Kathleen Palmer

Branch: Army

Duty Station: Rivanna Station

Number of Deployments: 7

Number of PCS's: 14

Share your military spouse story:
My milspouse story began with an illegal slide tackle in rough pick up game of soccer near Fort Polk, LA in 1996. My future husband left me gasping for breath as he stole the ball and scored, while I screamed obscenities at him down the field. I like to say he wrecked my lungs and my life all at the same time :). Since then it has been a 26 year adventure with 7 deployments, 13 PCS's and homes in 8 states and two countries. My story has had some amazing chapters that include a strong cadre of battle buddies, a passport full of stamps, and the blessing of family. While stationed in DC area, my husband and I became foster parents and adopted two beautiful sisters to share our adventure with. I take pride in being able to wear many hats: teacher, coach, writer, volunteer, and most importantly spouse and mother. We are currently awaiting orders (In Charlottesville VA) for the 14th and final move. This life can be rewarding and it can be cruel. I have watched the stress of war, deployments, and moving affect our community deeply. I stand in admiration for those spouses who find ways to survive and thrive and I see those who struggle. I think it should be our main mission to see each other. I like to say our journey has been filled with Homecomings, hiccups, and hope.

Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
Over the past 25 years, I have served as FRS, FRG, and SFRG leader and advisor. Leadership in our community is often given to those who raise their hand (or those who step up when no one else will). This makes leadership in our community less about leading and more about doing. Over the years, I have served on Spouse Boards and committees, Co Chaired the USAWC Spouse Project in 2017-2018, served as an advocate for mental issues in our community to include speaking engagements/podcasts on caring for mentally ill adolescents. I currently serve as the Content Director of Mission: Milspouse, a non profit whose mission is to empower milspouses with resources and support.

Describe your involvement in the military community:
I believe in "Digging into each duty station" and with every move, I find ways to volunteer whether it be co chairing a committee or volunteering to stay nights at a local shelter. Professionally, I have also been a teacher in almost every local school we are stationed near (to include DODEA overseas). I coached a variety of teams and levels over the years. But the most important way I stay involved in my community is through human contact! Developing new relationships and maintaining the older ones is the most important aspect of being a part of the community.

Describe how you support your community:
I support my community in three ways. The first is through my work with Mission:Milspouse. Giving spouses the platform to share their journey and experiences through words so they can empower others, brings me joy! I also serve as a podcast host and I am able to encourage spouses and community members to tell their story in that form as well. The second is through my advocacy for mental health services for our teenagers and young adults. I recently attended the National Defense Communities Conference in Phoenix (October 2022) as a panel member and I hope I was able to help some of the installation leadership see the issue in a real way. I continue to advocate on this issue through podcasts and writing. Finally, the third and most important way I support my community is through the relationships I develop with other military spouses. It takes work to maintain relationships that we forge under the stress of this lifestyle. People are the most important part of of this journey.

What do you advocate for? Why?
I advocate for my fellow spouses. I stand with the spouses that are often not seen and struggling under the weight of military life. I applaud those who find ways to be career and brand driven, BUT my real admiration and support come from lifting and empowering those who need it. This life is not sexy and those spouses that grind it out everyday with young kids, long drives to sports practices, carrying the weight of anxiety, and trying to solo parent teenagers are the those I advocate for. I want them to be seen and to be heard. I want the young spouses who have never experienced a deployment to know they are not alone and that they can do the hard things. It is okay to live the ordinary life of a military spouse and find empowerment along the way. I advocate for seeing each other, believing in each other, and lifting each other. MY PLATFORM is simply PEOPLE and my brand is Battle Buddies.By getting back to people, we can shed light on bigger issues in our communities.

How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
I use the non profit I work for to seek out and empower spouses through writing and podcasting. I answer the phone late at night and make myself available for those who need me. I write about the importance of Battle Buddies through Mission Milspouse, and I have spoken at 2022 PILLAR Deployment Retreat (https://pillardeploymentretreat.com) and the USAWC Spouse Project (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dLAPVybZ_jQ). I also write for NAMI (National Alliance Mental Health Issues) to encourage other military families with foster care/adoption resources.

What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year® title?
While I hope to encourage the empowerment of ALL military spouses and lift and celebrate as many spouses from all walks of life, I would hope to also use the title to develop support and resources for families struggling with a mental health crisis. I feel this is an underserved population as caring for service and family members often goes without support. My goal is find a platform for spouses to share their caretaking stories and find community in each other. The platform may be a book or a podcast or a YOUTUBE channel where spouses can connect and share their struggles. The need for Battle Buddies on the exhausting warfront of mental health is paramount.


Kathleen is the epitome of military spouse endurance. She has faithfully, courageously, and gracefully supported her husband for more than 30 years of his military career. She's an absolutely stellar volunteer and can balance numerous responsibilities at once. (Plus, she does them all with excellence!) In her current season, she is practically running a diner/restaurant at her location, in addition to holding a major volunteer position with Mission: Milspouse. After blogging with M:M for several years, she answered the call to be the primary POC for coordinating and editing dozens and dozens of blogs per month for the website as Director of Content. Her humor, compassion, and high levels of "seasoning" make this milspouse journey even more flavorful. She is a spouse that makes thing happen.
- by Sharita Knobloch