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YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Isabel Gonzalez should wear a cape, some say. After all, she is a Yokosuka "Super Sponsor."

With X-ray … er … ears, Gonzalez heard knees knocking across the world from nervous USS George Washington families and swooped in to set them at ease. Without sleep, fingers flying over her keyboard, Gonzalez made sure the incoming kids were signed up for school and day care, that the house was "move-in" ready and that there’d be cool beverages in the refrigerator by the time the family reached Japan.

She’s done this for 15 families so far, with more on the way — hence the nickname and cape reference.

"At first, I thought, ‘Who is this lady e-mailing and calling me?’ " said Erica Warr, whose family is sponsored by Gonzalez. "We have moved five times and never had anyone do this for us. She is like Wonder Woman."

Gonzalez humbly dismisses the superhero references. The USS Cowpens spouse simply saw a poster at the post office soliciting sponsors and volunteered, Gonzalez said.

"I don’t like being called a super sponsor," Gonzalez said. "Everyone who volunteers is making a difference — they all stepped up to the plate. You don’t have to do it. I don’t do it for the glory."

Gonzalez does have one kryptonite: pets. She’ll sponsor as many families with children as possible, but please no pets.

But that’s where others fill the gaps, like Courtney Woodworth’s sponsor family, who took in the Woodworths’ two dogs for quarantine while she and her son stayed in the Navy Lodge.

"They opened their home and hearts to us — and they didn’t even know us and we didn’t know them," Woodworth said.

What began as a sponsorship pickle has given rise to several success stories. It was unfamiliar ground: One aircraft carrier, the USS Kitty Hawk, was leaving for good, taking its families and sailors with it.

The replacement carrier, USS George Washington, was bringing a massive influx of new people to a foreign country. Who would show them the ropes?

Unable to draw from the usual pool of families, Navy officials sought volunteers from Yokosuka’s shore and fleet commands.

Base commanding officer Capt. Daniel Weed said this may have worked to everyone’s advantage, preventing the "us" and "them" rivalries that can occur when a new command arrives.

"The volunteer sponsors came from all comands, which made it more of a community effort," Weed said.

Several volunteers, like Gonzalez, sponsored multiple families or sailors.

Yokosuka’s Fleet and Family Support Center received sponsorship requests from 286 families. About half that number, 142 people, volunteered to sponsor them, said Angela LeMay, an FFSC family life specialist who worked with the base and the chapel on the sponsorship program.

"We paired them up based on the need," LeMay said. "Rank, kids, ages, pets, single sailors, married — that makes a big difference."

For spouse Kris Deshler, getting answers to her nitty–gritty questions made her feel much better about the overseas move. She is another of Gonzalez’s families.

"I had questions like, ‘where is the post office box in relation to where I live?’ " Deshler said, because she relies on getting home-school material in the mail. "Isabel helped me with everything."

Most of the questions Gonzalez gets revolve around housing and kids, she said. But every so often she’ll get a new one.

"One person asked me ‘Is there anything to eat in Japan besides sushi?’ " Gonzalez said. "I think they were honestly concerned that raw fish and rice would be their only option."

It’s important for new families to realize that they are not alone, Gonzalez said.

"There are a lot of people in the same shoes, or who were once in those shoes, and can help," Gonzalez said.

And, Warr said, know that if your sponsor isn’t so "super," there’s an option.

"If one sponsor isn’t what you need, ask for another," Warr said.


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