Meg Flanagan

Branch: Marine Corps

Duty Station: Pentagon

Number of Deployments: 1

Number of PCS's: 5

Share your military spouse story:
I'm a proud USMC spouse of 11 years, as well as a mother, business owner, and educator. In addition, I love to volunteer for non-profits close to my heart. When I started my military spouse journey, I was navigating uncharted territory for me: jumping into this life after 20ish years without a military connection, in the middle of a huge surge in Afghanistan, and 3000 miles from home. In fact, the first year of our married life was spent apart. After a brief 3 month reunion, we said "See you later" for another whole year. But during that year, I truly discovered myself as a person and found my place in the military community as a leader. This experience as a young spouse inspired my journey to support military families as an education advocate and shore up our community's holistic wellness as a key member of InDependent. Over the last decade or so, we have moved coast-to-coast and back again. We have lived in Okinawa and returned back to the US. But no matter where we have lived, I know that I can rely on my military friends and community to support me. It is this life of constant change that has driven me to create my education advocacy business as well as work with InDependent. In times of trouble, there is always a resourceful military spouse on whom we can rely. I am so proud to have been, and will continue to be, that support system for so many families.

Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
Since joining InDependent, I have heard and read so many stories about mental health struggles among military spouses. In 2015, I was one of the first to share my own mental health battle with postpartum depression via NextGen MilSpouse. By sharing my own experience on this large platform, I was able to spark a larger conversation about mental health - especially for new parents. This experience has directly impacted my leadership with InDependent. As someone with mental health struggles, I can speak directly to those who share similar challenges. My biggest leadership moment is honoring the journey that I am on, and encouraging others to speak out as well. Nothing gets better if we stay silent.

Describe your involvement in the military community:
I am a lead member of InDependent, the military spouse-focused wellness support non-profit. As a leader in this organization, I turn the incredible interviews into content and curriculum that guide our community through a whole year of wellness activities. I've curated a thriving remote, virtual support network via Facebook that allows members a safe space to share frustrations and find inspiration for the journey ahead. I have served as a Family Readiness Assistant, supporting families in my spouse's unit through a challenging combat deployment in Afghanistan. Seeing the toll that this year-long separation had on families has driven me to volunteer with InDependent all the more. Military spouses need a place where we can share worries and seek community without judgment. In addition, I support military families facing challenges in K-12 education, like IEPs, 504 Plans and Gifted Education needs. Over three years, I have become a trusted resource across all branches.

Describe how you support your community:
I support my community by sharing honest and real feelings via InDependent. As the content and curriculum curator, I guide and shape the narrative of our holistic wellness programs to be open and inclusive of everyone. My mission is to help all military spouses feel good about their bodies and minds, no matter what. I honor that mission by creating thoughtful, well-researched and expert-supported materials for InDependent's Wellness Summit and their signature Wellness Lounge. Our community is welcoming and warm to everyone, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation or phase of life. I love having a part in designing and fostering this space for other military spouses to feel seen and supported.

What do you advocate for? Why?
I advocate for mental health awareness and treatment without judgment. I have struggled with post-partum depression and anxiety for most of the last decade. At first, I was so afraid of being judged for seeking help because I was supposed to be a strong, capable military spouse. There should be no need for help, no matter what. Until I was literally brought to my knees by PPD, I resisted help. Then, I hid my struggles for years because I was ashamed. Now, I want to bring mental health awareness and treatment options into the light. No one should put off treatment out of fear. No one should feel ashamed to share their journey or ask for help.

How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
I actively sought out the most highly regarded military spouse-focused non-profit that centered around wellness, InDependent. Over the last year, I have worked closely with the founders to create a community based around mutual support and understanding, a place to share struggles and worries without judgment or fear. Via InDependent, I have shared my own journey and brought this lens to all content that I have a hand in creating. In addition, I have published multiple articles about my journey with depression and anxiety on NextGen MilSpouse, Army Wife 101, and InDependent. I have also shared my story with Megan Hall on The Inspired Women podcast.

What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year® title?
I hope to shed light on the mental health challenges in the military spouse community while also showing that there is hope for a positive outcome. I want to help other military spouses feel seen and understood in their struggles with depression and anxiety or other mental health conditions.