Branch: Marine Corps
Duty Station: Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island
Number of Deployments: 1
Number of PCS's: 1
Share your military spouse story:
My husband and I met at his first duty station at MCAS Miramar in San Diego, California. Having grown up in San Diego, my family would go to the Miramar Air Show every year. My father was in the Army before I was born, so though I did not grow up in the military community, I was raised to admire and respect those who serve. I have always felt a profound sense of pride, solemnity, and reverence regarding military service, and the history that has resulted therefrom. One moment that has stuck with me since childhood is standing on the flight line at Miramar during the air show - I must have been around 12 years old - listening to "Proud to Be an American" play as the B-2 stealth bomber flew overhead. It sounds cliché, of course, but early memories like that have truly informed my existence as a military spouse. While not every day is a day of abject admiration of the military and the often discombobulated lifestyle that comes with it, embracing the moments that permit you to step back and remember the overarching reason our spouses joined is important. Being involved as a volunteer, meeting the people my spouse works with and seeing them help each other succeed helps to provide perspective. Learning to laugh through the ridiculousness of being a military spouse, and finding other spouses to connect with to support you through the hard parts has made this experience the most strange, wonderful, and interesting way to live life.
Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
As FRA of Golf Company and CTA of 2nd Battalion, I make sure that not only am I organizing and executing family events throughout the year (and almost weekly throughout training cycles for Golf Company), I make sure I am present - typically the first to arrive and the last to leave an event. Simply being present means that the families know who I am, they know they can count on me to be there, and they're comfortable reaching out when something is needed. In my time as FRA and CTA, I have assisted at least three different spouses with serious issues that have arisen during training cycles, and each has informed me that my visibility in the Company and Battalion is what caused them to come to me for help and guidance as to how to proceed, and who in the command to contact.
Describe your involvement in the military community:
My husband and I have been at two duty stations together now, and I have volunteered my time at both! At VMGR-352, the squadron held monthly single marine dinners, which I cooked and brought food for each month. During the holidays - Thanksgiving and Christmas - GovX would donate turkeys as well as prizes for the Marines, and I would help other spouses in cooking the turkeys and providing side dishes for the Marines. At Golf Company and 2nd Battalion, I again contribute by cooking for the drill instructors (almost weekly), as well as organizing family events throughout training cycles, and throughout the year on the Battalion level for all major holidays. I attend monthly command team meetings, quarterly installation family readiness council meetings, and work with the Battalion and Company to welcome new DI families! I am also presently the treasurer for the Parris Island Spouses Club, which gives out annual scholarships to military spouses and children.
Describe how you support your community:
When we arrived on Parris Island in April 2020, I began volunteering by feeding drill instructors! Within a few months, I was the co-family readiness assistant for Golf Company, a position I have now held for over a year. Later, I became the co-Command Team Advisor for 2nd Battalion (Golf Company and 3 other training companies), a position I have held for over a year. As both Golf FRA and 2nd Battalion CTA, I am a point of contact for spouses, and serve as a bridge between the spouses and the command. I organize family events for Golf Company, and assist the Battalion's Uniformed Readiness Coordinator in organizing Battalion family events. In 2021 I was voted in as Treasurer of the Parris Island Spouses Club, a position I will hold through May 2022. Outside of volunteering, I am a California consumer protection attorney, working with those who have identity theft, credit reporting, and debt collection issues. My firm also assists servicemembers who have had their SCRA rights violated.
What do you advocate for? Why?
Inclusivity, support, and no-judgment humanity are the traits I personally try to demonstrate and advocate for most in the military family community, and generally interpersonally. Especially within the military community, we are all moving around so often, leaving comfortable situations, leaving friends and family - starting over at every new duty station. Remembering that each of us are in similar situations, remembering what it was like to start over, and being there for others as you wish someone had been there for you (or as someone was there for you) when you were new to a situation is so important and underrecognized. So what I show and advocate for most vehemently in my interactions with military families is just to be human, be helpful, be inclusive and understanding. All of that is possible without overexerting yourself, because the other side to this coin is ensuring that you are not pouring from an empty cup.
How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
I attempt to demonstrate, on a daily basis, how to simply be a good human, how to help make others comfortable with being themselves in a brand new place. I strive to be open, communicative, welcoming, and situationally aware at all times, and work towards making the duty station, the company, the squadron, whatever group we're in - make that little group like family. I talk to all the new families, and keep up relationships with families who have been around for longer periods of time. I make sure people know who I am, know they can speak to me about anything with no judgment, and show up, every time, so people see that I am present. The simple act of being there I find to be more impactful than many people realize, because it's so easy to get lost in the shuffle of military life. But by taking the time to be present, you show your dedication and caring for those around you, and it brings a sense of comfort and ease to opening up what could otherwise be a difficult conversation.
What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year®
I'd like to set an example for other military spouses, to show them that this military life is truly what you make of it. Whether you work, volunteer, both, or neither, you're still part of a community of people in similar situations - despite sometimes being from vastly different backgrounds. I'd like to encourage other spouses to at least get out there and meet other military spouses, even if they don't want to volunteer, because some of the most interesting and valuable friendships are made through shared experiences. It's sometimes difficult for those outside of this life to understand what it's like to move around and start over - but coming together within our military community to support and encourage each other is our strongest position!
Lauren is an active and giving military spouse. Since arriving at MCDR Parris Island she has been involved with the Military Spouse's Club in all of their charitable work & is now treasurer. She also Command Team Advisor for the 2nd Recruit Battalion, as well as being Family Readiness Assistant for her husband's recruit Company. Besides all of this, Lauren is an attorney working on environmental issues.
- by Michael Fleischbein