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Hosted by the proud civilian publisher of



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2011 Military Spouse Awards: Heroes at Home


It is with great pride and pleasure that we announce the third annual Heroes at Home Military Spouse Awards. I am Jim Connors, proud civilian publisher of The Globe and RotoVue newspapers which serve our Marines and sailors aboard Camp Lejeune and New River Air Station. Since 2002, Landmark Military Media has had the privilege of working with the public affairs offices at these installations to produce newspapers read by active-duty military and their families, military retirees and residents of our communities. Six years ago another military publication in our group, The Flagship, which serves the Naval stations in the Norfolk, Va. area, created the Heroes at Home event to honor military spouses. We gladly joined in this effort to recognize the service and sacrifice of the thousands who stand behind the scenes of our nation’s proud military. The past few years have been a huge success. We are excited to report that community enthusiasm has grown even stronger this year, and we expect to continue to honor military spouses for years to come. The opportunity to work closely with the dedicated active-duty Marines of Camp Lejeune and New River Air Station each week, along with our civilian staff, many of whom are married to active-duty military, has given our team a unique perspective and appreciation of the required service these good citizens offer to our country. It is this appreciation “for all you do” that compelled us to bring this event here in Jacksonville. We hope this luncheon will convey to all our nominees in some small way, the gratitude we feel each day. This event would not be possible without the strong support of the business community, local community volunteers, both military and civilian, our Jacksonville USO and The Globe and Rotovue team at Landmark military newspapers. We appreciate all the work done to make this event possible. I would like to give a special thanks to our presenting sponsors: USA Discounters, United Concordia, Stevenson Automotive Group, Marine Federal Credit Union, Bradley Jewelers and Mount Olive College. Our gift partners include R. A. Jeffreys Distributing Company, Bradley’s Jewelers, Collins and Maready Attorneys at Law, Fast Tan, Gunny’s Awards and Trophies, Jody and Sam Davis of Choice Realty, Mad Boar Restaurant, Holistic Massage, the Trolly Stop, Fantastic Sam’s, The Renaissance European Day Spa and many more. I would also like to welcome and express my sincere gratitude for those military members and their spouses who are in attendance with us today, including event emcee Kim Kopka Ratcliff of WECT/WSFX Carolina in the Morning. Your presence here today is a testament to the importance of military spouses and the incredible work they do. To all of the nominees, I wish to express my congratulations and thanks.

Group Publisher Landmark Military Newspapers of North Carolina The Globe, The RotoVue, NCcoast Comunications

office 1122 Henderson Dr., Jacksonville, N.C. 28540 347-9624 Publisher James M. Connors Event coordinator Heather Miller Gibson Managing Editor Ena Sellers editors Sarah Anderson Amy Binkley Russell Varner Heroes at Home disclaimer: Heroes at Home is published by Landmark Military Newspapers of N.C., a private enterprise not connected with the DoD or the U.S. Marine Corps. The appearance of advertising in this publication, including does not constitute endorsement of these products or services by the DoD, the U.S. Marine Corps, or Landmark Military Newspapers of N.C. Everything advertised in this publication shall be made available for purchase, use or patronage without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, marital status, physical handicap, political affiliation, or any other nonmerit factor of the purchaser, user, or patron. If a violation or rejection of this equal opportunity policy by an advertiser is confirmed, the publisher shall refuse to print advertising from that source until the violation is corrected. The editorial content of this publication is the responsibility of Landmark Military Newspapers of N.C.







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2011 Military Spouse Awards: Heroes at Home


Kim Ratcliff


Emcee Ratcliff returns as emcee for 4th annual Military Spouse Awards

In Every Issue 2 Letter from the publisher

Shannon Chaulk

Featured Nominees 8

Amber Donaldson Amanda Pietrangelo Shelia Schexnayder


Nicole Austin Abbey Bauman Monica Tait


Elena Cuomo Heather Sekela Irina Stocker


Ann marie Sweeney


Crystal Cavalier


Kristin Bagley Rachel Hall Amber Rogers


Milinda Rau


Corie Bellucci Gay Therese Leilani

4 Judges 6 2011 nominees 7 Lejeune High School color guard


Angela Melcher


Jeremy Beck Melissa Greene Angela Melcher


Irina Stocker

Event and Luncheon hosted by: Landmark Military Media of North Carolina - A Subsidiary of the Virginian - Pilot Media Companies Proud civilian Publisher of


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2011 Military Spouse Awards: Heroes at Home

Jackie Barton is a senior regional sales and promotions specialist with the Beasley Broadcast Group and has won the presidents club representing ENC within the Beasley organization for over 8 years. She is well known and respected across the country in the radio industry. “The Marine Corps brought our family to the Jacksonville area to support my husband while he was (stationed here), but the community of Jacksonville has made us stay and become active supporters and business owners,” she said “The military has taught our family to give back wherever we go, and I believe because of that we continue to be blessed.”

