Duty Station: Naval Station Norfolk
Number of Deployments: 4
Number of PCS's: 10
Share your military spouse story:
I like to tell people that I have the honor of predating the Navy in my sailor's life. We were high school sweethearts and while we committed to one another early on, it took a little longer for him to commit to the Navy. Over the course of four years he he started down the path to Navy service three different times, finally signing official enlistment paperwork nine days after our wedding. I would never say that I knew what I was getting into, military life is too full of twists, turns, and surprises for anyone to make that claim, but our Navy life has been a shared adventure from the very beginning. We fully embraced the motto, "Join the Navy, see the world," living it out by seeking out a new duty station with each set of orders. Over the last 19 years we have moved up and down the east coast, to Guam (my favorite duty station!), to Naples, Italy, and are currently enjoying living in Virginia. Along the way we have added three boys to our family and adopted two goldendoodles and a sassy grey tabby from Naples, Italy. Through all of our moves I have enjoyed having the opportunity to volunteer with Navy Marine Corps Relief Society, COMPASS, and the Military Child Education Coalition in a number of roles as well as work in the public school system. Those experiences all led me to my current role working at the Travis Manion Foundation. Having the privilege of supporting the organization's mission of empowering veterans and families of the fallen to develop character in future generations.
Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
I was able to serve as a member of the Navy Command Spouse Leadership Course DEI Committee as they worked to reshape the curriculum of the course to be more inclusive and representative of our current military community. Having the opportunity to provide feedback and insight, speaking to areas of growth and opportunity, and sharing my personal experiences and how they have shaped my military spouse journey, was an empowering way to contribute to our community and continue to pave the way for all of the spouses coming behind me.
Describe your involvement in the military community:
I have been involved in the military community as a volunteer, both within commands and through non-profits, throughout my time as a military spouse. My initial involvement on a command level was serving as an FRG officer, supporting the Ombudsman by going through Ombudsman training with them, and serving on a Command Support Team. Outside of the command, I have been a COMPASS Mentor, taught Navy Marine Corps Relief Society's Budget 4 Baby course, been a Military Parent Advocate Volunteer with Military Child Education Coalition, and been on the DEI Committee for Command Spouse Leadership Course. Professionally I am also involved in the military community, first working at Blue Star Families as a member of their inaugural DEPLOY Fellowship class and now working at Travis Manion Foundation leading partnerships and advancement to continue to support and grow our community.
Describe how you support your community:
I support my community by building authentic connections, speaking up to address challenges, while also celebrating the gifts that exist in military life.
What do you advocate for? Why?
I advocate for equity across all areas of military life. While all military spouses are living many of the same challenges that are inherent with this life, there are certain identities that make it even more difficult. Being a Black woman and raising children of color influences every aspect of my experience as a Navy spouse, from where my family chooses to live, to schools for my children. Speaking to my experiences, sharing the hard parts as well as they good things, not only allows me to bring the awareness and begin to have the conversations necessary to make needed changes, but to also create authentic relationships that validate the experiences of others. It allows us to know that we are not alone.
How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
I have spoken to my experience during my time as a DEPLOY Fellow with Blue Star Families in media interviews and in-person events, through my work as a Military Parent Advocate Volunteer with Military Child Education Coalition, as a member of the DEI Committee with the Navy Command Spouse Leadership Course. Less formally I speak to my experience through social media and the organic connections.
What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year®
Receiving the title of AFI Military Spouse of the Year would allow me a platform to speak to the importance of community, connection, and authenticity, of listening and sharing the entirety of experiences, using those moments of honesty to build the foundation of understanding and shared experience needed to create meaningful, lasting change.
It is a privilege to nominate my fellow military spouse and friend, Tonya Murphy. Tonya is a natural leader and connector of people, effortlessly advocating for causes and staying true to herself while growing professionally, managing her family, and bettering every room she enters. Her heart, personality, and spirit are one-of-a-kind. I have known Tonya for nearly two decades and wish that every military spouse could have a Tonya in their life.
- by Bana Miller