Branch: Air Force
Duty Station: Vance Air Force Base
Number of Deployments: 6
Number of PCS's: 7
Share your military spouse story:
Nearly nineteen years ago in the span of one month my now husband and I celebrated his commissioning, two graduations from Kansas State, our wedding, and our first move to Vance AFB for pilot training. Consequently, our introduction to the Air Force world at twenty-two was swift and often confusing. Like many military families, we have anxiously awaited news of the next assignment, struggled with career decisions, adapted to constantly changing plans, moved away from friends and family, worried about the impact of moving on our military kids, and struggled to balance work and family life. However, despite all of the challenges, this Air Force life creates unique and amazing opportunities and lifelong friendships not found elsewhere. Looking back at our first years of marriage where stress was high and pilots look at cockpits more than partners, we realize it could have been a stumbling block for our young relationship. Fortunately, what kept us strong and positive was the amazing support system of friends and seasoned Air Force families who eased anxiety about upcoming changes, taught about Air Force life, comforted us when the Air Force threw curveballs, and celebrated achievements, opportunities, and milestones with us. That positive first impression of Air Force life made all the difference. Since then I’ve taken every opportunity to support military families and help foster positive first impressions of Air Force life. Although so much is out of our control as military spouses, we fully control how we support and treat each other. If it wasn’t for our positive first experiences, our family would have left years ago. Alternatively, despite the inherent challenges of military life, our family continues to serve because the people we’ve met along the way supported us and ultimately made this journey remarkable.
Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
My work as Key Spouse Mentor in a squadron with nearly 600 brand new Airmen allows me to utilize my leadership skills. I take the responsibility of helping shape a family’s first impression of Air Force life very seriously because a positive first experience can dictate how they view the Air Force journey for years to come. The ultimate goal in this role is to build a community where all spouses are encouraged, empowered, and supported in their personal and professional lives. Specifically, along with fellow leaders and base agencies, I developed a curriculum to teach new Air Force families the fundamentals necessary to thrive during their Air Force careers. The curriculum and instruction provided along with monthly social opportunities have revitalized a struggling program into a thriving group with twelve Key Spouses and a handful of events every month. Consequently, if we can make a positive first impression of military life, Air Force families will be stronger for years to come.
Describe your involvement in the military community:
I describe myself as a professional volunteer who is dedicated to the cause of supporting others. During the last nineteen years as a military spouse, I have taken on numerous leadership and volunteer positions. I have served as a Key Spouse for six years, served on numerous spouse boards, organized two charity auctions, served as treasurer for two spouse groups, organized a dozen base-wide events, oversaw the merger of the enlisted and officers spouses’ clubs, served as president of the Vance Spouses' Club, created the first DAF "Spouse Space," completed the Military Spouse Leadership Development program, and supported my military husband and two military kids. When I take on a task, I go “all-in.” I am passionate and dedicated to giving back and supporting the community.
Describe how you support your community:
I support my community by not shying away from tough problems. I've also dedicated my professional life to supporting my community and work as a full-time volunteer supporting military families. One recent example of my work addressing a quality of life issue faced by military families is witnessed co-founding Vance AFB's "Spouse Space." It is a work space on base for military spouses to work, study, and connect. We also offer weekly programming to address topics relevant to military spouses including home buying, marriage communication, new mom support, and finance. Since military spouses are un and under employment at a rate six times higher for military spouses and also earn 27% less than civilian counterparts, I wanted to help address this problem at our installation. Spouse Space has helped create connections among all groups on our base and has helped support the growing number of remote working spouses. When I see a problem, I find a way to address it.
What do you advocate for? Why?
My ultimate goal is to educate others on the vital importance of supporting military families. Supporting military families directly supports the mission because, without strong families, military retention and readiness suffer. Even at the Department of the Air Force level these family concerns are at the forefront of the newest national defense strategy. While externally we prepare for possible confrontation with China and Russia, internally, we are preparing our airmen and families to be resilient. We will not succeed over our adversaries unless our airmen and families are resilient. Additionally, when families are not supported they leave. Great leaders and great families leave because it is too much for their families. Retention and readiness are directly related to how supported our families feel. I advocate for military families and specifically hope to help others see the connection between the mission and that vital support.
How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
I've shared my platform through many mediums. As a certified public speaking teacher I often share my passion through speaking and interviews. I haven spoken at local rotary events, base events, community action boards, spouse empowerment seminars, and at community events. Additionally, I've been interviewed and quoted numerous times in local newspapers, base papers, as well as the Air Force Association magazine. I believe it is important to communicate in a variety of mediums and publish both a video and traditional monthly newsletter for our squadron spouses. I've also written guides for new spouses on topics like PCSing. Additionally, I am fairly tech savvy and use social media, graphic design programs, and various apps to communicate both effectively and efficiently.
What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year®
If chosen, I hope to use this platform to educate the public on the connection between supporting military families and readiness and retention in the military. We must view supporting military spouses as supporting the greater mission. I’d accomplish this by sharing the “less told” story of the military family because our struggles are unique and need to be heard. Moreover, I’d use this platform to strengthen the Key Spouse program. If properly understood and implemented, I believe the Key Spouse program can make the most significant impact on our military families because military spouses are rockstars and know how to help each other best. However, we need the tools and training the Key Spouse program provides to make that happen. Like with everything I do, if I was chosen for this honor, I would maximize every opportunity and work incredibly hard to help others see the connection between strong military families and the mission.
Meg is a dedicated and compassionate military spouse. She goes above and beyond to support the military families, and advocates for military spouses continuously. Recently, she helped to spearhead an outstanding effort to establish the Spouse Space, a special facility at Vance AFB for spouses to go and seek support, as well as meet other spouses. This initiative will improve quality-of-life issues for families.
Meg serves as a Key Spouse Mentor, and has created a new curriculum for new military spouses. She excels at welcoming new spouses, and making everyone feel included. Meg truly has a gift at connecting spouses, and providing resources.
Meg is a leader among military spouses, and has been selected for the Military Spouse Leadership Development Program through the Military Spouse Advocacy Network, which will enable her to help even more families.
Her devotion to military families is unmatched, and she is very deserving of the Military Spouse of the Year title.
- by Sheila Rupp