MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. --
Very few people understand the life of a Marine spouse. It’s a life of continuous relocations, emotional stress, constant worrying, deployment woes and marriage trials. These are just some of many concerns facing military spouses today. One Cherry Point spouse has been recognized recently for her contributions to the Marine Corps as a wife of one of the few, the proud.
“In the past ten years, I have met some of the most amazing people I think I will ever meet in my life,” Erin C. Whitehead said humbly about her journey as the wife of Gunnery Sgt. Joseph E. Whitehead and the mother of her 8-year-old daughter, Morgan Whitehead. “They also happen to be military spouses.”
The Whiteheads have been married for 10 years. In that time, they have endured two deployments to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Joseph’s first deployment was from February through August 2003. Morgan was born during that deployment. The second deployment for the family was from April through November 2008, an extremely difficult one for Erin.
“The second deployment I lost my nephew, so it was a really tough time for me,” said the 35-year-old Florida native about the untimely death of 8-year-old Brendan S. Coates.
Not having her husband physically at home to help her, Erin leaned on the people who had become her support group.
“During both deployments, I had a great support group of military spouses and people in the community who helped me during those tough times.”
According to Erin, those tough times and her strong network of friends – mostly other military spouses, made an impact in her life. She said they made her stronger and enabled her to deal with difficult situations in a positive way.
“You can take those things that are not great about your life and you can either wallow in the sorrow for a long time or you can say ‘ok this stinks. What am I going to do to make this a little easier for myself and how can I turn this into a positive,” Erin added.
According to a co-worker and friend of Erin’s, this philosophy of positive thinking has been the staple of Erin’s life as a volunteer for the Cherry Point community.
“She really knows how to put a positive spin on pretty much everything,” said Jessica L. Livingston, a trainer for Lifestyle Insights Networking Knowledge and Skills. L.I.N.K.S. is a volunteer mentoring program created by spouses for spouses.
“Erin is the type of person who would respond to ‘the sky is falling’ by saying ‘at least we are getting closer to heaven,’” added Livingston, who spent more than a year working closely with Erin.
Erin has used her wisdom and encouraging demeanor to guide and mentor young spouses through her activities as a L.I.N.K.S. mentor, added Livingston. She has spent more than two years at Cherry Point and has done as much as she can for the air station’s spouses.
Besides her volunteer work as a mentor, Erin also serves as music director for a children’s choir, collects donations for the Ronald McDonald House, organized a team for St. Jude the Apostle Parish for 2009’s Fun Run in New Bern, N.C., and is a Web designer for two separate Web sites. One Web site is for a foundation Erin started for children with cancer. She set this up in memory of her late nephew. The other is a blog and advice Web site for military spouses.
Her volunteer activities have not only been beneficial to the Cherry Point community but have also gained the attention of the nationally published Military Spouse magazine.
Erin was recently nominated for Military Magazine’s 2010 Military Spouse of the Year award. Every year nominations are sent to the magazine, and five spouses from each branch of the military are chosen to compete for Spouse of the Year. Voting for the award is done online at http://www.msoy.milspouse.com.
“I feel honored to be nominated for this award,” Erin added. “At the same time there are some great nominees on that list.”
“I truly believe the person who wins this award can truly make a difference,” Erin said. “If I were to win the award, I would try to do everything I can to represent it well.”
Award or not, Erin will continue to be a role model for military spouses Corps-wide.
“It is my responsibility as a Marine wife to be there for fellow spouses, to share my experience with them and mentor them as much as possible just like people did for me when I was a young spouse,” Erin said.
“There is a saying ‘see a need, fill a need’ and that is exactly what Erin does,” Livingston said.