JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. - Setting the example is a way of life for Tech. Sgt. Amy Ough, the Air National Guard's Honor Guard member of the Year. Ough takes to heart her influence as a role model, and is deeply committed to her family, her community and her unit.
"I think it's important to show my children and the next generation that your gender, your age, your profession doesn't matter. You can excel at anything, if you put your mind to it."
A mother of five in a blended family (ages 6 to 14), Ough is also a full-time member of the New York Air National Guard, assigned to the Eastern Air Defense Sector as a student registrar.
"Life is a balancing act. I'm really good at keeping work-at-work and home-at-home," she said. "They both have their challenges, but when I walk into work, I'm Tech. Sgt. Ough and completely professional. When I'm home, I'm all 'Mom' and a dedicated wife."
Prior to joining the Air Force, Ough worked as a waitress, as a retail customer service rep, and as a babysitter.
"I knew I definitely didn't want to work three jobs the rest of my life," she said. "So I did some research, met with a variety of recruiters, and fell in love with the Air Force."
After four-and-a-half years in the active component, Ough joined the Air National Guard.
For the honor of this award, Ough was selected from a nationwide pool of ceremonial Honor Guard members, an all-volunteer additional duty. She stood out because of her dedication, exceptional leadership and military bearing. She has volunteered countless hours at special events, funerals and military ceremonies as a member of the Honor Guard. She has also dedicated her time to numerous organizations, charities and special events including food drives, run-walks and school events.
"As a family, we are very active and we try to give back to the community. I think that's important," she said. "We also spend a lot of time outdoors together, doing everything from kayaking and fishing to bike riding and hunting."
She also doesn't have cable television, which helps the family stay off the couch.
"We recently purchased a home, and we haven't set up cable yet," she said. "It's been really nice not having it. I honestly don't know if we'll get it back again."
The oldest child of four, Ough is very close to her father, her sister Rebecca, and her brother, Michael.
"My youngest brother, Jordon, was killed in an underage drinking and driving accident. Unfortunately, he perished along with his friend. As hard as that was, we have definitely turned it into a positive life lesson for all of our children."
Ough's mother also died in a car accident, when Ough was only 5 years old.
"My family has had many losses. Fortunately that has brought us closer together. I am very close to my mom's youngest sister, my Aunt Debbie. She is very much like a mother to me," she said. "She helped raise my kids and has always been there for me, throughout all of my life challenges."
In 2012, Ough was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and had a full thyroidectomy.
"I had no voice for almost a year, because of damaged vocal cords. It was a life-changing event; I couldn't warn the kids if they were in danger, order coffee, or relay the most menial communication. It taught me that no matter what you go through in life - medically, physically and emotionally - there's always a way out of your problems. I stay strong, I'm positive and I'm pushing forward."
The experience also taught her that "it's not always most important what you have to say, it's what others have to say, as well."
Ough graduated from the Community College of the Air Force with an associate's degree in air and space operations technology, and she has taken classes toward a bachelor's degree. She plans to stay in the military for at least five more years, to complete her twenty.
"I'll stay as long as they let me," she said.
Asked what she wants to do in her future years, Ough said, "I want to be a successful parent who has sent all her children to college ... then I want to relax and enjoy the rest of my life."