Deborah Fisher is the USO-NC Jacksonville Center’s director. “Providing morale, recreation and social services to the military and their families is extremely gratifying.” “People always recognize the service of the military member but I think the families sacrifice as much if not more. The accomplishments of the Heroes nominated are nothing short of extraordinary and the fact they do all this with the added burden of deployments, the strain of separations, is just amazing.”

Ellen Hough is a top realtor broker and owner with EXIT Independence Realty in Jacksonville, N.C. She has lived in the Jacksonville area for the past 19 years and enjoys every minute of her time with Joe, her retired military husband, and in Onslow County. “Back when my husband was deployed, we didn’t have Skype, and we didn’t have e-mail. It was just snail mail and the occasional phone call,” said Hough. “As a retired military spouse, and now a realtor here in Jacksonville, I really enjoy working with military families I meet.”

Christina Scaglione is the director of Finance and Administration for the United Way of Onslow County and a military spouse. “I’m supporting my Marine so he can help protect the country. I don’t know how the wives made it back in the day without the support we all have now from everyone. “However, a lot of the times (spouses) don’t get recognized for the sacrifices they make. These nominees are so inspiring it makes me want to go out and change the world.”

Heather Miller Gibson is the advertising director and military spouse awards event planner with Landmark Military Media of North Carolina, The Globe and RotoVue. Gibson also volunteers at the Finders Keepers thrift store where the proceeds benefit programs offered by the Onslow Women’s Center. She has been a military spouse since 1995 and has personally experienced the trials and tribulations that make military spouses strong, independent and dedicated women. “I grew up in North Eastern Pennsylvania where we weren’t familiar with the military. Then I met a Marine. What can I say? I’ve been hooked ever since. I’m blessed to have worked with, lived by and become friends with the most amazing women over the last 15 years. I’m very honored and proud to help plan the Military Spouse Awards for Eastern North Carolina.”

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2011 Military Spouse Awards: Heroes at Home

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Nominator Anderson, Thomas Clark, Pam Bagley, Jonathan Baker, Gregory Balentine, Jason Bauman, Aaron Beane, Brandon Amanda Beck Forrester, Daphne Bellucci, Gregg Brooks, Brittni Carpenter, Cavalier, Dany Nichols, Anette Nicholson, Alexander Cerda, Randy Chawk, Frank Cobb, Christopher Cressman, Craig VanEcho, Jaime Donaldson, Jeremy Fabbri, John Geraghty, Brian Greene, Christopher Hall, Raymond A. III Holt, Jonathan Edward Scott M Howard Sr Buchanan, Jessica Jones, James Jones, Brian Kelley, Scott Amanda Latrell Rivera, Eric Muniz

Nominee Lyman, Heather Martin, Kimberly McLamore, Jessica Melcher, Angela Meriwether, Anna Mills, Jillian Moore, Teresa Morgan, Tracy Parker, Eneida Luz Parrot, Leah Pietrangelo, Amanda Pope, Erika Rau, Melinda Reed, Malik Reeve, Christina Rodriguez, Jacqueline Rogers, Amanda Ross, Briar Schexnayder, Sheila Schexnayder, Sheila Sekela, Heather Shayler, Rebecca Shirley, Julie Spencer, Nick Stein, Denise Stocker, Irina Sweeney, Anne-Marie Tait, Monica Thornhill, Laura Van Echo, Jaime Weller, Mandy White, Darcella

Nominator Lyman, Chad Alonso, Jessica McLamore, Johnathan Melcher, Justin Meriwether, Jonathan J Mills, Zachary Moore, Daniel Morgan, Sean Parker, Antonio Daniel Parrot Michael Pietrangelo Pope, Vincent Rau, Matthew Reed, Donna Reeve, Lawrence Rodriguez, Norberto Rogers, Luis Ross, Jonathan Patton, Ashley Rollan, Sara Sekela, Stephen Shayler, Geoffrey Shirley, Adam Spencer, Joelle Stein, John Stocker, Jeff Sweeney, Michael Tait, Thomas Thornhill, Chantry Cuomo, Elena Weller, Gary White, Jason


