By Rebecca Alwine, PCSgrades Blogger Affiliate

There are over 600,000 active duty military spouses in the United States. Each January, nominations open for the Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year®. Spouses from each and every military installation, district, region, and state are nominated by someone who truly admires them.

A few months later, the top six are announced, representing their spouses’ branch. Each of these spouses has a different background, a different military experience, a different goal. As we approach the announcement of the 2017 Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year®.  on May 12th, let’s take some time to get to know the top six.

Mary Nelson, Coast Guard

As both the wife and mother of a Coastie, Mary has learned a lot about the military and its strengths and weaknesses. She’s PCSed twice so far and loves the willingness to help she sees from her military family. She really likes having connections all over the world.

Mary really wants to bring attention to the Exceptional Family Member Program, just like 2012 AFI MSOY Jeremy Hilton continues to do. As the mother of a child with special needs, she wants to see the EFM Program alleviate more stress than it currently causes.

Jessica Rudd, Marines

Jessica has been a Marine spouse for 11 years, and just after marrying her husband, she enlisted herself. She served four years and has PCSed three times as a spouse. When she decided to become a stay-at-home mom while her husband served as a Drill Instructor, Jessica found Stroller Warriors and began volunteering.

As a homeschool mom, Jessica wants to make sure all military families can ensure their children get the best education. Homeschooling isn’t for everyone, but each family needs to be equipped with the tools and support to make sure their children are receiving the best available.

Brittany Boccher, Air Force

Brittany currently serves as the President of the Little Rock Spouses’ Club and volunteers with several other organizations. She’s moved four times courtesy of the Air Force and loves reminding herself and others that one person really can make a difference. She’s learned that flexibility and persistence can make a profound change, both in herself and in her community.

One of the most important issues facing military families is the impact of deployments on families, Brittany says. She wants to make sure that the toll deployments have and are taking on marriages and children are recognized. Quality relationships can withstand deployments, but it takes a lot of work.

Joy Goodrich, Navy

As a Navy brat, Joy was ready for her role as Navy spouse. She’s moved five times with her husband and has learned one of the most valuable lessons is to educate yourself. There are so many resources available to Navy spouses; Joy encourages each and every spouse to empower themselves by learning where those resources are.

Spouse employment is one of the issues Joy thinks affects military families. Consistently of employment for spouses is something each branch has problems with. Spouses face issues transferring their credentials from state to state, finding a new position that isn’t entry-level, and growing their career. Joy thinks that military leaders need to be aware of these issues as it affects morale and finances in a significant amount of military families.

Rhiannon Knutson, National Guard

Most National Guard families don’t get to experience the joys of PCSing, but Rhiannon has done so three times. With a currently deployed husband, she’s solo parenting her four children and serving as FRG leader for the unit. She hopes to continue her education to become a Marriage and Family Therapist and serve her fellow military families.

Community support is something Rhiannon would like to see more of in the military community. For those who aren’t located close to an installation, it’s hard to know who in your community is also military and may need help. Getting civilian neighbors and military families together can help ease the burden these geographically separated families may feel.

Cassaundra Martinez, Army

Cassaundra met her husband during her 15-month deployment to Iraq. After they married, she began the journey of being a military spouse, and it wasn’t as easy as she thought. She’s PCSed five times and has spent lots of time searching for ways to keep her career throughout it. She pursued her Masters with three kids under two and a deployed husband.

After spending 13 months unemployed after a PCS, she decided she didn’t want other military spouses to go through this. Spouse unemployment and underemployment is a real problem, which affects the military family in so many ways. Cassaundra hopes to address this issue this year.

Stay up-to-date with the 2017 AFI Branch Winners as they anxiously await the announcement that will name one of them the 2017 AFI MSOY on May 12th in Arlington, Virginia.

AuthorRebecca Alwine is a PCSgrades’ Blogger Affiliate and a freelance writer, army wife, and mother of three. She enjoys coffee, running, lifting weights, and most of the menial tasks of motherhood. When she’s not writing, she can usually be found hiding behind the sewing machine or with her nose in a book. Her writing experience includes military family topics, research pieces, guest blogging, and much more. She’s a contributing writer for ARMY Magazine, a regular contributor for several publications including to Homefront United Network, PCSgrades, ESME, and has also been published in Ms. Magazine and The Atlantic. You can follow her online at or on Twitter (@rebecca_alwine) and Instagram (@rebecca_alwine).