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

Danita Jenae

Branch: Air Force

Duty Station: Not Affiliated With a Duty Station

Number of Deployments: 2

Number of PCS's: 6

Share your military spouse story:
Dan and I were night and day. I was an introverted poet, and he was an extroverted AF captain. On our third date, Dan sat me down for "the talk.” The one about, "If we're going to get serious, what I do serving our country is a calling, and it won't be easy." That committing to him meant committing to the Air Force. But all I heard were wedding bells. I took deep breaths, smiling at the promise of a future full of love and adventure with a stomach full of butterflies. In our family, butterflies have become a symbol of new beginnings. Military families have more than their share of new beginnings. But every new beginning means a season we grew to love is now ending. Our first military move left us without stable housing, moving 7 times in 6 months due to black mold issues. Soon after, Dan deployed for almost 8 months. That’s when I learned about the power of community and support from church family, military, and neighbors. Each time we restationed, we faced more stress, trauma, and mental health crises. I’ve battled physical and mental health crises, including insomnia, autoimmune disorders, postpartum depression, and PTSD. That’s why I advocate for mental health support for our military and their families. My husband and I learned to build community and fight together for our marriage, our health, and our mental stability. Only 6 weeks after we moved to Colorado, while still searching for a home, church, and schools, I got the knock at the door with the folded flag. Faced with new beginnings we never wanted, I determined to not let other families face loss and trauma alone. Military families face grief daily, whether from moving, deploying, trauma, or death. Military families sacrifice birthdays with kids while overseas, anniversaries with their spouse while TDY, and the loss of family and friends when they PCS. And sometimes, they sacrifice it all.

Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
My passion is to serve other surviving spouses through emotional support. Through my writing and speaking, I advocate often for the mental health of military spouses and children. I also teach others outside of the military how to help engage with women whose spouses are deployed or deceased. I'm working on a grief support group for military spouses and speak at churches and on podcasts that serve military widows. My first book releases in March of 2022. It’s an interactive journey through loss and is written to help the military widow rebuild her life after her world has just fallen apart. I offer mental health support for grief, suffering, loss, and trauma, which unfortunately are all too often woven into the fabric of the military experience.

Describe your involvement in the military community:
I'm an author and speaker who has shared in groups to young moms dealing with depression and needing help community building. I have served on military ministry teams at church, offering prayer and care support to families with deployed spouses. Most recently, I've been getting involved with multiple organizations that support families of fallen soldiers, like helping Angels of America's Fallen with fundraising through auctioning our artwork. Additionally, I've both participated in and led many military spouse small support groups, some groups were formal, some were organic and informal. But all were amazing support to military spouses.

Describe how you support your community:
My passion is to serve other surviving spouses through emotional support. Through my writing, I advocate often for the mental health of military spouses and children. I also teach others outside of the military how to help engage with women whose spouses are deployed or deceased. I'm working on a grief support group for military spouses and speak at churches and on podcasts that serve military widows. My first book releases in March of 2022. It’s an interactive journey through loss and is written to help the military widow rebuild her life after her world has just fallen apart. I offer mental health support for grief, suffering, loss, and trauma, which unfortunately are all too often woven into the fabric of the military experience.

What do you advocate for? Why?
My passion is to see to it that military and their families receive exemplary, innovative mental health support for healing from trauma, depression, and grief. I have suffered all of the above personally, and so I don't want anyone else to feel as isolated and unsupported as I have. Yes, the military is all too familiar with post traumatic stress disorders. It's time to see a shift in military culture. Now that we are aware of PTSD, we need to become more aware that post traumatic HEALING is also possible. I want to increase awareness of how to find effective trauma healing, and I want to see it become more available to other beloved military families who desperately need a breakthrough.

How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
I'm an author and speaker who has shared in groups to young moms dealing with depression and has served on military ministry teams at church. I've both participated in and led many small military spouse support groups. Most recently, I've been speaking life and hope into a new group of the military, which are the families of fallen soldiers. My newest book is a grief support resource that brings authenticity, comfort, awareness and healing from loss and trauma through journaling, artwork, and prayer. This upcoming book release is opening up doors. I'm scheduled for nationwide radio interviews, podcasts, and local speaking events. I'm also currently applying to partner with a program that supports wounded warriors and a program creatively brings trauma healing through innovative methods of the arts and poetry. Trauma disconnects the right brain from the left, and so anything we do to use the other side of our brain and to balance the two hemispheres can do wonders for healing.

What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year® title?
Our military and their families make quiet unspoken sacrifices daily, more than most people understand or can even imagine. Because of that, I aim to see more resources come available to them for healing from trauma and loss. The suicide rates among military families are alarming, and I want to do everything I can to ensure that these families are getting the innovative support they need from PTSD and grief and loss. I also want to normalize the experience of grief and loss and trauma so there’s not such a stigma. I believe that stigma is a big part of why military are prevented from getting the help they desperately need. I want to help educated and better equip groups like the Air Force Families Forever, Army SOS, Casualty Assistance Representatives, and Key Spouses so that they will have the emotional intelligence required to support a family who has lost their loved one. People in leadership often want to help but feel helpless to know how, and that’s the gap I want to bridge.

Nominations

Danita Jenae is a woman on a mission to comfort God's people in lovingkindness. As a widow, Danita has experienced a sorrow that we can collectively grieve as a community. Despite her pain and anguish, she faithfully shared her story and the redemptive hope she carries by writing a book. "When Mountains Crumble: Rebuilding Your Life After Losing Someone You Love" is salve to open and aching wounds. With every word, Danita strives to invite women into the love and trust of the Lord. As a military missionary and seasoned military spouse, I have found that grief is all too often a large part of our shared story. This book speaks directly to women in pain, shepherding their hearts back to the One and only that can offer hope and healing. Her heart for women in seasons of pain is tender and she would make an amazing addition to the MSOY program.
- by Megan Brown