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Color guard stands out in successful JROTC program


Story by Sarah anderson • courtesy photo full potential.” “We are extremely proud of The next event the their effort. They practice on their own and are extremely dedicated,” Color Guard will be said Gardiner “They are fine young on hand to present the women who are role models for the colors will be today, May 12, at the Heroes other Cadets in our Cadet Corps.” Team “B” consists of Cadet 2nd at Home Awards BanLieutenants Mac Hussey and Ryan quet from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 Cruz, Cadet Gunnery Sergeant Samuel Brown, and Cadet Corporal p.m. Erick Moe. “Team ‘B’ of our Color Guard is also very talented. We utilize them when we have multiple events scheduled or when the Team ‘A’ needs a break,” Gardiner remarked. MGySgt. Gardiner joined the program in December of 2010 and was the assistant coach for football and track at LHS from 2010-2011. A former drill instructor and formal school instructor with just over 30 years of service to the Marine Corps, 19 deployments, 9 of which were combat, and having seen much of the world, he is an invaluable asset and mentor to the young Cadets. The MCJROTC program is about enrichment, confidence building and showing the Cadets that they can achieve what they set their minds to. “We are not recruiters,” Gardiner said. “They have (many) opportunities and we encourage them to do their very best in school and achieve a good solid foundation of education to build their life on. More than anything else, we encourage them to achieve their

onesty, integrity, initiative, citizenship, community and unselfishness: These are values the Marine Corps Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps at Camp Lejeune High School hopes to instill in their students – known as Cadets. Under the direction of Lt. Col. Joseph Valore (Ret.) and Master Gunnery Sgt. James Gardiner (Ret.), 98 Cadets – nearly a quarter of the student body – participated and gained skills and confidence to help them succeed. Gardiner heads up the Color Guard, whose duties are to carry and present the National colors at events and ceremonies. They have placed second on three occasions, most recently at the Raider Challenge held at nearby East Duplin HS. LHS swept the competition by placing either first or second in all other events such as armed duet and team exhibition drill (coached by Mrs. Anna Fyfe) and rifle. The talented Team “A” Color Guard is unique in the fact that it is an all-female team. The Color Sergeant is Cadet Sergeant Victoria Smith and the National Color bearer is Cadet Sergeant Brigid DeTreux. The rifle bearers are Cadet Sergeant Anna Johansen and Cadet Corporal Kylee Paulhus. The Cadets practice before and after each school day, and it is not unusual for them to return home from events late into the evening.

(L-R) Rifle bearer Anna Johansen, National Color bearer Victoria Smith, Organizational Color bearer Brigid DeTreux, and Rifle bearer Kylee Paulhus.

Congratulations to all of this year’s nominees!

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2011 Military Spouse Awards: Heroes at Home




My wife willingly helps many of her friends who have husbands currently deployed with anything they need” ... “She never complains and she is always willing to listen to their problems (to) help them find a solution while she deals with her own. She also has been known to (be a) mentor to my junior Marines’ wives when they have questions or need guidance.

Shelia’s husband (was) in a motorcycle accident and is still trying to recover from it. Shelia is currently taking care of her husband and her family. She still lives everyday to the fullest and has never felt sorry for herself and the situation she is in. She has also dropped everything to help me a few times. She deserves this award more than anyone.

Amber has continued to support me, the Marine Corps and our beloved country through good and bad times. If you were to meet this beautiful, smart, hard-working spouse you too would agree that if every Marine had a wife like this, they would never worry about the homefront while they were out here fighting for our country and our freedom.

— Michael Pietrangelo, husband

— Jeremy Donaldson, husband

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This deployment Carter is on now will be the longest thus far which is one year. Nicole has opted to stay in North Carolina during this deployment to take care of their son, home and family pet rather than come home. I was a single parent to Nicole and was so thankful for my extended family I am having a hard time grasping that she is now a single parent without extended family near her. I give her so much credit for her strength as I know I would have a hard time not jumping on the first plane home. I am so proud of my daughter. It takes a special person to be a military spouse and I know I could never do it. — Pam Clark, mother

It would be a true honor and privilege to see my wife recognized for all the effort and support she has shown to my career and the dedication and drive to ensure our family’s success in this challenging career and time for our military family. It is the daily things military spouses do without question to keep the circle of support going for our service members and their families. I believe Abbey has exemplified this trait unwaveringly for the past 5 years and is a true friend to those around her. — Aaron Bauman, husband


