Duty Station: Naval Air Station Oceana Dam Neck Annex
Number of Deployments: 6
Number of PCS's: 4
Share your military spouse story:
My journey as a military spouse started right after I transitioned out of the U.S. Navy. I still remember vividly the guy at the ID card counter handing me the dependent ID card. He started to laugh and said that I was officially a military spouse. Little did I know what exactly that title meant or the sacrifice that was to come. This year, I will officially be a military spouse for 20 years. When I look back at all challenges, moments, and extremely fun times that this journey has afforded me; I am grateful! At one of my husband's previous commands a leaderships wife was attending an event with our FRG group. In middle of the event, she found out her husband had suffered a medical emergency. In that moment we hopped in the car together and I drove her to the hospital. She was scared because of the unknown. I knew I had to be strong for her. That day changed me. There is a common theme that does not discriminate among any rank and that is the potential of military spouses. To show up for the potlucks, monumental moments, or even to hold a spouse who just lost her husband. This military journey is not for the faint of heart.
Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
My work life and my personal life tend to intersect because of my passion and advocacy for military families. Previously, I was supporting a command as a Community Program and Peer Network Coordinator. This allowed me to cultivate relationships with private and public organizations that directly supported military families. During this time, I was able to create programs that helped with the impact of military life. Currently, I sit on the Military Family Advisory Network (MFAN) Advisory Board. Serving as an advisor has allowed me to have a platform to advocate for the smaller voices.
Describe your involvement in the military community:
During my time as a military spouse, I have been involved in COMPASS a Navy Services Familyline Program. I have served as an Ombudsman for two commands. This position has given me an opportunity to see the real hardships that military families endure. Particularly, when the pandemic hit, and many spouses were forced to resign from their jobs to take care of their children. You can find me slinging boxes or directing traffic at the Military Family Advisory Network food distributions here in Hampton Roads. Food insecurity is finally coming to light but has been a real issue for some time. Sometimes my involvement is not in the spotlight. It comes from taking a meal to a family who just lost their service member or buying enough groceries for a holiday meal. My passion is giving back to a community that has given me so much!
Describe how you support your community:
Community is everything in the military and not just branch specific. Blue Star Welcome Week is where I connected with new military families. Judging applicants for National Military Family Association (NMFA) Scholarship gives me an opportunity to read heartfelt moments of overcoming unique challenges and perseverance. Whether I am meeting someone randomly or sitting beside them at a wedding. I always share information and resources. Within my job at Booz Allen there are endless opportunities to support military spouses. I have co-mentored two sessions in the Military Spouse group. Actively serve as the Norfolk Military Spouse Geographic Lead spreading information to local military spouses regarding Tricare, PCSing, and other topics that impact them. The volunteer opportunity that is most impactful to me would be Girls on the Run Hampton Roads. This allows me to empower not only military kids, but other children that surround them in the community.
What do you advocate for? Why?
My advocacy lies in ensuring that military members and families are afforded proper mental health treatment. Transition for military members is important to me as well. While the war in Afghanistan may have ended, we still have so many service members and veterans who live the effects from it daily. This is not to be remiss of wars that have occurred before the war in Afghanistan. Those veteran populations are suffering in silence. I remain steadfast in advocating for the smaller voices, the new military spouses, and families who have a need. The military family has changed over the years, but the commitment to service has remained the same.
How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
Mental health topics, resources, and testimonies have been spread by me through social media platforms. The advocacy for food insecurity has been spread through social media and volunteering in person. I have written an article for Military Family Advisory Network (MFAN) on the topic of transition. I am actively engaged in supporting the advocacy for transition within my advisory board. Spreading awareness through conversation has been successful as well. Also, holding a space for military spouses to know that they are not alone.
What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year®
Each of us have a unique story that brought us to the title of military spouse. Being a military spouse is not the only thing that defines who we are as an individual. If given the title of AFI Military Spouse of the Year, I would like to use the resources available to work together on topics that impact military families and illuminate resources. Sometimes just knowing where to start is half the battle. The vitality of recruitment and retention among military branches relies on a thriving military family that is constantly facing uncertainty and adversity.
Heidi is a Navy spouse and Navy veteran and is passionate about lending her voice to illuminating challenges military families face related to mental health, frequent deployments, relocations, military transition, food insecurity, and so much more. She has volunteered with various military service organizations, serving on the Military Family Advisory Network (MFAN) Advisory Board from 2021-2023 and supporting initiatives with the National Military Family Association, Blue Star Families, and is involved with her local Hiring Our Heroes Military Spouse Professional Network. Heidi has a gift for connecting the military community with the resources they need to thrive and is not afraid to be vulnerable and share her story if it means she can help others. She is a hard-working professional, mom, spouse, and friend and makes the military community a better place just by being part of it!
- by Sheena Parrish