More Than A Spouse: From Air Force to Space Force and Beyond Home

More Than A Spouse: Mary Bell

Air Force Reservist, Space Force spouse, and mother, Mary Bell knows a thing or two about service to our country and service at home. She has juggled all three roles while also making time to connect and support military families.

Mary is a small percentage of military families with first-hand experience as a service member, a special needs family member, and a veteran. She shares what her 18 years in and out of uniform have been like and what other military spouses should know.

Service to Country, Service at Home

For Mary, the call to service always included starting a family. She completed six years of active-duty service before moving into the Reserves so that she could focus on a new duty title—mom.

“I am so grateful that I have been able to continue my own military service with the flexibility of the Reserve,” shared Mary. “My commission was hard to earn; I wasn’t ready to give it up at six years, even though I knew I wanted to stay home with my children.”

In addition to taking on the role and responsibilities of managing her family, Mary also navigates life as a spouse in the newest branch of the military, the Space Force.

“Supporting my husband’s active-duty career and taking care of the administrative life of making a home and raising children, including a child with extra medical needs…family life could easily be seen as my only career goal.”

But it didn’t stop there for Mary; she knew she could offer more while juggling her most important job as a mom.

“Our children are 12 and 9 now, and my role at home has shifted,” she said. “I can volunteer in the community more and pursue my goals and dreams. It has been so fun finding opportunities to serve the women veterans in my reserve unit, working to build the community of military families at our elementary school, and connecting women across my spheres of influence. Diving into all this has made me feel most like my true self.”

Spheres of Influence

Taking her own experiences in her military family journey, Mary now takes time to share them with others. She shares that there is always time to find your identity and to start setting boundaries.

“There is so much freedom in understanding and accepting what you can handle at a given time and what you cannot. Communicating to people with respect and kindness that you will not be able to participate takes you far with building trust in relationships.”

Part of building trust is stepping out of your comfort zone and getting to know your community during every military assignment.

“I shied away from new opportunities, and I wish someone would have suggested and helped me become more comfortable in new environments earlier. I feel like a pro at it now, but early on, especially as a new mom fresh off active duty, it took time to find what lights my fire.”

She shared that this journey has been instrumental in building community and investing in the well-being and resilience of our women veterans and military spouses.

“It means the world to me to do these things in the military family sphere. It makes me feel like I am doing exactly what I was built to do!”

Identifying and Meeting Needs

Just like Mary, NMFA believes in partnering with military families to identify and meet their ongoing needs. Our one-of-a-kind support and programming, such as spouse scholarships and camps for military kids, as well as timely advocacy on legislation impacting military families, demonstrate our commitment to ensuring military families have the tools to thrive and have the best quality of life.

With our More Than A Spouse campaign, we share our military spouses’ stories to celebrate all they bring to the table because we know it can easily go unrecognized. But, just like NMFA’s foremothers, we also know a lot can be done around a kitchen table. This includes lifting each other up, sharing valuable words of wisdom and resources, and highlighting the stories of all military families because together, we’re stronger.

Share your ‘More Than A Spouse’ story with us. We want to hear it!

By: Angela Sablan Tenorio, Content Manager