This being her first deployment as a Marine spouse, Monica has performed in an exemplary manner. Between shuffling the children to their various activities and volunteering within the community, she is the glue that holds our family together and someone that others can turn to in times of crisis. She is not only the best wife and mother that I could ever imagine, but she is also a pillar in the community. She has been a rock for our family as well as other military families. She is never hesitant to volunteer her time or advice to help others that may be in challenging situations. — Thomas Tait, husband

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Kim Ratcliff returns as emcee for 4th annual Military Spouse Awards


Story by Russell Varner • courtesy photo my community. I thought his year’s about going into the military emcee for but decided to try to serve the Heroes my own way. I think being at Home a news anchor that helps event is a deliver information is my familiar one. Kim Ratclliff, calling. It makes me very the daughter of retired Col. proud to tell people my John Kopka and member of father is a retired Marine.” the “Carolina in the MornRatcliff knows just how ing” show on WECT and hard it is to deal with the WSFX, has been selected to numerous deployments and emcee the event for the third the various challenges that straight year, an honor that accompany them. Ratcliff she holds in high regard. High School and was marfound keeping up with “Being the emcee for the ried on base. Her father is a others who face the same Heroes at Home event is Vietnam veteran. She feels problems as you is one of such an honor,” she said. “I that, even today, her military the keys to surviving the have done this for the last upbringing continues to aid deployments. three years and being asked her in career. “For people dealing with to come back means a lot. “It means a lot to be close deployments, I would say try This event helps keep me to a member of the military, to keep in touch and become connected to my military a member of your military upbringing ... I can’t help but especially with what I do,” she said. “I feel like I am family - by that I mean the be proud of being involved a very disciplined person other spouses in your batin an event like this.” and I think that comes from talion,” she said. “I think The military has been a my father’s personality and that really helps because big influence on Ratcliff for years in the military. I also you are with other people her entire life. She is very dealing with the same things familiar with Camp Lejeune, have a sense that I need to do what I can to ‘serve’ you are.” as she attended Lejeune

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Story and photo by Russell Varner “You have to keep alerie busy,” she said. “If you Morales is stay at home, it’ll be hard an unique (to deal with the deployindividual. ments). I think instead Inspired by of staying home, you can her Puerto Rican roots, the volunteer or help out. Just urban-tropical beats that keep busy. Busy makes influence her music and time pass.” her fellow Marine wives, The always-smiling Morales comes off as both Morales added that faith charismatic and caring, and being positive are imsomeone whom people portant traits for military would be honored to call wives. Those were two of their friend. that’s standing behind and her biggest keys to dealing She has sung for making sure everything’s with the deployments of a thousands of fans and at loved one. numerous arenas, including good for the Marines.” Morales, who was a “It’s all very hard,” Madison Square Garden, TV personality in Puerto she said. “But you have to but singing at Heroes at Rico uses her singing as an have faith that everything’s Home has a special meanavenue to help escape the gonna be ok. If you start ing to her. stress that comes with the thinking negative, you “It’s (very) special for deployments. Her signature won’t be focused. You have me to sing at this (event),” vocal style is powerfully to know and be sure that she said. “I’m a Marine rhythmic and danceable. they are coming home and wife and understand what Not only is Morales is a doing their duty. If you it’s like to have your husfull-time mother, but she is have faith and have God band away. People say it’s also enrolled in school and in some aspect, then you hard, but you have no idea holds a full-time job apart can stay strong and make it until you go through it … from her singing career. through.” I admire any other woman


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By Erin O’Neill with her children whenever her husband was deployed. “Because my husband missed so many milestones already,” she explains, “I didn’t want him to miss things like going to the zoo for the first time.” But then she got a great piece of advice, “Go out and experience life! Life doesn’t stop because my spouse is deployed.” Once she finally got out and about, she reports, “It was sad that my husband missed those milestones too, but we’re a happier family and or kids aren’t missing out on the experiences. Erica Ray, who’s been with her husband through three deployments also adds, “Try to find a job and keep as busy as possible, even if it’s just hanging out at the pool or going to church every weekend. Just make sure you have plans to get out of the house everyday.” Check the attitude at the door One of the best investments military wives can make to their happiness is getting on-board with the military lifestyle. As Army wife Stephanie Rickert explains, “The military is not a job, it’s a lifestyle. The needs of the Army always come first.” So try to look on the bright side and see the positives of this lifestyle. As Army wife-to-be Rachel Friedhoff explains, “Life, especially military life, is all about perspective. So make the best of it and enjoy the adventure.” Chantal Arsnoe, a Marine wife, agrees remembering, “A great piece of advice I received was ‘Don’t involve your whole life around his career, do something for yourself.’ So every time we PCS, I make myself

