Stories of unsatisfactory living conditions within military housing have run rampant over the past few years. Founded in 2018, Armed Forces Housing Advocates was formed to expose and address these issues, according to its website, while empowering residents to learn about the Military Housing Privatization Initiative. The group announced its latest addition to its board, Abbi McCracken, 2022 AFI Coast Guard Spouse of the Year.
“I’m incredibly passionate about making sure military families stay connected while also advocating for inclusive and safe places to live while using privatized government housing,” said McCracken.
But before she was a 16-year Coast Guard spouse and advocate, she was an Ohioan on a path to working in criminal justice.
“My husband and I are reunited high school sweethearts. We dated for three years in high school, but when it was time for college we went our separate ways. We’d always remained friends and several years later we reconnected at his first duty station, Ketchikan, Alaska. I flew to visit and the rest is history. We were married just over a year later in our hometown.”
McCracken’s husband works Coast Guard aviation. While they were stationed in San Diego, she took on a position as a housing officer for the Coast Guard. It was here that her interest in advocating for safe and quality housing for families began.
And her work as an ombudsman led to her eventual title as the 2022 Armed Forces Insurance Coast Guard Spouse of the Year.
“I love educating families on resources to help them thrive during the active-duty member’s career and making sure that spouses know they always have someone in their corner to help and support them,” she said.
Not long after being named the 2022 AFI Coast Guard Spouse of the Year, McCracken was asked to join the board of advisors for the Armed Forces Housing Advocates. The executive board consists of 14 individuals from the military and civilian communities with a mission of advocating for clean water; proper lead, asbestos and mold testing; and disability and accessibility compliance, among other issues.
During her award year, she plans to use her platform to focus on the initiatives she’s passionate about while growing the program that honored her in the first place.
“My hopes for the future would be to continue to help each spouse that I can no matter how ‘small’ their problem may seem and to grow the MSOY program in our frequently under-represented Coast Guard community,” she said. “I hope this will help to open doors for more deserving spouses to be recognized.”
Her biggest lesson learned, she adds, is to charge forward regardless of being scared.
“I’m learning to not be afraid to fail, because we only truly fail if we give up. It’s all part of the process,” she said.