Alameda Coast Guardsman’s spouse named Coast Guard Spouse of the Year

ALAMEDA, Calif. — A local Coast Guardsmen’s spouse was named the Coast Guard’s Spouse of the Year and has been nominated for the Military Spouse of the Year Award.

Mrs. Laura Vanderwerf will join four other nominees, from the four other military branches, in Washington D.C. in May, with an opportunity to meet with first lady Michelle Obama. Vanderwerf, a military spouse for 23 years, is married to the 11th Coast Guard District’s Command Master Chief Petty Officer Terence Vanderwerf.

“It is an honor having Laura in our Coast Guard family and supporting our district’s service members and families,” said Admiral Joseph “Pepe” Castillo, commander of the 11th Coast Guard District. “She is a dynamic force and a great advocate for our people; furthermore, we admire her dedication, are proud of her being awarded the Coast Guard’s Spouse of the Year and wish her all the best.”

Vanderwerf was nominated, in part, because of her continued volunteer efforts as an ombudsman, which she first began in 1994. Since 1994, Vanderwerf has served as an ombudsman for four units including the 17th Coast Guard District. She has had a positive influence on hundreds of people at units in Alaska, Washington and California. During her time in Seattle, Wash., Vanderwerf received the Swivel Shot Award, which is awarded to those who, through their voluntary commitment to the betterment of the world in which we live, enhance and enrich the lives of the Coast Guard family and community.

An ombudsman serves as a link between a Coast Guard command and the families of the command. An ombudsman can assist families with locating resources, communicating information from the command to the families, and addressing concerns of families to the command.

Although currently not an ombudsman in an official capacity in the 11th Coast Guard District, Vanderwerf is still an advocate for the program and supports the current ombudsman every way she can.

“I continue to advocate and support the ombudsman program because it is important to the families who have loved ones serving this country, whether home, deployed at sea or ashore,” said Vanderwerf.

“Laura was a crucial part of a team that helped relocate families during Hurricane Katrina in 2005,” said Terry Garrison, close friend and fellow ombudsman. “Family members were able to contact Laura and she would assist them with locating temporary housing until they could be reunited with their families.”

Following a tragic event that happened Oct. 29, 2009, when Air Station Sacramento’s rescue flight CG-1705 crashed and the crew was lost, Vanderwerf was one of the first to offer assistance to the devastated families. She helped provide comfort, support and food for the families struck by the tragedy.

“She has dedicated so much of her personal time to Coast Guard families; personal time that she was more than willing to give up, and yet, despite all of her efforts in mentoring families, she still made time for her role as wife and mother,” said Garrison.

“Aside from Laura’s extensive contributions to the ombudsman program, her personality has made her a legend within the ombudsman community,” said Garrison. “Laura has an enthusiastic personality. Her quiet willingness to give, share and appreciate has made her one of the most loved ombudsmen! Laura is one of the troopers who has stayed strong from year to year with the ombudsman program; she’s seen it all!”

Laura has raised three children–Joshua and Ryan, who are both serving in the U.S. Air Force, and Katy, a college student, who is pursuing a degree in medicine. Vanderwerf is also currently attending college to receive her Bachelor’s Degree in dental hygiene.

“Winning this award would leave me humbled and honored,” said Vanderwerf. “I don’t think I do anything differently or more special than any other ombudsman who support our military branches. There are so many unsung heroes–spouses who work so hard without anyone singing their praises.”

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