Before my husband deployed to Iraq for the second time, he and I went through a particularly rough patch in our relationship, and found ourselves fighting, literally, all the time. We fought about things that didn’t matter, but for some reason, neither of us were willing to let anything go. I remember mentioning this to another wife in passing, and how surprised I was that this buildup seemed harder than his first tour. I felt like I was at my wits end and worried about going into a deployment in this state. She simply smiled and said, “Let me give you a piece of advice, honey. If you want to get married to a Marine, and stay that way, you’ve got to realize, you can’t make any major life decisions beginning six weeks before he deploys until six weeks after he gets back. If you do, it’ll drive you crazy, because both of you are out of your mind right now.” That was the best advice I ever received, and truly one of the major reasons why my husband and I are still (happily) together. Which got me thinking about how many other pearls of wisdom are floating out there in our military wife community, waiting to be discovered. A few things to consider: Get out of the house When it comes to tips about loving a service member, nearly ever wife agreed, that getting yourself moving and keeping yourself occupied were key. Marine wife Meghan Lee recommends, “Find a hobby, or something to invest yourself in, to keep busy while he’s deployed.” Military wife Bobbi agrees. She used to hole herself up in the house



2011 | Fre pLejeuneP www.Cam

a Top 10 list of things I want to do or places I want to go while we’re stationed there.” Previous lists she’s made have included sky-diving, glider plane riding and going on a shark dive, but she says “it can also be something simple, like going to the local zoo. It gets me out of the house, and helps me see this as my adventure too, not just his career.” Another wife, Jamie-Lynn recalls some of the best advice she ever received, “was from an Army wife of 12 years. I had just found out where our first orders were and was not thrilled over the location. She looked at me and told me, ‘Bloom where you’re planted, baby doll.’ It’s stayed with me for a long time, always make the best of where you are. Bloom where you’re planted!” Get the 411 It may sound obvious, but most of the wives emphasized how important it really is to make good friends and get involved in the community. When Jennifer Grier first told her former Marine father that she was marrying a Marine, he offered his support, but also a few suggestions. “He told me how difficult it would be. He said to be strong and make good friends, because the Marines and friends we’d make along the way would be very much a family to us and they’d often be the ones who got us through the hard times.” Ray suggests getting involved with al local Family Readiness Program, “the network is great for support!” It also can keep you informed on some of the resources the military offers like the “J Allotment” otherwise known as the Savings Deposit Program into which

service members can contribute up to $10,000 while deployed to a combat zone and earn a guaranteed interest rate of 10 percent. “Put as much money into the account as possible,” Ray suggests. “It keeps you from spending it, and is great for when he comes home and wants that new car or motorcycle.” According to Rebecca Selfridge, a Marine girlfriend, getting involved and informed has kept her sane. “While my boyfriend was deployed, I looked up as much information as I could about where he was and what he was doing. I found his unit’s website, I read and printed all the newsletters. I learned the Marine acronyms and terminology…it helped me feel both educated and connected. I don’t think it would have worked out if he just took off places and I just sat around clueless about where he was going and what he was doing.” Grier chimes in with an important tip she learned at a L.I.N.K.S. session at Camp Lejeune, “the lady running the session said, ‘Military wives can’t be shy. Speak up.’ I know that probably sounds like such common advice, but it comes back to me often, when I’m in a new place or around a group of people I don’t know.” Don’t believe the hype In the military community, gossip flies faster than C-17s and can be twice as deadly. We all know that ‘loose lips sink ships’ and that following Operational Security is a must for mission security, but many wives also caution about staying out of the personal gossip flying around back home and abroad.

