MIGHTY 25: Brittany Boccher uses corporate platform to uplift military community
Brittany Boccher waited in the wings for her Air Force Office of Special Investigations agent husband through multiple deployments and challenges. Once he retired, she found herself and brought everyone along with her.
Raised in a loving home, tragedy struck at a young age. Boccher’s father was killed by a drunk driver when she was just a child. The impacts of his loss would reverberate through her life and forge a path of service.
“I immediately went into becoming a victim advocate at 11 years old,” Boccher shared. “I was involved in Mothers Against Drunk Driving at my high school and led the charge on victim impact panels for other people who were a victim of a drunk driving incident, and also spending time educating teens. It changed the trajectory of my entire life.”
It pushed Boccher into pursuing a degree in community health and, eventually, a master’s in nonprofit management. She began her career working in a federally qualified healthcare center serving vulnerable populations. During a work trip, her life would shift again.
“I met this guy in an airport and had no idea what it would mean. I was working in Texas and he was in the Air Force stationed in Oklahoma. He calls me later on and asks me out on a date despite being states away and flew me out to him,” she laughed. “After probably like a month of dating, I changed my work schedule to four 10-hour shifts and would fly to him every weekend. Of course, like in any good military fairy tale, he proposed after six months.”
Boccher began her next chapter as a military spouse and it wasn’t anything like she imagined.
“I remember feeling shell-shocked, quite honestly. I was in the middle of nowhere Mississippi, away from everything,” Boccher explained. “I don’t do well sitting idle so while I couldn’t necessarily go back into my same career field I got a job as a director of a preschool. Then, I started hiring military spouses to be teachers. It was probably the start of my passion even though I didn’t realize it at the time.”
Though military spouse unemployment is a hot topic now, it wasn’t being discussed in the early 2000s when she was doing the hiring. Her passion for serving others would carry through from duty station to duty station. Boccher became active with spouse clubs, PWOC, organizations local to the bases and really digging into the military family experience.
“I spent a lot of my time volunteering at that point. We were a family that didn't have kids until very late. So a lot of my time was spent helping military spouses with young children, watching them being there when there was an emergency and serving in that capacity,” she said. “Once we moved to California, I started getting more involved in structured organizations.”
She’d welcome a daughter between deployments (one to Afghanistan) and then, a son. Despite undergoing all prenatal testing, his extra chromosome went undetected. Not only was he born with Down Syndrome, but was also later diagnosed with autism and significant medical issues.
Boccher started a nonprofit while at Little Rock Air Force Base, aimed at supporting kids with Down's. She was also volunteering in every organization available, leading to being named the spouse of the year for her base.
“It started with playgrounds. I remember taking my kids to a playground and seeing my daughter, who is neurotypical, run to go get on it. Then I watched [my son] in his wheelchair walker and the only thing he had access to was getting into the mulch. There were no swings, no ramp to get onto a playground,” she shared. “It was more than just my son or other EFMP children. We had more and more troops coming back from combat with physical challenges that would prevent even them from enjoying playgrounds with their children.
It lit a fire and she began working with Family Advocacy to change it. Her passionate work in advocating for EFMP children would lead to fully accessible playgrounds on bases all over the country. In 2017, she was named the overall Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year ™.
“I will not take credit for getting that done. I just used my voice and figured out a way that I could start serving a very specific demographic,” Boccher explained. “I started tackling things that TRICARE would cover and wouldn't cover and what echo benefits would cover and wouldn't cover and really started those conversations saying we need to be thinking of this in a different way.”
After winning the award, Boccher spent a lot of time traveling the country talking to senior leaders and spouses. In those conversations, she discovered that it didn’t matter if someone was an E4, spouse or officer – they were all struggling with finding their identity. So, she decided to create the tools to do it.
Discovering Your Spark was born. It was the first and only military spouse-created program sponsored and showcased by the USO. To date, it’s been delivered to over 10,000 spouses.
In 2018, Caliber Home Loans (now operated under NewRez) and its VP of Military Lending, Navy Reserve Lt. Commander Bryan Bergjans, approached Boccher to offer her a job.
“I was honestly taken aback because for the prior 10 years or longer, I struggled to get someone to see my value, my education and professional ability,” she said. “That was six years ago. I have been able to take my passion and purpose of serving others and utilize my position in corporate America to elevate military spouse-owned businesses and nonprofits and provide them the foundation that they need just to continue their work.”
Through her work, Boccher has funded programs that tackle food insecurity, homelessness, military wellness and mentoring initiatives.
“It's simply being able to do the right thing with the resources to serve this community and give people opportunities to see that you can do what you're passionate about and showcasing how you can live in this life with purpose. That's been my commitment,” she said.
In 2020, Boccher’s husband was medically retired from the Air Force in relation to injuries sustained during combat. While serving the community, continuing advocacy for all of the things she’s passionate about and working, she became a caregiver.
“It was definitely an emotional rollercoaster for a long time,” she admitted. “But I found another chapter and a way forward. I’ve found meaning in walking with other transitioning and veteran spouses. Their stories and needs aren’t talked about enough but I want to change that.”
As she reflects on everything, all the way back to her childhood, Boccher remains grateful for each and every moment.
“We live in a time where it’s a mentality of seeing things as not our chair, not our problem. Be willing to see people, mentor and lead. I feel like we do this well in the military but when we cross over into the civilian community it’s lost,” Boccher said. But we have to do better than that. It starts with us. So, be better.”
You can learn more about this bad-ass world changer by clicking here.