It's time to nominate! Click here to nominate a deserving military spouse today!

Claudia De Marini Welihan

Branch: Marine Corps

Duty Station: Marine Corps Base Hawaii

Number of Deployments: 5

Number of PCS's: 4

Share your military spouse story:
When my husband Jayson and I met we lived in different cities in California. I had just finished an enlistment with the USNavy and had returned to the civilian workforce. Jayson is a Marine aviator and he was serving at 29 Palms.Courtship was brief, as engagement, soon a deployment for him. Upon his homecoming we married in Miami followed by our first set of orders to Okinawa Japan. For three years we developed solid relationships with fellow expatriates, became familiar with our local community, and strengthened our marriage foundation.One pcs in San Diego, a Master’s Degree for me and 4 deployments later we moved to Oahu Hawaii.At 6 months pregnant with an exigent gestation I found myself unsettled and unhappy.Jayson was tasked immediately to fly outside the islands, we moved from temporary lodging several times, and I could not find my rhythm.I believe these feelings were magnified by the fear of losing another pregnancy in the absence of my husband. I felt truly overwhelmed and lonely which was extremely out of character for me.The key to overcoming this adverse season in my life was to actively seek social interaction find a milspouse support system and identify my place within the community. I reconnected with old friends living on the island who introduced me to spouse led clubs. Health and wellness were critical in this process of self-awareness and life balance. Once I had established a routine I was able to regain my personal confidence and began truly embracing my new environment. Shortly after, Liam our son made his grandiose arrival giving our lives even greater expectations. After almost thirteen years of unconventional non-profit and volunteer work, I was presented with the incredible opportunity to join the ranks of the American Red Cross as a Senior Regional Program Specialist in late 2021.Retirement for my husband is approaching fast and we are looking forward to finding more avenues to give back to our military and local communities here in Hawaii

Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
While living in Japan, my husband and I assisted our Chaplain onboard Marine Air Station Futenma in creating a safe space for hundreds of young Marines and sailors in lieu of the traditional bar-scene. That is how Heroes Café was born. We converted an adjacent chapel space into a coffee house where any servicemen could find a safe haven, watch a movie, play musical instruments, read books, get a free cup of gourmet coffee graciously donated by a veteran-owned coffee business, or a bite to eat at no cost to them. It was also an opportunity for mentorship and a platform for increasing morale amongst our troops and their families.I also had the humbling opportunity to organize and lead the single Marine-program through CREDO, also in Okinawa-Japan.This particular effort allowed for active duty members to participate in weekly visits to a local Japanese children’s orphanage.Through this program we incentivized cultural exchange and promoted inclusiveness amongst the locals and our military

Describe your involvement in the military community:
As a new spouse in the aviation community, I took notice of the abrasiveness and competitiveness amongst some of the wives’ groups within our squadrons.This sparked my desire to become proactive in the process of building cohesiveness, and support groups for junior spouses, as some were unacquainted with the dynamics of military living. While onboard Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego, CA, I became an advocate and ambassador for In-Dependent, a non-profit brand whose mission is to make wellness accessible and create opportunities for all military spouses to connect for friendship, accountability, and inspiration.This organization’s vision aligned with my personal goals of inclusiveness and building a platform for wellness, even if virtually. During our 3yr assignment I organized monthly outdoor activities for our members, such as yoga classes and paddle boarding, social gatherings to promote spouse engagement, community building, and exposing any new entrepreneurial efforts

Describe how you support your community:
2020 was an unforeseen, unprecedented, and grueling year for many of us. Due to this rapidly-growing pandemic, my family and I were geographically separated for ten months.While my husband served in Hawaii my son Liam and I were in Lima, Peru where I worked with SnapHope, a non-profit I founded in 2015.Being a veteran and a mil-spouse for over a decade, separation wasn’t an unorthodox concept to my family. However my experiences as a seasoned traveler and former servicewoman could not have prepared me for the trials we endured.We were mentally stretched, physically tried, and emotionally challenged in many ways.We learned to quickly adapt and overcome.Most importantly we were able to share our experience with our community which was unbelievably supportive and compassionate. Our story was aired on national tv in hopes to help community and general public in finding ways to overcome the anxiety and stress caused by separation and loss

What do you advocate for? Why?
To me wellness is synonymous with inner personal balance: it cannot be given, it is found within. I advocate for a body/mind wellness equilibrium within the members of our military spouse community. My continuous quest is to create avenues in which mil-spouses can safely share their personal or professional journeys of success or struggle alike, free of judgement, while finding a responsive and receptive audience, a solid community. Furthermore, I believe in promoting an environment with a diverse platform, in hope of supporting individual and common success through the permanent commitment to create dialogue and share resources, as military life can be one of isolation. I believe there is something unbelievably powerful about women empowering other women through sustainable avenues and healthy practices. If we feel “wholesome” then we can ensure to be better equipped to face the trials of military living in a more effective way

How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
I am a very social person and due to my psychology background, I am constantly intrigued by people and what motivates them. I seek every possible opportunity to gather military spouses, whether at my home or at public venues to listen and network. Networking has been the most effective way for me to relate my purpose to other fellow spouses.I have also spread my message through multiple written contributions on social media and different military friendly blogs. I consider that writing has been a powerful and successful tool to convey a message to a greater audience. It has also provided valuable feedback to identify ways in which to serve our community more proficiently

What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year® title?
First of all, it would be an absolute honor to hold such a prestigious title. Additionally, what I hope to accomplish is to use the platform as a powerful tool for exposing, bringing awareness and advocating for issues affecting our mil-spouses, such as finding support, building community and experiencing acceptance. Also, I would utilize the tittle to gain visibility and connect with spouses across all branches of service, which is otherwise rather challenging as an individual effort. I hope to become a mentor to other spouses by sharing my personal military journey while supporting their families in any capacity. I will strive to continue to create healthy avenues to find mental and body wellness balance. Lastly, I look forward to working and learning alongside former MSOY alumni to accomplish common goals benefiting our community


Claudia is the epitome of inspiration. She exudes all things amazing in a woman. She is strong, she is intelligent, she has a beautiful soul. She’s a mama, she’s a wife. She’s worked so hard to get to where she is. She’s a veteran, she works full time from home aside from running her own non profit. She does so much to help spouses and moms. She is filled to the rim with words of wisdom and positivity. She is the spouse, mom and friend I along with so many that know her, strive to be. She is more than deserving of this! I am honored to call her a friend & am proud to nominate her!
- by Sara Fox

Claudia is a very smart, respectful, thoughtful, empower woman. He helps people to be better and stronger and helped the ones that are in need as well. I respect her and admire for the human being she is.
- by Diana Vanessa Nash