Military Spouse Magazine

JAN 2019

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O U R L I V E S DO YOU KNOW ME? I MEAN, REALLY KNOW ME. The woman I am because of what I faced before I became a military spouse. So many of us may think we know each other, but buried underneath, many of us carry the weight of our past. Here is my story... As a child, I faced a lot of hard- ships, unique circumstances, that most children never encounter. I was born in Gardena, Calif., but was being raised in South Central, Los Angeles, in the small town of Watts. My parents divorced when I was a toddler. My mother began her life as a single parent with the help of my grandmother. At the age of 6, my bio- logical father passed away. My mother had already remarried prior to his passing. When she was pregnant with my younger sister, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Simultaneously, my grandmother fell ill. In April of 1993, my grandmother passed away. She was my family's rock and my best friend. The news of her passing was devastating. I Homeless The story behind who I am today. By Marla Bautista, Army Spouse physically could not control the hurt I felt. I could not be consoled. By now, my family relocated to Denver, Colo. My mother was sick, she was hurting both emo- tionally and physically. She had undergone a double mastectomy and chemotherapy to combat the cancer in her body. My child- hood ended at 2:15 a.m., May 6, 1993. That's when my step father received the call from the hospice center, where my mother had been placed to live in comforting peace. Three weeks after my grandmother died, my mother succumbed to cancer. I had noth- ing left. This should never happen to a child, not me, not anyone. By the age of 9, I had lost both my parents and my grandmother. A NIGHTMARE FOLLOWED After the death of my mother, I suffered years of abuse. I ran away from home countless times, but always returned out of despair. At the age of 18, I was kicked out of my home for good and onto the streets. I had nothing. I had a job, but with nowhere to live and no trans- portation, it became nearly impossible to get to work. I was a homeless teenager. I stayed in shelters when I could, but with limitations on the length of time in shelter, I had to leave every few days and find somewhere else to go. I ate at local churches and received basic care items from them as well. Seeing the volunteers take time out of their lives to help people like me, people who needed help, was life changing for me. I vowed that if ever given the op- portunity I would give back to my community the same way those selfless servants had. At the age of 22, I was finally finding my way. I was no longer homeless. I worked as a waitress, making ends meet. My younger sister ended up living with me. I was her guardian. I was responsible for her life as if she was my own child. It was a hard life. I was determined to never go back to the place I was when I was a teen. I received an opportunity, to obtain an amazing position in a hotel. I interviewed and was hired. To this day, I am so grateful to my former supervi- sors for taking a chance on me. I don't know where I'd be today if it wasn't for them. A NEW BEGINNING Eleven years ago, while working at the hotel, I met my husband. Today, I am a proud Army wife, with three amaz- ing children. I have earned two college degrees, authored a book, started a business, and am an avid volunteer within the military com- munity. I am the co-founder of The Bautista Project, a company with a mission to help people in need by giving a percentage of our profits to local homeless communi- ties. I am a Family Readiness Group (FRG) Leader, a sitting president of a spouses' club, and the Armed Force Insur- ance 2018 Military Spouse of the Year Base Level Winner (Fort Drum). I have achieved all of this through faith, perseverance, and resilience. As an Army spouse, the chal- lenges I face now are different, but no less difficult. Being a solo parent for months, sometimes years at a time, can be exhausting and can create a whole new realm of emotional and mental issues. Socializing with other spouses can be tough as well, espe- cially when your spouse is not home. I have overcome so much tribu- lation in my life. I am an advocate for those in need and I will fight with everything in me to help better the lives of others. Military spouses come from different backgrounds, and it is important to remember there is a story behind all of us. If I have learned any- thing over the years as an Army spouse, it is to take care of myself. I am no good to my spouse, my children, or anyone else, if I am empty. For years, I ran on empty, in my marriage, as a mother, as a student, and as a volunteer. I didn't realize I was not giving myself anything because, well honestly, I never had anything given to me. Everything I acquired in my life was by hard work. I was never taught to take care of me, even today, I'm not completely sure what that means. Over time, I have learned to take better care of myself, not just physically, but mentally as well. By doing this, I can make better decisions for myself, my family, and anything else I may be involved in. IF YOU HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY TO BE A POSITIVE INFLUENCE IN SOMEONE'S LIFE, DO IT! SOMETIMES, PEOPLE JUST NEED A LITTLE GUIDANCE TO FIND THEIR WAY TO THE RIGHT PATH. IF YOU ARE THE PERSON WHO NEEDS GUIDANCE, REACH OUT. THERE IS ALWAYS SOME- ONE WILLING TO HELP. EVERYONE HAS A STORY, WHAT'S YOURS? H Photos provided by Marla Bautista • Illustration by Matias Mundo 28 MILITARYSPOUSE.COM / JANUARY 2019

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