Abbi McCracken rolls up her sleeves and takes on multiple roles enabling her to fight for Coast Guard families. She is a Coast Guard Local Housing Officer, a spouse, an ombudsman and a mother to three boys. Now, with her latest role being the recently named Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year for the Coast Guard, she wants to use her platform to bring awareness to housing issues some members face .
McCracken wants to help with what she describes as “the crisis with privatized housing contracts” that leave some members at the mercy of work orders that are ignored and not rectified, or, work that is not done properly to deal with issues like mold and other poor living conditions.
“I’m going to speak to as many people as I can about those issues,” said McCracken. “I already reached out to a nonprofit organization that advocates and lobbies for changes. I am so passionate about this, our members shouldn’t have to live in places like that and it is very important to me to let families know they are not alone.”
That feeling of loneliness and isolation that many Coast Guard spouses experience, is actually what drove McCracken to become an ombudsman herself having been on the receiving end of their support.
Between 2011 and 2012, McCraken was a new military spouse within a new community and was placed on bedrest while she was pregnant with twins and her husband periodically deployed.
It was then that she made the decision. “If I ever had the chance to volunteer as an ombudsman, I would be honored to have the opportunity and make sure I did everything I could to show families there was always someone willing and wanting to help.”
McCracken’ spouse, Petty Officer Ian McCracken, an aviation maintenance technician stationed at Air Station San Diego. McCracken herself serves as the ombudsman for seven units in San Diego. She estimates that she’s served more than 250 spouses and their members over a three-year period—she has even mentored non-Coast Guard spouses whose trust she has gained.
McCracken shares a volunteer role that was most rewarding to her. She helped lead the Coastie Campers program through the Coast Guard Foundation and was able to help pilot a program that provided $500 to each eligible Coast Guard child in the San Diego area towards summer camps and, or online enrichment because it was going on during the global pandemic.
There are countless stories noting the ways McCracken contributes to her community and so the honor of being named Coast Guard Spouse of the Year should be no surprise.
“I was absolutely shocked,” laughed McCracken. “I can honestly say that I am still a little bit in shock,” she said. She attended the Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year convention to see the naming of the overall winner amongst all services. Our own, Coast Guard Spouse Paulette Fryar held that title for 2020 and 2021. “I couldn’t believe that I was in the room with all of those amazing people; I am so excited to learn from each and every one of them.”
During the convention McCracken also had the opportunity to speak at an event meant to celebrate and show military spouse appreciation and got to meet Adm. Karl Schultz, the commandant, and his wife. In recognition and thanks for all Coast Guard spouses, McCracken said she offered these words of sage wisdom at that event: “Don’t be afraid to be the person in the room [who] is not the smartest or the most connected. Being smart is being aware that you can learn from the people around you. Just keep showing up, that’s how you can drive change.”
Showing up consistently is what landed McCracken in a room with leaders and even the commandant. “I heard spouses from all six branches talk about how amazing it was to have Admiral Schultz and his wife take two hours out of their day to honor me and the rest of the branch spouses,” McCracken said. “I was not surprised. I think we do a good job at making our spouses feel loved and at promoting the idea that the mission starts at home.”