Branch: National Guard
Duty Station: Ohio
Number of Deployments: 4
Number of PCS's: 0
Share your military spouse story:
As a young female, I dreamt of the day I would become a wife and a mother. I did not know that my journey would find me being a wife to a man in uniform while battling infertility and suffering from a traumatic loss through suicide; however, the military life and the journey we are on together, is one that I have found strength, courage, support and love within, alongside an entire tribe of others who walk this journey along side of me. We began courting in the fall of 2013. He was already enlisted. We laugh and say it was just love at first message since we met online. In 2016, we became a family, and I took his last name. We have experienced many mental health issues along the way, especially after being the first responder to finding my only and younger sibling lifeless. Nothing can prepare one for that situation, or life after that, but nothing could prepare one of the dark shadows of infertility and the havoc that it would cause not only within your heart, but within your marriage, and other relationships that you hold very dear. Something, I only heard about from others, was now my reality. I am not only 1 in 8, but I am 1 in 4 as well, continuing to walk this path I had no choice to accept as my own. Medicated cycles, timed cycles, failed IUI's, several reproductive surgeries, and failed IVF's, many needles, and a boat loads of faith and hope even when I feel like giving up, I continue to move forward in this journey to our miracle. Not only am I an infertility warrior, a suicide loss survivor, and a military spouse, I am an entrepreneur, an artist, a source of empowerment, and encouragement, love and support not only in my community, but within our military family. I am owning my own journey that I did not choose for myself, seeing the glass half full rather than half empty. It is my hope that I am able to bring light and help others by being there and fighting the good fight to bring change to the battle of infertility.
Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
Within my community, I have founded the Ohio Orange Brigade in memory of my brother, Austin. We are an outlet within our small community for children, young adults, adults and veterans that provide mental health resources, as well as a tribe for individuals to find solace with others who struggle with suicidal thoughts. I have collaborated with American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, as well as Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation and a local counseling center to bring hope to our rural community. Within the military community, I am passionate about mentoring and helping military spouses, both new and seasoned. Mentoring is not only just conversations, but building relationships and friendships. Sharing experiences, and knowledge. As a mentor, I have the ability to reach others and teach, while also learning from them.
Describe your involvement in the military community:
By mentoring military spouses, I am not only helping the military community. I am helping within the communities they are planted. By planting a seed, they are able to grow and feel supported in the things they are passionate about in their lives, while being empowered to make changes. This passion and involvement not only reaches the Ohio Orange Brigade within my own community, but I have also collaborated with other non-profits within the military community to advocate for change when it comes to suicide awareness and prevention, but as well as advocating for infertility and the ability to assist military couples and their dream to begin a family of their own. It takes a village to raise a family, but it also can take a village to begin a family as well.
Describe how you support your community:
Our local community is small; however, it has pockets of gold. From the dairy farm down the road to the industrial park on the other side of a map dot town, we all share a vision to make a lasting impact. Personally, I have joined forces with other groups in my community that share a common mission when it comes to infertility and families in the military. The mission is to break the stigma that surrounds infertility, make treatments more affordable, and to help streamline the process of those treatments not only for those who do not PCS, but for those who move all around due to orders. By sharing my own personal journey, I shine a light on the topic and the struggles that many families do have, and by doing so with the support of others, I find a renewed hope, and restored faith that change can happen not only in our own waiting, but the waiting of so many couples. By being vulnerable, I am building a community that is safe for others to become vulnerable about their journey as well.
What do you advocate for? Why?
Infertility affects 1 in 8 couples which is approximately 12% of married women. I am 1 in 8. Due to medical complications I had previously, we knew there would be a possibility that we would struggle to conceive. That possibility became a reality as I was diagnosed in 2015 with PCOS and Hypothyroidism. Reasons in which I could not control, we were now in a journey that would leave us laying everything on the line for what our heart desires. We sought assistance from several specialists miles away from us with no financial assistance, and insurance coverage being non-existent. We are not the only family that is affected by infertility (whatever the cause may be.) It happens with, sometimes, no reason. Empathizing with the burdens (mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually and financially) I believe in my heart there are ways to lessen these burdens, and together, we can find a resolution.
How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
It's important to advocate in order to allow individuals to know they are not alone, and to find their tribe of people who can relate to them, find encouragement and support since support is very limited. I have been honored and humbled to be part of a few military panels, podcasts and local panels to discuss the challenges of infertility while grieving after a traumatic loss, along with the mental and emotional burdens that come along with the journey, ultimately coming down to the extreme price tag many couples are not prepared to pay upfront with barely (if any) assistance. As an entrepreneur, I am able to also communicate through my art of photography. I am able to use the week of infertility awareness to provide couples an outlet to express themselves and their unique journey. By doing this, I am able to feel their story, validate their feelings, and provide them with hope. They are able to share their stories through art, which is unique and theirs to truly own.
What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year®
Providing that I would have the opportunity to hold the title of AFI Military Spouse of the Year, it would be my hope that I could continue to extend my outreach in collaborating with other non-profits to bring change, to bring hope and support. Being a National Guard spouse, I believe, puts me in a unique position where I am able to assist not only the military community but also those who are not in the military. It would be a goal to create my own non-profit to assist military couples in funding a piece of their journey to take some of the financial burden off of their plate when they are already very overwhelmed. I would communicate with different insurance companies, including Tricare, to fight to provide more coverage when it comes to infertility treatments through medication and procedures. By holding the AFI Military Spouse of the Year title, I would be the voice of many stories, including my very own, to bring resolve, and be apart of making some dreams come true.
Courtney's military spouse advocacy work has allowed her to be the voice of suicide awareness and as a suicide loss survivors. Her candid approach of loss inspires other in discovering the path to healing. The dedication for finding resources has led her to collaborate with The Don't Give Up Movement. Courtney created the Ohio Orange Brigade in hopes that by sharing her own thoughts can save lives. Through infertility, loss of her only brother and the love of her husband she inspires those that feel like no-one can hear them. Courtney is strengthening her community and those around her with the work she is doing.
- by Cindy Meili