Spouse of Navy Lt. Jason Butler
USS George Washington, en route to Yokosuka, Japan
Most military spouses and families are used to the idea of packing up and moving from command to command, but not many are used to the command itself packing up and moving. For Monica Butler, USS George Washington’s (CVN 73) Family Readiness Group (FRG) president, helping the families of GW’s crew prepare for the ship’s move to Yokosuka, Japan, has been her main focus for months.
Monica’s husband, Lt. Jason Butler, left Norfolk in early April for a six-month deployment as the ship travels to Japan to take USS Kitty Hawk’s (CV 63) place as the forward-deployed carrier in the region.
Monica and her husband had just returned from a tour in Japan, so she was perfectly qualified to assist GW’s new FRG. She helped set up the FRG, organize deployment workshops and collect books for the United through Reading program.
“There were 14 people who were trying to set up the new FRG,” Monica explained. “We had no members and no income and had to set up fundraisers and basically start from scratch. But that hard work was extremely rewarding.”
As the FRG came into place, the next step was getting ready for the move.
“We worked with the ship’s chaplains and the Fleet and Family Services Center to put on three clinics in one night for couples, singles and children.”
Monica was instrumental to the success of the three book drives held in February and March for the ship’s reading program.
“We needed 200 books for the program to be successful,” Monica said. “We had only three months before the ship was leaving. We collected 600 books from family members, churches, teachers and friends.”
“Many times, Monica is the person to have an idea, and make it come to fruition by hard work, dedication and her ability to motivate others,” said Lisa Dykhoff, an advisor for the FRG. “She encourages an open and welcoming environment to all, regardless of rank. Monica exudes a positive attitude.”
Monica will continue to be the president of the FRG for those families who are not moving to Japan, as other members set up in Japan to set up there.
Monica, who is also GW’s Officer Spouse Club fundraising chairperson and mother to seven-month-old Cahdena, still finds the time to help coordinate monthly events through her church. She decided several years ago to direct her passion for community involvement toward these types of causes after choosing to leave her own career so she could support her husband’s.
“I had been a journalist for 10 years. I was a radio DJ and worked in TV during college and after I graduated,” Monica reminisced. “I had landed a job in D.C. as a political correspondent for NBC. When I married Jason, I wanted to continue my career, but it became difficult with the moving around. So if I can’t do journalism, I want to volunteer. It gives me a reason for being. I have to have something out of the house to focus on, to keep me sane while they are deployed.”
Before taking the role of GW’s FRG president, Monica was the ombudsman and president of the spouse’s club for Patrol Squadron 5 in Jacksonville, Fla., and president of the spouse’s club for the Tactical Support Center Detachment at Naval Air Facility, Kadena, Japan.
Having dedicating herself to volunteer work for the past six years, Monica is ready to put her efforts into some of her other loves- photography and jewelry making.
“I have taken 14 trips and 50,000 photos,” Monica said, “I know someone who wants me to write a book. I am also setting up my own online jewelry-making business. I learned the trade while working for a jewelry maker in Okinawa, Japan.”
Monica is humble about the idea of being nominated for the award.
“I was shocked,” Monica said. “I thought, ‘Are you kidding? I do this everywhere we go.’ The recognition is very flattering. But it shouldn’t be about me. I do this for everyone else.”