Liz Hensel

Branch: Marine Corps

Duty Station: Marine Corps Base Quantico

Number of Deployments: 8

Number of PCS's: 4

Share your military spouse story:
I met my husband on a dating site. I was a divorced single mom ready to find a life partner. My attention was quickly grabbed when I saw his photos in front of the Pyramid, then floating in the Red Sea, followed by him on a camel. I knew this person was special just by seeing his sense of travel and adventure. A trait that is important to me. We had our first date on a Wednesday; he showed up riding his Harley, and we've been dating every day ever since. That was eight years ago. Since then, we have mutually supported our military careers. The hardest was my decision to leave the Marine Corps. However, not once did he ever doubt me. He has supported every professional decision I have made, the same way I have supported him through his career development and countless deployments. Never having his own children, he embraced parenthood with open arms, and though my girls are not biologically his, they have no problem calling him dad. We are a beautifully blended family, and we work cohesively for the best of the girls. That is not always easy when you have to PCS from coast to coast and even overseas. Nevertheless, we rely on each other's strengths and weaknesses to balance our lives. No matter where we are, we always choose adventure. Making the best out of any situation is the epitome of being a military family. From snorkeling in glacier water, climbing volcanoes, and hiking the Inca Trail, I found my life partner.

Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
Ever since I became a Marine Corps spouse I have been actively engaged in my units community. I am involved in many different ways, from volunteering and presenting in workshops, cooking for the Marines, sending deployment care packages, and making baby baskets for new moms. However, the most impactful service I could have done for my fellow spouses was check-in. Currently, my husband is with the Marine Security Augmentation Unit, which means these Marines get deployed quickly, some within a 24-hour notice. It is such a unique duty station. I took it upon myself to make an "unofficial" guide to survive this duty. I send weekly emails to check in with the spouses and have a weekly coffee date. Taking the initiative to take care of these spouses shows how I use my leadership skills to ensure we survive these deployments.

Describe your involvement in the military community:
I have been a LINKS mentor since 2019. I love educating new spouses on the ins and outs of the Marine Corps, especially sharing personal experiences and telling them what I wish I had known. I have been a USO volunteer since 2007. I even found time to volunteer while I was deployed in Kandahar, Afghanistan I am a Pin Ups for Vets Ambassador, where I visit Armed Forces retirement homes dressed as a pin-up and bring some cheer. Currently, I started a neighborhood group called "Cookies for Troops." Its just my neighbors and myself getting together and baking hundreds of sweets for Marines stationed in Quantico during the holidays. Its something so simple, but they love and appreciate it.

Describe how you support your community:
I am currently pursuing my Doctorate in Acupuncture. In December of 2010, I was hit by a car in Afghanistan. It resulted in a traumatic brain injury, and later on, I would be diagnosed with post-traumatic stress. As a result of this injury, I turned to acupuncture to help me heal. I fell in love with acupuncture and decided to pursue it as a career. I hope to bring holistic modalities to the military community as an acupuncturist. Anxiety, stress, depression, and PTS are all words that apply to the military lifestyle. Instead of being embarrassed, I encourage my peers to embrace them and always seek help. By sharing my story of vulnerability, I hope others can say, "I am not okay, and that's okay."

What do you advocate for? Why?
When we PCS'd from California to Japan in 2019, we had a new addition to our family. Our rescue German Shepherd mix is named Prince. While researching what we had to do to PCS with our beloved family pet, I discovered a mixture of information and a lack of support for pet parents. This did not sit well with me, our family pet became the glue of consistency when Dad deployed. He is family. I started by conducting data gathering and issuing surveys to get an idea of the average cost and difficulties of PCSing with a pet. The data left me dumbfounded. Military families were paying anywhere from 4k to 10k to keep their pets with them. I started meeting with members of Congress and Senators, showing them my statistics, and fighting for our pets. In December of 2022, section 624 of the NDAA passed! The Pet Reimbursement Act for military families is four years of hard work, dedication, and perseverance to not give up on our family pets.

How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
The social media page for our pet advocacy has over 10k followers, and I upload the stories different families have faced when PCSing with pets. I have been on countless military-affiliated podcasts to share our story of making a difference for military families. I have been a keynote speaker at the Cleveland, Ohio Public Libraries Military Women series, where I shared my story of balancing being a spouse while serving.

What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year® title?
As an AFI Military Spouse of the Year, I want to inspire other military spouses that they have the power to make changes at the highest level. When I started advocating to change legislation to include our military pets, I was laughed at, told no, and told to give up. Without the support of any major veteran or military-affiliated organization, I successfully passed legislation with just a group of 3 people. It is hard, but it is possible. If any spouse sees an issue that they feel is unjust or could change to be better, I want them to go for it.


Liz Hensel has been a fearless advocate for military families and their pets. For 5 years she lobbied for the inclusion of pet transportation in PCS funding and the safety of our military pets during PCS travel. She spent countless hours, days, and months making connections, writing senators and congressman, raising money, and visiting DC to meet with legislators. At long last, she found her co-champion in Senator Corey Booker, who took up her cause with his political backing. Liz's hope and dream that military families wouldn't have to face financial burdens or separation from their pets was realized when her bill got passed in the 2023 NDAA budget! This bill goes into effect January 1, 2024 and will be a saving grace to the countless families with pets who relocate each year. In addition, Liz has personally flown with and driven across the country numerous times to reunite military families with their pets. She is a true champion for our military families and an exemplary spouse.
- by Kayla Nassiri