Melissa Shaw

Branch: Space Force

Duty Station: Peterson Space Force Base

Number of Deployments: 3

Number of PCS's: 10

Share your military spouse story:
I’ve been married to my husband for twelve years, and we’ve experienced so much! Nick had served in the Army for six years, was assigned to five different duty stations, and deployed twice to Iraq before we married. Just 24 days after our wedding, he deployed to Afghanistan, and since then we’ve lived in four cities in Germany and America. Personally, those early years shaped me into a more engaged, empowered military spouse. When our three kids were born two years apart, each in a different city (and two of them overseas) I experienced postpartum depression. I soon found myself advocating for the importance of mental health care for military-connected families. Professionally, life as a military spouse brought additional challenges. My husband earned military promotions, awards, and pay increases, while I struggled to remain relevant in my career field. I adapted with each PCS, volunteering and evolving in my career. I turned my frustration into motivation, promising myself that I would do all I could to improve career opportunities for other military spouses. I kept that promise by developing a military spouse employment program in my last company that ultimately accounted for 20% of our staff. In my current role, I get to bring my passion for military spouse employment to the United States Space Force, where my husband and I are both proud to serve - him as a uniformed Guardian (and Army interservice transfer), and myself as a Guardian civilian leading the Guardian Family Career Program. My military spouse story has been enriched by our time as both an Army family and a Space Force family. While it hasn’t always been easy, I have focused on the things I can change: namely, that I can help improve career conditions for other military spouses.

Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
I am vice-chair of the Air & Space Forces Association’s F2 Task Force for strong families and stronger forces, and I serve on the Military Family Advisory Network’s military spouse advisory board. I graduated from the Military Spouse Advocacy Network’s Military Spouse Leadership Development Program cohort, earning micro certifications in mental health subjects and a leadership certificate from the National Preparedness Leadership Initiative at Harvard University. I am also a Key Spouse for the 4th Electromagnetic Warfare Squadron, a high ops tempo unit. The 4th has deployed over 100 Airmen and Guardians on seven EW mission deployments to three regions of the world since I have volunteered there. I volunteered in various capacities in the Army, including as an FRG leader and the chair of the Hohenfels Community & Spouses Club’s Bazaar, a multi-day event with 60+ European vendors and countless local spouse volunteers, raising tens of thousands of dollars for scholarships.

Describe your involvement in the military community:
I am lucky to have been involved in both the Army and the Air and Space communities during my marriage. I have served in different ways depending on our seasons of military life, including hosting spouse coffees, preparing meals for Gold Star families during deployment, and volunteering as an FRG leader, Spouses Club officer, and now as a Key Spouse. I try to support others on this journey. While in Germany, I taught marketing to military spouse entrepreneurs and business owners. I volunteered as webmaster for the local swim team and the spouses’ club. And when my own freelance work developed into business ownership, I was quick to hire military spouses to work for our company. I’m particularly proud to have been awarded the Military Intelligence Corps Association’s “Golden Rose Award,” a prestigious award to recognize volunteer service that makes a substantial contribution to the MI Corps and has a positive impact on the quality of life of soldiers and their families.

Describe how you support your community:
Military spouses know better than anyone that community can be a local, physical network of friends, neighbors, sports parents, or others; or it can be a geographically separated, likeminded group that comes together around an interest, passion, or cause. Over the years, I have gathered with others in traditional, physical communities, and I have also nurtured networks of likeminded, geo-separated spouses. My local community-building isn’t big or flashy. I show up at squadron roll calls when I can; we host other families for meals; and I have been hosting informal monthly coffees for our squadron, empowering anyone (service member or loved one) to join us for sweatpants, ponytails, story-swaps, and resource connection. I have also built community through military spouse employment initiatives: I created a military spouse employment program in my last company that grew to include 20% of our staff. I created an informal employee resource group within the company

What do you advocate for? Why?
I’m passionate about military employment. My career has been affected throughout my military marriage, and I’m determined to improve the landscape for other spouses. As a co-owner of a social media startup, I created a military spouse employment program that employed more than a dozen spouses. When we were acquired, I worked with our parent company to ensure that military spouse employment policies remained in place, and that our military spouses were supported. Today, I work as a Space Force civilian on policy and programs that support military spouses, including the service's brand new Guardian Family Career Program. Military spouse employment is my passion, and it is one that, if I'm selected as the AFI Space Force Spouse of the Year, I will use my platform to advance even further.

How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
I have been afforded such amazing opportunities! In 2022, I was invited to sit on a military family quality of life panel moderated by Mrs. Sharene Brown at the Air & Space Forces Association (AFA)’s Air Space & Cyber Conference. The following spring (2023), I was asked to moderate another quality of life panel at AFA’s Air Warfare Symposium in Aurora Colorado. In the fall of 2023, I was extremely honored to give opening remarks alongside Mrs. Mollie Raymond at a Colorado Springs military spouse career event hosted by Hiring Our Heroes and the Mt. Carmel Veterans Center. Later that same months, thanks to the Military Spouse Advisory Network, I was interviewed by CNN about the effects a government shutdown would have had on military families. As a communications professional by trade, I am prepared to engage with media outlets and present in public forums. I would be honored to have additional opportunities to promote military spouse employment through the AFI MSOY program.

What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year® title?
If selected as an AFI Military Spouse of the Year, I will use my title to advocate for military spouse employment and the importance of judgment-free access to mental health care in our military communities. We know that the challenges facing military families are deeply interwoven, so it is not possible to fully isolate one issue from any other that a family experiences. For example, childcare challenges contribute to military spouse unemployment. Employment challenges contribute to food insecurity. Financial and employment challenges contribute to stress and mental health issues, and so on. I am not an expert in all of these issues, but I am committed to improving un- and under-employment among military spouses, and I am a fierce advocate for the mental health and well-being of military families. I hope that the AFI Military Spouse of the Year title creates new opportunities for me to learn, grow, and serve within the military community.


I am honored to nominate Melissa Shaw for the prestigious title of Military Spouse of the Year. Melissa embodies every value of the AFI MSOY program, humbly leading local family initiatives and effectively building national spouse employment programs. A true visionary leader. Melissa has established an exceptional history of serving families in the Space Force, Army, and Air Force. She selflessly volunteers to connect local spouses with critical resources, especially during high-stress seasons of deployment. Beyond this, she has developed comprehensive spouse employment initiatives, such as the brand-new Guardian Family Career Program, seeking to improve Guardian family quality of life and service member retention. Her ability to mobilize people and systems testifies to her unmatched communication skills and leadership qualities. What sets Melissa apart is her unwavering commitment to the well-being of military families everywhere, paired with her ability to do something about it.
- by Amy Harris

Inspiring. Tenacious. Ambitious. Committed. So many adjectives and descriptors come to mind when I think of Space Force Spouse Melissa Shaw. For years, Melissa has carried the torch as a military spouse in service to improving the lives of those who are alongside her and for the next generation. Of the many volunteer efforts Melissa prioritizes, she has led AFA's F2 Task Force as Vice Chair through establishing and fulfilling an important mission: to strengthen quality of life for Air and Space Force families. Melissa's heart for service and dedication to solving tough challenges is not only admirable, it is incredibly important for the newest branch in our Department of Defense. I'm truly honored to know her and work alongside her as a colleague, fellow advocate, and friend.
- by Lyndsey Akers