“Never believe any of the rumors,” says Rickert. “Especially when it comes to when the troops are coming home. They’re always wrong.” Hamilton agrees saying “As for rumors, they’re just that – rumors. Nothing is ever official until it’s in writing, and even then it’s subject to change. As a general rule, I don’t count on anything until his boots hit the ground.” Army-wife-to-be Rachel Friedhoff agrees, saying “I learned the hard way not to listen to rumors. Listening to all the talk just made for an emotional roller coaster, so eventually we learned to just ignore the rumors.” To put it simply, says Ricker, “Never spread gossip. Ever. It just causes drama.” Semper Gumby Of all the advice these women had to offer, some of the best tips were often the simplest. Marine wife Jessica K. reports, “The best advice I’ve ever received about military life is ‘Semper Gumby,’ which translates to mean ‘Always Flexible.’ Life being married to a military member - and staying married - requires that you’re always flexible. Things change fast and often, and it’s absolutely essential that you, as a spouse, are able to roll with the punches as those changes affect your life too.” Lee agrees advising, “Be flexible and patient! Nothing happens the way it’s supposed to, or when it’s supposed to, so learn to go with the flow” Friedhoff agrees saying, “My new motto is ‘Just go with it,’ or ‘Hope for the best and prepare for the worst.’ The Army is going to operate their way whether you like or not, so learn to be flexible.”

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2011 Military Spouse Awards: Heroes at Home

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National Dodge Mrs. Heather Sekela, “She provided a great deal of support to another military spouse battling with breast cancer by babysitting, driving and being there for her emotionally.” MSgt Stephen Sekela, MARINE

Mrs. Heather Lyman,

“Heather personifies a Hero at Home, and proves that the hardest job in the Marine Corps is a spouse. Her actions, hardwork, dedication and love for our family drive me to be a better man, and member of the community. Regardless if she receives this award or not, she will always be our Lyman Family Hero!” WO Chad Lyman, MARINE

Mrs. Laurie Howard,

“Laurie has had a tough year. She has had several health complications resulting in surgery, medication and well over 150 doctor appointments in the last year all while our 4 year old son’s health challenges continue. He also had another surgery on March 14. This doesn’t stop Laurie. She still does what she loves Helping Others. I have the pleasure of being married to my Hero.” SSgt Scott Howard, Sr., MARINE

Mrs. Anna Meriwether,

“This year we have been married 10 years and due to deployments I have only been there for 3 out of our 10 anniversaries. I would be completely lost without her and her strength during deployment. I could not imagine being able to go on any deployment without her support for both me and our 3 children.” SSgt Jonathan Meriwether, MARINE

Cpl. Jeremy Brooks,

“Jeremy was not able to be with me when our first child was born. It took a huge toll on him. I just think that is is going to be a cool story for him to tell his daughter in the future. “Your Daddy is a Hero. He wasn’t there because he was defending your freedom.” Mrs. Brittni Brooks, spouse

Mrs. Shannon McDonough Chawk,

“Despite many challenges, Shannon continues to be one of the most positive and helping people for all those that know her. She is a super-mom, a wonderful wife, and is well deserving of recognition as a Hero at Home.” LtCol Frank Chawk, III, MARINE

Bradleys J e w e l e r s

Mrs. Melissa Greene,

“A mother of two, she happily agreed to adopy two more children. She is constantly thinking of doing for others in hopes of bettering her family, the community and the long-distance relationship with me, her deployed husband.” SSgt Christopher Greene, MARINE


Mrs. Rachel Hannah Hall,

“Shortly after leaving for deployment I rec’d a text saying that I left her a dead opossum in the backyard. The base game warden told her to get a shovel and throw it in the trash. She said there’s no way I’m getting near it. This is comical but we Marines forget the little extra events that happen as soon as we leave. My wife is leader with a can-do attitude. However, when it comes to opossoms, she made sure someone else could do the dirty work.” Raymond Hall III, MARINE


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2011 Military Spouse Awards: Heroes at Home




As a mother of three young children, Heather has continued with her higher education (currently working on her Masters Degree), recently started working nearly full-time at a local real estate agency and has taken care of the family during her spouse’s numerous deployments.

We arrived in Jacksonville in July ‘09 having just bought our first home. By August 2nd I was in Iraq. She had to do everything with the new house on her own, not to mention get our little girls in school and get everything going ... She is extremely efficient and has endless energy. She is truly remarkable.

She has taken the frustration and disappointment and sadness and turned it to strength and determination ... She understands more than most about what needs to be done before, during, and after deployment because she has done deployments more times than most, with children and without.

