Duty Station: Marine-Corps-Air-Ground-Combat-Center
Number of Deployments: 2
Number of PCS's: 3
About the nominee: Well, well where to start! I’m a Marine Corps Spouse of 11 years. I was welcomed into the Marine Corps family back in 2006. There is an old saying when joining the Marine Corps family, that you are either born, sworn or married into the lifestyle. I am proud to say that I was sworn and married into this lifestyle! I married my beloved spouse in March of 2006. Fascinated by the rich tradition, culture and camaraderie of the Corps, I raised my right hand and enlisted in the Marines as well. A few months after marrying my best friend, I left for boot camp. I deployed with the Lioness Program which was a female oriented deployment effort to work side by side with infantrymen. While deployed, our goal was to help bridge the gap in cultural customs between men and women in the Middle East. After serving 4 years honorably, I finished my bachelor’s degree and finally felt that it was time to hang up my pack and switch gears. I left the ranks with my fellow brother and sisters in arms to start my new journey as “just a military spouse.” Little did I know, this was just the beginning of many opportunities and blessings for our family. After completing my obligated active duty service, I worked for a contractor on the Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island as the Site Contract Manager for a Recruit Clothing Contract. Eventually, my husband became a Drill instructor and although the corporate world was very rewarding, we ultimately decided that with my husband’s new roll training Marines, it would be best for me to stay at home with our littles ones. I traded in my suits for sweats and went headfirst into this whole stay-at-home-mom-military-spouse thing. During this transition, I needed to find my own identity. That’s when I discovered Stroller Warriors®. My time spent at Parris Island was heavily centered around Stroller Warriors®. Stroller Warriors® is a free running club and support network for military spouses. I always hated while in the military because I was always running against the clock. But once I joined Stroller Warriors®, I discovered it wasn’t about running for a perfect time, but the people you were running with. Having a husband that was on the Drill Field meant many nights and days apart. While he was busy shaping the future of our Corps, I was busy shaping myself by learning through others. This particular chapter of Stroller Warriors® was brand new to Parris Island. In an effort to contribute and give back, I helped volunteer in a leadership position within the club to help coordinate yard sales in which proceeds would go to charities or to help keep this free club in operation. This was a chance for me to really spread my wings, get involved, in shape and to give back. My time spent at Twentynine Palms has been equally divided between two main focuses areas: Being a Family Readiness Assistant for 3rd Battalion, 11th Marines and serving on the Board for a parent lead Homeschool Cooperative called 29 Palm Home Educators. If anyone has ever been stationed at Twentynine Palms, one would immediately know how unique this duty station is. One thing that is very common here, is the interest and support for families that choose to homeschool. My husband and I have always known that we would want to homeschool our children and this duty station was the perfect place to embark on this journey with other military spouses. After joining the 29 Palms Home Educators cooperative, I quickly knew that I wanted to make a difference. Soon, I was serving on the Board as the Events Coordinator planning educational field trips and enrichment activities all while networking with the bases homeschool liaison about homeschool opportunities. This homeschooling group has been much of a supportive network for me as well as others. I have enjoyed participating in MCAGCC Back to School Bash in order to help spread information about our group. Seeing that there was a need for military homeschooling families to support each other, I also created a Homeschooling Facebook group to help share resources and knowledge to other homeschooling families. During my time involved with this group, I was able to help orchestrate things such as a Tie Dying party for homeschool military kids, created a keepsake yearbook for the cooperative, and organized educational field trips. As a cooperative and individually, we have enjoyed volunteering at the Hi-Desert Continuing Care Center, where we played games with the elderly and passed out Valentine’s Day cards to the residents. After looking at the volunteer options on base I ultimately decided that I wanted my volunteer efforts to directly affect the Marines and spouses. This is when I honed in on my choice to become a Family Readiness Assistant. “Family Readiness Assistant Training is designed to orient and guide Command Team Advisors and Family Readiness Assistants in their roles, responsibilities, and operating components within the Unit, Personal and Family Readiness Program. This training provides the required information to operate as a successful Command Team Advisor/Family Readiness Assistant and as a member of the Family Readiness Command Team.” This training has given me the chance to complete L.I.N.K.S. Training, OPSEC training, LES training and much more. This was the platform in which I could use to help reach out to other spouses and explain how our Corps works and operates. Since volunteering