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

Jenny Lynne Stroup

Branch: Navy

Duty Station: Naval Station Norfolk

Number of Deployments: 2

Number of PCS's: 3

Share your military spouse story:
I’m what some may call a seasoned spouse. I’m seasoned in the way military spouses are, by cramming decades of life experiences into just a few years. I would love to list the facts and figures of our 13 years together, but the truth is, it’s not the facts and figures that tell the story, it’s the life lived in between the quantifiable aspects of this lifestyle that seasoned me. It’s that life between the data points that molded me into the military spouse, mom, advocate, and author that I am today. As a military spouse, I’ve had the benefit of living in my hometown twice. Living there came with safety, security, and support. I’ve also been lived in a place where I was one of one. I was the only Navy spouse in the area and for some of my civilian friends, the only military spouse they’d ever met. With that duty station came opportunity, the ability to be a living example of military life for my civilian friends. Our most recent duty station took us from the being one of one to one of thousands of military families. With this duty station came relatability; I was back in a place where most people spoke the same three letter language, had weathered deployments and separations, and were used to the consistency of inconsistency. Though these duty stations provided varied ups and downs, that thing that was always there was community, and it is in community that I truly lived and grew into the military spouse I am today- one who is open about the good and the bad, one who shares her personal story to build connection, one who advocates for military family mental health, and one who is happiest when she is with her people, wherever they may be.

Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
I’ve held several official military spouse leadership positions, including: FRG Wardroom chair, Naval Officer Spouse Club Charities Chair, and been part of the leadership team for a Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) Group that was comprised mostly of military spouses. While I enjoyed each of those positions and being of service in an official capacity, I truly excel at leadership in ways that are more subtle than having a title or being on a board. My leadership is much more about being open about who I am and the struggles I’ve worked through. I share both on my personal web page and in other publications about what my military spouse life looks like-the good, the bad, the ugly. I host coffee dates at my house and share a little bit of my story to make space for others to feel like they can share their stories. Leading by example-mentorship-doing the work first then sharing my experience with other spouses is leadership to me.

Describe your involvement in the military community:
I am very active in the military community, both professionally and personally. Professionally, I am the Outreach Coordinator for the Cohen Clinic at VVSD. My job is to be out in the military community offering high quality mental health services. It is a job that is more than a job because my own family sought and benefitted from quality mental health services. I also actively pursue partnering with MSOs and VSOs across the county to cultivate community and provide resources to military families. Additionally, I served as the Special Project Manager for the USO of Metropolitan New York and as a speaker for United Through Reading As the co-host of the Holding Down the Fort Podcast, I amplify the voices of military spouses and the greater military community. Our show is produced for seasoned military spouses to foster community between the hosts, the guests, and the listeners. Personally, I open myself up for conversation, connection, and mentorship to military spouses.

Describe how you support your community:
Community is my jam. There is seriously nothing I love more than community, especially the milspouse community. I support and build community through communication, whether it be the written word or conversation. My words and conversations help bridge the gap between military and civilian cultures as well as between service branches. The longer I am a military spouse, the more I want to learn about other military spouses and fan that spark of learning in others. While we are all military spouses, there are so many intricacies of experience that define our lives-whether it be the branch of service our significant other is in or the job they do, where we're from or what we do. I encourage conversation and connection so we can learn from the uniqueness of our experience and also find the common ground.

What do you advocate for? Why?
I advocate for military family mental health. I wrote above about how this is my profession. I am paid to do so- but that is not the why. I watched my husband return from a deployment that changed him. He exhibited all the signs of PTSD, yet he did not see it himself until he was so deep in his symptoms, he was either going to get help or it was going to kill him. My family has sought and received mental health services in just about every form you can- individual counseling, couples counseling, and family counseling. We’ve spent years doing the work of healing and its working. We are not another military divorce statistic. In fact, we’ve become closer as the military stretches our time together apart. Mental health works and the earlier you receive it, the better the outcome. I want other military spouses and families, like mine, to see that it works, to get back to better, and to live this military life to the best of their ability- not merely surviving but thriving.

How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
I created a Facebook Live series for Cohen Veterans Network (CVN) entitled, “We Are Who We Serve.” In this series other CVN outreach staff and I address different aspects of mental health from our perspective as a military spouse, veteran, or military family member. Bringing our own military experience to these topics helps break down the stigma often associated with military mental health. On Holding Down the Fort Podcast, my cohost and I talk openly about our own mental health and the things we do to help us maintain it. I’ve also written for several military and family focused publications about my military spouse experience. Additionally, I have participated in a Congressional round table, been a keynote speaker for United Through Reading, and been interviewed on live TV and on podcasts.

What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year® title?
I have two great hopes for the Military Spouse of the Year title. The first is reducing the stigma around pursuing military mental healthcare and to help military spouses and families get back to better. I believe that mental health is health. It is something that needs tending to just like physical health and the healthier military spouses and families are, the healthier our service branches are. My second hope is that serving as Military Spouse of the Year provides an opportunity for more conversation and stimulates greater community relations between military and civilian populations. As a military spouse I am the embodiment of both groups- being both a civilian and also having a military ID card that offers me a front row seat to the military world.

Nominations

Jenny Lynne Stroup is an active duty seasoned spouse of 12+ years, mom of two boys, a mental health advocate, and the co-host of our award-winning podcast show, Holding Down the Fort. I admire her love for her family, the military community, and work in the mental health space as the Outreach Coordinator for the Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic at Veterans Village San Diego. She's also very open about her journey as an active duty military spouse, often sharing her story via media outlets, on our podcast show, and her blog https://jennylynnestroup.com/. I hope that you'll consider nominating her! Her LinkedIn profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jenny-lynne-stroup/
- by Jen Amos