Introducing the 2020 Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year® Branch winners: Yvonne, Arlene, David, Bree, Paulette, Cristy. It is with great pleasure that after more than 700 nominations and more than 40,000 votes, these winners have been selected.
Each branch winner has a unique story that has resulted in being nominated for this honor. Here’s a glimpse into how these men and women give back to their communities and what makes them stand out on the road to becoming the 2020 Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year®!
The six finalists are eligible for the overall title to be announced in virtually May. Learn more about the 2020 Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year® events and who won for your base at msoy.afi.org.
- Current Location: Fort Carson
- Years as a Milspouse: 19
- Number of Deployments: 4
- Number of PCSs: 12
- Facebook: /yvonne.coombes
- Instagram: @eevee_coombes
Yvonne is the CEO of Operation Deploy Your Dress
At first glance, Operation Deploy Your Dress (ODYD) just gives away gowns to help “get people to the ball,” but as we’ve grown the true magic of ODYD has come to light. We are strengthening the military community. Balls have always been a part of military culture as a way of building esprit de corps and camaraderie; however, many young families can’t afford the added expense of attending formal events. By giving away over 11,000 dresses, ODYD has helped with that. But, an unexpected outcome of ODYD has been the community we’ve helped grow. We want to be the best place on post to volunteer. Many of our volunteers walked in the door looking for a dress, put on an ODYD apron and joined our team. Moving from post to post is hard for all military spouses, and for many finding a friend is the hardest part. I know from experience that the sooner you get involved in your community and meet people, the better. You never know when a crisis will come and you’ll need to lean on the people around you.
- Current Location: MCB Hawaii
- Years as a Milspouse: 21
- Number of Deployments: 7
- Number of PCSs: 5
- Facebook: /ama135791
- Instagram: @ArleneMAllen
- Twitter: @ArleneAllen12
Volunteering is Her Passion
At 15 years old, I never imagined myself being a military spouse, but I did know I wanted to be by my husband’s side from the beginning. Young, married, and learning about life wasn’t always easy, but we did it together. Through all the ups and downs, I learned to focus on the positive and ALWAYS be ready for the unexpected. Twenty-two years later I am a “seasoned” Marine wife, business owner, stay-at-home mom, runner, and volunteer. Today, we have a 15-year-old son and a 9-year-old daughter, survived many deployments and more trainings than I can remember, and moved five times. We’ve made so many life-long friends who now live all over the world. We have seen many service members make the ultimate sacrifice and never come home. Each time we hear of a loss, my heart sinks and we are reminded of what our service members sacrifice each day. It reminds me to make the best of each day we have together and live the best life we can. Being a part of the military community also has provided me with the opportunity to volunteer, which I found to be a passion of mine. Volunteering transformed my life and has given more back to me than I could ever begin to explain. Putting myself out there instead of isolating myself like I did as a young military spouse changed my life, and through volunteering I can now change other people’s lives.
- Current Location: Camp S.D. Butler
- Years as a Milspouse: 12
- Number of Deployments: 1
- Number of PCSs: 4
- Facebook: /manpendent
How He Leads for Male Military Spouses
I have helped other male military spouses by being active in the Facebook group Manpendent. We help other male spouses with their PCS, getting jobs, and even emotional support. While I don’t consider myself a leader, many spouses do reach out to me for help on island events, or just to chat. Sometimes five minutes on the phone or in person can mean a lot to a spouse facing a whole new life here. Depression, anxiety, and homesickness are a real part of a spouse’s life here. With our Manpendent support group, we try to bridge the gap and open doors to make Okinawa feel more like home. The support and meet-ups we create help build a sense of community and strength. There have been a few occasions when a fellow male spouse needs to talk about a problem, or needs to seek counseling. We as a group drop what we are doing and provide answers to the tough questions. We do it because we know that male military spouse life can be tough. I want them to know we have their back, always.
- Current Location: Barksdale AFB
- Years as a Milspouse: 6
- Number of Deployments: 5
- Number of PCSs: 1
- Facebook: /Bree.afi.afsoy2020/
- Instagram: @heartsstripes, @bcarrollevents
She Has a Heart For Your Marriage
We hear a constant emphasis on the military family, which is awesome. However, we never focus on the core of that family, which is marriage. Most resources for military marriage come from chaplains or counseling sessions, but there isn’t much more beyond that. Training often deals with the spouses separately, however, there is strength in numbers and unifying, which is why I was surprised that I couldn’t find many resources for couples to attend together. Especially for couples who are considering divorce, there are not many good options for rebuilding marriages. When faced with the reality that our Armed Forces are only as strong as our families, yet divorce and separations are the new norm, I had to do something about it. My answer was the launch of a support community and podcast, Hearts & Stripes, which is a platform discussing military marriage and equipping military families with resources to strengthen their marriages, start conversations, and equip couples to tackle the big issues military marriages face.
- Current Location: Personnel Service Command USCG HQ
- Years as a Milspouse: 14
- Number of Deployments: 1
- Number of PCSs: 6
- Facebook: /paulette.fryar, /paulettefryarAFICGMSOY20
- Instagram: @paulettefryar
What She Does for Moms and Kids
I am an advocate for military spouses with young children. I love volunteering with the Military Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) group at Fort Belvoir and I plan to continue volunteering as we PCS this year. MOPS International has a military division and recognizes the importance of support for the family unit, which I feel is so instrumental in assisting young military families in maintaining thriving and healthy relationships. In my volunteering at Fort Belvoir MOPS, I have been able to provide support for many spouses with young children. They know I am a shoulder to cry on, a voice to listen and arms with a hug. I desire to do my part to help them feel encouraged, hopeful, supported and loved. Now that my boys are grown, personally there is nothing more fulfilling than investing into these young mothers and providing encouragement by simply being the voice to say, “You are doing a great job,” and, “You are NOT alone.”
- Current Location: Mississippi
- Years as a Milspouse: 25
- Number of Deployments: 8
- Facebook: /2019MSOYMSGUARD
How Spouse Mentorship Fuels Her Passion
I am passionate about creating informal connections with others in our military families. I feel it is very important to provide support and guidance for those who support our military members. Through my own experience, I feel that we should not only support and encourage our spouses, but also the parents and family members who helped raise our new recruits that are just beginning their military career. We should never expect others to go through hard times alone, whether it be a tragic death, sickness, having children with special needs or anything that causes hardship among the members of our community. I make it a point to help others find the resources they need in their specific situations. I also find it very rewarding to help promote others in achieving their endeavors regarding their platforms and passions and rejoicing with them as they reach new goals in their personal endeavors. I would love to collaborate with other spouses and recruiters across the branches to find better ways to connect with and educate our newest families/spouses. Through this collaboration, I would like to create a more informed welcome packet to the families of our new recruits that will provide them the basic information on the boundaries we have as military families, what to expect while their loved one is in training, links to support groups, graduation expectations, and the process following basic training.