Branch: Air Force
Duty Station: Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst
Number of Deployments: 0
Number of PCS's: 4
Share your military spouse story:
American military spouses make up over half a million men and women, representing a diverse and skilled population that brings a set of perspectives, strengths, and unique skills to the job market. 74% of military spouses have at least some college education, with 40% having completed a college degree. Yet, military spouses still struggle with unemployment which went as high as 38% this past year. And when they do find employment experience, on average, a 26% wage gap. My military spouse story is not unique; it reflects the shared experience of finding meaning, purpose and belonging in a constantly evolving environment. I am an independently Licensed Clinical Social Worker in four states. I am also a business owner and have over a decade's worth of clinical and leadership experience in the field of behavioral health and organizational behavior. Being a military spouse is hard. It's often referred to as the "hardest job in the military." This is not meant to downplay a military member's sacrifice. It's a way to acknowledge and honor the personal costs on military spouses and families during a military members' career. We've had to navigate the starts and stops of our own careers, at times putting our dreams on hold. We've had to manage life as single parents during long separations. We've had to simultaneously help our children and ourselves adjust to significant life changes like moving to a new state or country while also grieving the friendships and jobs we've left behind. Between the frequent moves, separations, and uncertainty inherent in military family life, it's expected that many spouses believe that a successful career is out of reach. While these challenges can sometimes feel unsurmountable and are often unique to a military spouse, they are not hard stops. It is possible to have a career and family that thrives while living the military family life. It doesn't have to be a choice between your career or your spouses'.
Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
I've learned a lot from my experiences within the military community. From being an Air Force Key Spouse Mentor, program manager for the Exceptional Family Member Program, leading national diversity and inclusion initiatives, to being a board member for the Military Spouse Behavioral Health Clinicians Network and co-lead for Hiring Our Heroes Military Spouse Professional Network, these lessons have shaped my various leadership experiences within the military community and broader.
Describe your involvement in the military community:
I am a guest reviewer for The Journal of Social Service Research with expertise in research around military family issues. I have been a guest on All Things Considered, NPR, advocating for interstate license reciprocity. As a board member for The Military Spouse Behavioral Health Clinicians Network and co-lead for Hiring Our Heroes, I have been an active advocate for military spouse employment and was a pivotal voice for the recent progress on interstate compacts for licensure portability for military spouses, meeting with congressmen to share the military spouse perspective. I was also the 2020 AMC Air Force Joan Orr Spouse of the Year.
Describe how you support your community:
At the individual level, I support the military family community by providing individual and group mental health treatment to empower people to trust and know that they are a masterpiece and a work of art in progress. I work with individuals, groups, and organizations to inspire people to live aligned with their unique values, passions, and purpose. At the systemic level, I support my military community through research and legislative advocacy by amplifying our voices, especially those who have been marginalized and silenced.
What do you advocate for? Why?
Humans have a fundamental need to belong. Low levels of belonging are associated with a myriad of negative physical health and mental health implications, as well as organizational costs. Adults primarily look to the home and work to find belonging, before community and church. For the over half a million U.S. military spouses, in addition to the unique demands of military life, finding a sense of belonging is incredibly challenging. Military spouses constitute a kind of keystone, the central family member upon which the family and its well-being depend and the Department of Defense (DoD) identifies and prioritizes the welfare and well-being of service members and their families as a matter of retention and national security. Despite this, 90% of military spouses report a lack of belonging and 72% of active-duty spouses do not know how or whom to contact to gain access to support services.
How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
I have spent the last twelve years working as a clinician and leader in the non-profit, private, and government sectors. I hold a Master of Social Work degree from Michigan State University and is currently working on her Doctoral degree at The University of Pennsylvania. I am interested in researching belonging within the military spouse population to reduce social isolation and improve emotional resiliency and health. I have been a guest on All Things Considered, NPR. I have been featured in publications like NBC News, Elite Daily, and Bustle. I have been a speaker and trainer for organizations like The National Association for Social Workers and the United States Air Force. As a board member for The Military Spouse Behavioral Health Clinicians Network, co-lead for Hiring Our Heroes, and advocate with the National Military Family Association I was a pivotal advocate for the recent progress on interstate compacts for licensure portability for military spouses.
What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year®
To foster interdisciplinary collaborations to develop innovative and effective individual and systemic interventions that increase a sense of belonging for military spouses.
Marinelle is the prime example of the type of individual we need representing military spouses. In fact, she does this every day! She advocates for the health and mental wellbeing of military spouses and gives Key Spouses the backing to help her in her fight for us all. She wants everyone to look at the leadership within our military community and see themselves. She singlehandedly diversified our Key Spouse roster. She serves on the Diversity and Inclusion Committee for Joint Base McGuire/Dix/Lakehurst. She also traveled to the White House for a briefing with the National Association of Social Workers to address relevant and pressing social justice issues.
Marinelle has the heart it would take to represent the compassion that thrives in this community. She has the courage to stand for those who cannot. She has the backing of her community who know that while we may not deserve this beautiful soul, we need her to be our voice of change resulting in action.
- by Melanie Simon