since the Revolutionary War, Mrs. Maxwell said, noting the MSOY awards are "about recognizing the challenges and sacrifices that are unique to the military community."
Tanya Queiro, a former Marine Corps noncommissioned officer, received the national 2009 Military Spouse of the Year award. She also received the service-branch award as the Marines' top military spouse.
Mrs. Queiro's husband, Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Jose Queiro, is stationed at Camp Lejeune, N.C. They are raising three children: two sons, Jose, 12, and Marcus, 10; and a daughter, Adrianna, 8. Queiro said she met her future husband while she was in the Marines.
Other 2009 MSOY award service-branch honorees include:
-- Army: Misti Stevens, wife of Army Lt. Col. Wendell Stevens, Fort Campbell, Ky.;
-- Air Force: Susan P. Webb, wife of Air National Guard Master Sgt. Ken Webb, Air National Guard Base, Glasford, Ill.;
-- Coast Guard: Trish Pruett, wife of Coast Guard Cmdr. Jim Pruett, U.S. Coast Guard District 7, Miami; and
-- Navy: Christy Kuriatnyk, wife of Navy Lt. Cmdr. Alex Kuriatnyk, Naval Construction Battalion Center, Gulfport, Miss.
Military spouses support their husbands or wives and serve the communities in which they live, Mrs. Queiro said, noting that she and her husband have been married for 13 years. She volunteered to participate in the Marines' Lifestyle Insight, Networking, Knowledge, and Skills mentorship program, which provides new military spouses with knowledge about Marine Corps traditions, customs and courtesies and overall military culture.
"All the volunteers are spouses teaching spouses," she explained. "So, we hand down best practices -- things that have worked for us and, hopefully, things that will work for them in their marriage."
Sergeant Queiro's said he's thankful for his wife's support while he's away performing special operations missions.
"I could walk out of that door at any time, head to Afghanistan or Iraq, and know that everything back at home will be all right when I get back," the gunnery sergeant said. "I don't have to worry about any issues in the rear; I know my wife is handling everything.
"That means a lot," he continued. "I can concentrate on the mission, and come back home alive."
Misti Stevens and her Army-officer husband, Wendell, have been married for 19 years and have two children. They have since relocated to Fort Leavenworth, Kan.
Army spouses, she said, have a duty to assist other military families. Mrs. Stevens participates in family readiness groups that help to prepare military families for periods when their husbands or wives are deployed, as well as other programs that address quality-of-life issues for Army families and single soldiers.
"My job is to support the families, especially during deployments," she said. "I'm there to help take care of their problems."
Mrs. Stevens' husband, a lieutenant colonel with the Army Corps of Engineers, praised his wife for her support to him and to his soldiers and their families.
"She has been very helpful to my career, as well as in the units that we've been with," he said. "If you're worried, you're not going to do as well in your job."
Air Force MSOY recipient Susan P. Webb and her husband, Ken, have been married for 28 years. She said she believes military spouses must support their military mates and maintain a positive attitude in dealing with the challenges that come with a military lifestyle.
"Try to look at something positive that's from the situation and make the best of it, and keep smiling and laugh," she said. "You will get through anything."
When husbands and wives are deployed, she added, military spouses need to "be strong while they're away, make wise decisions when they're gone and keep the family and the household together and running."
Ken Webb said he is proud of his wife and is grateful for her support.
"To have a wife that is supportive when you are in the military just makes life easier in the military," the noncommissioned officer said. When life is going well at the home, said Webb, who has raised three children with Susan, then servicemembers can focus on the job.
Trish Pruett and her husband, Jim, a Coast Guard commander, have been married for 18 years. Pruett said she stays in touch with the Coast Guard's military community in Miami through her ombudsman work at District 7. The couple has three daughters.
Mrs. Pruett said much of her life as a military spouse consists of ensuring that "everything stays together for last-minute changes" and holding down the home front when her military-lawyer husband is away on duty.
"She takes care of the home and the daughters, where I don't have to worry about it at all," said Mrs. Pruett, noting that his wife also performs copious volunteer work on behalf of local military families.
Mrs. Pruett said his wife's efforts allow him "to focus on my job and support the Coast Guard."
Navy wife Christy Kuriatnyk and her husband, Alex, also have been married for 18 years. The couple has two girls and a boy. Alex, a lieutenant commander, is a "geographic bachelor" who works with a Seabee unit in Gulfport, Miss., while Mrs. Kuriatnyk takes care of the couple's two high-school-age children who live at the family's home in Georgia.
"The role of a Navy spouse, basically, I think, is to support the service, as well as the active-duty member, in all matters," Mrs. Kuriatnyk said. She has a public-health job that enables her to work with the military community at Fort Benning, Ga., and she also volunteers for the Operation Homefront nonprofit organization that assists military families when their servicemember spouses are deployed.
"The Navy really has blessed us," she said, noting that she and her husband feel compelled in return to help military families in need and homeless veterans.
"My wife is the backbone of our family," Alex Kuriatnyk said of his wife's efforts in paying the family's bills and taking care of their children while he is away on military duty, which has included several tours in Iraq. She "supports the family when I'm not there," he said. "She's the hero."
Chelle Brewer, who was last year's national Military Spouse of the Year, has been married to Army 1st Lt. Steven Brewer for five years. Her volunteer work -- which includes helping children with special needs and visits with soldiers diagnosed with traumatic brain injury or post-traumatic stress disorder -- reflects her desire to maintain a positive outlook, despite experiencing several family tragedies. Her son, Rory, died three years ago at childbirth, and his twin sister, Lorelei, was born without three of the four chambers of her heart. The couple also has a 7-year-old son, Cavan.
Last year, Mrs. Brewer's husband, a military psychologist, was seriously injured during a parachute jump exercise at Fort Benning, Ga.
"I feel as though I had a choice," she said. "We were given very bad circumstances, and I could either feel bad for myself, or try to make it better for other people. So I chose to try and help other people, instead of wallowing in my own self-pity."
by Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service