Meet the 2020 AFI MSOY Top 18!

maralis self

Branch:
Army

Duty Station:
Fort Leavenworth

Number of Deployments:
1

Number of PCS's:
6

Share your military spouse story:
My name is Maralis. I have a been a proud military spouse for 20 years in total, between my first marriage to an enlisted service member and my current marriage to an officer. I am grateful to know, from experience, all of the sides of the military spouse lifestyle. I also have a uniquely special perspective, as an LGBT military spouse. I am a mom of 3 resilient military children, ages 20, 18 and 15. I’ve always been involved, beginning with roles as an FRG leader and support team member. I have also been involved in informal ways, by establishing social groups. My heart-mission is Military Spouse Wellness and I have always nurtured this, one way or another. I work in the field of alternative/complimentary wellness. A year ago, as I was reaching my final 4 classes for my bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice, I found myself at a crossroads. I’d been taking online classes for a few years. I could either finance my completion, or I could pay for my trainings and certifications as a Yoga teacher and Mindfulness Practitioner, adding to my holistic education. I’d already obtained my training and certification as a Reiki Master Practitioner and had experienced the incredible benefits of reiki for myself. I’d been seeing clients, most, members of the military community. I believed so strongly in the benefits of these holistic approaches to empower, foster growth and healing, and access stress reducing techniques that have life-long benefits. It made my decision easy. I passionately advocate for military spouse wellness by exposing the military community to reiki, yoga, meditation and mindfulness: techniques that promote wellness, mind, body and spirit. I meet each person where they are at in life, without judgement. Learning provides the military community with ways to deal with stress as it arises, for any situation, as an active duty spouse and beyond. I believe that in teaching these techniques help support the strength of the military family and the service member.

Describe your involvement in the military community:
I have always cherished connection. This became so much more important to me as a young military spouse, moving to a new place. One of the things I was most grateful to find was the Family Readiness Group. I have led or participated in the FRG in most of installations I have lived at. As a parent I am also passionate about supporting our military children and began my work in schools as a volunteer, reading with students. I have hosted many social gatherings for spouses to come together to make new friends and connect in a social and fun way. I also love to give back through my work, in ways such as leading a yoga class for my community, and volunteering to lead meditation and mindfulness. I’m so excited to also be preparing to lead an in-person retreat for military spouses in the Spring of 2020.

Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
In my youth, I never went to sports or music camps. I went to Leadership camps. I was involved in youth leadership programs all year long. Being a leader by making a positive impact on my community has become a big part of who I am as an adult. As a military spouse, this has manifested in various ways such as my volunteerism with Family Readiness Groups, as a leader and as a member of the support team. One of my fondest memories was teaming up with the Master PT female of the company to train spouses for a month and then creating a spouse obstacle course, with t-shirts and trophies for the participants. It was a great way to encourage physical health in a fun way and to foster community among spouses. I have served informally as a spouse mentor over the years. I have led social gatherings for spouses. I have also enjoyed leading meditation groups and mindfulness workshops for my military community, utilizing my professional specialties to encourage mind, body and spirit wellness.

Describe how you support your community:
What makes me feel fulfilled in my mission is helping others with the knowledge that I’ve gained via education and experience. One of the ways that I do this is by teaching others. I lead workshops and work with people, individually, to foster their personal growth. I have enjoyed volunteering to lead both meditation and mindfulness workshop series for my military community. I’ll l be leading locals intention setting workshops for the USO Kansas, Winter 2020 and will be leading an in-person retreat for military spouses in collaboration with InDependent in Spring 2020. I believe in empowering others with the tools for stress management and reduction. I especially enjoy the opportunity to teach my military spouse community because I understand the challenges and stress that are unique to our role. I believe that equipping spouses with stress reduction techniques provide them tools to use lifelong, within the military lifestyle and thereafter. In truth, these techniques can help anyone.

What platform do you advocate for? Why?
The community of the military family is a unique one. We are all integral parts of the success and efficacy of the U.S. Armed Forces. I believe that when a military spouse feels empowered and has tools that help them navigate the challenges that we face in our lifestyle, the help support the soldier. A strong spouse supports a strong soldier. Holistic options for stress reduction and management can be learned and utilized lifelong. Learning things like yoga, mindfulness and meditation and being open to holistic energy management with modalities such as reiki are underutilized yet are proven to provide vast benefits. I believe that exposing the military spouse community to these opportunities to learn and manage stress, via trainings, workshops and retreats can help lower the statistics of military spouse depression and suicide rates, as recently released in October 2019. A soldier can perform better when they feel that their spouses feel equipped to handle the military lifestyle.

How have you spread the message of your platform?
I believe in the power of words. I have been a writer for a long time. I also know that words have impact, in all forms of communication. Words connect people. I enjoy being able to talk to people, to share about the things I am most passionate about and one of those things is military spouse wellness, mind, body and spirit. I have had the privilege to present for the Hiring Our Heroes Military Spouse Professional Network, on self-care practices. I am also active on social media, interacting with fellow spouses about our lifestyle. What I enjoy most is interacting with spouses at events and workshops. I host a blog for military spouses, and I have had the privilege to write for publications that support military spouses.

What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year® title?
The military spouse and family are the backbone of the service member. We are the behind the scenes people, supporting the service member, on a daily basis. It is important that emphasis is placed on our wellness and ability to navigate and manage the challenges and stresses that can arise within our lifestyle. My hope is to travel and teach military spouses about holistic wellness and stress reduction techniques. I want to teach at installations, and I want to lead retreats near installations where military spouses can learn and practice stress reduction techniques. I would love to partner with organizations that want to support this vision. I want to demystify holistic wellness and make it accessible. Teaching these practices and allowing each person to experience them can be a great leap forward to support military spouse wellness, and hopefully make an impact on reducing military spouse depression and suicide rates.

Nominations

Maralis is an inspiration as illustrated by her 20 year devotion as a military spouse. Her recognition as a mentor within the community is attributed to her passion for military spouse wellness. She reached directly into the military spouse community by volunteering to deliver education on meditation and mindfulness through her seven-week meditation workshop and three-week mindfulness series. She led a self-care workshop for Hiring Our Heroes: Military Spouse Professional Network, which focused on stress reducing techniques for military spouses. Her awareness of military spouse mental health challenges fuels her desire to offer her time and talents in creating strong military families. She was selected as a presenter for the Women’s Leadership-SheLeads 365 Summit and is a military spouse wellness content provider for InDependent. She is an extraordinary ambassador who volunteers as the secretary and social media representative for the high school theatre parent booster club and PTA.
- by janine boldrin