Jenna Henry

Branch: Marine Corps

Duty Station: Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort

Number of Deployments: 2

Number of PCS's: 3

Share your military spouse story:
My military spouse story started back in the day before social media existed and handwritten letters still had to be mailed via snail mail as the only way of communication. I remember going through boot camp family day and graduation and clinging to the paper schedule that was emailed to me as it was the only directions I had to get through the weekend. With our most recent PCS move, I have been afforded the opportunity to volunteer and help out with the new Marines' Graduation Activities and it is fun to see how things have changed. Social Media has allowed for easier communication with individuals that can answer questions, pictures are now posted online throughout training, there are apps to send letters that arrive overnight and so much more. Although the technology and ways we communicate have changed, one thing has not and that is the connection we all have as military spouses and having someone to ask honest questions to and get information from. I was very blessed to have a couple of spouses that took me under their wing after I got married and showed me the "ropes". They always answered the millions of questions I had that google never could and never made me feel less than if I asked a completely off the wall question. Their impact and willingness to invest time and energy into helping me be successful and navigate the transition to military spouse really inspired me. Ever since those wonderful spouses helped me all those years ago I have tried to do the same for other new spouses. Whether it be helping at the Unit level as a Family Readiness Assitant/Command Team Advisor, helping the spouses and families of the Officer Candidate School Candidates, being a LINKS mentor, Volunteering with Veteran Non-Profits or helping the Marine Corps newest Marine Families at Recruit Depot Parris Island; I am passionate about helping others. It lights a fire inside to be able to help those just starting on this journey the way those who came before me helped me.

Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
When my husband made the transition from green to gold it was a whole different experience. At Marine Corps Officer Candidate School the candidates even if they are prior service are not guaranteed to graduate and commission. Since a contract is not guaranteed, there isn't a lot of resources allocated to help the Candidate Families and Spouses going through the process. During my husbands' time at the 10-week course, I helped establish and administer a social media page dedicated specifically to that OCS class and offered my experience and advice to help translate some of what was happening to those who were new to the military. This little group has since evolved into two large social media pages that support each incoming OCS class. The group is a safe place to ask questions and helps fill in the gap between the recruiter and the first PDS where they can take resource classes. It is a rewarding experience to pay it forward and help the next generation of spouses and families.

Describe your involvement in the military community:
In the Marine Corps, the LINKS program is a program that helps educate in all areas of life in the Corps and I am a volunteer and mentor for the program. During the ten years my husband was enlisted I was part of the FRG helping with events and family support through deployments. The deployments include combat deployments, MEU deployments as well as providing support while they were stateside. With his transition from green to gold, I began helping other spouses that are new to the military lifestyle and have continued to do so for the past 2.5 years. I enjoy volunteering with my husband's Unit serving as their Command Team Advisor/Family Readiness Assistant. I also have been involved with helping the veteran organization SemperK9 Assistance Dogs that provides service dogs to veterans cost-free. For the past 3 years, I have been a certified Family Readiness Assistant and am currently the Family Readiness Advisor for my husband's current unit helping keep the families connected.

Describe how you support your community:
Being a military spouse is hard. We all know this because we live it every day, but those who are new to this lifestyle often don't even know where to start. I found on my own journey that there were a lot of resources for families during recruit training but the spouse support and resources weren't readily available until after you arrived at a unit. I was expected to speak military acronym, magically know how to navigate a PCS and be able to do pretty much everything on my own while my husband is gone. I have always been the type to jump in and help where needed and I found myself filling this void whether it be formally as a Unit position or online within social media groups. I would love to get a program together even if it is as simple as having a Q&A Session during the graduation brief events for spouses and significant others to ask questions they have and then give them resources for what to expect and a resource for the future to help them have a positive welcome to the Corps.

What do you advocate for? Why?
As a military spouse of 9 years, the area that really ignites my passion is supporting and helping new and junior Military Spouses and their families in the beginning stages of this journey. When I first became a military spouse I had some amazing fellow spouses that really took me under their wing and mentored me through situations. I still recall a specific one where I ruined my husbands brand new flight suit by washing it with a pen that was in a bottom ankle pocket and a fellow spouse listened to my sorrow and just laughed and proceeded to tell me it happened to everyone and then showed me how to wash them so it wouldn't happen again. This is just one example of one of the many spouses that helped me get where I am today. Many times new spouses are expected to know the answer to questions and situations they didn't even know needed to be asked. I enjoy that while I will always be learning on my journey I am now in a position where I can pay it forward like those that helped me.

How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
Social Media is the main tool that is used to share the platform. For the OCS Family pages, it originally started as an individual support page for each specific class. It has since evolved into two permanent pages; one for families/friends and one for spouses and significant others. The two pages are now consistent and help regulate OPSEC and have resources already listed out instead of reinventing the wheel every class. The page uses videos, Facebook live, blog posts, sharing of articles and many other sources of info are shared. For Family Readiness, it is also a matter of utilizing social media by setting up and maintaining the Unit specific pages. I am currently in the process of creating a welcome packet for families checking in and a newsletter to keep others updated that is distributed digitally. Before our recent PCS, I was very involved at my husbands' schoolhouse and would frequently give group presentations, Q&A sessions and speak to base officials and commands.

What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year® title?
I have always lived by the motto in a world where you can be anything, be kind. Having an AFI MSOY Title, whether it be a base winner, branch winner or overall winner is such an amazing opportunity. Should I be blessed again to carry one of those titles for another year, I would continue to share my passion for helping and educating new spouses. There are many opportunities and resources available that go underutilized simply because spouses don't know what is available or what questions and who to ask. In many of the online spouses' pages, there is a pattern of the same questions being asked by girls that were getting married to a Marine or those who were married before their significant other went to boot camp and in many of the posts they were bullied or belittled for asking "questions with obvious answers". If I can provide a safe place to ask questions and be a resource, hopefully, those spouses will remember that and be inspired to pay it forward and help the next spouse.