Duty Station: USAG Rheinland- Pfalz
Number of Deployments: 4
Number of PCS's: 5
Share your military spouse story:
My military spouse story began in college when a fellow student asked me to go on a date a couple of months before he graduated. To be honest, I didn't think much about his being in ROTC. I knew what it was because both of my parents served in the Army, but my college life was full of classes, internships, working, and being involved in theater. We dated briefly before he went off to his post-college training and didn't start dating again until months later. At the time, Jon was a member of the New Jersey National Guard and the majority of the soldiers were deploying to Iraq. Not really knowing what it meant, we decided to stay together while he deployed. After three months of dating and on the same day that he left New Jersey, I packed everything I owned into my little Honda Civic and drove to Ohio where I started my first post-college career. It was a hard nine months, and I didn't have any connections with the families that were going through the same deployment. I wasn’t prepared physically or mentally for how the time apart would affect my wellbeing. However, our relationship bloomed during the months apart, and we found ways to connect and get to know each other. We would try to have "Skype Dates", but his internet was awful, so they mostly consisted of very choppy conversations with us asking each other, “can you hear me?” We are now an active duty family and I love being a part of the military community. Yes, it comes with its many, many challenges, but it comes with so many gifts, too. We’ve been able to live in two new countries on different continents, I’ve met friends and colleagues who I can’t imagine my life without, and I’ve learned how to pivot and persevere to create a life that I love.
Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
I have the honor of being the president of the nonprofit InDependent. When I first joined the organization in 2016, I was given the opportunity to explore and develop professional and personal skills in a variety of ways, many I had never done before. The freedom to explore had such an impact on my sense of purpose and self-worth, that I continue to cultivate a sense of exploration and curiosity in the team as president. Because we offer professional volunteer positions, we’re able to provide opportunities for military spouses to develop and improve their skills. Through trial and error, I learned how important it is to create policies and practices which support respectful and open feedback, while also encouraging team well-being through healthy digital boundaries. We are a nonprofit that encourages and promotes wellness within the military spouse community, and that starts with the team and celebrating progress not perfection.
Describe your involvement in the military community:
After my first & second deployment experience where I had barely any connection to the units and families, I volunteered to be the FRG leader 2 weeks after marrying my spouse. I tried my best to communicate regularly with families and loved ones who had a soldier who was deployed because I didn’t want anyone to feel isolated. After becoming a Master Resilience Trainer, I organized opportunities for military spouses & soldiers to learn the different tools and put them into practice. I taught in three different locations- Fort Campbell, Fort Lee and Camp Casey, South Korea to over 250 students overall. Currently, I lead a team of military spouses at InDependent. We focus on 4 branches of wellness-mind, body, community, purpose- and root our approach in military life. We have programs that educate & connect military spouses to resources that they can access for themselves or their families, and we have created programs that are unique within the military spouse space.
Describe how you support your community:
At my first military spouse event, I sat at a table and I quickly noticed that if I wanted to be welcomed, I needed to take the initiative and invite myself into conversations. This experience led me to realize that community building begins with the established community welcoming new members. Too often, the burden of inclusion is placed on the new military spouse. At InDependent, one of the areas that we are working on is ensuring that our resources & programs are inclusive to different under-represented demographics. I have had many conversations and lead survey initiatives to poll male military spouses to better understand their needs, for example. Feelings of isolation are common, but it was eye-opening when I learned the additional challenges that male military spouses experience. While we certainly have more to do, we changed the language we use, incorporated more inclusive pictures, and continue to incorporate the challenges shared with me in our education and programs.
What do you advocate for? Why?
The constant need to adapt to new situations and surrounds, the lack of a support system, and the ever-present uncertainty of when a loved one will be deployed are just some of the struggles that we face in the military community. For this reason, I believe it is essential to advocate for military spouse wellness, specifically highlighting the importance of ensuring resources are meeting the needs of under-represented populations. By supplying resources, support, and education to military spouses, we can build a strong, resilient community that will weather the storms of military life. Also, by offering activities that foster self-care and connection, military spouses are able to develop a sense of peace and resilience that will help them and their family thrive in the ever-changing military lifestyle.
How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
I am dedicated to amplifying the message of the military spouse wellness needs and its importance for inclusivity. I am very comfortable engaging in conversations with both civilians and military organizations to raise awareness of military spouse issues and inform them of resources that are available. I also discuss the different barriers to wellness that are regularly experienced- cost, lack of representation, location, availability, effectiveness, etc., that I have learned through conversations within the military spouse community and data that is available. When appropriate, I share my own story. I have been fortunate to be featured in articles and interviews, giving me the opportunity to reach a wider audience. Going forward, I will continue to have important conversations with leaders, community partners and members, and the media.
What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year®
I am passionate about raising awareness and advocating for more inclusive health and wellness resources. We are a diverse and ever-evolving community, and it is important that our resources reflect that. That's why I believe it is essential to have conversations with military spouses, collect data on our different needs and challenges, and use that data to inform our conversations with organizations and military leadership. While there are a lot of great resources and educational information available, we must make sure they address the needs of everyone, not just those within a majority. It is important to understand the people we are trying to serve and to listen to their voices, especially those of minority demographics. With the support of the AFI Military Spouse of the Year® title, I hope to be able to identify those gaps and ensure that new and existing resources are inclusive. Military spouse wellness matters because every military spouse matters.
I have been volunteering at InDependent alongside Evie King for several years around topics related to military spouse wellness. She is passionate about helping military spouses understand and recognize that their wellness matters too. Evie advocates on behalf of military spouses to community leaders, looks for relevant information and resources to share, and encourages her fellow InDependent team mates to live healthy lives and reminds them to honor their well-being. When Evie PCSed OCONUS, her leadership of InDependent never slowed down, and despite a large time difference between teammates, she always makes time to make sure everyone feels seen and heard, and leads by example. Combining her own experiences and her quest for resources, she engages community leaders on ways to work together to better the well-being of all military spouses and military families; her efforts deserve to be recognized.
- by Kalie Moore-Zeigler
Evie sets the standard for the kind of leadership and altruism we hope to see in the military community. She dedicates herself to military spouse wellness, coining the term into action, not the buzzword so many have resigned it to be. Her passion for spouses is displayed through her service as the InDependent, Inc board president, where she pushes programming to champion mental health, nutrition, and fellowship for all spouses. She constantly speaks up for military spouse identities and ensures every voice is heard and every person is seen.
She's the sort of nominee we would hope to see take on this prestigious award. She would view this honor as a catalyst to keep going in her quest to help spouses, not as a stopping point for self-celebration. Our community is always left in a better state when we get to have someone like Evie King advocating for our needs.
- by Melanie Simon
Evie is passionate about the wellness of all military spouses, working tirelessly to make sure they have access to the resources and education they need to make healthy decisions for themselves and their families. She has volunteered for years with the non-profit InDependent, developing wellness events, educational materials, and resources. She currently serves as President of the organization. Because of Evie, support for military spouses and their wellness is growing. She has increased the number of organizations and companies working with InDependent and funding this mission. Under her leadership, the staff of the organization has grown from less than ten to thirty volunteers wanting to actively support their fellow military spouses, and more are joining. Thousands of military spouses have been supported and touched by InDependent, largely due to Evie’s efforts. She volunteers countless hours for InDependent and her local community and is an inspiration to so many military spouses.
- by Mara Lieb