Nominations are closed. Come back February 3 to meet the candidates!

Abbi McCracken

Branch: Coast Guard

Duty Station: Coast Guard District 11

Number of Deployments: 15

Number of PCS's: 4

Share your military spouse story:
In 2011 I married my high school sweetheart becoming a new Military Spouse and moved away from my family for the first time. Shortly after we were married I became pregnant with twins and put on bed rest making it impossible to make friends in a new state. My husband supported me through my entire pregnancy while continuing to work and deploy regularly. In October of 2012 I went into labor 11 weeks early while my husband was deployed. While he arrived home just in time for the birth of our twins we had no idea how hard the road ahead would be. We spent 8 weeks sleeping in recliners at the hospital to be close to our boys as we watched them fight for their lives. I remember the feeling of being alone the most. Thankfully the command was very supportive when it came to him getting time off to be with us, but the feeling of being a spouse left to fend for myself was overwhelming. As life settled in and I was able to connect more with spouses around the area, I realized that there was someone on base called an Ombudsman who was able to provide resources from around the community and on base. I also realized I had no idea who this person was and why they weren’t being utilized more by families. I was able to find out who our Ombudsman was and made many connections, however it wouldn’t be until many years later as a spouse that I would fully understand how an active Ombudsman could really impact a Coast Guard unit and their families. At this point my passion and dedication to the Coast Guard and its families began to grow. During our first PCS from that duty station I told my husband “If I ever had the chance to Volunteer as an Ombudsman that I would be honored to have the opportunity and make sure I did everything I could to show families that they weren’t alone and that there was always someone willing and wanting to help.” Navigating a military lifestyle can be so challenging and I truly believe having someone in your corner makes all the difference.

Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
The most rewarding project I was able to help lead was the Coastie Campers program through the Coast Guard Foundation. I was able to help them pilot a program that provided $500 to each eligible Coast Guard child in the San Diego area towards summer camps and, or online enrichment because it was going on during the global COVID19 pandemic. I worked closely with Coast Guard Foundation staff members to send information to families, and verified each applicants eligibility. I am currently Coast Guard 11th district’s Ombudsman Community of Practice Chairperson. In this role I lead meetings providing subject matter experts in relevant areas, giving the most current and up to date training as possible. I’ve lead projects sponsored by Home Front America to deliver over 150 toys to Sector San Diego to help junior enlisted members offset the financial burden of Christmas, and most recently I had the honor of being recognized as Coast Guard 11th District's Ombudsman of the year in 2021.

Describe your involvement in the military community:
Even though my husband is in CG Aviation I have taken on the role as Ombudsman for other units as well such as Station San Diego, three Coast Guard (CG) Cutters, Electronic Support Detachment, and AIDS to Navigation. I was honored to host a luncheon for Mrs. Shultz and Mrs. Vanderhaden, wives of the Commandant and Master Chief Petty Officer of the CG to discuss the unique challenges of military families. I was appointed and still hold the role of District 11 Community of Practice Chairperson (COP Chair) for Ombudsman. I am trained in Crisis Intervention/Stress Management and ASSIT for the CG helping to recognize signs of suicide. I also hold a full time Civilian position on base as the Local Housing Authority. I am active in promoting morale and spouse events hoping to encourage building a strong family and community. I continue to maintain close relationships with Command leaders, junior personnel, and their families, and am incredibly humbled to have been a part of each organization.

Describe how you support your community:
I’m able to support my community by building bonds on and off base with compassion and trust. My several rolls in the military community allow my passion for it's families to shine. Not just for CG families but all branches. I live in military housing where families from each branch reach out aware of my passion for helping to ask for guidance on many sensitive issues. My training in suicide awareness and critical incident/stress management allows me recognize signs that a person may be struggling beyond the military community. I volunteer with Diamonds in the Rough Ministries helping feed the homeless in our community and much more. I have helped in each of my boys classrooms with bake sales, homework, and attending career days. I truly love being involved in their education as well as helping other parents navigate the world of IEP’s and 504’s. Having learned to advocate for my special needs child on my own, making the road easier for other parents and caregivers warms my heart.

What do you advocate for? Why?
I advocate for strong military friendships, marriages and families. I truly believe that the mission starts at home and if we can be consistent in providing quality and relevant resources to our families, members are better equipped to carry out their mission at work. Making resources widely available and removing the stigma that can come with asking for help, let’s us create an all inclusive environment where families can learn to advocate for themselves. Empowering them to build their own communities and teach others along the way. If we can continue to provide families with unwavering support we can help families in all branches thrive. Also for spouse employment, specifically careers they can carry with them no matter where the CG may take them. Being a CG Civilian has given me an opportunity to learn and grow in my career and I will be able to take my experience anywhere this life leads. I want to empower other spouses do the same by educating them on all the resources available.

How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
By engaging with military families and members on a daily basis. I frequently speak at all hands held on base expressing the importance of getting connected, building community and asking for resources. By meeting with Senior Leadership spouses and expressing ways the CG can help at the highest level. I spoke on Wellness Wednesday, a call that was broadcast CG wide on the topic of the Ombudsman program with the program manager and regional coordinators. I sat on a panel during a conference for the community organization Military Family Collaborative helping shed light on life as a Military spouse and ways the Ombudsman program can help promote strong community and strong families. I work closely with community partners like United Through Reading, The Coast Guard Foundation, ASYMCA, and USO to maintain relationships between them and the Coast Guard Ombudsman Program so our families can fully benefit from all of the amazing resources each program and organization has to offer.

What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year® title?
I hope to bring my passion for the Coast Guard, it's families and the family programs each Military branch has to as many people as possible. I want families to know that there are resources out there for them no matter the challenges they are facing. There have been so many women through my husbands career that have helped me grow as a spouse, and it has made me passionate about investing in others like they invested in me. Watching other families thrive because of things they have learned from me sharing my passion has been such a humbling experience, and has made the time put in worth it a hundred times over. I have always felt a great sense of pride in supporting my husbands career and though raising three amazing boys has and always will be my greatest accomplishment, now is the time to feed my passion for helping others. I want my boys to see that kindness and passion can change the world. I am incredibly humbled and will be forever grateful for being considered for this honor.

Nominations

I’ve known Abbigail for over 10 years. The entire time she has been a military spouse. She is the most selfless and kind woman I know. She has dedicated so much to be the best wife and mother she can be. I’ve personally witnessed her dedication during deployments. I’ve personally witnessed how she goes above and beyond for her husband and his fellow military members by bringing them meals and including them with her own family events. She is an advocate and voice for fellow spouses. She’s always taken the role of military spouse seriously and has always supported her husband in every step of his career.
- by Alexandria Frazer

Abbigail is not only a positive influence in the community, she’s a wonderful friend, wife, and mother. She is a civilian worker for the Coast Guard and she loves her career. She enjoys helping people and seeing them smile. Abbigail is also the ombudsman for Sector San Diego. She is a dedicated and valued part of the Coast Guard community. Her drive to help others is inspiring. As a military wife and friend of Abbigail, I am motivated by her actions and selflessness. There are many reasons to nominate this awesome woman for this great title, but the most important reason I feel is because she is simply a kind person who enteres everything with an open mind and a soft heart.
- by Tiara Daniel