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Stepping into the spotlight

Story by Russell Varner • photo by Ena Sellers readiness team for II MEF Headquarters Anne-Marie Sweeney has never been a big Group, supporting more than 3,000 Marines, fan of the spotlight. She is more comfortable sailors, and their families who are currently standing over the side than she is having all deployed. She played a key part in the design eyes on her. It’s going to take some time for of the unit’s pre-deployment training packages her to get used to being front and center for and has recently taken over the unit’s Faceeveryone to see. book page. “It’s a little embarrassing,” she admitAs her husband Col. Michael Sweeney put ted. “I’m used to (my husband) being in the it, “The number of incidents where Anne-Maspotlight and me just being the family support rie has made a difference in the lives of one of system.” our family members and/or service member To be fair, she has done much more than or too numerous to list.” just be a support system. Since 2005, Sweeney “It means a lot to me that my husband took has actively participated in the Key Volunteer the time to put me in the spotlight,” Anne-MaNetwork, where she served as the key advisor rie said. “I like to be behind the scenes (as) the for a battalion of more than 1,300 Marines silent partner. That’s how I refer to myself ... and sailors that completed three deployIt’s very humbling (to be nominated) because ments and most of her work came while her there’s a lot of spouses who do some great husband was deployed. As a result of her things and to pick just one out… I mean, it’s direct oversight and interaction, the battalion an honor, but it’s very humbling as well.” was recognized by Lt. Gen John M. Paxton, Whether Sweeney will get used to the spotthe commanding general of II MEF, as having light or not is another story. For now, she just a Family Readiness Program that would later wants to make sure she is alright with being be used as the model for other units to follow. front and center for once. Today, she serves a member of the family

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2011 Military Spouse Awards: Heroes at Home

Proving a woman’s work is never done Story by Russell Varner • courtesy photo Cavalier acknowledged that military For those who say there are never wives are among the most strong and enough hours in a day, I present to you determinged people in the world, though Crystal Cavalier. Over the past few years, many outside the military community don’t she has been an integral volunteer with her always notice it. Just being nominated for husband’s unit Family Readiness Group, the Heroes at Home award was very special the National Military Family Association and unexpected for her. (whom she received the President’s Award “I think it’s a really awesome (honor),” from), Operation Purple, the chapter direcshe said. “(It) just kinda took me by tor of the Blue Star Families, Give to the surprise. My husband, my mom and one of Troops, Operation Homefront, the Highmy friends (all) nominated me for it. That’s lands Chapter of the Red Cross, a loving pretty amazing.” mother to her family and just received her She hopes to help others see the strength master’s degree in Public Administration of these military spouses one day by confrom the University of North Carolina at tinuing her hard work and volunteering for Pembroke, Friday. some time to come. She said that being a And she says, for the most part, she military wife has taught just how resilient doesn’t miss an ounce of sleep. people can be. “I break down my time really well,” she “Even though we go through all these said. “I’m a really good organizer and so I hard stuff with our spouses being deployed, just make sure to have my time divided up we’re a strong bunch of women and men between everything … On a regular day, and we can accomplish just about anything things will just fall into place for me. I get we set our minds to,” she said. lucky like that.”

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2011 Military Spouse Awards: Heroes at Home

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2011 Military Spouse Awards: Heroes at Home

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I have never met another women so unselfish, and it is my honor and privilege to be married to such a woman of great courage. My wife has a huge amount of strength to accomplish the daily tasks on her own while dealing with the emotional strain during deployments. She is someone for me to emmulate by her leadership and “can-do” attitude. — Raymond A. Hall, husband

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2011 Military Spouse Awards: Heroes at Home

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Thriving through the tough stuff Story and photo by Amy Binkley

Milinda Rau, the wife of a Marine officer and mother of three children, has an unshakeable philosophy toward the military life and everything that comes with it. “We aren’t just going to survive,” she said. “We’re going to thrive.” Rau has garnered a reputation as a beam of support, often requested by name by general officers and senior commanders because of her thorough knowledge and passion for Marines and their families. Since 2003, she has been actively working with Marine Corps Family Team Building operations, serving as a Key Volunteer Cooridinator, a Family Readiness Officer and, currently, a Readiness and Deployments Support Trainer at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. “I wouldn’t trade this life for anything,” she said. “We’ve been a Marine Corps family for 20 years.” While her husband is serving his ninth deployment, Rau helps keep things running smoothly not only for her own family, but for other military spouses as well.

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“It’s a different lifestyle,” she explained. “We speak a different language, live our own culture. We all adjust to whatever reality we live in, and this is ours.” Rau lives by two main principles – common sense and common courtesy. “It doesn’t take extra time out of my day to help someone out,” Rau said. “It’s how you should live life. It’s not an option to not do anything.” Soon, she will not only be a Marine’s wife, but also a Marine’s mother as her son plans to enlist after graduation. Her resolve will remain resolute as she recognizes her role in the defense of a nation through her willing sacrifice. “If the family doesn’t support them, they can’t do what they need to do,” she said. Rau’s husband, Lt. Col. Matthew Rau, nominated her while deployed in Afghanistan. He understands and appreciates all his wife does not only for him but for many other Marines and their families. “She is a hero on the home front,” he said.

