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    Faces of MCIPAC – Honoring military spouses for continued support and achievement

    2020 Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year - Base Winners

    Photo By Staff Sgt. Timothy Turner | The military spouse selected for Camp Courtney is Mrs. Elizabeth Lopez-Castro, a...... read more read more

    CAMP FOSTER, OKINAWA, JAPAN

    03.04.2020

    Story by Sgt. Timothy Turner 

    Marine Corps Installations Pacific

    CAMP FOSTER, OKINAWA, Japan - Three spouses of MCIPAC’s very own were selected for the Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year award for Marine Corps Base Camp Smedley D. Butler (MCB Butler), Camp Courtney, and Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Futenma.

    Founded in 2008, the Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year (AFI MSOY) award honors military spouses from all branches of service. According to the AFI MSOY website, more than one million military spouses support and maintain the home front while our service members defend this great nation.

    AFI MSOY nominations are made by the civilian and military community. There are four rounds voting to determine the overall winner for all U.S. Armed Services. The announcement of the overall AFI MSOY is held in Washington, D.C. in early May.

    The military spouse selected for MCB Butler is Mr. David Carrera, a Windsor, Connecticut native, and spouse to U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Flores-Carrera with U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa.

    Carrera is an avid volunteer in the community, dedicating his time to coaching military youth soccer on island, volunteering with a dragon boat team, school PTO, and Help Oki, a non-profit that service orphanages and women's shelters
    here in Okinawa.

    “It's important to let our host nation of Japan, and those in Okinawa know that we appreciate and celebrate their culture, “said Carrera on his AFI MSOY candidate profile.

    He also assists service members and their families by serving as a sponsor, providing transportation for those who have larger families and pets, and running a YouTube channel in which he explores Okinawa to celebrate unique sights and culture.

    Carrera leads a Facebook group for supporting male military spouses with their PCS, with getting jobs, and even emotional support. Carrera says, “Depression, anxiety, and homesickness are a real part of a spouse's life here, with our Manpendent support group, we try to bridge the gap and open doors to make Okinawa feel more like home. The support and meet ups we create, help build a sense of community and strength.”

    The military spouse selected for Camp Courtney is Mrs. Elizabeth Lopez-Castro, a native of Galveston Island, Texas, and spouse to U.S. Marine Corps Master Sgt. Samuel Castro, a signal intelligence chief with III Marine Expeditionary Force.

    Castro is no stranger to leadership and volunteerism in the military community, leading and serving on committees for many organizations and groups such as the Boy Scouts of America, Blue Star Families organization, the Marine Reading Program, Military Spouse Advocacy Network, Breast Cancer Advocacy, and more.

    Castro is also a DoDEA educator and has been active in leaving a positive impact in the Okinawa military community, "As a DoDEA educator and a mother, I came to realize this special form of recognition for the unique circumstances and sacrifices of our military children was missing here in Okinawa. I established a volunteer committee of fellow educators & we quickly put things in motion. I secured local base media to cover our Month of the Military Child events. We organized a school-wide student-led rally with over 500 students in collaboration with the high school band," she said on her AFI MSOY profile.

    She is a breast cancer survivor and strives to use her experience to set the example for her family, and others.

    As outlined on her profile, Castro described her adventure with her military spouse,"The truth is, neither of us would be who we are nor where we are without the other."

    "Despite the challenges this life of service presents, we've persevered together with smiles on our faces and the comfort of knowing that we have truly established roots wherever the Corps sends us."

    Castro outlined her intended mission to set the example for other military spouses, "It's my goal for the AFI MSOY class of 2020 to extend this same sentiment of unity throughout the military family community at-large. Together, by example, we can work to encourage and empower other spouses to cross “the first threshold” by reminding them how exceptional they are. Each of them possess the ability to demonstrate agency, positively influence others, and embody the change they wish to see in the world around them," she said.

    The military spouse selected for MCAS Futenma is Mrs. Tracy Steele, a native of Wilmette, Illinois, and spouse to U.S. Marine Corps Col. David Steele, commanding officer, MCAS Futenma.

    Steele is very involved with the community, performing a variety of duties in areas such as the MCAS Futenma command team, and on the boards of various spouses’ clubs, school PTOs, a gift shop, and travel baseball team.

    She is also the President of the American Welfare & Works Association, an international non-profit organization that supports the local military and Japanese communities through financial grants.

    Steele empathizes with fellow spouses on the struggles and stressors that can accompany a military lifestyle. “As a seasoned spouse, I know this firsthand and have been dedicated to helping spouses get involved and connect within their community through volunteerism, “said Steele on her AFI MSOY candidate profile.

    “My involvement has enabled me to connect military spouses with people and roles that they are passionate about, thus improving their quality of life and in turn helping them make a difference in the local community,” she said.

    Carrera and Castro were selected as finalists for the Navy and Marine Corps respectively and will be running for the overall AFI MSOY. Their profiles may be viewed at https://msoy.afi.org/profiles/2020-david-carrera and https://msoy.afi.org/profiles/2020-elizabeth-ann-castro.

    This story was edited 3/6/2020 to add the awarded spouse winner for Camp Courtney.

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    NEWS INFO

    Date Taken: 03.04.2020
    Date Posted: 03.04.2020 06:13
    Story ID: 364422
    Location: CAMP FOSTER, OKINAWA, JP 
    Hometown: GALVESTON, TX, US
    Hometown: WILMETTE, IL, US
    Hometown: WINDSOR, CT, US

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