From the Homefront: 2015 Coast Guard spouse of the year

Twice a month, Coast Guard All Hands will feature “From the Homefront,” a column for Coast Guard spouses by Coast Guard spouse Shelley Kimball. Shelley has been married to Capt. Joe Kimball, chief of the office of requirements and analysis at Coast Guard headquarters, for 14 years. She currently serves as an advisor for the Military Family Advisory Network.

Written by Shelley Kimball

Janet Cantrell and Valerie Johnson, two of the Coast Guard's Ombudsmen-at-Large, pose for a photo with Stacey Benson, the 2015 Coast Guard Spouse of the Year during the Military Spouse of the Year Awards Luncheon. Photo courtesy of Stephen Barrett.

Janet Cantrell and Valerie Johnson, two of the Coast Guard’s Ombudsmen-at-Large, pose for a photo with Stacey Benson, the 2015 Coast Guard Spouse of the Year during the Military Spouse of the Year Awards Luncheon. Photo courtesy of Stephen Barrett.

She was first an Army wife, and then became a Coast Guard wife when her husband transitioned from one branch to another. She has stood by for six deployments and four moves. And now she is being honored for her efforts in supporting the military spouse community.

Stacey Benson was selected as the 2015 Armed Forces Insurance Coast Guard Spouse of the year by Military Spouse Magazine. She is looking forward to focusing this next year assisting military families.

“It’s so overwhelming and I am so incredibly honored to be selected for this position,” she said. “I just hope that I can continue to help as many military spouses as I possibly can.”

Photo by Bill Keefrey.

Photo by Bill Keefrey.

She has been married to Larry Benson, a maritime law enforcement officer, for 13 years. Larry Benson has been in the Coast Guard for 9 years, and before that he served 6 years in the Army. The Bensons are currently stationed in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, and they have a son, Zachary, 10.

Stacey Benson said the original nomination was a complete shock.

“I got an email letting me know I was nominated, and I almost fell out of my chair.,” she said. “I was so excited, I couldn’t believe it!”

Benson was nominated by Jay Ha’o, the president of the Military Spouses of Newport club. Benson is the chair of the hospitality committee, which welcomes new members and coordinates socials.

For example, this past summer, the club was gearing up for its annual welcome social at the same time most of the board had PCS’ed. Ha’o was working on filling the vacant positions while an event for 250 guests and 70 vendors was looming.

Benson stepped up, and with military precision, led the group through a successful event.

Stacey Benson and her husband, Larry Benson. Stacey Benson was named the 2015 Armed Forces Insurance Coast Guard Spouse of the year by Military Spouse Magazine. Photo courtesy of Stacey Benson.

Stacey Benson and her husband, Larry Benson. Stacey Benson was named the 2015 Armed Forces Insurance Coast Guard Spouse of the year by Military Spouse Magazine. Photo courtesy of Stacey Benson.

“With the shear amount of work planning, designing flyers and banners, securing a location, attaining door prizes and leading a small army to prepare, setup and run the welcome social, all the while running her household, her photography business and working at Newport Hospitals, I was duly impressed and grateful Stacey stayed on to help MSoN,” Ha’o said.

Ha’o said having Benson as part of the club has made his experience as its president that much more positive.

“As the President of MSoN I am proud to have nominated Stacey, let alone know and work with her on various projects,” Ha’o said. “As a military spouse, I am humbled and delighted to have Stacey not only represent Coast Guard spouses, but also be an example to all military spouses.”

Multitasking seems to be a honed skill for Benson. She is the military liaison at a hospital in Newport, where she helps military spouses find jobs, and she owns a photography business.

Photo courtesy of Stacey benson.

Photo courtesy of Stacey benson.

But, like many military spouses, her career path has been a patchwork depending on what she could find at each duty station. She has been a wedding coordinator, a wholesale travel package seller, a fundraising solution and support provider, a project manager, a cake baker, a photography prop maker, a photographer, a graphic designer and a secretary. For that reason, she is passionate about helping military spouses and veterans find work.

Meanwhile, life as a military spouse continues to inspire Benson.

“It has been tough, but we have made it work and it has made us stronger as a family. Due to military life we have been lucky enough to live in some amazing places, establish some lasting friendships, and have had some remarkable experiences,” Benson wrote in her nomination materials. “Knowing back in 2000 what I know now, would I have selected a different path for my life? I would not want to change a single second, because this life has shaped me into the person I am today.”

Do you have questions for Stacey Benson? Ask them or share your congratulations for her in the comments below!

The views expressed herein are those of the author and are not to be construed as official or reflecting the views of the Commandant or of the U.S. Coast Guard.

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