Lucindra Graikowski

Branch: Marine Corps

Duty Station: Marine Barracks Washington, D.C.

Number of Deployments: 5

Number of PCS's: 4

Share your military spouse story:
My Journey as a military spouse began in 2007 when I married my high school sweetheart. Throughout the past 13 years, we have completed 4 PCS DITY moves and 5 deployments. We have 4 beautiful children; 8,6, 3 and 5 months. While all of our kids have played an important role in who we are today, our second oldest is the reason I became invested into community-building for other military spouses. We were blessed to be surrounded by family for the birth of our first son while at our second duty station aboard Camp Pendleton, CA. Although, being back home opened my eyes to the disconnect between military and civilian lifestyles. When we received orders back to Camp Lejeune, NC we were elated. We were preparing for our second child, as well as our 4th deployment. Sure enough, our sweet girl decided to make her debut six days late and just hours after her daddy got on a bus for Afghanistan. This time we were not so lucky to have family close, which made for a quiet hospital room. Knowing my husband was just an hour away waiting for his fight out was the turning point in my military spouse journey. In that lonely hospital room, I promised to work to make a difference in the lives of my fellow military spouses— to ensure a sense of community. I am proud to say I kept that promise. I received my real estate license in 2013 to help educate military members on home buying. In 2015 I opened a cafe and have been able to encourage entrepreneurship to fellow military spouses. But my most beloved venture is MSKA, Military Spouse Kickball Association Inc. While I was not the one that introduced the sport into this community, I established it as a Non-Profit in 2017. MSKA now has chapters all over the country and will soon be international. It promotes a healthy outlet for military spouses to form bonds to each other as well as the community as we navigate through this lifestyle.

Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
I am one of the proud founders of Military Spouses Kickball Association Inc, and currently the President of the non-profit recreational league. While in this position I’ve helped guide and mentor numerous military spouses to step out of their comfort zone to take on different levels of leadership roles within our kickball community. As a business owner I work hand in hand with my employees training them for their current job, but also how to be successful after their time is over in our transient town. I have taken on leadership roles within the Family Readiness Program. I have been the Company FRA rep for my husband’s past units and have spearheaded all-inclusive spouses events to promote community within the smaller element of the Marine Corps.

Describe your involvement in the military community:
I thrive on being involved with the military community. I am a family readiness assistant (FRA). I have assisted in planning and organizing events for spouses to include, halfway parties, craft nights, coffees, pot lucks, and my favorite, and coaching the unit’s spouses kickball team. Kickball was a gateway into being involved with my husband’s unit. I started out as just playing with the team for his unit, to creating Military Spouse Kickball Association Inc, a non-profit recreational league for military spouses. I was a guest speaker at the Camp Lejeune Leadership Seminar and was honored to be invited back last year to be a guest on their panel regarding entrepreneurship as a military spouse. Owning a café in a military town allowed me the opportunity to host countless meetings, other military supporting events and employment to military spouses. Involvement is crucial in the military lifestyle.

Describe how you support your community:
Community building is a necessity for thriving in the military lifestyle. MSKA has three core values Camaraderie, Community, and Competition. When building camaraderie it opens doors for a sense of community and because we are open to all branches of the military it eases the stressors of the military lifestyle. MSKA offers Camaraderie building events in addition to our regular activity of playing kickball. All active chapters across the US host food/supply drives, fundraisers, and volunteer events to teach our members the importance of giving back, but also to support our local communities in their areas of need. Outside of MSKA, I feel that military units that promote inclusiveness for all spouses are the ones that create lasting bonds and community. When our military members feel that their families are being supported, it lightens the load for them and allows them to focus on the mission and the safety of peers.

What do you advocate for? Why?
My goal is to promote spouse success and self-care. In every venture I participate in, it is with hope to inspire someone to not hold back their true potential. As military spouses it so easy to fall into the shadow. You become known as so-and-so’s spouse, or little Johnny’s mom/dad. You become hesitant to seek employment or set a goal because you just be moving again in 2-3 years. I want every spouse to know that you don’t have to lose yourself or not reach for your dreams because you might have another fork in the road in a few years.

How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
Being a leader in my community has allowed for countless opportunities to share my story. It has given me the ability to build my network of people I can reach to share how to be successful in a lifestyle where the odds are against you. One of the best things about the platform I advocate for spreads itself by word of mouth. The testimonies from spouses that participate in MSKA tells the success of what our mission is. I have held leadership meetings across the country to mentor and structure our organization for continued growth and success. Speaking at spouse based conferences and hosting networking events allows me to further express the need for self-care and success within our lives as military spouses.

What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year® title?
As AFI Military Spouse of the Year, I hope to bring awareness to the red tape military spouse and veteran ran organizations have to go through to operate aboard Military Installations. I would start a movement to encourage love for our communities in an around our lifestyle. Sharing the need for all spouse inclusion within their spouses units and commands. But most of all, my goal would be to leave at least one thing better than I found it.