TCNJ Magazine Fall 2023

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Page 38 of 51

37 Class Notes FALL 2023 Military support Making sure the spouses of U.S. service members thrive is Evie King 's mission accomplished. EVIE KING E vie King '08 makes her soldier choke up with the news of her latest accomplishments. "There's just something absolutely beautiful about someone who is willing to sacrifice their desires and their time to help the people around them," says Jon King '07, a major in the United States Army and husband to the 2023 Military Spouse of the Year. As president of InDependent, Inc., a volunteer-run wellness community for military spouses, Evie was honored with the top award from the Armed Forces Insurance program for her dedica- tion to the health and happiness of her peers. "As military spouses, we are fantastic at taking care of others," she says. "What we're not good at is taking care of ourselves." She points to some of the unique challenges military spouses face: They move a lot; their soldiers deploy for long periods of time, leaving them with sole responsibil- ity for children and the home; they put their own careers on hold; and they may have feelings of resent- ment as they try to build relationships in new communities. "I want to raise awareness of these burdens and how they can be barriers to our own well-being," she says. "I think people understand the need for resources for service members, but they don't really understand why they should support a military spouse. Sometimes even the soldiers don't really understand." When Evie and Jon married in 2011, the couple thought they were well-prepared to take on a life together in the military. Evie's parents are both veter- ans, and she spent her early years as a military brat. Jon's dad was a chaplain in the Army Reserve, and Jon served as an ROTC cadet at TCNJ, which is where he and Evie met as community advisors. Evie says she got "a great teaser into military life" when, upon college graduation, she packed up her finance degree and moved to Ohio (where she knew no one) for a job with a glass manufacturer. The couple later weathered a 415-day stint apart when Jon was deployed to Afghanistan. But it was a move in 2014 that stationed the couple in South Korea when Evie felt the bottom drop out. Job opportunities were few, and she felt unfulfilled and isolated from friends. "I lost my sense of self and was really struggling with my own well-being," she says. That's when she discovered InDependent. "Here was this organ- ization that asks, 'What if we take care of ourselves, too? Imagine how our lives would change?'" she says. She started to volunteer and has since made it her mission to make sure all military spouses have what they need to be the best for their families and commu- nities, and most importantly, for themselves. Under Evie's leadership, InDependent holds an annual virtual mental health summit, provides paths for spouses to develop career skills through volunteer opportunities, and creates educational programs to help military families make nutritious food choices. Evie has brought national awareness to the mission thanks to the AFI Military Spouse of the Year award, which landed her on the TODAY show last May. "It's rewarding to see her succeed," says Jon. "And then to watch the impact that has on other people." Says Evie: "He actually tells people that the reason he is still in the military is because of me." — Kara Pothier Evie and Jon King at TCNJ Evie King '08 welcomes husband Jon '07 home from a deployment in Afghanistan.

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