as a Family Readiness Assistant, I have hosted the first ever Summer Spouse Program. This was a three-month program that took place during the summer months when the Marines were in a high operational tempo; training in the filed a lot. Each spouse was anonymously paired with another spouse and each month they would leave a small gift or card with encouraging words for the spouse to help inspire them during the time away from their spouses. In addition to the Summer Spouse Program I helped coordinate our first Battalion Level Ball Gown Swap. This was focused around the spouses that serve so selflessly, to provide an opportunity to find a dress for those that might not be able to afford it. We collected ball gowns months in advanced and prepared a night of pampering for these deserving ladies. Oh! And did I mention that military spouses could come and browse the racks for a FREE gown to use for our Military Ball!? If I’m not coordinating a night for the spouses, I am always thinking of ways to brighten their day. This year I decided to host a Valentines Rose Fundraiser. These efforts and proceeds help go towards our military ball. Flowers can be expensive, but this was a way for us to provide a service to the Marines, so they could buy affordable flowers for a significant other for Valentine’s day and in return we delivered them around base for free. These events are what make my heart soar. In conjunction with these bigger events, I also have helped give back to spouses that need it most in areas such as the Hospitality Program, which is a meal coordinating network for military spouses in need. When it comes to the Marines, I love seeing them taken care of as well. I have thoroughly enjoyed seeing the smiles on their faces whether it is serving them a festive themed “Dinner at the Barracks” with homecooked meals from myself and other spouses. Or passing out homemade “Welcome Home Goodie Bags” the second they step off the bus from deployments. These extra efforts are always worth it when you see the genuine thankfulness from another’s soul. While working with these two programs I have continued to keep busy in the professional world. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree but yearning not to work and stay home with my children, I fell upon a unique opportunity to work AND be at home. I was offered a job from Apple to work remotely! Can you imagine?! I was thrilled when offered the position to have a stable source of additional income, utilizing the degree that I worked for so hard. Military spouses can commiserate with the frustration of job searching every couple of years. But with this work from home opportunity, I could take my career with me! How cool is that!? I have also kept in touch with my Marine Corps roots by becoming a member of the Women’s Marine Association. Also, I was recognized for my volunteering efforts and I received a retroactive scholarship from No Veterans Left Behind to help pay off my previous college debt prior to my active duty service. My husband and I always laugh that we didn’t do everything in the “right” order. But when being a military family this “against the grain” lifestyle becomes the new norm. We got married, then I joined the Marine Corps. We were enlisted and then we both finished college. Eventually it was time for children, homeownership, PCSs moves and career changes. We might not have done it a traditional order but somehow, we have hit all these milestones and I wouldn’t have changed the path to how we got here.
Hobbies: My hobbies are a myriad of little things. Ultimately, my hobby would be taking care of others. It always sounds good in theory to sit down in relax, which there is definitely a time and a place for, but generally the good idea fairy strikes again and I am off helping others. My daughter and enjoy gathering basic hygiene items, water bottles and snacks for survival bags for the local homeless population. Living in such a tempered and generally warm environment year around, there tends to be a large population of homeless citizens. We keep these survival bags in my car and pass them out when there is someone in need. Sometimes I wish we could do more but knowing that they have a new tooth brush, water and clean socks, at least gives them a little bit of comfort. When I’m not running around the city… I am literally RUNNING. Over the years, I have developed a love for running. I hate it sometimes but man does it feel good. Stroller Warriors® initially introduced me to running and now I continue to set goals and run on my own. I love to run in order to set a good example for my children. We enjoy having gym class at our house during the day for school. Whether this is jogging around the neighborhood with Mom or doing jumping jacks together in the garage, it is awesome to see them emulate our healthy habits. I have also run over 30 races which support local community efforts and/or charities. A few races in which really stand out was the Susan G. Komen race for the cure. My mother was diagnosed with atypical hyperplasia breast cancer. With the shock of this new, I fundraised in awareness for my mother and gathered a small team to run in her honor in Savannah, GA. In addition to being physically fit; I also believe one should be spiritually fit. Previously, I have served as a volunteer with our church’s outreach program for children called AWANA. I enjoyed teaching young ones about faith and being there as a mentor while watching them grow in their spiritual relationship.
