MPFC is honored to feature our Ally Spouses who have shown tremendous leadership in advancing equality for ALL military families.
May 2015 – Christina Huskey
Christina Huskey is a Military Family Employment Advocate in Florida—she is only one of 10 people in the state that work daily to help active duty spouses and dependents find gainful employment. She has also assisted the families in her present and past battalions by serving as a Family Readiness Group Leader, Key Caller, and several other volunteer committees. Being an Army wife and former military child, Christina knows first-hand the barriers and challenges spouses and dependents face when it comes to relocating and adjusting to a new community. One of those challenges is the search for employment. Often when sharing the story of their employment history, military family members will often interject the story with the phrase, “and then we got orders.” Usually this story goes on to end in a somewhat sour note, but Christina hopes after spouses meet with her that there is a more positive outlook on the future, not only for the job hunt, but for military life in general.
If I could give one piece of advice for young military spouses, it would be to make the most out your time with the military. This part of life isn’t permanent and you get out of it what you put in it. Get involved with your spouses’ unit, join the spouses club at your duty station, and join community organizations such as Team RWB. When you start meeting other families that have been a mile in your shoes, or people who can see the world through your lens, it is easier to realize you are not facing this challenge alone. This life is so much easier when you have battle buddies!
January 2015 – Tracy Lent
Tracy recently graduated from Georgia Southern University. She is the spouse of a retired Army Veteran who served 26 years. She and her 5 girls have experienced a number of deployments, along with many moments of honor and pride. She shares an understanding of the many challenges military families face. Especially, families with special needs; due to one of her daughters having behavioral health conditions. She is a proud LBGT Ally, and a proud mother of a lesbian daughter. “I love spending time with my family, friends, at the beach or in our pool. I’m a self-proclaimed restaurateur (Foodie) and love going to new restaurants with my spouse or friends. I’m very excited to be volunteering with MPFC, advocating and supporting all our wonderful LGBT service members, veterans, families and allies.
November 2014 – Richard Abelkis and Claire Cuccio
We are recent newly weds, just married April 2014. We met in the Army. Claire is a Colonel and moved to Hawaii this past summer. Richard is a Lieutenant Colonel and is stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. We’ve been apart a year and a half and are hoping to get Richard to Hawaii soon. We have four dogs-which just sort of happened-and Richard has two sons. When we are in DC, Richard likes to run the grill at MPFC functions and Claire likes to pour the wine. We are proud to be part of the MPFC family.
July 2014 – Shivanna Ramrekarsingh
My name is Shivanna Ramrekarsingh. I am a 36 year old stay at home Mom and Navy Spouse. After 15 years of marriage, I can truly say that I am still madly and unequivocally in love with my Sailor. Together we have three amazing kids, our daughter Syniah 8, our son Syrah 6 and Sam our Baby Angel. When I’m not running around trying to keep up with everyone’s schedules and activities, I love, love to bake and volunteer my time wherever I can truly make a difference. Life has not always been kind or fear for me, but that will never stop me from waking each day and putting my best foot forward. Life is what you make it, beautiful, crazy, amazing, insane, a blessing.
May 2014 – Kimberlee Wallace
I am a nineteen-year-old, very proud Air Force wife. My husband and I both grew up in San Diego, California, where we met in middle school. I moved to Colorado to study French at the University of Colorado Denver and will soon be moving with my husband to our first duty station. I’m passionate about teaching, French, and dance… and helping people! Although I don’t identify with the LGBT group, I have decided to devote myself to defending them and their rights. This is a big reason why I agreed to join the Military Partners and Families Coalition as journalist and editor. I feel like it’s a small way for me to help make a difference in the lives of the LGBT community. I plan on becoming a teacher once I finish school and I hope to instill a sense of acceptance and the desire to help EVERYONE in my students. On a more personal note, I’ve been a ballerina for eleven years, I’m completely fluent in French, I successfully completed the International Baccalaureate Diploma program, and I really want to be a mother someday.
April 2014 – Alice Swan
Army spouse Alice Swan is married to Brigadier General (retired) Robin P. Swan. They have three children: son, Robin (25), is a 1LT (P) in the United States Army, daughter Mary (21) will graduate from the United States Military Academy in May and Hannah (19) attends Indiana University of Pennsylvania. During their 32 year military adventure, the Swan family lived in Germany, Virginia, Louisiana, Kansas, Nebraska, Massachusetts, and Texas and now make their home in Northern Virginia.
