Samar Arny

Branch: Navy

Duty Station: Naval Air Station Whidbey Island

Number of Deployments: 2

Number of PCS's: 6

Share your military spouse story:
Sections of my speech during the Military Spouse Appreciation Forum last May: In 2011, I found I’m pregnant a week after Matt left on deployment leading the Black Knights as the new commanding officer. I was a brand-new Navy spouse–just moved from Dubai to Lemoore, CA. - The night before my 1st spouses meeting, a tsunami hit the shores of Japan. - The night before my 2nd meeting, a jet crashed & 2 pilots were killed in a neighboring squadron in Lemoore. - In the same week, I received a call from home, my dad was diagnosed with level 4 cancer & was dying. I immediately flew to Lebanon. - Shortly after my arrival there, I had severe complications with pregnancy. My dad was losing the battle with cancer in one bedroom & I was in the bedroom facing it on full bed rest. I kept running the spouses meetings through skype with the help of a department head spouse. - Our eldest was born in Lebanon prematurely but healthy. During my appointment at the American Embassy to have his passport done, the consular officer looked at me & asked “WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?” I leaned down to the window & answered “what do you mean?" He looked at me again from behind the window & raised his voice repeating “I said what in the world are you doing here? You are not supposed to be here…We need to get your child out of this need to know, YOU CANNOT VISIT HOME AGAIN AS LONG AS YOU ARE A MILITARY SPOUSE." - A huge portion of my life was taken away from me: my family, friends, childhood memories, brand-new house & my successful career. I love Matt so much, but I was torn with the decision. - When it was time to go to the airport, I gave my dad a hug & we both looked silently at each other for a few minutes knowing it was the LAST TIME we would see each other. - My dad passed away a couple of months later. I wasn't able to return for his funeral...Same year, my 2 grandpas passed away & a family uncle. Please check the conclusion under the SUPPORT section.

Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
An example of innovative leadership is creating in 2019 a series of ALL-INCLUSIVE & DIVERSE initiatives is building a community & connecting the below groups together on one table, one group, & one voice: - Spouses of active duty enlisted & officers - Spouses of active duty senior leadership - Community influencers & business leaders - Spouses of veterans in leadership roles - Executive veterans in global corporations 2019 empowering initiatives I led: - Military Spouse Empowerment Summit in partnership with Boeing - Military Spouse Appreciation Forum - Bringing for the 1st time spouses of enlisted Sailors & veterans as board members on OSCWI - Empowering culinary specialist Sailors through 6 receptions (Dec. 2018 & 2019) to show off their work to community leadership - Led 21st Century Military Spouse workshop in San Diego - 21st Century Mil Spouse Toolkit workshop with Amazon - 6 partnership initiatives with Nordstrom, Amazon, Microsoft, & Boeing

Describe your involvement in the military community:
Actively engage & serve currently as: - Executive committee member at the Washington State Military Transition Council (WSMTC), WA State Department of Veterans Affairs: Recently selected to represent senior military spouses in Washington State. - Base COW: As NASWI base commanding officer wife, I lead community projects among our 50 commands on NASWI. During 2019, I established 6 empowering initiatives with Microsoft, Amazon, Boeing, & Nordstrom to empower military spouses & promote inclusion, diversity & connectedness. - Honorary President for the Officers’ Spouses’ Club of Whidbey Island (OSCWI): Serve in the capacity of a program director, advocate, & mentor for the organization. - Honorary Chair of Volunteers for the Navy Marine Corps Relief Society (NMCRS) - Director on board for the Island Thrift: A local non-profit which provides grants & scholarships–over half a million dollars annually–to community spouses, students, non-profits, & businesses.

Describe how you support your community:
Leading through true application of inclusion, diversity, & connectedness as building blocks to empowerment: Conclusion from my story in Q1: "It wouldn't have made any difference in my story, if I was the spouse of a commander, a newly enlisted sailor, a captain or a chief petty officer. The stripes on my husband’s shoulder wouldn't have made pregnancy easier, or eased the sadness of losing loved ones, celebrating an anniversary alone, single parenting or moving across country with a baby when he was gone. It doesn't matter whose husband or wife does what in the military. We are all spouses who have left our friends, families & aspirations behind to serve along our spouses. We are all part of this military journey & unique lifestyle. We serve hand in hand along our spouses, but we do not wear their ranks. As the NASWI commanding officer spouse & with my professional background, I seriously work on creating an innovative environment to empower & inspire each other."

What do you advocate for? Why?
I advocate for EMPOWERMENT of military spouse. Create the mindset of empowerment & inspiration through promoting inclusion, diversity, & connectedness on the professional, educational, & wellness levels. - Build an inclusive empowered community: Provide a platform allowing spouses' voice to be heard digitally & cross-functionally, an opportunity to shine, & show their uniqueness. - Break barriers of RANKS & social status among spouses & family members. - Create memorable strong connections (versus shallow networking) with leaders dedicated to empower military families to inspire us, mentor us, help us unlock our potential, & charge us deep inside with positive energy. - Invest on the bridging the gap & connecting the retired/veteran executive leaders with the active duty spouses. These veterans & their spouses have been in our shoes, lived this challenging lifestyle, & are an asset to our empowerment. - Continue in philanthropic mission to fund scholarships for spouses.

How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
Public speaking engagements in 2019: - keynote: Military Spouse Appreciation Forum - keynote: Lions Club reception, the Role of the Military Spouse - keynote and panelist: Annual Military Leadership Symposium in San Diego - Opening / closing remarks: 21st Century Military Spouse Toolkit Workshop with Amazon - Opening speech: Military Spouse Empowerment Summit in partnership with Boeing - Keynote: Boeing headquarters Mil spouse event - Guest speaker: Microsoft headquarters, personal branding in the digital world Media: - Featured in an interview on Whidbey News Times - Featured on the front cover of the Whidbey Crosswind Newspaper - Press release coverage:, Defense Visual Distribution Service, Eventa, E-Peak, World News, Homeport Northwest, & citynews. Social media / email: - Email distribution to leadership spouses in 50 commands - OSCWI Facebook, LinkedIn & Website - CPOSA Facebook page - Private Facebook mil spouse groups

What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year® title?
As the 2020 SOY, I aim to bring the vision and mission of the “21st Century Military Spouse” to the national level and across all military branches. Creating innovative initiatives to empower and inspire our community is my passion. Achieving these initiatives through efficiently promoting diversity, inclusion, connectedness, and kindness are my goals. Defining and tackling the roadblocks that HINDER spouses from unlocking their potential are tactics I adopt to achieve empowerment. Mission To empower and inspire military spouses–among all military branches–on the professional, educational, and wellness levels through promoting inclusion, diversity, and connectedness. Vision To become in 3 years the primary digital empowering platform for military spouses around the nation, and in 6 years to establish “Military Spouse Appreciation Forum” and “Military Spouse Empowerment Summit” on 59 Military installations.