Virginia Marine Corps spouse a finalist for military spouse of the year
The Free Lance-Star, Fredericksburg, Va. March 8, 2023
(Tribune News Service) — Virginia Marine Corps spouse Natalie Ealy is a finalist in the Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year competition.
On Monday, she was chosen as the Marine Corps representative in the annual program, which recognizes the “important contributions and unwavering commitment” made by more than 1.1 million military spouses to community and country, according to the MSOY website.
Ealy is one of seven finalists representing each branch of the military: Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Space Force, Coast Guard and National Guard.
“Everyone that was picked is really awesome, I’m kind of awestruck by some of them,” she said about the spouses whose profiles are listed online. “This level is unbelievable and fabulous and I’m really happy to be here, even if I don’t win overall.”
After she was notified on Monday, Ealy’s first call was to her husband, Dan, an officer assigned to Bahrain. “He was so excited, I think more than me.”
Ealy, 42, said in a Free Lance-Star story last week that she’s not comfortable in the spotlight but wants whatever attention comes her way to benefit the Ohana Homefront Foundation. That’s an organization she and fellow military spouse Sarah Otto created in 2021 to highlight the need for mental health services in the military community, not just for those in uniform but also for their families.
She’s already received calls since the finalists were announced from friends and military members her husband has served with, asking how they can help.
Dan Ealy has been in the Marine Corps since 1998, both enlisted and as an officer. His wife doesn’t publicize his rank because she doesn’t want to suggest she can only associate with wives whose husbands are on the same level.
“I don’t wear his rank,” she said. “He earned that, not me. I’m not gonna let that determine who I’m going to be friends with.” Her friend Otto, who lives in Caroline County, said that’s one of many ways in which Ealy is rare.
“Natalie has a heart like no other military spouse that I have ever met, and I am proud to call her my friend,” Otto wrote in her nomination. “She has gone out of her way time and time again to make a difference in the lives of others.”
Ealy said she and Otto have been “serial volunteers with all kinds of organizations” at the various bases where their husbands have been assigned. But as they worked with family readiness groups or mentored new military spouses, both realized there isn’t one overarching group that can help all those associated with the military find mental-health services.
The two hope their foundation, Ohana — the Hawaiian word for family — will provide a “one-stop shop,” as Otto called it, for people in crisis or those who need to confide in someone outside their base. They’re looking for licensed counselors in each state who can help military members and their families as well as veterans who may need help.
The Military Spouse of the Year program is in its 13th year. Representatives are chosen on the base level, and because Dan Ealy is not stationed at a particular base, his wife initially was selected in Marine Corps’ “unattached” category. The top three spouses from each branch were selected next, then the competition was narrowed to the seven finalists.
The winner, whom will be announced May 12, will be determined by popular vote, which accounts for 25% of the total, and interviews with two teams of judges. The popular voting takes place this Thursday and Friday only at msoy.afi.org.
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