While following her Soldier from post to post, Alice worked for Army Public Affairs offices in Germany and Fort Polk, Louisiana and was a substitute teacher and tutor for various school districts as the family moved. She was an active Army volunteer for: Family Readiness Groups, Spouse Clubs, American Red Cross, Army Community Service, Youth Sports programs and Parent-Teacher Associations at her children’s schools. She has lead deployment support activities during her husband’s command assignments in Germany and Fort Polk.
As a blogger for DC Military Family Life, Alice enjoys sharing news about important programs and issues that affect service members and their families in the Military District of Washington and around the world. If in some small way the information in her stories helps at least one military family, she’ll consider it a job well done. Recognizing that our military has always benefited from its long history of inclusion, she is proud to support the efforts of Military Partners and Family Association and other LGBT military organizations.
March 2014 – Marty Howell-Myer
Marty Howell-Myer has been a military spouse for almost 18 years. Initially her husband Bill was a member of the Michigan National Guard, going to drill one weekend every month and two weeks in the summer. In 2000 Bill went Active Guard Reserve (AGR) with the Army National Guard, attached with National Guard Bureau in Arlington, VA. Since 2000, they have moved five times and have just recently resettled back in Alexandria, VA.
Marty has been a stay-at-home mom for ten years and has a son, McLean. She recently completed her Masters of Social Work while Bill was on his second deployment to Afghanistan. During this time she also served as the advisor to the 507th Engineering Battalion Family Readiness Group where she promoted inclusiveness for all family members and partners. Because most of the soldiers were M-Day (not active duty unless activated) and lived in a state with no active duty military bases, she also worked to disseminate information regarding military and community resources that can be accessed by service members and their families.
February 2014 – Celeste Fick
Celeste, and her husband Tyler, are currently stationed in the National Capital Region. Celeste has the unique ability to positively affect the lives of every individual she comes in contact with. Befoire, during, and after repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and Defense of Marriage Act, Celeste has been a steadfast ally and advocate for LGBT equality within the military community. In 2014, Celeste was selected as Spouse of the Year for Joint Base Meyer-Henderson Hall. Her advice to military spouses “Stay flexible! Flexibility is one of the most important things in military life. Plans will change, leave will get messed up, but if you keep your mind open things will fall into place.”
January 2014 – Tamara & Cameron Oneil
My husband Cameron is in the Army Chemical Corps and I’m in the Navy JAGC; we met 10 years ago on a blind date. A mutual friend asked me to meet a childhood friend just in from Korea – thinking, of course, that since we were both military it was kismet. The idea has been hilarious ever since. But it occurs to me that our two small kids started the latest new school last year and, of all the children available to make friends with, they unknowingly reached out and bonded with the other military kids. I think there really is something that makes us military people family to each other. All military people.
My job as a Navy lawyer is truly to promote justice, and I’ve had countless opportunities over my 16 years of service to do just that. I’m grateful for the chance. But the pride story coming to mind is a sad one. A coworker brought his boyfriend to the office recently and I was glad to finally meet the charming man we’d been hearing so much about. The next day my colleague brought me a homemade, neatly tupperwared cupcake and had a small stack of them for other people. He has 18 years of loyal and extremely proficient service. This was the first time, he explained, in the wake of the repeal of DADT that he had been able to introduce his partner at work and he wanted to thank me for being on the other end of that long-anticipated handshake. The idea that those few minutes were important enough for him to stay up late cooking for each and every one of us is sad. Don’t get me wrong, I took the cupcake and it was delicious. But I look forward to the day, soon on the horizon, when the inclusiveness of our military family is obvious and unremarkable.
It’s been a terrific fall celebrating the end of DADT in a personal and professional capacity. One hilarious moment was when some close family friends went for their military id. One mom is a Captain in the Public Health Service with over 20 years of service so we all had a chuckle teasing her about ensuring her wife gets acquainted with the rights and services available to her family. It’s funny because this is the speech we have all given to our junior troops a thousand times over the years. One long over-due and a very happy day to celebrate. No cupcake though, thank heavens.
Our advice to new spouses: appreciate that inclusiveness sometimes needs to be a learned skill. The diversity of the military is a great strength, but people sometimes need a minute to appreciate the beauty of their new surroundings. Look for what you have in common, enjoy shared pursuits, and encourage others to do the same.
December 2013 – Jocelyn Benson
Jocelyn Benson serves as the Interim Dean of Wayne State University Law School in Detroit, Michigan. In the 2010 election, she was the Michigan Democratic Party’s nominee for Secretary of State. Benson co-founded Military Spouses of Michigan (MSoM) and currently serves as the organization’s president. She authored a book in 2010 titled, “State Secretaries of State: Guardians of the Democratic Process.”
