Duty Station: Fort Campbell
Number of Deployments: 3
Number of PCS's: 5
Share your military spouse story:
We joined the roller coaster of Army life older than most. It felt like we lived an entire life before our military family experience reset everything. We started a whole new life surrounded by people 6+ years younger. Fort Drum was our first duty station. We moved from Florida with many warm-weather Army newbies as we all attempted to dig ourselves out of the north country snow in New York. It was a huge shock to the system but it also solidified the 'family you choose' mentality from jump. I volunteered with the FRG during all deployments including acting as co-leader during the third deployment. I cared about the families and I wanted to do everything I could to make their lives easier. We spent 8 years at Fort Drum stuck in a rapid deployment cycle that translates to 39 months of deployment and growing our family by three babies. It was the most challenging and strength affirming time in my life. Our first PCS to Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, TX was less than smooth and included 4 months living in hotels while trying to find a home. Mike spent a year in Korea unaccompanied and then we re-united at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Our next destination was Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri where I thought I would be lost in the woods but it turns out that I was 'found' in so many ways. I volunteered with Blue Star Families, the USO, the Fort Wood Community Spouses Club and SFRG. I embraced my military family community and I'm determined to continue to give back in any way I can. We PCSd to Fort Campbell this past summer. Moving during covid times is not for the weak. I am just getting my feet under me here which includes volunteering with Blue Star Families, the FC ASYMCA board, and Caregivers on the Homefront board as well as getting started with USO and Red Cross. I landed in an amazing professional position with a non-profit organization where I get to train military spouses to find remote, portable employment.
Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
I am immensely proud of leading the Blue Star Families online book club for 4 years. As lead, I coordinated monthly book selections and hosts while also monitoring the page, coordinating giveaways and spreading the word to increase our numbers and participation. Locally, I organized and led a virtual, weekly, live adult book club for Blue Star Families of Missouri during the first year of Covid. We distributed books to participants using porch drops and we invited active authors and special guests to join our weekly meetings.
Describe your involvement in the military community:
I care about the people in my community and military families are "my people". I understand the feelings of isolation, confusion and being misunderstood so I got involved as soon as I could. If I could make even a small impact then it was worth the effort. I was an FRG key caller during my husband's first deployment and I was specifically assigned the spouses that were not living at Fort Drum through the deployment. The deployment was very active so there were a lot of phone calls to scared spouses that didn't totally understand what was happening since they were geographically dispersed. In many cases, I was there lifeline to knowing that somebody in the unit cared. FRG has been part of my life in some shape ever since. It gets a bad wrap but I've seen it work and make an impact.
Describe how you support your community:
I recently started a position that allows me to blend my professional life with my passion for serving my community (the military family community). I am working for a non-profit organization leading a grant-funded program that offers training to military spouses, veterans and transitioning service members that are interested in work-from-home employment. The surveys published year after year show that spouse employment and under-employment are huge stress factors for service members and their families. Work-from-home opportunities offer a solution for long-term, portable employment that can pack up and move with you through every PCS. My masters degree is in Training & Development so this opportunity to train in my community and offer relief for a key stressor is huge!
What do you advocate for? Why?
I am an advocate for military spouse opportunities, knowledge as power and building a sense of community with the family you choose. I have met some of THE MOST incredible people during my journey as a military spouse and I feel deeply driven by the concept to 'be the person you needed when you were at the beginning of the journey'. I'm going to give back, support, embrace, love, celebrate, and lift up those that are living this unique and challenging life alongside me. I choose the path of positivity and I choose to do everything within my power to shine the light on my amazing community.
How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
I find myself in a unique situation where I am primarily training young spouses that are new to the military lifestyle. Not only do I get to provide them with professional skills but I can also support them as they get acquainted to this crazy lifestyle that can only be understood with experience. I tend to be on the quiet side from a social media perspective. The way I spread the message is to get up each morning, vow to make a difference and continue to get involved whenever I see a need.
What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year®
Every AFI Military Spouse of the Year honoree I have met has been incredible so it's hard to believe that I could be in the company of so many rock stars. I would like to continue to grow and find new, creative and innovative ways to support the military family community on a grander scale. I love the day-to-day impact of making a difference one person at a time but I'm also ready to do good and give back with reckless abandon.
Melissa goes out of her way to take care of military members and their families. She steps up to volunteer with multiple organizations that directly serve the military community at each installation she is stationed. Melissa truly believes in making connections for fellow spouses and being a support where needed.
- by Brittany Raines