Thursday, February 26, 2015

TOP STORY >> Military Spouse of the Year

By Senior Airman Stephanie Serrano
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Behind the many men and women in the military who protect our great nation are the family members and spouses who stay home and guard the homefront. 

Jennifer Carroll, a military spouse, won the Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year Award Jan. 23, 2015, for Little Rock Air Force Base.

After winners were announced, Jennifer competed to be part of the Top 18 contestants. Although Jennifer did not win at the next level, she is still an inspiration to her husband, Master Sgt. John Carroll, the 19th Civil Engineer Squadron explosive ordnance disposal flight chief.  

Military spouses often juggle taking care of the children, working, supporting their spouses on deployments, and even volunteering to help around the local community.

Out of all the countless reasons why Carroll nominated his wife, he said the fact that she performed so many selfless acts to help people, and how she is constantly focused on everyone else but herself are two of the main reasons. 

“I decided to do something for her since she was doing everything for everyone else,” he said.

Jennifer did not believe she had any chance of winning.

“I didn’t have my hopes up for winning, because I don’t see what I do as anything that’s out of the ordinary,” she said. “I think every military spouse should find something in the community to do. Volunteering with schools and church is what I’ve always done. I have been volunteering for 17 years. I do anything and everything. I don’t see it as me going out of my way to help others.” 

Jennifer initially found out from her 17-year-old daughter that she won the award at base level. Her daughter had seen the post on Facebook and texted her mother. She then called her husband and told him the news. 

Jennifer was extremely shocked.

“I’m still kind of overwhelmed. It’s a huge honor. I’m still trying to wrap my head around it,” Jennifer said laughing. 

Of all the volunteer events Jennifer has helped with, one of her favorites is the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Ball. She is an honorary member of the Master Blasters, which is a community of active and retired Air Force EOD technicians. 

Every first weekend of May, the Master Blasters hold their annual EOD memorial where any technicians, active or retired, go to Eglin AFB, Florida. They honor members who have fallen and add new names of those that have lost their lives the previous year. 

“I had the honor of being the spouse liaison between the Master Blasters and the wounded warrior wives that would come,” said Jennifer as tears began to form. “I was pretty much their fairy godmother.”

She would drive the women to the spa where they would get pampered from head to toe.

“I would get to know the women one-on-one, but I never took part in the pampering,” she said. “If they needed a gown for the ball, I would take them to find a gown. Any accessories they needed, shoes, makeup, jewelry, whatever they needed to feel like a princess, that’s what I did.” 

Seeing the women happy was all the reward Jennifer needed. 

 “It was just,” she took a deep breath with tear-filled eyes then said, “It was great to be able to make them feel special for all they do for their loved ones who are injured.”

The feeling of joy that Jennifer brings to someone else’s life is why she continues to do what she does. 

Although she has won the award, she isn’t stopping there. A future goal for Jennifer is to raise awareness for post-traumatic stress disorder.

“I have personally been a caretaker of someone with PTSD,” she said. “One thing that I noticed and I wanted to raise awareness to, is how a service member with PTSD can function easier with a service dog.” 

Service dogs are trained to be alert and respond to what their owner is feeling while providing comfort, helping the owner to feel more relaxed. 

Jennifer is always looking to help people in any way she can, especially when it’s something she is very passionate about such as PTSD.

“I always want to do more,” said Jennifer laughing. “My husband tells me I have to slow down, but I always want to do more.”

Military Spouse Magazine founded the award in 2008 to honor military spouses of all ranks and branches. The award recognizes military spouses’ contributions and commitments to the military community and our country. Jennifer was one of 1,600 nominees for the award. 

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