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2011 Military Spouse Awards: Heroes at Home

Taking one for the team

Story by Sarah anderSon Photo by ena SellerS


s a military spouse, mother, college student, volunteer, and cancer survivor: “Every minute of my life is spoken for,” said Leilani Muniz, with a laugh. She was nominated by her husband, Chief Hospital Corpsman Eric Muniz Rivera, who is currently serving in Afghanistan. “My wife has one of the kindest hearts you would ever meet. (She is) always lending a helping hand to all those who need it, whether family or friends, she is always there to assist,” Rivera wrote. “I am very flattered (to be nominated)” Leilani said. “My main mission has always been to try to keep up the morale, and everything else will fall into place.” The mission has proved to be exceedingly difficult, between her battle with breast cancer and her husband’s latest deployment. “I'm very proud of her, for she has been the solid foundation during my absence. (She is) now free of breast cancer.” her husband writes. ”My husband deployed a week after my last (treatment)” she remarked. “Every day is a good day as long as you can see the sun.” Working on base, Leilani meets many troops and although their time in her office may be short, she always tries to let them know she cares by sending care packages. She also volunteers her time fundraising

Story and Photo by amy binkley

with her son’s basketball team, the AAU East Carolina All Stars. It is not rare for Leilani to open up their home to fellow military families who need a place to stay and she recently assisted in finding a family member a job and enroll in college. “I don’t mind helping others, at all. It is something in my heart that I like to do. I rest easier knowing someone is okay and taken care of.” As military families know first hand, deployments can be especially challenging for the children. With five children, Leilani has learned to be there for her kids. “You have to talk to them and talk to them every day,” she said. “Consistency plays a vital role to them. Remind them that you’re always here for them, and that everything will be okay. Don’t stop doing things as a family.” So how does Leilani hold it all together? “Very carefully,” she stated. “You have to teach yourself how to stay focused. It is all about staying focused. But if you think strong, you will be strong. It is a strength that you just have to find and have. Hang in there.”


orie Bellucci is a team player by nature. She is a leader, coach and partner by choice. Up at 5:30 a.m. every morning, Bellucci makes breakfast and continues nonstop throughout the day, doing everything from washing laundry to completing school work to playing chauffeur to her six children. “I don’t know how she does it,” said her husband, Gunnery Sgt. Gregg Bellucci, who is currently deployed in Afghanistan. “That’s more strength than I’ll ever have.” As if being a mother to half a dozen kids isn’t work enough, Bellucci also works a fulltime job, takes night classes and is attempting to teach her 16-year-old to drive, all while dad is away. She is the assistant coach of a youth softball team and a team mom for all her children’s sports. Though her schedule stays full, Bellucci wouldn’t change her life for anything. “I am honored to be a military wife,” she said. “There’s so much pride in being married to a Marine.” According to her husband, Bellucci never thinks twice about putting others’ needs before her own, including fellow military spouses, and she was completely surprised to learn he had nominated for the award.

“I just thought, ‘Oh my God, he loves me,’” she said. “Being nominated by him is better than receiving an award.” She takes her nomination in stride, however, and believes looking out for other military families is just part of her role. “When you marry a Marine, you marry the Marine Corps,” she said. “We do what we have to. If we can make someone’s life easier for one day, we will.” Though the Bellucci family is on their ninth deployment, their bond and relationships are even stronger despite any challenges they may face. “He’s my best friend,” she said. “You know as a military spouse you’re going to be a single parent sometimes, and it’s hard. But it’s all in your way of thinking. If you’re positive, it’ll be positive. You just try to maintain the same lifestyle, and do life as normal.” While he’s gone, Gunnery Sgt. Bellucci is thankful to have his wife’s support even from the other side of the world. “She’s always there for me whether I’m (home) or deployed,” he said. “My wife is my best friend. She is truly my hero.”

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Jeremy is a motovatior to everyone. He believes the morale of the unit is important and will do whatever he can to make sure the moral of his Marines and fellow Navy corpsman is at a high. He is a wonderful father and husband, and I have complete faith that he will keep himself and his unit healthy and as safe as he can.

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