After nearly 50 years traveling the world as a military wife, author and leadership expert Dorothy Guy Bonvillain is passionate about supporting Army families.
That passion has recently earned her national acclaim.
Bonvillain’s 2014 book, “Loving Your Life: 7 Steps for Warrior Wives” was recently named one of the top 10 finalists in the self-help category of the 2018 Author Academy Awards, an national contest that honors literature in a variety of areas. The public can go to the awards website and vote for the book they think should be the winner before October 1.
While Bonvillain said she is thrilled with the recognition, she is already hard at work on developing other projects for military wives and their families.
They include an online leadership school, the Warrior Wives Academy, which she founded in order to help military wives personally and professionally, and the Warrior Family Legacy Foundation, a project she is working on with the University of Colorado to build “economic capacity” for military families around the world.
Although she has been settled in Sierra Vista for about 20 years, the challenges that Bonvillain experienced as a military wife frequently on the move inspired her to write “7 Steps,” she said.
“I asked myself, ‘Do I wish a senior military spouse with decades of experience would have come along when I was a young military wife and just shared some of the things she’d learned along the way?’
“The answer was a resounding yes.”
Bonvillain’s book draws not only on her personal experiences, but on her years working as an educator and coach, including serving as principal of the Center for Academic Success high school in Sierra Vista and as a cultural competency trainer at Fort Huachuca.
Her mentors, including renowned self-help author John C. Maxwell, helped to inspire “7 Steps,” which is centered around ideas laid out in the “Wheel of Life,” a coaching assessment tool.
“It takes sort of key aspects of our lives, whether it be finances and faith,” explained Bonvillian.
The “steps” laid out in her book are named after different types of shoes, a fun metaphorical nod to the fondness many women hold for them.
“So it gave me the idea to start with house slippers, because you get very comfortable in your old house slippers, and it’s difficult to get out of your comfort zone. And I’ll take them through these steps, these various phrases, and we get through the red power shoes at the end,” she said. “I tied a particular kind of shoe to each of these steps to make it fun.
“I think learning should be fun.”
Being yourself and following your own dreams can be difficult for military wives who have to uproot themselves frequently, said Bonvillian, which is why she believes her book is an important resource.
“Not losing yourself along the way — being very intentional and aware — a lot of it is an awareness that I didn’t have,” she said, adding that while she loved her husband, the the lifestyle had its challenges. “I felt like I was an appendage, I was insignificant, and I lost me.”
Another issue facing many military wives is finding a job, something the Warrior Wives Academy addresses, she said.
“Military spouses have three times the unemployment rate that civilians do,” she said. “And they’re working on that, I know that in the administration, there’s an effort to change that, but that’s going to take time. So what we want the academy to do is offer them a pathway to begin to become an entrepreneur in their own right or an independent business owner.”
The Warrior Wives Academy, which draws on many of the principles in the “7 Steps” book, is also a passion project for Demetry Simonton, Bonvillain’s assistant. Growing up in a military family in Sierra Vista, he has witnessed both the power and resiliency of military wives, as well as the difficulties faced by military families, he said.
“One of the most powerful things in the book is ‘the military doesn’t offer a manual for success for spouses entering the military lifestyle,’” said Simonton. “I have a lot of friends who grew up here and got married, and they went off and are already divorced because the pressures of trying to be a young family in the military was just too much. … What we’re trying to do is curb that, those broken families.”
Although the academy only recently launched online, Simonton said he and Bonvillain have big plans for it in Sierra Vista.
“We want to make Fort Huachuca the hub for this movement,” he said, adding that they hoped to begin offering in-person lectures and talks in the Sierra Vista area.
As for “7 Steps,” there is one thing Bonvillain hopes that military wives take away from reading the book.
“To become the master of your own fate,” she said. “Be very intentional, and teach your children the same thing.”
To learn more about Bonvillain’s work and “Loving Your Life: 7 Steps for Military Wives,” visit her website at www.dorothybonvillain.com.