3 Fort Polk spouses nominated for Military Spouse of the Year
FORT POLK, La. (KALB) - The Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year award recognizes military spouses’ contributions and commitment to the military community and to the country.
Nominees have demonstrated outstanding work in the military community with plans to improve the lives of other community members. The winner of the award gets to utilize a national platform to implement those plans.
At Fort Polk in Vernon Parish, there are three nominees for Military Spouse of the Year, each of them nominated by their peers.
Manda Lynn McVey is a holistic wellness practitioner, a spouse master resilience trainer, behavior change and fitness nutrition specialist and yoga teacher. She was nominated by a former military spouse of the year. Through her experience, McVey has found military spouses are often unaware of the resources that are available to them and aims to make those resources more easily accessible and abundant while continuing resilience training.
“When I found holistic wellness practitioning and then resilience training, and was able to spin that into a career of something that I love, was like a dream come true,” said McVey. “So, to be able to bring that to the military community at large and to try to make it where there are sustainable programs to educate spouses on the resources available and how to find them and how they can help build personal resilience would just mean the world.”
McVey reflected on a time when she utilized her training and helped other military spouses through a crisis.
“Several spouses were facing mental crisis and several of them reached out to me. Through various training that I’d received, I was able to keep them on the phone and text the chaplain,” said McVey. “One of them was actually a spouse that I was really close with and I saw her progress and just become a much stronger person because she reached out, and she wasn’t afraid to reach out because she knew me and she knew that I wasn’t judgemental.”
Emily McGruder is the President of the Spouses and Community Club at Fort Polk. Her first initiative as president was to open the club that was formerly only for spouses to the entire Fort Polk community. Focusing on community, McGruder recently won the gold tier presidential volunteer award for volunteering over 600 hours in 2021. She hopes to offer more community-building tools that include everyone at Fort Polk.
“I want those resources and tools to be available more easily because your family is not here, your friends are not here,” said McGruder. “So, by easily providing them it just makes life so much better, so much more rewarding, I want it to be the hardest goodbye when you leave Fort Polk. I have had friends who have left that will be friends for the rest of my life.”
McGruder said she knows that even simple actions can make members of the community feel more welcome at Fort Polk.
“It’s as simple as inviting someone for coffee,” said McGruder. “I think everyone wants to feel seen, they want to feel heard, they want to feel connected, they want to know that they make an impact. Even just the smallest interaction with someone can make a really big change.”
Jamie Lynn Blum is a social worker and advocates for mental health awareness for military spouses. She also volunteers with the Spouses and Community Club at Fort Polk. Blum lost a friend and fellow military spouse in 2019 from suicide, and since then she has advocated for the normalcy of receiving mental health services, she also hosts a mental health Monday Check-in vlog, discussing mental health topics.
“I want people to access mental health services,” said Blum. “I want that to become so normal that it’s just like making an appointment at the eye doctor. If I were to become the Military Spouse of the Year, that would give me the platform here in America and also somewhat international because we do have bases all over the world, to bring the importance of mental health to the forefront of our conversations with military spouses.”
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