RICHMOND, Va. – National Guard military spouses are honored and appreciated throughout the year, but they receive a special recognition on National Military Spouse Appreciation Day, which is celebrated the Friday before Mother’s Day. This year it will be observed Friday, May 8.
The spouses of our service members play an important role within the military family. National Guard spouses assist with unit morale and family continuity while the service member is away at drill, annual training, or on deployment.
The Virginia National Guard recognizes the sacrifices that military spouses make on a daily basis. Spouses who recognize and support the importance of the unit help keep the service member focused on the mission set before them.
“Military spouses play a significant role in the readiness, resilience, and strength of our National Guard,” said Vickie Sais, Virginia National Guard Family Programs director. “Our spouses are different from that of active duty spouses. National Guard spouses experience different challenges such separation from their spouse during individual drill training weekends, annual training, deployments and state active duty missions, but often do not have the depth of support services like that of the active duty counterparts. In Family Programs we try to fill the gaps in service and resources for those geographically dispersed families.”
Some of these spouses who do just that, are April L. Fisher, Sara L. Grau, Jessica L. Mullins, and Jennifer E. Vullo.
April Fisher is the spouse of Staff Sgt. Daniel C. Fisher, who is assigned to the Suffolk-based Bravo Troop, 2nd Squadron, 183rd Cavalry Regiment. Fisher serves as the Soldier and Family Readiness Group leader for both Alpha and Bravo troops.
Two of Fisher’s sons are also serving in the Virginia National Guard. As an Army veteran herself, Fisher knows how family readiness impacts unit readiness.
Fisher’s main focus as a Soldier and Family Readiness leader is to support each Soldier and family member by keeping the lines of communication open by email, letters, and phone calls, which provides the unit members and their families with resources and critical information.
Fisher ensures that the unit families benefit from Operation Homefront, Adopt-A-Unit program, youth programs, Military One Source, and many more. She ensures that all families know where to find more information about benefits that include education, adoption, finance, and much more.
During a state active duty mission to the Virgin Islands in support of hurricane relief efforts, Fisher found herself as an official source of information between the command and the families. This particular activation created a passion in Fisher to help support military families.
“During the hurricane relief efforts, generators were stolen by members of the local population from cell phone towers,” stated Fisher. “Family members of the unit were then charged international fees because the signal was bouncing off of British towers on other islands. I called cell phone companies to ensure the companies would remove the charges for each family because their Soldiers were located in a United States territory. Each cell phone company agreed to remove charges if the Soldier initiated reimbursement.”
Due to Fisher’s efforts, multiple family members were provided with refunds after exorbitant fees were charged unnecessarily.
“I found that my experience as a U.S. Army veteran helped immensely when family members were confused about situations,” said Fisher. “I can completely empathize with spouses and parents due to being a military spouse and being a Soldier’s mom, but I fully understand the Soldier’s position as well. It is not easy being in either position and I have an immense amount of respect to all involved with the military.”
Thanks to Fisher’s vision, the Smithfield Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8545 adopted the Suffolk-based Bravo Troop, 2nd Squadron, 183rd Cavalry Regiment. Such partnership has allowed traditional events and holiday meals to be hosted at the venue.
Fisher capitalizes on the two times a year that the families of the squadron are able to come together for family day and for the Christmas meal. Fisher oversees her Soldier and Family Readiness leadership team who are geographically dispersed all over the state of Virginia. Success for these events are critical as its one of very few times a year the families can come together, collaborate, and bond.
“I am so grateful to the leadership of Alpha and Bravo Troop, 2nd Squadron, 183rd Cavalry for entrusting me with their Soldiers’ families as their Soldier and Family Readiness group leader,” said Fisher. “It is an honor to support each wonderful family member and work with each amazing volunteer.”
Sara L. Grau is the spouse of Sgt. 1st Class Gilbert G. Grau, who is assigned to the Virginia Beach-based 529th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 329th Regional Support Group. Grau serves as the Soldier and Family Readiness Group leader for Headquarters Company.
Grau’s husband has served in Bosnia, Kuwait, and Syria. Due to the multiple deployments that Grau has had to navigate with their children, she became passionate about volunteering and giving back to the unit.
She became especially involved in focusing her efforts on finding resources and informing the spouses of the unit about the resources that are available to them, families and to National Guard youth. Through a private Facebook group, she helps to moderate information and encourages collaboration among the spouses.
Due to her many efforts, Grau was recognized as the 2019 Armed Forces Insurance Virginia Spouse of the Year.
“It is a challenge to make connections with fellow National Guard spouses due to being geographically dispersed throughout the state,” said Grau. “It is my mission to connect and bring these families together in a variety of ways such as connecting through online platforms and working toward common goals.
“These connections are what strengthen our ability to maintain the home-front while our Soldiers are protecting our freedom or supporting in-state emergencies,” she said. “I’m truly passionate about giving back to the military community from planning family days, to holiday dinners, to deployment ceremonies, to making face masks during COVID-19. It brings me great joy to know that I can help in a small way for the sacrifices our Soldiers make daily.”
Jessica L. Mullins is the spouse of Spc. Jonathan R. Mullins, who is assigned to the Charlottesville-based Alpha Company, 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment. Mullins serves as the Alpha Company Soldier and Family Readiness Group leader. When she agreed to volunteer for this position, the position had gone vacant for a significant amount of time.
Mullins’ husband is still fairly new to the Virginia National Guard but this did not stop her from getting involved. Soon after her husband joined the Virginia National Guard, he was assigned to support security operations in Charlottesville after a state of emergency was declared in August 2017.
Mullins enjoys collecting items from Operation Homefront for children of Soldiers within the unit and she ensures no child goes without school supplies in August or a new toy in December for Christmas.
“We are a family that likes to stay involved with each other’s interests and the Virginia National Guard has given us that opportunity through volunteering,” said Mullins.
Jennifer E. Vullo is the spouse of Capt. Corey R. Vullo, who is assigned to the Winchester-based 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Brigade Combat Team. Jennifer serves as her husband’s Soldier and Family Readiness Group leader.
Vullo’s husband is a first responder in Washington, D.C., and serves as a company commander for the Headquarters Company. Vullo’s husband is currently on state active duty orders to assist in the statewide COVID-19 response.
As a U.S. Army veteran, Vullo knows first-hand the sacrifices Soldiers make. She acknowledges that the demands of a citizen Soldier and the requirement to juggle the demands of a civilian job as well as obligations of the National Guard are difficult.
The Virginia National Guard Family Programs has a very active family readiness program that exists for the purpose of supporting, educating, and preparing families of National Guard service members.
This month, the Virginia National Guard Family Programs is saluting military spouses by recognizing them with a personalized certificate of appreciation signed by the Adjutant General. For service members who register, spouses will receive a certificate in the mail during the month of May.
Virginia National Guard members can register their spouse to receive a certificate at: https://2020milspouserecognition.splashthat.com
You can learn more about the Virginia National Guard Family Programs as well as the Virginia National Guard Youth Programs by following them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/VAGuardFamilyPrograms
and at www.facebook.com/VANGYouthProgram