Carie Wailgum

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Carie Wailgum sends her children to school each day with two reminders: Be kind. Be brave.

Those, she believes, are two actions upon which a foundation of leadership is built.

“I’m hoping someday they’ll take those actions and then turn those into a more formidable action of being a leader in their community,” Wailgum said.

Much like their mother.

Despite being in San Angelo only three years, Wailgum is one of this year’s 20 Under 40 on the strength of her service to the West Texas Rehabilitation Center and to the Hiring Our Heroes’ Military Spouse Professional Network at Goodfellow Air Force Base.

The wife of a Goodfellow firefighting instructor, Wailgum is the donor relations coordinator at the 65-year-old charity known by most simply as “the Rehab.” The West Texas Rehabilitation Center provides outpatient care to all who seek it, regardless of their ability to pay. About one-third of the 530 patients the Rehab treats daily require financial assistance.

“Anytime you’re passionate about something, it’s not a ‘sell’ anymore,” she said. “It’s me sharing something I’m incredibly passionate about with the community and inviting them to be a part of it.”

One of the joys of that, she added, is hearing stories of how the Rehab has helped West Texans. She shares those testimonials with the clinic’s health-care providers, telling them, “Look at the people you’ve touched.”

Her volunteerism with the Military Spouse Professional Network also earned her Goodfellow’s Military Spouse of the Year award.

The program connects spouses with local resources that link to employers, provide professional development and fill resume gaps. One strategy involves networking spouses who have recently arrived in San Angelo with local employers seeking employees who are resilient, reliable and adaptable – valued qualities military spouses often possess.

“As a military spouse, you’re looking to maintain a career alongside your service member for the duration of the time they’re serving their country,” Wailgum said. “We have to make sure we’re showing our legacy as we continue to move place to place.”

While proximity to the military offers opportunities to build leadership, Wailgum said actually doing so is a personal responsibility.

“The only thing that naturally facilitates leadership is the person,” she said. “If you want to develop leadership skills, if you want to take action in a community, that’s all up to you.”

She learned a valuable lesson in leadership while interning with the NHL’s Phoenix Coyotes while in college. A team executive told her, “Your one responsibility in life, when you’ve come to a certain place, is to bring other people up with you.”

“That’s a core value of leadership,” Wailgum added. “Leaders create more leaders.”

Wailgum is demure about her Goodfellow award. And she calls the 20 Under 40 honor “wonderful.” But …

“The goal is to help people where they need the help,” Wailgum said. “This is a reflection of the importance of doing that. One person goes out and helps two. That creates a ripple effect that hopefully benefits the entire community.”