Duty Station: Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base New Orleans
Number of Deployments: 3
Number of PCS's: 6
Share your military spouse story:
My name is Alexandra Simon, but my friends call me Ali. My military spouse journey began over thirteen years ago when I first met my Navy pilot spouse. One month into dating, Ben deployed to Iraq to serve in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). The months that passed gave me a taste of military life while also allowing me to get to know my soon-to-be spouse and supporting him during his first deployment. Ben proposed the next year and we were married shortly after. We have PCS’d six times together. I spent the first half of my milspouse journey working in education. Multiple PCS moves led me to become certified and teach in four different states and at a DOD school overseas. When I entered motherhood I struggled to find quality child care that worked with my teaching schedule, and this eventually led to a career change. Ten months after the birth of our first child my mother died from pancreatic cancer. Losing my mother was heartbreaking and the inability to be with her more during her illness due to being stationed four states away and having a newborn was awful. Shortly after my mom passed, we moved OCONUS to Naples, Italy for my husband to serve as an Admiral’s Aide. I had no idea how difficult it would be to move far away from my entire support network after experiencing such a profound loss. While overseas I was grieving the loss of my mom, followed by the loss of my career in teaching. I am so fortunate for the support I received from Jewish lay-led military community and counseling services at Fleet and Family. Both allowed me to share my grief and not feel so alone. Our next move stateside coincided with a transition from active duty to the Navy Full Time Support (FTS) Reserve community. We went from planned travel orders and deployments, to shorter detachments sometimes with little notice. Having been both an active duty Navy spouse and now a reserve spouse, I have a deeper understanding of both worlds. I now support new FTS spouses making the transition.
Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
When our family completed our first PCS with two school aged children several years ago, I was quickly overwhelmed figuring out where to enroll my children in school. As a former educator, I felt called to serve the military community and seized the opportunity to become a Military Parent Advocate with the Military Child Education Coalition (MCEC) for the National Capital Region. In this role I utilized my public speaking background to lead webinars, Facebook live sessions, and create posts for the MCEC National Capital Region Facebook page. When we moved to our current duty station I became informed of the challenges being stationed at a remote base and wanted to lift the voices of my military community. I applied and was selected to serve on the advisory board for the Military Family Advisory Network. In my role as a member of the advisory board I have the opportunity to share insights into military life for those stationed at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base New Orleans.
Describe your involvement in the military community:
As a military spouse I have been involved in spouse clubs and regularly attend town halls and optional leadership trainings like the PXO Spouse Course. I support my spouse by attending formal military events as well as social events. I am a regular volunteer with Secure Families Initiative (SFI), most recently participating in their day of service by writing welcome letters for Afghan allies and by leading a training session at their Civic Engagement Boot Camp last May. I have volunteered with Blue Star Families and the Military Child Education Coalition, and I currently serve on the Military Family Advisory Network (MFAN) advisory board. As a Jewish military family I have also prioritized regular participation in the Jewish military community. From hosting and participating in Shabbat and High Holy Day services with military members, to attending events on base like Holocaust Remembrance Day, I honor the contributions and sacrifice of Jewish service members and their families.
Describe how you support your community:
I am an extrovert and when meeting new spouses I start small by openly sharing my own experiences and struggles, hoping to foster ways for us to support each other. I strongly believe in promoting Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility for all military families and spouses. In an effort to increase accessibility and inclusion of Latino voices I participated in a Spanish language voting webinar with SFI in coordination with Esposas Militares Hispanas USA Armed Forces. I am a contributor to the Military Mom Collective where I have published articles on various topics to reach a broad audience of military connected readers. For years I have formally and informally supported military children and families as they navigate the challenging school system in the Greater New Orleans area. I share information on social media platforms, create tailored emails, and personally connect with spouses overwhelmed by the education system here.
What do you advocate for? Why?
I am focused on encouraging military spouses from all backgrounds to live their best milspouse life and share their stories. As a Jew and Latina, I have sometimes felt alone or othered from military spaces. Instead of leaving these spaces, I have embraced my diversity and shared my experiences as a military spouse. My objective is to uplift spouses from diverse communities and encourage them to become more involved and participatory in the military community. From pursuing their personal and professional goals to serving in leadership roles, we must embrace the diversity of our military. The reality is that women, racial and ethnic minorities, and LGBTQ people all serve in the military and by extension so do their families. By encouraging spouses from all backgrounds to take action and become involved in military life, we will create a more inclusive and robust community that represents all families.
How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
I have spread the message of my advocacy through my writing and story telling. I began by publishing a Letter to the Editor in The Advocate and have since become a contributing writer for the Military Mom Collective. I have written pieces centered on Hispanic Heritage month, military spouses in mobile careers, caring for a terminally ill family member, and the value in volunteering with both military organizations and nonprofits. I share the stories and voices of other military spouses, as well as my own. I plan to increase the diversity of these voices and share my work in additional publications. As an educator and trainer I also encourage other military spouses to tell their own stories by leading public narrative workshops with SFI and share my own experience during these live events. I truly believe that by empowering military spouses to share their stories, we can impact change on the local and national level and bring awareness to issues our military families face every day.
What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year®
I will use the AFI Military Spouse of the Year title to work towards building a more supportive, welcoming and inclusive environment for all military spouses and their families. For me, empowering spouses is about helping and encouraging each other. I hope to increase awareness of the supportive services I have benefitted from as a military spouse and help to remove the stigma and barriers associated with seeking help. By acknowledging the hardships that we all face as spouses, I will share and provide resources needed to overcome these challenges. It can be scary to seek mental health services or admit that we cannot longer handle everything that is put on our overflowing plates as military spouses. My milspouse superpower is connecting with others both in my writing and personal outreach and I will harness these skills to the fullest extent.
Ali is an empowered military spouse who leverages her talents and energies to empower other military spouses as well.
Ali’s biggest skill is her writing. She regular publishes thoughtful articles in various outlets, detailing different aspects of the milspouse lifestyle. Through her work, I’ve seen Ali uplift marginalized voices and inspire her readers to take action toward positive change. She’s also an avid volunteer who has spent countless hours serving her community, both military and civilian. Ali will bring so much to the MSOY program.
- by Sarah Streyder