Duty Station: Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall
Number of Deployments: 2
Number of PCS's: 4
Share your military spouse story:
I met my active-duty husband when he was stationed in Hawaii and I was working with the Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness (CSF2) program in Hawaii as a civilian contractor. I joke that I was conditioned for the life of a military spouse because prior to meeting my husband, I had already moved around the country five times for my career. For years, I enjoyed the adventures of exploring new places and meeting new people while training military communities on resiliency. During my seven years as an Army Spouse, two deployments, and four cross country PCSs, I also balanced raising our children and navigating my own career goals (i.e., earning a doctorate degree). I look back and realize that “knowing” about military life and the importance of resilience is very different than truly “living” the military life with resilience. My appreciation and empathy for Servicemembers, military spouses, and Families runs deep. I have gained a meaningful perspective and a profound understanding of the adversities and challenges of military life. With tremendous benefits and opportunities like connecting to amazing resources, traveling the country (and world), and experiencing different cultures and climates, the most meaningful “benefits” of military life are the wonderful people-connections that I have made and continue to make within our various communities. The Servicemembers and spouses that I’ve met during my experience in the military community are now my closest and dearest friends. They are my interconnected, devout support system. Connection with others is truly my greatest source of resilience. It fuels my passion to foster community, be a connector, and to support Servicemembers, military spouses, families, and communities.
Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
During my first year as a military spouse, I volunteered to be a Family Readiness Group leader to help with the unit’s third and longest deployment. Providing a support group for spouses and Families to plug in to for informational and social support was made a priority. Our unit FRG and I also collected various items to assemble welcome-home baskets for the single Servicemembers. Currently, I serve as a senior spouse advisor to the Warrior Battalion of The Old Guard Regiment. I host spouse and family gatherings to promote community connections in our unit and to strengthen relationship bonds with fellow spouses. I also volunteer as the Vice President of the JBM-HH Cody Development Center Parent Advisory Board. Professionally, I have led resiliency and performance enhancement workshops and trainings for various military populations such as senior spouses, Family members, Servicemembers in the Warrior Transition Unit, and for premiere leadership schools.
Describe your involvement in the military community:
In 1995, I became personally involved in the military community when my older brother enlisted in the National Guard. For me, his deployment in 2004 was an awakening experience. It opened my eyes to the sacrifices of Servicemembers and their Families. My professional involvement with the military community began in 2009 when I became a Master Resilience Trainer-Performance Expert, then an executive leadership coach with Army Leaders and VBA supervisors, and now as a research psychologist with WRAIR. Recently, I co-developed the Army’s new Deployment Cycle Resilience Training program that includes a tailored curriculum for Circle of Support members. I also assisted with the development of the Army’s new suicide prevention curriculum. Since 2015, I have actively participated in spouse support groups, hosted activities to welcome new spouses/Families, volunteered with unit SFRGs, hosted unit gatherings, and led small group activities like spouse bible studies.
Describe how you support your community:
The challenges of being a military spouse all resonate with me, such as sacrificing one’s career, leaving friendships due to PCS moves, living far away from the comfort of family support, interrupted or canceled plans, family separations and transitions, living with uncertain next steps, finding childcare for work or for standard appointments. My goal is to support other military spouses and Families in whatever capacity possible. I host social gatherings to support the spouse’s need for connection. When I learn of resources, I share what is relevant to those I meet. By attending SFRG steering committee meetings and unit events, I can be a resource that connects with other spouses on a personal level. Helping parents with their childcare needs whenever I can is who I am. As an introvert in the throes of parenting my own toddlers, the support I offer to my community could be described as going an inch wide, but a mile deep. I believe in investing in relationships.
What do you advocate for? Why?
Often, military spouses and families are called ‘resilient’. We must be resilient in order to cope with the challenges and adversity of military life. There are moments when I question my own resiliency. This is humbling to me since resiliency and psychology are my professions. While individual resilience is important, it is the quality of one’s relationships and one’s sense of community that enables a person to adapt to and overcome the adversities of military life. I advocate for family resilience while building strong connections between spouses from all ranks. I also advocate for relevant resources to support the resiliency needs of spouses and Families in their respective military life seasons. Each military life season brings about unique transitions. Building a diverse, but unified community enables everyone to support one another through mentorship and in instrumental, tangible ways. Resilience and support aren’t always a one size fits all.
How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
Military family resilience relies upon social connections. My advocacy and platform is shared is through cultivating meaningful connections with military spouses and families. Through personal one-on-one meetings, unit and spouse gatherings, and use of social media platforms, I aim to help those around me to connect with others and to connect with resources and support relevant to their respective needs. I attend local military events within and outside of our organization and make a point to personally introduce myself to other spouses to foster stronger connections. Each connection that I make is a possible connection for others. I find great joy in being a “community connector”. Publicly, I have been a guest speaker at events focused on supporting military resilience. I have also shared my advocacy in a published Army newsletter article specific to deployment resilience training for Families.
What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year®
I am incredibly honored and humbled to be nominated for such recognition. If named AFI Military Spouse of the Year, I would expand upon investing in building meaningful military spouse and family connections so everyone can benefit from our experiences, positive motivation, and strength found in social supporting, networking, and shared resources. I hope to help our military and veteran communities take advantage of the local resources used to navigate life their way. Many resources are underutilized due to either lack of awareness or uncertainty around access. I want to change that cycle. By joining the AFI Military Spouse of the Year community, I can raise awareness of valuable resources by encouraging all spouses to share experiences stories with one another and work together. Resiliency is a team sport; each spouse has a spot on our team. Together, we can make a positive impact for others. We are better together!
When meeting Michelle Kirk, you are greeted with a genuine smile and wonderful, amiable vibes from a new friend who cares about you. As a devoted supporter of our military, veteran, & civilian communities, her platforms are advocating for helping families, students, individuals, and leadership using resources, experience, knowledge, and strong community connections to enrich everyone’s lives. She has served as an SFRG leader, volunteers as Vice President of the JBM-HH Cody Development Center Parent Advisory Board, and hosts community coffees and team building events for military spouses. She is a Mindful Sport Performance Enhancement (MSPE) certified instructor and is a Army Master Resilience Trainer (Level II). She is married to CSM Dennis Kirk of 4/3 Battalion, The Old Guard (TOG), on JBM-HH (Army). They have three amazing heartbeats: Annabelle (6), Trey (4) and Noah (3). Michelle’s dedication to serving her community selflessly has made her very deserving of this MSOY nomination.
- by Carla Moss