Hear from Holly Vega, stay-at-home parent; Brittany Boccher, advocate; Lauren Hope, Entrepreneur for-profit; Verenice Castillo, Entrepreneur non-profit; & Jennifer Mullen, business professional.
Staff Writer, NMSN
MJ Boice is the in-house Staff Writer for the National Military Family Association. She holds a B.S. in Social Psychology and is a member of the National Military Spouse Network. Before joining NMFA, MJ served as a VA Benefits Advisor through the Transition Assistance Program in Washington DC and is currently pursuing her Master’s degree in Public Administration.
In addition to her role with NMFA, MJ consults and freelances for the Military Spouse brand. She has two teenagers (please pray for her) and has been married for nearly 18 years to her high school sweetheart; a Marine stationed at MCB Quantico. MJ enjoys mass quantities of coffee, watching documentaries and lifting up voices in the military community.
Holly Carter Vega is a native of Rock Hill, South Carolina. She graduated with academic distinctions from high school in 1996 and followed her dreams to San Diego, California, where she graduated from Concorde Career Institute. Holly obtained a license as a Dental Assistant, and has worked in the dental field for eight years. Currently, she is a full time student pursuing an Associate Degree from the Northern Virginia Community College in Social Psychology. In May, she will be transferring to Park University in pursuit of a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology.
In her 18 years as a military spouse, she has held multiple positions, including president, first vice president, hospitality and membership chair, Key volunteer coordinator, instructor, community liaison, historian, and advocate for many organizations and clubs, such as:
-Officers’ Wives’ Club
-Officers’ Spouses’ Club
-International Wives’ Club
-Women of the Chapel
-Key Volunteer Network
-Lifestyle Insights Networking Knowledge Skills (L.I.N.K.S) Mentor & Advisor
-Marine Corps Volunteer and Serve Team
-Family Readiness Program as an Advisor/Assistant
– Foreign Officer Spouses at Quantico – . Volunteer to coordinate and plan social
Holly has served as the Burrows Elementary School PEA President, and is currently the Vice President on the DODEA School Board in Quantico, VA, and
In addition to all of the things listed above, Holly is a huge advocate for Heart Awareness. She has facilitated five large events across various Marine Corps installations.
Holly Carter Vega has been recognized multiple times throughout the years for her outstanding contributions and selflessness while serving as a volunteer. In addition to supporting her husband’s military career, she is the proud mother of three children. In her spare time, Holly also enjoys providing religious instruction at St. Francis.
Advocate, 2017 AFI Air Force Spouse of the Year
Brittany Boccher is an Air Force spouse, mother, and small business owner, devoted volunteer and parent liaison/advocate for the Exceptional Family Member Program. Her son was born with Down syndrome in 2015, which prompted her to become an advocate for those with special needs. In 2015 she founded the Down Syndrome Advancement Coalition, a partnership of active Down syndrome organizations pursuing the laws, regulations and policies aimed at improving access to healthcare, education and jobs. In 2017, she was named the Air Force Spouse of the Year.
As an advocate for people with special needs, she has accomplished changing the landscape of the playground at Little Rock Air Force Base and achieved the implementation of special needs shopping carts at the base commissary. She currently volunteers as the President of the Little Rock Spouses’ Club, sits on the advisory board for the Thrift Shop and was named the Office of Special Investigations nominee for the 2017 Joan Orr Air Force Spouse of the Year Award. Currently, she is the owner operator of an apparel company, Mason Chix.
She has an extensive background in fundraising and program management, with her Bachelor’s in Community Health Education and a Master’s in Nonprofit Management. Brittany resides in the Natural State of Arkansas with her husband of 11 years and two children.
Entrepreneur-for-profit, 2017 United States Military Academy Spouse of the Year
Lauren Hope is the designer and owner of Hope Design Ltd, a hand-crafted military jewelry business, as well as active duty Army spouse. Prior to marrying into the military, Lauren trained at the Culinary Institute of America and was a chef at the Ritz Carlton. Never one to sit still and wait, Lauren passed the time of deployment as a cheftestant on Bravo’s Top Chef in 2008. Food was her passion.
Lauren’s son was diagnosed with multiple food allergies in 2012, which put her pursuit of her culinary career at a grinding halt. After reworking their family diet to accommodate their son’s needs, Lauren began creating with her hands again. The medium changed from edible to metal and Hope Design Ltd was born.
It grew from a hobby to an Etsy store, and now into the Hope Design Ltd brand, licensed by the United States Military Academy. Lauren’s husband’s passion for military history rubbed off on her and she joined the Ohio Valley Military Historical Society in 2013. Here she collects vintage military insignia to be re-imagined into jewelry for modern military spouses.
Working with Waterbury Button Company, the official uniform supplier for the US military, Hope Design has just released 24K gold-plated jewelry for all US military branches. In addition to consigning at charity spouses’ club’s gift shops, Lauren’s high standards of quality have attracted clients including members of capital hill, the White House, Military District of Washington, Embassy Ambassadors, and military protocol offices across the country.
Lauren and her husband Greg have been married 10 years and are currently stationed at the United States Military Academy with their 2 sons. Lauren currently sits on the advisory board for The MilSpo Project, as well as leads her local West Point Chapter.
Entrepreneur non-profit, 2013 AFI Air Force Spouse of the Year, Founder & President of the Military Spouse Advocacy Network
Verenice Castillo is the 2013 AFI Air Force Spouse of the Year and the Founder and President of the Military Spouse Advocacy Network (MSAN). MSAN was funded in 2012 with a mission to create stronger military families through education, empowerment and support. MSAN is the fastest growing network of advocates and mentors serving military families. MSAN holds a partnership with the Military Spouse Employment Partnership (MSEP/SECO) a Department of Defense program. Mrs. Castillo served as a Key Spouse Mentor for the 42nd Security Forces Squadron at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama; the 49th Security Forces Squadron and also as Mentor to the 49th Mission Support Group Key Spouses, Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico.
Verenice provided training and mentorship for Key Spouses who assist in the delivery of vital family support for six squadrons assigned to the 49th Mission Support Group. Her efforts to contribute to Air Force families catapulted resiliency efforts for spouses and yielded Strength for Spouses in the fall of 2012. This program was utilized by the Air Force as a platform to create its own resiliency program for all Air Force spouses. Verenice followed up with another effort with the development of Key Spouse Crisis Intervention training, which transformed the role of Key Spouses across the Air Force. In 2015, she received the Volunteer Excellence Award presented by the Chief of Staff of the Air Force. Mrs. Castillo has also been a contributing participant on various panels, briefing Senior Military Leaders and their spouses on the vital importance of supporting military families. Her appreciation, dedication, desire, and the bond that she shares with other military families are her motivation to make a difference in their lives.
Business Professional, 2016 AFI Coast Guard Spouse of the Year
Jennifer Mullen is the 2016 Armed Forces Insurance Coast Guard Spouse of the Year, freelance writer and Certified Agile Project Manager.
Her passion is lifting roadblocks for those around her and showing how real life can be. Living in the military community as a military spouse helps those passions thrive.
Jennifer holds a bachelors in Business Administration from Centenary College, Masters in Project Management from Boston University, and Certifications in Agile Project Management (PMI-ACP).
In her free time, she enjoys finding new hobbies or spending quality time with her friends and family. Jennifer currently resides in the Boston area with her husband of 9 years, two children and dog Bailey.