Interesting Facts: I have donated my hair 4 times equaling a grand total of over 41 inches! The most recent hair donation was April 2016 when my husband was deployed. Each donation has been made in memory of a friend that passed away in high school due to brain cancer. A fun fact about me is I was Wendy! I am from Columbus, Ohio which is the birthplace of the Wendy’s food chain. The greater Columbus area hosts a competition every year to see who will be the next Wendy. One year I made it as a finalist and dressed the part as the “Wendy’s girl” red wig and all!
What is something you’ve learned from being a military spouse? Being a military spouse means more than I ever knew it would 11 years ago. I found that in the military I tend to make deep bonds quicker than I do or did in the civilian community. The military community has its own, language, rhythm and lifestyle. When you meet a new military neighbor and you can instantly bond over the hardships of deployments, the excitement of moving and the chaos of unpacking. You just get it! It’s almost like you don’t have to explain yourself to each other… you just understand. For this same reason, these military families become your family in the absence of your blood family. They are the ones that watch your younger children when you have to take the oldest one to the hospital. They are the ones making meals for you when your husband is deployed. They are the ones picking up a gallon of milk for you so you don’t have to load up three kids to go to the store when your spouse is gone training. They are your late night running buddies just to get a moment of sanity. They are the ones that are there for you when you need a companion and a good cry. Only in the military will you meet such caring people with deep relationships that happen almost instantly. I have learned that you can find the beauty in almost everything. In some of our hardest times in the military, I can take away that the military has taught me how to be flexible. To have five different plans at any given time and to adapt all of them and then start over. I have learned to appreciate every moment with my spouse because we BOTH have been in positions when we might have said our last goodbyes. The military has humbled me in more ways than I ever thought it could, “just by being a spouse.” While I can empathize more than a civilian spouse about the inner working of the Marines Corps, I still have learned the most from being a military spouse. For this I am thankful.
In your opinion, what is one of the most important issues facing military families? An important issue I feel that military families face is the ability to keep a child’s education streamlined. We have chosen to homeschool, but not all families are in the positon to homeschool, nor they may not want to. That is OK! But the difference is when the standards of each school district vary due to the state in which we move to. Our military children are some of the most resilient children I have met. They were born into this lifestyle. This is why we owe it to our children to be afforded the best education we can give them.
What is one of the best aspects of being in a military family? One of the best things about being a military family is the experiences and culture we get to endure each place we live… a.k.a…. the food! Traveling to so many places we have been spoiled with immersing ourselves in local cuisine and culture everywhere we go. From swimming in the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean, having lunch on the lawn in front of the Washington monument, camping on the top of mountains, whale watching, traveling to New York City, visiting the National Mall, hiking in the desert and much more. Everywhere we go we make a bucket list of things that we need to do while we are there. How many times will one actually have the opportunity to live in such neat places!? This is when you can try to find the beauty and treasures of each place the Marine Corps stations us. We have been blessed more than we know with the opportunities given to us.
What is one thing you want to accomplish with the Military Spouse of the Year title? Having the title of Military Spouse of the year is not about me. I would only like to use this title as a stepping stone and avenue to be able to talk to spouses about the varying aspects of being a military spouse. I have seen many different sides of the military. I have been active duty, a veteran, a spouse, enlisted and now the spouse to a commissioned officer. With these many different lenses that I have seen the and military through, I want to be able to use those perspectives to help other spouses. I feel like this title will be able to help me reach military spouses on a multitude of levels. Being able to connect with a diverse crowd of spouse might be the key to helping that young military spouse going through her first deployment. Or helping the military spouse of a newly commissioned officer find a great place to get involved. I would love to have this title not for myself but to be able to use it to pull spouses together and show them that we really do have much in common and that there really is more than being “just a military spouse.
Reasons for nominating:
Jessie is an amazing mil-spouse. Yes, she is my friend and will forever be a member of my "surrogate family", but that is not what leaves me in awe of this lady! Aside from following her husband all over the country and having 3 kiddos (2 of whom she home schools), she leads by example that being a mil-spouse doesn't mean that we can't do what we want to do! As a veteran herself, she has the perspective of both the Marine and the spouse, which helps her provide that perspective to other spouses on the home front. She's heavily involved in her husband's unit and has even created several programs for the military families in that unit as well as the local community. Add on her full time job that she does from home and the motivation that everyone gets from her love of running and fitness...well, it's very clear that she should absolutely be in the running for Military Spouse of the Year! If she isn't leading by example, then she's got her 'boots on the ground' and her hands in every pot to make military life better for all she comes in contact with! :) -- MJ Boice, Friend