Love is love, and I look forward to a day when the rights and benefits of marriage are available to everyone equally. As we celebrate recent changes in the law creating and expanding more protections for LGBT military families, it’s important now more than ever for the entire community of military spouses and families to come together. We must ensure that we are all being treated equally and that we all are treating each other equally.
As the spouse of an active duty Army paratrooper, I know that military life is unpredictable and constantly requires us to adapt to new and unexpected circumstances. It’s something unique that few have the honor to experience. But it’s undoubtedly an act of service. For that reason, I am grateful and thankful for the service that LGBT military families and all military families provide to our country every day.
I’ve seen firsthand how our community can often be overlooked and invisible. The sacrifices that we and our families make every day are largely unknown to the general public. That applies even more so to our LGBT military families. That is why it’s important for MilSpouses to welcome and support anyone who loves anyone in the military as part of our community.
November 2013 – Jacey Eckhart
October 2013 – Laura Dempsey
Laura Dempsey is an Army wife of 15 years. As a new military spouse and an attorney, Laura took and passed 4 different bar exams in six years to keep up with her husband’s military moves. She co-founded Blue Star Families with a group of other military spouses who had trouble navigating the balance between their civilian and military families networks. She currently serves as the Director of Military Spouse Employment Programs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes.
Laura’s advice to new spouses: I would say be as broad and flexible as possible in seeking out networks. Try hard to learn your new community quickly, and reach out to as many groups as catch your interest. You never know where your next opportunity will come from.
September 2013 – Vivian Greentree
Vivian Greentree is the Director of Research and Policy for Blue Star Families, a national non-profit organization she helped to found in 2008. Vivian created and oversees BSF’s Military Family Lifestyle Survey, which examines a broad spectrum of issues affecting modern-day military families. The 2010 survey was referenced in Presidential Directive-9 “Strengthening Our Military Families,” the precursor to the Obama Administration’s Joining Forces initiative. She is also the creator of the Blue Star Spouse Employment Toolkit, the first of its kind military spouse employment resource, written and tested based on the unique career needs of military spouses. The Spouse Employment Toolkit has since evolved into a suite of military spouse professional development programs known as Blue Star Careers.
Before joining BSF, Vivian served as a Supply Corps officer in the Navy. After serving in the Navy, she used her G.I. Bill to attain her Ph.D. in Public Administration and Urban Policy from Old Dominion University. Vivian’s research on civic engagement and public policy is published in peer-reviewed journals and other media outlets. She has appeared as a subject matter expert on panels, advisory boards, conferences, and new shows and is a Senior Research Fellow of the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University. In 2012, Vivian was named a Daily Point of Light by the Points of Light Institute and a “Top 40 Under 40” by the University of Georgia’s alumni association. A proud military spouse, Vivian is married to a Naval Officer, who is currently on his fifth deployment in their eleven-year marriage. They have two little boys who enjoy peanut butter, forts, and airshows.
Advice from Vivian to military families: There is no “one right way” that applies to every military family in any given situation – kids, deployments, relationships, you name it. There are lots of right ways and yours might be different from mine, but both can be healthy solutions. I’ve learned to ask questions and advice and then adapt it to fit our family. Also, “normal” is a setting on the dryer, I learned that from my nine year-old, MJ. He told me trying to fit in at his new school was exhausting, so he was just going to be himself. He’s pretty smart for a nine year-old. But then, he’s a military kid!
August 2013 – Kim Place-Gateau
Kim is a former restaurant owner, caterer, wrangler of at-risk teenagers, Ropes Course instructor, legal dweeb and tutor, and is now a freelance writer, constant student and—still and always—an avid cook and travel buff. Her work has appeared in Military Spouse Magazine, The Broad Side, Bitch, Front Porch Fredericksburg and wherever old newsletters, menus and flyers from her popular restaurant still exist. After 3 1/2 years in Europe, she now lives in San Diego with her husband, Jamie, their dog Jim and their three cats.
Her advice to military spouses: “To be honest, the way I stay as sane as I am in this chaotic lifestyle is to hang on to my civilian identity. There are times—during a PCS or a deployment, for instance—when I have to immerse myself in the military’s way of doing things, but outside of that, I remain staunchly civilian in my daily life. I find people in our area who inspire me, and who make me feel like my authentic self, and I become part of our local community. Getting involved with MPFC has been a terrific way to bring these two parts of my life together.”
