Ashley Eller has been married to Matt for 7 years, and she wants to bring awareness to the high military spouse unemployment rate

13WMAZ

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. — Ashley and Matt Eller met in the 6th grade.

“He was a very cute soccer player,” said Ashley.

She said she noticed his blond ponytail and official soccer gear right off the bat.

They went their separate ways in high school and college and rekindled again as single parents.

“We shared with each other that we had these crushes on one another back in middle school, but were too shy to share it with each other,” said Ashley, laughing.

In 2013, the two married and now they have four children.

She said being a military spouse is an adventure.

“My journey as a military spouse has been absolutely incredible, and it has taken me from one side of the United States to another, and back,” Ashley said, but also says it comes with challenges.

“It takes us from location to location and you can’t take your family with you. So your friends, your neighbors, your community… that becomes your support system.”

Ashley’s Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year nomination platform aims to spread awareness about military spouse unemployment, which she said is at 14 percent nationwide.

“Military spouses bring a lot to the table. They are an untapped talent pool that we want the local community to be aware of,” which is why The Blue Boutique on Robins Air Force Base is a passion project of Ashley’s.

They provide free business attire for unemployed spouses looking for jobs, along with renting out affordable formal wear.

“I really love pouring back into our community, our military community, and giving back to these military spouses because so many other military spouses gave to me.”

She said moving from state to state makes finding employment hard.

Ashley worked as a teacher and she said getting licensed in every state is a long and difficult process.

She is also a part of the Robins Military Spouse Professional Network and the Middle Georgia Military Spouse Economic Empowerment Zone, which gives networking opportunities to unemployed spouses.

Both fall under the U.S. Chamber of Commerce ‘Hiring our Heroes’ program.

She is also the President of the Robins Spouses’ Club. They bring together a support system like the one Ashley said she has leaned on for the last seven years.

When they were stationed at Beale Air Force Base in California, Ashley said Matt was deployed half way around the world, her son was just six months old, and Ashley had the flu.

“I had no one to lean on, but out of nowhere, our neighbors who became our friends who later became our family, they came over and took our kids on play dates,” she said. “If it had not been for that support system that I had at Beale Air Force Base, I’m not sure how much I would have succeeded as a military wife.”

During their last four years at Robins Air Force, she has tried to become that support system for other spouses like her.

“Find your tribe. Find your village. Start building that social support network. Without it, it’s hard to succeed because you will go through hard times and you will need them there.”

Voting ends Friday at midnight. The top 18 will be announced before a winner is selected for each branch of the military and then one overall winner.

Ashley said it’s just an honor to be nominated.