Alena Howard

Branch: Coast Guard

Duty Station: Coast Guard District 11

Number of Deployments: 5

Number of PCS's: 3

Share your military spouse story:
I met my husband a little later in life and after I had just moved back to my hometown of Houston, TX. I started my dream job and had zero intentions of leaving any time soon. We met and he was oh so charming! Not long after, we went on an amazing first date and then he immediately left for a 2 month deployment. This was my introduction to military life and looking back, I’m really grateful that the entirety of our dating and engagement took place while he was assigned to sea duty. The bandage was ripped off immediately and I experienced what made loving a service member so challenging but also so special. I grew to value quality time, stolen moments and took great pride in the work he was doing for our country. It also allowed me to continue to be independent, find my own identity outside of our relationship and continue to grow in my career. At the same time I was also introduced to the incredible military spouse community. They quickly became part of my family and their support was completely vital to navigating this new military life. Learning from them and seeing how they cared for and supported one another through the tough times was an amazing thing to witness and be a part of. When he asked me to marry him, I was more than ready to walk down the aisle for him and everything his uniform of service brought with him.

Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
The Surgeon General of the United States labeled loneliness an epidemic in 2023 but military spouses have been feeling its impacts for far longer. I have absolutely loved serving as the Sunshine Chair for our local military spouse’s club. Simple acts of sending birthday cards to spouses or even setting up a meal train for a family going through a hard time help us all to feel seen and remind us we’re not alone. I work for Coast Guard Mutual Assistance, the official relief society of the U.S. Coast Guard. Our mission revolves on providing critical financial resources for our USCG members and their families. Through the military spouse network, I’ve been able to help identify gaps in support and help create new programs to fill the needs. We recently developed a program to offer financial support for survivors of domestic violence. This has been vital for spouses specifically as many do not leave abuse due to the inability to financially afford leaving their abuser.

Describe your involvement in the military community:
Working for one of the military aid societies, each and every day I see what happens when we come together to help each other. I am proud of the work I am able to do for the Coast Guard community and the partnerships we have with the other relief organizations. Life can be really challenging but there is something so beautiful and empowering when you see the military community coming together, bringing their unique talents, perspectives, and resources together to create a safety net that declares “We won’t let you fall”. Our first two duty stations were in areas without a large military population. For many of the people in our community, we were the first and only military family they knew. I considered it a privilege to be able to educate and share our stories within our communities. Now that I am in a largely military populated area, I am able to use my experiences and background to support our military community at large.

Describe how you support your community:
My first PCS was absolutely terrifying, if I’m being completely transparent. I had just gotten married to my coastie and he was still underway (deployed on a cutter). I was struggling to understand all the entitlements and paperwork needed to complete this huge cross country move, alone. Things got worse when I learned that I would be flying totally solo for delivery of household goods on top of it all. I was absolutely panicking and at the same time felt so deeply embarrassed by how fearful I was. Didn’t I know what I had “signed up” for? Shouldn’t I know better, know more, be doing more? Just when I thought I was really going to lose it, a veteran spouse at our new unit offered to sit with me on move-in day. I will never forget her patience and kindness that day. I make it a point to find the most junior spouse and ensure they feel supported, no matter what. We are all under all kinds of stress and I’m living proof that a simple act of friendship can make all the difference.

What do you advocate for? Why?
We are facing an epidemic of loneliness and isolation in our country. The strategy published by the U.S. Surgeon General lists six pillars to advance social connection: strengthen social infrastructure in local communities, enact pro-connection public policies, mobilize the health sector, reform digital environments, deepen our knowledge and build a culture of connection. My main advocacy efforts revolve around ensuring we have connection, opportunities for friendship and building community. I’m also proud to advocate for family building policy change because TRICARE does not cover common and widely available medical care such as IVF or IUI for most military members. Change is required to address common family building challenges such as time apart, continuity of care and adoption support. Our relief societies shouldn’t have to stand in the gap because there shouldn’t be one.

How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
I consider myself a professional matchmaker. One of the things I’m most proud of is that as I look back at all the places we’ve lived, duty station to duty station, I can point to the friend groups I’ve helped to build and connect. I firmly believe there’s always another seat available at the table and it’s my joy and privilege to be able to help people find their people. I’ve done this through working with PAO’s, various groups and social media. I am proud to have helped shepherd the creation of the Assisted Reproductive Services loan available to Coast Guard members through Coast Guard Mutual Assistance. In the spring of 2024, we are also launching an innovative partnership with WINFertility which pairs Coast Guard members with a nurse advocate to help navigate the complexity of family building care. This was done through extensive research, presentations and navigating unique partnership opportunities.

What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year® title?
As the AFI Military Spouse of the Year, it would be my deepest delight and greatest honor to continue to gather fellow military spouse stories to help others outside our community better understand the military family experience with its unique challenges and opportunities. I would also facilitate building powerful partnerships to amplify those opportunities and mitigate the challenges through innovative solutions and advocacy efforts. We’re so much stronger together.


Alena is an absolutely selfless human being and a role model military spouse. Not only does she serve our coast guard families on the team of the Coast Guard Mutual Assistance organization but continuously volunteers her time to help other military families. I've known Alena for two years now and in that time I've personally witnessed the care she shows others, the dedication to her role within our relief society and the passion behind her advocacy for the armed forces and their families. You couldn't have a more perfect representation of Coast Guard Spouse of the Year and certainly Military Spouse of the Year.
- by Jessica Manfre