Ryan Brennan

Branch: Navy

Duty Station: Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam

Number of Deployments: 4

Number of PCS's: 4

Share your military spouse story:
My first connection to the military was through my grandparents. I was about 10 years old when my grandfather retired from the Navy. I remember going on his ship and the feeling I got when my grandmother, who was one of the first appointed Navy Ombudsman in 1970, would talk about the passion that she had for supporting military families. I will never forget how overjoyed she was when I was first appointed as a Navy Ombudsman, and until then I could not grasp why she was so proud of her role all those years ago! I never could have imagined the complexity of the life that I would experience as a military spouse. It has been an amazing adventure to say the least. It has not always been a good adventure, certainly not all bad, but sometimes it is like shoveling snow in the midst of a snow storm. I have found myself in an uphill battle since marrying my husband while I was in college. There have been obstacles at every turn, graduating college, discrimination in the workforce, and financial instability just at the beginning of our military journey. I quickly turned to volunteering first within our FRGs, and then through my appointments as Navy Command Ombudsman for 5 different commands. I developed an immense passion for sharing my experience to advocate for and empower other military families. In our 18 years as a submarine family, we have relocated 4 times including cross-country and overseas, my spouse has deployed 4 times, and has spent over half of his career away from home with little to no communication (because, well, submarines)! We have 5 children, but unfortunately our oldest daughter was stillborn and we had to grieve apart while my husband had to return to training 24 hours after her birth. I have given years of time and service to our military families, not because it has been expected of me, but because I want to share my experiences (the happy, the sad, the awful ones) in order to encourage and enable other military families to be successful!

Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
During our 18 years as an active duty family, I have volunteered in numerous roles within the military community. I began volunteering for roles such as fundraising chair, and secretary within the FRG and then elected president. I enjoyed being able to share resources, advocate for other families, and developed a knack for empathizing with almost anyone! I was first appointed as an ombudsman 14 years ago and have been an ombudsman for 5 commands (including at our current command), and a regional ombudsman assembly chair twice. I am currently a CNIC Certified Ombudsman Trainer. I was also a Marine Corps as a Family Readiness Officer. I have held leadership positions with multiple submarine officer spouse organizations and have been the chair/project manager for several submarine community charity auctions. I am currently in a leadership development fellowship with Blue Star Families.

Describe your involvement in the military community:
As a Certified Ombudsman Trainer I teach prospective and newly appointed ombudsman the requirements to carry out their duties. I am able to share resources and personal experience on ways in which I support the diverse needs of our military families. In my ombudsman roles, I have engaged with individuals from local non-profits and installation support programs, up the chain to CNIC, DoD appointees, and government officials to bring light to the issues and needs for our families. In my current role with Blue Star Families I regularly engage with military and veteran support organizations, congressional staffers, and local government officials to educate them on the quality of life concerns and how we can amend policy to support a better life for military families. I am also present and available to command families. I engage one on one with spouses and family members and offer a safe and inclusive space where the diverse and personal needs of our families can be addressed.

Describe how you support your community:
My passion for advocating and supporting military spouses is not limited to command roles. I am a personal trainer and birth doula because of the need in our community for greater access to wellness and support. For many military families, birth support is a luxury that is not affordable, but needed. When a servicemember cannot be present for the birth of a child, mom still needs support. My experience with the stillbirth of our daughter inspired me to volunteer birth doula services for military moms at a time when we can be most vulnerable and need an advocate. Military families are diverse and their needs are as well, so I ensure that I am continuing to educate and better myself on best practices to implement and create inclusive spaces. In my fellowship with Blue Star Families I have completed numerous exceptional diversity training and continuing education programs to further my understanding and ability to advocate for inclusiveness in both the military and civilian circles.

What do you advocate for? Why?
I advocate for increased quality of life for our military families and ways in which we can meet current needs as the military is always evolving. I am also an advocate for educating the civilian community on what it means to be a military family, and that sacrifices go beyond the battlefield. There is often a disconnect between the military and local communities and a little education can go a long way to increase support. I am currently working on a capstone creating legislation that would increase food security for military families. Food insecurity is occurring at a much higher rate amongst service families, yet current nutrition assistance programs are not meeting the needs of military families. This topic is important to me because as a young enlisted family we experienced food insecurity. I want my experience to be an advocacy and support tool, and also assist in destigmatizing this topic because the negative perception can be a hindrance to accessing nutritional support.

How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
I use LinkedIn a lot to connect with others in the MSO/VSO space and to share my stance on topics. I have found that LinkedIn is a great place to find other advocacy outlets and engagement opportunities. I am also actively involved in the Blue Star Families' Neighborhood Community forum where we encourage discussions on everything from public policy to DEI to workforce development. I am keen on public speaking and engagement opportunities within various settings. I have successfully provided training and briefings to military and community leaders and organizations and have used those platforms as a means to further discussion on important topics. I recently attended a round table discussion with a Pentagon Official and I was confident in discussing and advocating for important pain points for our local military families. While I have engaged with the media in the past, my most recent public speaking engagements have been in presentations, teaching platforms and social media.

What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year® title?
I would use the AFI Military Spouse of the Year title as an even greater mic to elevate my ability to speak up for the needs of our military families. I would continue to advocate for diversity, not only in the military, but in programs that support military families. I would continue to share my stories, both positive and negative, as a narrative that families can not only overcome so many of the challenges and obstacles that military life presents, but with greater support, knowledge, access to resources and necessary policy changes our families can be successful! If each of us makes a difference for just one person, that ripple effect can cause a shift in the way that we see ourselves and even empower us to continue to advocate and create change and a place of belonging together!!


There is only one choice that comes to mind and needs to be considered. Ryan Brennan not only defines the true meaning of a devoted spouse but a compassionate caregiver. Always putting others above herself, she works with blue star families and truly knows the meaning of empathy. She show her love for the community through her volunteer efforts ranging from food drives to coaching youth sports. She further donates more of her time to the community in multiple efforts such as wreaths across America and meals for those in need. Knowing the importance of family, she makes sure to instill her compassionate morals into her 4 children by taking the time to home school them. She is the first neighbor to offer assistance and be a welcoming smile to new military members coming into the neighborhood. Ryan is unmatch in every way and is truly deserving of this recognition.
- by Heather Ali