The decision to defend one’s country for a living involves a different risk assessment than most career choices. However, choosing to be a military spouse takes no less courage.
With her husband, Lt. Col. Mike Coombes, Yvonne Coombes has powered through four deployments and 12 oxymoronically named permanent changes of station (PCS). In October 2019, the Army accelerated the latest PCS by six months. The family was preparing to move from D.C. to Colorado Springs over Christmas when their oldest son, Jakob, 21, was diagnosed with testicular cancer.
Yvonne and Mike made the difficult decision to “geo-bach,”
short for geographic bachelor, the unofficial slang term used when a military family chooses to live in a different location from the service member. She would stay near Walter Reed Medical Center so Jakob could continue chemotherapy while Mike began his new command at Ft. Carson. Yvonne juggled months of Jakob’s treatment as well as school duties for him and his brother, Jackson, 13.
In June, Jakob was well enough to reunite the family in Colorado even though his father was now deployed. After a difficult move across country, Yvonne opened the seventh location of Operation Deploy Your Dress (ODYD), the nonprofit she cofounded in 2015. ODYD collects dresses and accessories and gives them to military spouses so they can accompany their service members to military balls.
In October 2020, Jackson broke his arm, leading to a nine-day hospitalization, fighting a bone infection and sepsis. Fearing the worst, Yvonne’s husband came home on emergency medical leave. Although Jackson fought through, it was six weeks before he was strong enough to walk again.
Throughout, Yvonne exhibited an uncommon can-do spirit, leading her family through the specter of losing one of their children, not once, but twice. For that, she was named the 2020 Armed Forces Insurance Army Spouse of the Year. She represents thousands of military spouses who can never get enough credit although their service to their country is no less difficult, or valuable, as that of their spouses.