Home News Local News Roswell native named ‘Army Spouse of the Year’

Roswell native named ‘Army Spouse of the Year’

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Submitted Photo Roswell native Yvonne Coombes’ organization, Operation Deploy Your Dress, was started to help U.S. Army families with the financial burden of attending a military ball.

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

Roswell native Yvonne Coombes and her husband, LTC Michael Coombes (3-29 FA Battalion Commander) met while he was attending New Mexico Military Institute. Their journey eventually led them to the nation’s capital, and now they are stationed in Fort Carson — calling Colorado home.

Recently, Yvonne received a call to let her know that she was being awarded for her hard work and determination in taking an idea and transforming it into an organization that has become a gift to military spouses.

In late December 2015, while at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Yvonne was one of five military spouses who teamed up to host an event that would assist their unit spouses with finding affordable formal wear to help ease some of the financial burden that comes with attending a military ball.

What began as a casual discussion quickly gathered momentum and eventually received national media attention. This one event saw the birth of Yvonne’s organization, Operation Deploy Your Dress (ODYD). Yvonne explains how surprising it was: “From this one conversation, thousands of gowns, shoes, and other formal accessories arrived from all over the country.”

The organization took off and keeps expanding each year. For the first two and a half years, the cofounders funded this unique way to support the troops out of their own pockets. But, Yvonne says, “For the last year and a half, ODYD has been extremely fortunate by being gifted with a couple of grants and to work with some very supportive organizations, like the Association of the United States Army.”

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With these benefactors, financial considerations eased a bit. And now, four years into the project, it continues to be run entirely by military spouse volunteers. “They believe in what we’re doing. They join the ODYD team, and ultimately leave their mark on the greater military community,” Yvonne said.

With seven shops on installations around the country, and two more opening in late spring, ODYD has grown steadily. “We always make sure we’re growing smart, not fast.” Yvonne continues, “We are now giving away 4,000-plus dresses per year; not too bad for a program that was originally created to put on a two-day event.”

Being founded by Army spouses, expanding into Army installations has been easy, but as Yvonne looks to the future, she wants others to know that, “Although we support all branches of service we would love to get our shops into other branches’ installations to have better access to those military families.”

It was in late November of last year that Yvonne, after her dedication to ODYD, was nominated for the AFI award. The AFI, Armed Forces Insurance, is now in its 13th year honoring the dedication of the nation’s more than 1.1 million military spouses. They recognize the sacrifices made from all six branches of the Armed Forces.

Just a month ago, Yvonne was told she’d been selected as the 2020 Armed Forces Insurance Fort Carson Military Spouse of the Year.

“And only a week later,” she states, “I was named to the top 18 finalists, which consisted of three finalists from each branch of service, and on March 9, I found out that I was named the overall 2020 Armed Forces Insurance Army Spouse of the Year, representing the entire U.S. Army. I think I’m still spinning a bit from that one. It’s such an honor and a little unbelievable still.”

The overall winner will be announced at a gala in Washington, D.C. on May 7. This comes at a time (May 4-7) when the Military Spouse of the Year’s (MSOYs) Town Hall events will be held. “The MSOYs, representing installations all over the world, will come in and celebrate everything we have been working on and the amazing things military spouses are doing. I’m very excited to be a part of the events … The dinner is at the end of Town Hall and I’m excited about that, too. We get to dress up and have a fancy night out, so it’s very exciting.”

When speaking about her life in Colorado, Yvonne says it was a bit of a culture shock at first after living in D.C., however, “It’s so beautiful and the people and community have been so amazing and welcoming, it’s hard not to love it.”

And when asked what she misses most in regard to her hometown, she is quick to reply: “I love Roswell. The closeness of the Roswell community is just such a great feeling; I am always happy to come home and visit my family and friends. The great thing about Roswell is no matter how long you’ve been gone, it always feels like coming home when you return.”

One thing Yvonne would like everyone to know is, “People don’t have to be military or military affiliated to get involved with Operation Deploy Your Dress. Our donations and support come from all over the country and we are giving the American population (military and civilian) a unique way to ‘support the troops.’ This is more than just giving military families free dresses. We are providing opportunities to create community and build camaraderie at these events, so they are very important.”

For those who wish to know more, the ODYD website is operationdeployyourdress.org/.

By Amy Lignor
Special to the Daily Record