July 2013 – Liz Bassett
Liz Bassett is the President of Oakleaf Club of Greater Washington DC. In 2012, the Oakleaf Club amended its Constitution to include spouses and significant others of eligible service members. Sharing her experience on how miltary spouses can build a support network – “Being a military spouse has provided my family with many unique life experience that we all embrace. We look forward to each move as a new adventure for our family. The thing that has been my biggest blessing is my involvement in Oakleaf. I have joined and been active in an Oakleaf Spouses Club at nearly every duty station. Not only do I gain friends and a support network, but the clubs have all offered me the opportunity to give back to the greater military community.”
June 2013 – Sara Mackey
My name is Sara Mackey. My husband Justin and I are stationed at Hurlburt Field AFB in Florida, where he is a pilot on the AC-130 Gunship and I am a stay-at-home mom. We have two young children, Rowan is three and Charlotte is six weeks old. Prior to having children, I worked in the non-profit child advocacy world and as a kindergarten teacher. However, as many military spouses can relate to, I have put my career on hold to raise our children and keep our family (somewhat) organized and running smoothly through the unpredictability of a military life!
The many hats that we wear as military spouses can make finding time to volunteer very difficult. I admit that I don’t get to volunteer as often as I’d like. But, I remind myself often that I am already doing an important duty for our country and community by supporting my spouse and raising our children! If you would like to become more active in volunteering, I recommend using your already existing talents and finding things that fit into your schedule. It is so easy to take on too much and overwhelm yourself which will drive you away from volunteering all-together! If you like to cook, commit to making one meal a month for a family in need. If you enjoy organizing events, take on an annual holiday celebration, spouses event or fundraiser. The best advice I can give is to limit yourself, choose your volunteer projects wisely and don’t feel guilty – just do what you can. Happy Volunteering!
May 2013 – Chris Weimer and Elise Thomasson
About Chris and Elise: Chris Weimer went to the Air Force Academy with my sister and they graduated 2006. I met him in 2008 when we attended my sister’s wedding, and we just never separated. Although I never expected to be part of the military community, I started to get an inkling that he was ‘The One’ when we found that we had in common an interest in promoting LGBT rights. Civil Rights of all kinds have always been important to me. When we PCS’d to Kirtland AFB, and I was between jobs, I finally had time to help within the military. I reached out to some OutServe and AVER members, and together we started the first LGBT and Ally organization in the US Air Force! Currently, I do communications for a flooring company called Carpet Source in Albuquerque, and I continue to teach Spanish online for Sinclair Community College in Dayton. My favorite thing about being a MilSpouse is all the opportunities to help others. The best advice I can give is from Tina Fey. Her motto is, “Yes, and…”. Being open, and being ready to contribute leads to all sorts of wonderful things!
April 2013 – Kristin Henderson
Kristin Henderson is the author of three books, including While They’re at War: The True Story of American Families on the Homefront; a journalist, including reporting from Iraq and Afghanistan; and a staffer with The Yellow Ribbon Fund (http://www.yellowribbonfund.org), a nonprofit that assists injured service members and their families. She’s also married to a Navy chaplain who has served three combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. About herself, she says: “That picture of me is ten years old, but it captures four things I really love: my country, my car, my dog, and my husband, who’s behind the camera.”
She likes several things about being a military spouse: “The diversity of the military community means I’ve gotten to know people I otherwise would never have met. That has really enriched my life and broadened my horizons. I also like the way the inevitable separations during deployments have shaped and strengthened my marriage. That’s not to say it’s been easy. At times it’s been miserable, frankly. Combat deployments, especially, change people, both those deployed and those left behind, and not always for the better. But still, the time apart breaks the little bickery habits we fall into when we’re together all the time. It gives us the space to miss and appreciate each other, and remember why we fell in love in the first place. And the challenge of getting through each homecoming, and being there for each other, and overcoming the hard times together, has deepened our relationship in a way that I wouldn’t trade for anything.”
If she could tell other military spouses going through a wartime deployment only one thing, she would tell them about anticipatory grief – in fact, she wrote an article about it: http://www.kristinhenderson.com/articles/anticipatory-grief/
March 2013 – Kathy Moakler
Kathy Moakler is the Government Relations Director with National Military Family Association. She is both a military spouse and a military mom. As an ally of LGBT service members and families, she has been an advocate for equality for all military families.
Kathy’s advice to LGBT military partners/spouses: One of the most useful things I learned as a military spouse was to be pro-active. Learn all you can about the aspects of military life that affect you the most. Whether its paving the way for a successful transition for your children in a new school, becoming an expert on the family support resources you need, or advocating for yourself when you are looking for new job at the next duty station – plan ahead. Today, with the internet, it’s so much easier than when I would call a friend or acquaintance to assess the lay of the land before we moved.