Meet the 2020 AFI MSOY Top 18!

arlene allen

Branch:
Marines

Duty Station:
Marine Corps Base Hawaii

Number of Deployments:
7

Number of PCS's:
5

Share your military spouse story:
At 15 years old (when I met my husband) I never imagine myself being a Military Spouse but I did know I wanted to be by my husband's side from the beginning. From graduating boot camp at Parris Island to our first duty station in CA far from home which was NY I was by his side. Young and learning about life and marriage wasn't always easy but we did it together. Through all the ups and downs I learned to focus on the positive and ALWAYS be ready for the unexpected. Over the years I learned how supportive the military community was and how they quickly became your family. Twenty Two years later I am a “seasoned” Marine Wife, Business Owner, Stay at Home Mom, Runner and Volunteer. Today, we have a 15-year old son and a 9-year old daughter, survived many deployments and more trainings than I can remember, moved 5 times and this year will mark our 6th. We make the most of any duty station we live in and embrace the community, culture and history of each area. We've made so many life long friends who now live all over the world. We have seen many service members make the ultimate sacrifice and never come home. Each time we hear of a loss my heart sinks and we are reminded of what our service members sacrifice each day. It reminds me to make the best of each day we have together and live the best life we can. I cannot imagine not being a part of a military community. It's something I never take for granted. Being a part of the military community also provided me with the opportunity to volunteer, which I found to be a passion of mine. Volunteering transformed my life and has given more back to me than I could ever begin to explain. I learned how much each of us are capable of despite the circumstances. Putting myself out there instead of isolating myself like I did as a young military spouse changed my life and through volunteering I can now change other people's lives.

Describe your involvement in the military community:
My volunteer journey began in 2012 in Beaufort, SC with Stroller Warriors Running Club as the Warrior's Night Out Coordinator and became the Chapter Coordinator when our founder/leader PCS'd. During that time I was also an appointed volunteer for my husband's squadron VMFA-115 the Silver Eagles. After leaving Beaufort, SC for our PCS to Hawaii I volunteered for the SW Headquarters Global Team from 2016-2018 and helped my friend/fellow Marine Spouse launch the SW chapter here in Kaneohe Bay where I was the Chapter Co-Coordinator and then Chapter Coordinator after our founder PCS'd. I retired from both positions at the end of 2018 but remain a Workout Leader and Warrior's Night Out Coordinator. I am currently an appointed volunteer with my husband's unit, HMLA-367 (Scarface) and volunteer with the MAG-24 Essentials Leadership team. I also volunteer weekly for the Navy Marine Corps Relief on MCBH Kaneohe Bay as a Client Service Assistant, Briefer and Social Media person.

Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
When launching SW Kaneohe Bay I trained and helped choose volunteers such as workout coordinators, meal train coordinator, welcoming committee/ambassadors, fundraising and leaders for programs such as Couch to Crazy. I mentored volunteers and encourage everyone and anyone to come and join us. I coordinated trainings and volunteer meetings to ensure we all communicated effectively and addressed any issues that came up. I encouraged everyone to communicate with one another and how to help mentor our members and fellow spouses. Many of our members then stepped up to become volunteers and we have a large volunteer staff today as our new leaders continue the momentum when I stepped down. I continue to serve as a consultant of sorts when they have questions and/or issues. I love sharing what worked for me in the past and encouraging them to make it their own and lead by example. It's amazing to see how the chapter has grown to over 1,000 members as we begin 2020.

Describe how you support your community:
I love meeting spouses and getting to know them. I love sharing about local groups they can join to make friends and make military living the best it can be. I often encourage others to interact with other spouses and am happy to share all the resources I know of since becoming a Marine Wife. From hiking clubs, SW, NMCRS, FOCUS, MOPS, MCCS, ASYMCA, Bowling League and many more resources/groups available to us. The beauty is there is something for everyone, young, single, newlyweds, veterans, spouses and service members. From volunteering for our Grace N Gowns event where military spouses could get a FREE ball gown (all ranks and services) to creating a welcome packet for MAG-24 who are moving to island it's important to include as many people as possible. I encourage others to step outside their comfort zone/meet other people who are positive and make them a better person as a result. I also love encouraging people to volunteer if possible because of how rewarding it is.

What platform do you advocate for? Why?
I would advocate the importance of volunteering and community. Putting yourself out there is often frightening and each time we move it starts all over. For years I hibernated as a military spouse and as a result felt isolated/lonely. Everything changed when I finally put myself out there and joined a group who challenged me and motivated/supported me unconditionally. I immediately wanted to help in any way so others could feel how I felt. There is always a need for volunteers and many organizations rely solely on volunteers to function. Organizations like SW change lives for the better not just for spouses but for the whole family. I love sharing about volunteerism because of how passionate I am and what it has given me. Today I am more confident, have a sense of belonging and fulfillment while taking better care of myself and my family. If I can spread that to even just 1 person then it was all worth it.

How have you spread the message of your platform?
I use social media such as Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. I attend many events on base whenever I can and honestly just talking to people. Posting flyers at Starbucks doesn't hurt either. I love to post motivating quotes and share my adventures to encourage others to get out there too. I think it's important to share the volunteer opportunities available in the community. As soon as I meet people I try to make a connection in some way and learn more about them so I can tell them about the things they can do to make their experience at their current duty station a great one. Listening to their story and connecting them with organizations and people that share something in common. Many organizations are also located all over the world making transitioning after a PCS much easier. For example SW has over 40 locations worldwide, NMCRS has locations all over the world and with people constantly PCS'ing there is always a turnover at organizations like these.

What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year® title?
I love doing what I do and it brings me a lot of joy and sense of fulfillment so if I can encourage others to do the same and find something they love while supporting their fellow spouses and being an example to their children and community then great. I can only imagine what amazing things other spouses are doing out there and that they have wonderful plans on accomplishing their goals. I am a simple girl and just love connecting with people. I don't have a set plan, but I love sharing with anyone willing to listen. In the past I was invited to be a guest speaker at several events and share my experiences. Like I said before If I can help one person then my effort was worth it. That's what I live by and it has served me well. Mahalo for taking the time to read about me and my journey. It was a challenge to try and remember everything through our military life. I appreciate the opportunity and wish all my fellow spouses luck!

Nominations

How does one properly describe Arlene Allen in 1000 characters? It’s impossible, really. Arlene is, in my 16 years as a military spouse, the single most focused-on-making-a-positive-impact-on-those-around-her spouse I have ever met. Since arriving at our current duty station nearly a year ago, I have yet to volunteer at an event, attend an event, or hear about an event where Arlene isn’t somewhere, working in the background with her sleeves shoved up. She works with groups like Stroller Warriors- motivating & encouraging spouses on whatever journey they’re running. Her door is the one we knock on in the middle of the night because we need a shoulder to cry on, & hers is the number we text when we have zero clue what we’re supposed to be doing. She is every positive stereotype you’ve ever heard about every military spouse- from WWII to now
- by kathleen foley