Noralee Jones

Branch: Navy

Duty Station: Naval Base Kitsap- Bangor

Number of Deployments: 7

Number of PCS's: 3

Share your military spouse story:
I am a formal Coast Guard GF of 2 years and a current Navy Life of 7 years. I consider myself a master packer, an expert at finding my tribe quickly and a tiny human tamer with my four little ones. Over the years as a military spouse, I have become resilient, adaptable, independent and resourceful. I also feel strongly that I became a military spouse in order to help others because it was not in my original "plans". But then again, that's basically how military life is! I met my husband in 2004. He was stationed in my home town of Memphis Tennessee in the Coast Guard. I had never really interacted with military members growing up. He wore his uniform to our first date (my senior prom) and we were inseparable after that. About 2 years into dating, he got out of the military, we dated for a couple more years, got married, finished our educations and settled in Vancouver, WA in 2010. We wanted to start a family, I had my dream job, and my husband had just graduated with his accounting degree. Then one day, as I am making meatloaf, my husband walks into the kitchen and tells me he wants to go back into the military - the Navy this time. I had the same questions that many new MILSOs have. I was nervous now about having children and what this would mean for our family. After all, deployments and moving every 2-3 years did not sound like something ideal. But my husband felt called to serve and so he asked me if I would be willing to follow him as he served. Of course I knew the answer to that. So we decided that we would take this next step together. By 2013, my husband was commissioned as an officer in the United States Navy. Since then, we have been through 3 ships, 7 deployments, 3 duty stations, and 4 babies. I cannot imagine our life outside of the military. I choose every day to love and follow my husband as he serves his country. And I do my best to not only support him, but also support other military spouses as they go through their journey as well.

Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
Since becoming a MilSo I have had the opportunity to be involved in the military and local communities at each duty station. My most recent involvement has included being Vice President and then President of my husband's command's Family Readiness Group, building the program from almost nothing and cultivating the organization's vision, function and social objectives. I have also been involved in various fund raisers for my husband's commands, and hope to be able to continue leading military spouses forward, particularly those new to this life.

Describe your involvement in the military community:
When I became a military spouse, I noticed that finding information about military life, resources and helpful advice was more difficult than it should be. So I learned things through trial and error. I started my blog focusing on documenting military life and supporting those in the military community. I want to make sure that all spouses in all branches feel supported and are given the tools they need to feel successful and not alone. Since then I have created 2 ebooks (with one also being available on Amazon) focused on military life and self-care as a MilSo, I am the FRG president for my husband's command, been on committees and boards in various spouse groups and commands throughout each duty station, and have worked closely with organizations providing services and products tailored to military families and spreading the word on FREE services.

Describe how you support your community:
I have been a military spouse for 7 years and have volunteered on several occasions, and created content specifically for military spouses and their families. I have had the honor to be a guest speaker on military spouse/family podcasts, collaborate with other MilSos in all branches and have articles published on several military spouse blogs and platforms. I additionally have provided free copies of my book to MilspouseFest as a way to support military spouses in their self-care practices.

What do you advocate for? Why?
I have always been passionate about Military spouses maintaining their self-worth while navigating this military life. Military life can put a strain on every aspect of your life. Focusing on self-care for yourself and your family can make such a huge difference in your health and wellness and therefore, also carry over into the service member's work and wellbeing as well. So my platform consists of ALL MilSo's knowing how to "fill our souls so we can serve" with simple self-care practices and love. Over time, as a military spouse, I have come to see how my own self-care practices, or lack of, have an effect on my health and sanity while a MilSo. Therefore, I have dedicated a lot of energy to defining what self-care really means, and then developing tried and true actions, behaviors, and habits that are necessary for wellbeing. After all, you CANNOT pour from an empty cup. And nothing drains someones "cup" more than deployments, PCSing and starting over with each new duty station.

How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
I have been given many opportunities to speak out the importance of self-care, not only in my local community, but also on military spouse websites and communities, through donations of my book to Milspousefest, and connecting with other military spouses and organizations, such as the Rosie Network, Moving with the Military, Association for Military Spouse Entreprenuers, and others. I also did a lot of research and although the "self-care" movement is still alive and well, there was very little if not almost no information tailored specifically to MilSos and the lives we live. So I created a book - Self-Care Guide for MilSos- focusing specifically on this topic and the importance of this. I have been working on providing this book at multiple functions and focusing on spreading the word throughout the military community.

What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year® title?
I would love to reach as many military spouses in all branches to really focus and spread the word on the importance of self-care for military spouses and their families. As a MilSo myself, I know first hand how hard it can be to take care of myself and I have run on fumes for a good portion of time. But once I discovered self-care, spilling into everything from my mental, emotions, spiritual, physical and even social aspects of life, I can better serve and support my active duty service member husband. It doesn't matter what branch you are a part of, or whether you are active duty or reserve or national guard: we need to "fill our souls so we can serve." Whether this is by providing the tools to other MilSos or speaking and serving on multiple platforms, I will not rest until I have spread the word on this matter to every branch and MilSo there is.