Spouse of Navy Quartermaster Chief John Lehnen
USS Bulkeley, Naval Station Norfolk
When it comes to dealing with difficult situations, especially while her spouse is deployed, Jennifer Lehnen is a time-tested pro.
Sure, there’s been the typical car-gets-towed-away-with-ID-card-inside drama; your standard early deployment automobile-breaks-down-so-bad-it-has-to-be-replaced insanity (twice); the dashes to the hospital with seriously ill children (she has four, including four-year-old triplets, and some of those trips were days-long out of state visits to specialists) all while holding down a full-time job, of course.
And then there have been the more difficult times, like when she was diagnosed with breast and ovarian cancer (later found to be in error). So yes, Jennifer has had just about everything thrown at her, and has still somehow come out smiling.
“I think about what my husband struggles with every day,” Jennifer said. “If he can get through all of that, then I can handle the four kids, our two dogs and my job. That’s the easy part.”
Even now, with Jennifer’s husband, Navy Quartermaster Chief John Lehnen, once again deployed aboard USS Bulkeley (DDG 84), she’s taken on a lot more than the usual.
But to better understand where she is today, you will need a little history. Jennifer had been running a daycare from her home after she gave birth to her daughter Katy, who is now 8. It allowed her to be close to Katy, who, due to premature birth, needed special care. She began to notice how many of the other children in her care had been diagnosed with or showed indicators of autism and speech or behavioral issues. Though she already held a degree in financial planning, she decided it was time to go back to school to get a degree in Speech Pathology and Ideology, with a minor in Special Education.
Having earned her master’s degree from ODU in 2005, she found new employment with Southeastern Cooperative Educational Programs (SECEP). SECEP serves more than 1,500 special education and alternative education students. Jennifer carries a caseload that includes 30 children diagnosed with autism and other behavioral and speech issues. But it is still not enough her.
She has also served as president and treasurer of Bulkeley’s Family Readiness Group (FRG). And for years she has also volunteered with the March of Dimes. She travels the state as March of Dimes’ Military Ambassador, sharing her story and the mission of March of Dimes.
“I met Jennifer at a Chesapeake WalkAmerica in 2003,” said Cheryl Lee, a local March of Dimes executive director. “She had her four children with her, including the four-month-old triplets, and Katy, who was three at the time. Jennifer’s husband was at sea. I was impressed with the care, attention and organization she gave to her family.”
“We have been so blessed with everything,” Jennifer said. “It was time to give back. So I got involved with the FRG and the March of Dimes.”
“My wife, Jenn, has been a finalist for Heroes at Home for the past two years,” said her husband John. “I know she says I should quit nominating her, but it’s hard not to! If you read her work resume, and then her volunteer resume, you might be misled into believing she’s an overachiever, super competitive and a ‘Type A’ personality who thrives on recognition. Actually, the truth is just the opposite.”
And if the number of people who nominated her again this year, with page after page of praise for her selfless work and volunteerism are any indication, he may be onto something.
Jennifer said it is the opportunity to give back is what drives her.
“There were other spouses who were there when I was the wife of a junior service member and received help,” She explained. “It took one spouse to help me out of a situation I got myself into, to realize I could be the one helping.”