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

Manda Lynn McVey

Branch: Army

Duty Station: Fort Polk

Number of Deployments: 1

Number of PCS's: 3

Share your military spouse story:
I’m an Army spouse of 6+ years, a mother of a child with special needs, an entrepreneur, and a giver through and through. I’m well-seasoned at finding the best Mexican restaurant within a five-mile radius, locating a health professional in less than 10 minutes, making a house into a home, and searching out local resources on often nonsensical websites. I’m resourceful, compassionate, tenacious, resilient, loyal, and empowering. Via the magic of Facebook, I reconnected with a man I had known since middle school. Try as we might, we could not avoid the romance brewing between a seasoned soldier stationed in Korea and a gal living and working in Colorado. Next thing we knew we were in love. After 2 years of full-time “momming,” I went back to school and began my third career in life as a Holistic Wellness Practitioner. I also received Spouse Master Resilience Trainer, behavior change & fitness nutrition specialist, and yoga teacher certifications. Understanding first-hand the disconnectedness that can occur when proper resources aren’t readily available to military spouses, I made it my mission to help other spouses be informed. This passion has broadened my community and enabled me to bring resilience and resource training to thousands of military spouses and service members both as a volunteer and as a private coach. As I spearhead a mission to build a Resources for Resilience Summit, my dream to empower military spouses to be ready for almost anything is one step closer to reality. While the Army sends us where they need us to be, life sends us where we ought to be. Embracing that and creating a community in those places is key to finding your ground, your voice, and your tribe. Being a military spouse does not mean you just have to survive but, rather, you CAN THRIVE.

Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
Since becoming a military spouse I have held several leadership roles within the military and the local community including Soldier and Family Readiness Group recruiting station point of contact, company leader, and battalion liaison with the responsibility of providing support to fellow military spouses while educating them on resources and agencies. I served as Vice President of American Legion Post 9 Auxiliary and have partnered with Holistic Health & Fitness at JBLM to create instructional videos demonstrating healthy food choices and simple recipes with limited resources. After founding a military spouse resilience and wellness coaching practice, Healitary Spouse, LLC, I began to work alongside performance experts at R2 Performance instructing resilience training to at newcomer briefs and as a Spouse Sponsor for PCS Grades to educate military families about relocation resources. As well as collaborating with Army Emergency Relief to develop a Resources for Resilience Summit.

Describe your involvement in the military community:
My family moved quite often as I was growing up and my parents raised me to make the most of the situation you find yourself in while making building communities a priority. This perspective has driven me to amass over 3,000 volunteer hours both on and off installation earning recognitions such as the Dept. of the Army’s Patriotic Public Service Award while building my community and helping fellow military spouses build theirs. I have represented organizations such as Armor Down, Blue Star Families, the Red Cross, #GivingTuesdayMilitary. I have also volunteered as my daughter’s Girl Scout troop co-lead, on the parent advisory council at her school, and served on the conference planning committee for the National Organization of Nutrition Professionals. As a huge fan of the New Parent Support group, storytime at the library, and spouse & community clubs and events, I am ardent about advocating for spouse education and awareness of these resources to help create a network of support.

Describe how you support your community:
I strive to encourage fellow military spouses to see their inner strength and harness it in ways they might never imagine. I lead classes that help guide military spouses to get in tune with their intuition to identify habits they want to build or break and provide them with tools to do so. Owning one’s intuition helps reinforce daily exhibits of resilience and pull from the resource toolbox I help them construct. Currently, I am collaborating with the Garrison Commander to further the Army’s Quality of Life Initiative from the standpoint of spouses as well as developing disaster preparedness kits for families that are incoming to Fort Polk during PCS season as this is also hurricane season. I have been an SFRG member in some capacity for more than five years and am one class away from being an Army Family Team Building Trainer. Every year, I partner with Mindful Memorial Day to honor the fallen and help bring Gold Star Families back into the community.

What do you advocate for? Why?
I advocate for bringing resource education and resilience training to military spouses, to empower military spouses to reclaim their resilience. Arming spouses with the proper resources to use in the face of adversity is the first step. However, we must work together to build support systems and communities so that no spouse feels alone. Resilience has many faces, none of which means doing everything alone. Loneliness affects every aspect of our lives and hinders our ability to shine to our full potential. As spouses are the ones serving at home while their service member is away, it is vital that they feel supported, seen, loved, and prepared.

How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
I believe that with proper education about resources, where to find them, and how & when to use them, every military spouse has the power to reclaim their resilience. I have partnered with multiple brigades to bring wellness and resilience teaching to unit spouses via newsletters and workshops. I instruct Master Resilience Training courses to both service members and spouses. I have been featured on multiple podcasts, spotlighted in Military Spouse magazine and AMSE for my work bringing resources and resilience to spouses, written for GoMillie.com, and presented at both the inaugural De-Stress from Your PCS Summit and Amazon/VetogaNation Memorial Day challenge. I have recently been invited to write articles for PCS Grades and We Are The Mighty sharing resources and real-time resilience techniques as well as joining in the Garrison’s quarterly Quality of Life briefing.

What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year® title?
I hope to bring a realization to military spouses that “Resilience” does not mean “unbreakable” or “unshakable”. In fact, according to Dictionary.com, “resilient” means springing back, rebounding while “resilience” means the ability of a person to adjust to or recover readily from illness, adversity, major life changes, etc.; buoyancy. Reclaiming resilience by having a resource toolbox at the ready is imperative to military spouses being able to “hold down the fort” when they are called upon to do so. So often resources that seem commonplace are exactly the opposite. My goal is to make resources part of the spouse discussion and to inform decision-makers how we can better educate military spouses about resources. To share my knowledge and experience with fellow spouses and encourage them to build a community they love that can be a helping hand if they are in need.

Nominations

I can not imagine anyone else more deserving of the title Military Spouse of the Year. The passion she carries for improving the lives of military families is unmatched. Her official journey as my military spouse began on 03 July 2016. (Our wedding day). She navigates this imposing machine like someone who has been doing it for decades. Since then, she has advocated for every military spouse that she has had contact with. She is the voice for families that need her and don't know it. She makes a difference every day. The platform that this title would elevate her to has the megaphone her voice deserves.
- by Ronald McVey

Manda has dedicated her time to advocating for military spouses and their families. She utilizes her skills as a Master Resiliency Trainer, and her background in holistic wellness to not only advocate but educate our community. Manda shares her knowledge and experience with our community to help better the lives of military spouses around the world!
- by Brittany Boccher