Twice a month, Coast Guard All Hands will feature “From the Homefront,” a column for Coast Guard spouses by Coast Guard spouse Shelley Kimball. Shelley has been married to Capt. Joe Kimball, chief of the office of aviation forces at Coast Guard headquarters, for 14 years. She currently serves on the board of directors for the Military Family Advisory Network.
Written by Shelley Kimball
As Military Spouse Appreciation Day approaches this week, one Coast Guard spouse has been honored for her commitment to connecting and supporting others.
Jennifer Mullen has been selected at the Armed Forces Insurance Coast Guard Spouse of the Year for 2016.
“This award means so much to me,” Mullen said. “It really shows that what we do as military spouses matter, no matter how big or small.”
Mullen has been married to Petty Officer 1st Class Thomas Mullen, a maritime enforcement specialist, for eight years. They are parents to Jacob, 5 and Addison, 2.
Thomas Mullen is stationed on Coast Guard Cutter Spencer out of Boston.
“As a military spouse, it can be daunting at times. I think that one of the things to remember as a spouse is that we are here for a reason,” Mullen said. “We’re the anchor for our spouse.”
She has done that in her own life by not only working full time as an IT project manager full time, but also volunteering. She recently took over as the ombudsman for the Cutter Spencer. She is also active with the Junior League of Boston, which is a nonprofit that helps women and children in the area. She has also organized Coast Guard spouse get-togethers in her area. She said that making those efforts to volunteer and meet with other spouses has helped her adjust to the community.
One of the greatest challenges to Coast Guard families, Mullen said, is the difficulty connecting to each other or the services thy might need.
“The biggest thing that I am noticing is that because we are not in the same location, we have a harder time to connect and get the resources that others would get, Mullen said. “I think that’s one of the hardest things – it’s harder to get to know people. It’s harder to feel connected.”
For that reason, Mullen and Stacy Benson, the 2015 Coast Guard Spouse of the Year, teamed up to develop The Coastie Voice, a blog website with information for Coastie families.
She said she encourages other Coastie spouses to make a concerted effort to get out and make friends with other spouses because that connection can often be a lifeline.
“We are the ones who take care of the homefront and help each other find resources,” she said.
Mullen also intends to write a children’s book specifically about Coast Guard kids’ experiences when their active duty parents are away. She said she has had a difficult time trying to find books for her small children that will resonate with them. While she has found books that focus on deployments and homecomings for other military branches, it doesn’t exactly fit. Her son notices the difference.
“He says, ‘Mom, that’s not what he wears. That’s not what we do when he comes home. That’s not what he does,’” Mullen said. “I am working on giving them something tangible that I can read to them while on deployment to understand why dad goes.”
If she could tell people one thing about Coast Guard spouses, Mullen said it would be that we tend to find ourselves relying more on the civilian communities around us than our counterparts in other military branches, but that we still need the support systems all military spouses need.
“We live a very dynamic life. We straddle the civilian as well as the military community more than other branches. Most of us are working to find jobs, living a civilian life, but we still need the resources that the military-entrenched families do,” Mullen said. “We are just like everyone else. We want to hang our hats and enjoy the people around us.”
Share your note of congratulations for Jennifer in the comments below!
Military Spouse of the Year program: To learn more about the program, and to see how to nominate an exceptional military spouse, check out the link to Military Spouse magazine.
Coast Guard Ombudsman Program: This link will help you find your ombudsman or to apply to become one.
More stories like this: Introductions to previous Coast Guard spouses of the year, Stacey Benson in 2015 and Danielle Medolla in 2014. Previous Coast Guard children of the year have been Keegan Fike in 2016 and Caleb Parsons in 2015.
The views expressed herein are those of the author and are not to be construed as official or reflecting the views of the Commandant or of the U.S. Coast Guard.