By C. Todd Lopez
Fort Myer, Va. (May 10, 2019) -- Holly Vega, the spouse of Marine Corps Lt. Col. Javier Vega for 18 years, was named the 2019 Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year during a ceremony at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Virginia.
Vega was chosen for the honor from a pool of candidates, one each from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and National Guard.
The Vega family, including the couple's three children, is stationed at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida.
"Holly's volunteerism, generosity, and passion to serve military families in her community has earned her this award," said Catherine Thomas, spouse of Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Gary Thomas.
"Holly is passionate about consistency in education for military children, which is why she supports and volunteers for the 'Purple Up' kids' program. She not only volunteers in her community, but she also works part time for Military Home Base and is a full-time student at Park University, studying social psychology and organizational communication.
"Fellow military spouses describe Holly as a ray of sunshine, full of warmth and life, and she has a reputation for being generous, kind, and is known for lifting up other military spouses when they need it most."
Vega stays extremely busy at MacDill, serving as an ambassador to the South Tampa Chamber of Commerce, a "Heart Heathy Advocate" and co-leader with Military Hearts Matter, a co-leader of a Girl Scouts Brownie troop, co-leader for the Military Kids Club at Lithia Elementary School, co-facilitator for Our Forces Book Club, and other activities.
"Serving my community has been a joy, and I am privileged and grateful every day for it," Vega said. "I am pleased and honored to be so humbled to be selected as the overall 2019 Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year."
Having been previously nominated as the 2019 AFI Military Marine Corps Spouse of the Year "was like waking up on Christmas morning, coming downstairs and finding that bright, shiny red bike that you thought you were never going to get," Vega said. "Those feelings of excitement are right now."
Before the ceremony, each military service chose its own nominee for the award. Those awardees include:
Maria Reed, an Army spouse, stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, with her husband of 16 years, Army Sgt. 1st Class Patrick Reed, and their two children. As an advocate to improve the quality of life of military families, Reed produces the web video series "Moving with the Military," which can be seen online at http://www.movingwiththemilitary.tv.
Reed says the series "not only celebrates military families, but encourages, inspires, and empowers military spouses to discover their passion."
Michelle D. Norman, a Navy spouse, stationed in Norfolk, Virginia, with her husband of 23 years, Navy Capt. Cassidy Norman, and their two children. The two met while studying engineering in Texas. In 2003, their daughter, Marisa, was born early, at just 27 weeks.
"It was the beginning of my new life of advocating," Norman said. Since that time, Norman has worked tirelessly to advocate for better education for special-needs children, and for improvements to the military's Exceptional Family Member Program.
Katelyn Tinsley, an Air Force spouse, stationed at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina, with her husband of eight years, Air Force Tech. Sgt. Mark Tinsley, and their three children. Tinsley founded a nonprofit organization in 2016 called "Homefront Room Revival" to help military families improve resilience and to enrich their lives.
"As both a military spouse and veteran, I saw several gaps in targeted community programs for families and found a need to creatively innovate something new to help others who have had struggles through military life," Tinsley said.
Jessica Manfre, a Coast Guard spouse, stationed in Cape May, New Jersey, with husband of 11 years, Coast Guard Senior Chief Petty Officer Scott Manfre and their two children. During the recent government shutdowns, Manfre started up a food pantry -- sponsored by the Jersey Cape Military Spouses Club -- to help Coast Guard personnel feed their families when they weren't getting paid.
"It grew to the point that it proudly could support not only southern New Jersey families in need, but also those in several other states across the country," she said.
Samantha Gomolka, a National Guard spouse who lives in Kingwood, West Virginia, with her husband of 14 years, Army Warrant Officer 2 Michael Gomolka and their three children. She and Mark are setting up a nonprofit organization called "Project 33 Memorial Foundation" to create awareness of Special Operation Soldiers who have been killed in action since Sept. 11, 2001.
"We honor one soldier per year and tell the story of their life and sacrifice from January through May. A voice for the quiet professionals," Gomolka said. "We had our inaugural event last May, a 6.9-mile run through our hometown on Memorial Day."