“Author, mother, volunteer, advocate and army wife.”
That’s what they say when I am introduced before speaking. The only thing I hear is silence. What defines me? Is it the things I do for others? I’m Marla, a woman whose life’s focus has been taking care of those around me.
As a young girl who spent my early years in Watts, California, then to Denver, Colorado, my life hasn’t been without its struggles. I lost both biological parents at a very young age, faced bouts of abuse throughout my childhood and barely finished high school. I was a product of my environment. Yes, I know it sounds so cliché, but it’s true. Girls like me didn’t end up living successful lives; they ended up pregnant, in jail, or worse…dead.
I was the exception, but not without my own trials and tribulations. As a young adult, I had my fair share of legal issues, domestic violence, sexual abuse and even homelessness. But I was determined to be different. I wanted to be successful, even if I wasn’t taught how to be. I wanted to show girls who came from backgrounds like mine that they didn’t have to be stuck just because it was something they were used to.
When I was homeless, I used to sleep in community shelters and eat at local churches. I was always told by the counselors and case managers that I was different. There was something in me that stood out from the rest of the girls in the same situation. I met so many women throughout my journey that mentored and guided me. These women taught me how to be assertive and not allow my past to negatively affect my future.
I became an army wife in 2007 when I met a very handsome and tenacious man who made me feel like everything was all right in the world. We were married after only knowing each other for 30 days. Fast forward 11 years and three children later, we are still learning and growing together, but as a family.
Being an army wife of color has its challenges. There are many stereotypes and labels that are placed upon army wives. Being a spouse of color is no different. I have been ridiculed and often called names. I have been told to quit because no one supports what I believe in. I am not a quitter. I have overcome so many obstacles and am still willing to give of myself to help better someone else.
Today, I am an avid volunteer within the army community. I am currently a Family Readiness Group Leader and President of a Spouses’ Club. In early 2018, I was named the Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year Base Level Winner for Fort Drum, NY. I conduct events, fundraisers and take care of soldiers and their family members. I have visited military and civilian prisons hoping to spread the message of faith and healing to all those that would listen.
I told myself that if I ever made it out of “the struggle life,” I would do my best to provide for the less fortunate any and every chance I had. As a mother, I want to show my children how to love in a world full of hate, trust in a world of untruths and be courageous in a fearful place. Everything I do is an example. It is up to me whether that example is good or bad. My past will not determine my future. I am an empowered woman. I am defined by my resilience and selfless service.
Author: Marla Bautista
Author Bio: Marla Bautista is an army wife, mother of three, and the published author of “My Thoughts Abandoned,” released in 2017. She is a freelance writer and blogger. Marla has contributed articles for multiple companies including Military Crashpad, Sleeping Baby, Soldiers Wife Crazy Life and Army Wife 101. She is an avid volunteer within the military community. Marla is also the founder of The Bautista Project, a custom décor and apparel company, which uses a percentage of their profits to provide for homeless communities.
Link to social media or website: http://www.marlabautista.com