By MC2 Amanda Brittingham
Navy Public Affairs Support Element East Detachment Southeast
Despite the heavy rainfall and striking bolts of lighting, guests and active duty service members gathered at Naval Air Station (NAS) Jacksonville's River Cove Catering and Conference Center to recognize several military spouses during the third annual Jacksonville "Heroes at Home" Military Spouse Award Luncheon May 24.
The spouses were acknowledged for their sacrifices, strength and support for their military partners and families, and for their commitment to their community.
During the luncheon, guest speaker Rear Adm. Bette Bolivar, commander, Navy Region Southeast, shared her gratitude and congratulated the spouses for their dedication and support to the military and their country.
"It's a real pleasure to be here today," said Bolivar. "It gives me the opportunity to say thank you to the men and women who have the toughest job in department of defense, the military spouse."
Bolivar said that while service members are frequently deployed, military spouses undergo the challenge of taking care of their home front.
"As a military leader, I want you all to know how well I understand the sacrifices you make and how important you are, because I experienced it when I was a young kid," she said.
"You keep the family together. You often do the parenting for two. You juggle work, play dates, soccer practices, housework and have to worry about breakfast, lunch and dinner. All while you are trying to hide your own sadness when the kids look up and ask you when daddy or mommy is coming home."
Bolivar added that military spouses fulfill an important role by supporting their active duty loved ones so they can maintain operational readiness.
"It's because what you do each and every day, that our service members are able to meet their commitments to this great nation," she said. "We truly could not do what we do without the support of our spouses and families."
Prior to the conclusion of the event, Master of Ceremonies Jeannie Blaylock, news anchor for First Coast News, announced the 10 military spouse honorees, with one receiving the 2017 Heroes at Home Jacksonville Military Spouse of the Year.
Bolivar and John Shockley, Military Affairs representative/ Field Operations Southeast, presented the awards during the ceremony.
After being recognized as Spouse of the Year, Hannah Burke, whose spouse is stationed at Fleet Readiness Center Southeast, expressed her astonishment.
"I'm floored, I'm just floored," said Burke. "There are so many other military spouses that deserve the credit more than me. I am so honored to have won."
Nominations were provided by active duty personnel, spouse support groups, charitable organizations, friends and family. Eligibility for nomination included any spouse of active duty U.S. military service member, Guard or Reserves, living or serving in the Jacksonville, Florida area.
"It's an honor to be nominated," said Robin Martin, whose spouse is stationed at Naval Station Mayport.
"I feel like we don't give ourselves enough credit for what we do as spouses. And for someone to take the time and nominate me for what I do, and think I am worth it to be a hero is amazing. It truly is an honor."
A panel of four to five pre-selected judges in each region reviewed nominations. They considered the nominee's volunteer efforts, fortitude during deployments, personal sacrifices, support for other military families and impact on their community. Judges determined the finalists and Heroes at Home Military Spouse of the Year for each region covered by the contest. All nominees will receive an invitation to the heroes at home luncheon in their region.
The program was founded in Hampton Roads, Virginia in 2005 by Adair Wells, a sales development manager of the Flagship and Event Military Newspaper of Virginia. It was designed to recognize spouses from all ranks of the military branches who have demonstrated their volunteerism and support, serving and giving to the community.
For the past 13 years, Heroes at Home has continued to expand from Fort Lee, Virginia to Jacksonville, Florida, becoming an official statewide program in Virginia as of 2017.
To find at more information about "Heroes at Home" and the nomination process, please visit http://www.militarynews.com/heroes-at-home/jax_florida/.