Melissa Purnell

Branch: Navy

Duty Station: Naval Station Newport

Number of Deployments: 3

Number of PCS's: 7

Share your military spouse story:
I am a Navy Spouse of 10 years, a mom, a leader, and small business owner. I like to think I have mastered starting over, finding my niche and building my community. It all began in 2011 when I traded the Pennsylvania snow for the sunny streets of DC for my career in medical device. Little did I know, my future hubby was waiting for me in the operating room of the National Naval Medical Center, where we both worked during the merge with Walter Reed Army Medical Center. It was a mutual friend's birthday that brought us together, and before we knew it, we were engaged (after 9 months of dating) and had orders for Jacksonville, Florida. I continued my career in the sunshine state, and in 2014, we tied the knot. Soon after, we welcomed our first bundle of joy in 2015, and then our second in 2017, just after relocating to Oceanside, California. It was then that I decided to swap my career for motherhood, and boy, was it a change! But, we embraced the transition and joined a local playgroup to build our community. We loved our time at Camp Pendleton so much that we chose to come back after moving to Quantico for EWS. In 2020, my husband deployed with the 15th MEU out of Camp Pendleton, and our community rallied around us during this difficult time. After a long and trying deployment, we finished out our time at that duty station. Summer of 2022, we moved to Naval Station Newport, where I opened my bakery and found many opportunities to give back. I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit and a desire to give back to our community. In Newport, I have been lucky enough to serve as a chapter lead for the Service2CEO program with the Rosie Network for the last year, and to serve on the board as the website chair and then as the Vice President of the Military Spouses of Newport. It's been a wild ride, but we wouldn't have it any other way!

Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
I have found myself in different leadership roles throughout my life, so it was only a matter of time before I would become involved in our military community. During our second time at Camp Pendleton, I became an advocate for our military housing community as the Resident Advisory Board member. I worked with housing to bring fun and uplifting activities to our neighbors to encourage the morale. I had also dipped my toe in getting involved with the Military Spouse Association of Camp Pendleton for a short time. This had inspired me to go all in with the Military Spouses of Newport once we arrived. I spent my first year in Newport learning the ropes by volunteering as the website chair and now as the current Vice President responsible for cultivating community through our events and filling in any open positions. In addition, I have been able to pursue my passion for helping other entrepreneurs through the Rosie Network as their Northeastern Region Service2CEO Chapter Lead.

Describe your involvement in the military community:
My involvement in the military community began just before I met my spouse. My role in the OR when we met included supporting the staff with the new technology in their operating rooms. Little did I know that I was training for a job just as important: a military spouse. Each duty station I began to get a little more involved in the military community. First, it was as a member of military play group. Then, as the Resident Advisory Board member in our housing community. Now as the VP of the Military Spouses of Newport and as a Service2CEO Chapter Lead with the Rosie Network, I continue to support the military community. I also own a Bakery in which I am able to deliver cakes and desserts to the Naval Academy Prep Students directly on base. This service (ordered for by the parents) allows the parents to send a special treat and support their student on the start of their military career. I am also involved in my children's school and our church.

Describe how you support your community:
I am passionate about creating community! My Better Together platform is all about breaking down the barriers and lifting each other up.As military spouses, we're all part of the same squad, and together we can achieve bigger and better things. That's why I'm thrilled to be a part of MSON, where we raise funds for scholarships and community grants, making a real difference in the lives of military families. Our events connect spouses from all walks of military life, creating a supportive space that has a huge impact on everyone's experiences. I'm also a Chapter Lead for The Rosie Network Service2CEO program, where I mentor entrepreneurial cohorts, helping them take their business to the next level. As a small business owner myself, I'm able to share my own experiences and guide these students on the start of their entrepreneurial journey. Last but not least, I love to spread joy through my bakery, delivering sweet treats directly to the Naval Academy Prep Students from their families.

What do you advocate for? Why?
I advocate for the inclusiveness and community of all military spouses. WE truly are better together and can make a difference no matter what command we are stationed at just by building community and empowering one another. I also advocate for education and entrepreneurship. As military spouses, we should be able to have something that is just for us, whether it’s having a career, having a side hustle, or owning a small business. Just because we're constantly on the move doesn't mean we can't leave a mark. In fact, let's use our nomadic superpowers to impact even more people!

How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
I recently have recorded two podcasts recently-one with Jen Amos of Holding Down the Fort, sharing my story as a military spouse, and another with Gracie Burgess of Grace of a Military Child and Life. I also have spread the message by networking and connecting with community sponsors who have donated in some form to the Military Spouses of Newport's Welcome Social which helps raise funds that go towards scholarships, community grants, and helps supplement our events. I am currently in the process of setting up a Resource Symposium Series with the Military Spouses of Newport, educating the spouse community on the types of resources that are available on base and in the local community. Many people may not know how to go about getting registered as EFMP, or how to apply for an on base job. Through these symposiums we are helping create community and providing spouses with the information they need to succeed at not only this duty station, but those to come in the future.

What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year® title?
I’m on a mission to assist military spouses in understanding what resources are available to them. Whether they want to get involved in the military community, start a business, find information regarding a specific situation or even aren’t aware of how to apply for a job on base, I want to help all bases relay that information to the spouses. As a spouse of 10 years and multiple PCS's, I have noticed that some places are super efficient in doing this and others are not. I want to be able to help make access to information easier and more readily available, especially on bases where turn over is frequent. I want to create a military community that can be ready at a moments notice, not only for the active duty member, but also for the spouses. We ARE Better Together!


Melissa is a proud military spouse with two young children and currently serves as Vice President of the Military Spouses of Newport-a group that reaches over 10k US and Foreign Military personnel and their families. Melissa leads group and community event planning, has increased membership by 10%, and her efforts within the community saw 21 local businesses donate money to help fund scholarships given to military dependents, as well as community grants that provide monetary aid to those who support the military lifestyle. She leads the NE Chapter of the Rosie Network – a non-profit organization that empowers and trains military spouses and transitioning veterans to develop and succeed in their small-business entrepreneurial goals. She also runs her own business, Sweet Blooms Confectionary. She is an ideal candidate for AFI MSOY where she can serve as the example to all military spouses on how to become involved, be impactful, and to inspire them to achieve their goals and dreams.
- by Justin Purnell