Branch: Marine Corps
Duty Station: Marine Corps Air Station Yuma
Number of Deployments: 6
Number of PCS's: 6
Share your military spouse story:
My journey as a military spouse started when I was an active duty Marine. I met my husband while we were both doing our annual rifle qualification at Camp Pendleton's Edson Range. We eloped a month and a half later in Vegas (in true "cliché military fashion"). I had already done a deployment to Iraq and a deployment to Japan, and was headed to Orange County, CA to be a recruiter. My husband was a drill instructor, and completed his tour on the drill field shortly after we were married. He was stationed at Camp Pendleton, CA. During that time, we had our first child, and he deployed twice to Afghanistan. Those two deployments are what solidified my decision to get out of the Marines. I realized that military life is hard, but when both people in a marriage are active duty, it's even harder. It's even tougher with a child. Being a "solo parent" while he was deployed while also serving active duty was quite a challenge. I was honorably discharged in 2012, and PCS'ed to Boston. That was a tough year. I didn't realize just how unprepared I was to get out of the Marines. I lost a sense of self and identity. I became extremely depressed. Unbeknownst to me, my husband was beginning to deal with PTSD and TBI symptoms from injuries sustained in combat. Our marriage was falling apart, and on top of that, I got pregnant with our second child. Through lots of therapy, we got through that time, and have PCS'ed two more times since that. We went from MA to TX, then TX to AZ. Since getting out, I have been navigating life as a spouse to a Marine who suffers from TBI and PTSD. There are really bad days where I go from being a wife to a caregiver, but I like to believe there are many more good days. I have found a community of military spouses who are also caregivers to their combat veterans. I always joke about my "countdown till retirement" when we can live a "normal" life, but when I look back at my journey, I truly believe that this was the life God intended for me.
Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
After serving 10 years in the Marines, my role shifted. I went from being a dual active duty spouse to a military spouse to my active duty husband. I have a unique viewpoint of military spouse life, and want to bridge that gap between military spouses and active duty service members. There is a definite gap between these two roles. In 2019, I applied and was chosen to be 1 of 14 advisory board members for the Military Family Advisory Network. Advisory board members are considered "leaders in their communities", and are instrumental in working together in finding solutions to challenges that military families face. I am the only Marine on the board, and the only person that served active duty in the post 9/11 era. I want to use my position with MFAN to close the gaps between military spouses and active duty service members. My goal is to be able to share firsthand experiences of the challenges that women veterans, military spouses, and military children face in a post 9/11 era.
Describe your involvement in the military community:
When we PCS somewhere new, it is important to create relationships with people outside of the military community. Bridging the gap between the military and the civilian community is important. The more our civilian counterparts "get us", they are more likely to support us within their communities. I am active at our church, and lead a small group in our home every week with a mix of couples that are military and non military. Through these relationships, I have gotten a better understanding of what the the civilian community thinks of us and vice versa. It has also gotten me plugged into local events here in Yuma. I also had the privilege to attend the state of the state address here in AZ and got to meet the governor and the base commander. Although we are not residents of AZ, I feel that the military brings so much value. This opportunity allowed me to get better educated on the economic state of AZ, and how it affects military families who are stationed here temporarily.
Describe how you support your community:
I'm a "grassroots" girl. From my experience, it's the small things you do that make lasting impact on individual Marines and their families. The people that made the biggest impact on me as a Marine were the spouses of the Marines I served with that supported me as a young, single Marine. Everything from opening their homes to me for Thanksgiving to bringing me a home cooked meal at work are the most memorable to me. I try to return that favor to the junior Marines that are aboard MCAS Yuma. I think it is important to be present, and I strive to have an "open door" policy when it comes to my help. I have been very vocal within our local military spouse groups about allowing me to be their voice at the Military Family Advisory Network (MFAN) table. Yuma is a small, but important base in the Marine Corps, and we often get overlooked when it comes to resources for military families. I am privileged to be able to be a voice for the Yuma military community at a national level with MFAN.
What do you advocate for? Why?
I am an advocate for military kids, young families/single Marines, and dual active duty spouses. Military kid didn't choose to be born into this life. As a mom, I am constantly amazed at how strong our kids are. Watching them readjust to a new duty station, then having to move again has been eye opening. Our children need a voice. I also believe that because dual service members are an overlooked population. I know the challenges that dual service members face. Family care plans, power of attorneys, childcare, and deployments can be a nightmare. Because most milspouse resources are geared for civilian spouses, many dual service members serve with little to no support. I believe that this needs to change. Lastly, with the vast majority of the Marine Corps being under the age of 25, I am passionate about supporting these young people who choose to leave their homes and serve our country.
How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
I use my ties to our local community to engage with leaders in our community about the things I am passionate about. I volunteer on a weekly basis at my children's school, and am an advocate for the many military kids that attend school there. Just by being a presence within my community, and being involved in my kids' school has given me the opportunity to speak with teachers and administrators about the types of support our military children need. I have also been able to spread my message about our life through my personal blog, semperag.com and semperag.blogspot.com. I have extensive training in public speaking from my time as a Marine recruiter, and am comfortable talking about issues that I am passionate about to both large and small audiences.
What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year®
I was honestly at a loss for words when I received several nominations for this title. I always have a bit of "imposter syndrome" in this community. I feel like I am just living my life and trying to make the best of it! Like I've stated multiple times, I feel that I have the unique vantage point of being a former Marine, dual active duty spouse, military spouse, and mom of 2 military kids. The AFI MSOY title would give me such an amazing platform to be able to advocate and be a voice for the groups of the military community that I feel are underrepresented. I hope to be able to use this opportunity to network with other change makers and leaders within our community, and collectively work together to better serve our military families.