An Interview with Olivia Nunn: Retired Military Officer, Mental Health Advocate, and CEO of Olivia Nunn Communications


Introduce yourself! Share a little bit of what you do and who you help. 

My name is Olivia Nunn, and I’m the owner and CEO of Olivia Nunn Communications. It is a communication, branding, and social media strategy company that focuses on small and startup companies. Not only I’m a mom, I’m a retired military officer and my heart is with the military community. I’m involved with quite a few nonprofit organizations. I’m also a pageant queen and a mental health advocate. So, I wear multiple hats, I stay quite busy, and I love what I do. 


How do you balance all of that? How do you fit it all in? 

I like no whitespaces on my calendar. I know that kind of sounds crazy for somebody and says I need to balance, I do find balance. I also am a podcast host, I podcast for a military non-profit organization, and I podcast for myself with my partner. For me, that is where my balance lies, I balanced between work and play and I really love what I do. I’m passionate about what I believe in, which is giving back to the military community. I believe in mental health, and being an advocate for mental health, I believe in shining a light, breaking the silence, ending the stigma, and rewriting the narrative when it comes to mental health, everything that I do is about doing that. Talking about ending food scarcity within the military community, talking about substance use within the military community, and following that tie into the broader spectrum and the conversation surrounding mental health. That’s why I’m so passionate about mental health.

The reason why I’m passionate about that topic is because I was touched by mental health. I have a story about that, I was in the business. My last job in the United States Army was transitioning, I was in the business of transitioning soldiers out of the military. I was something of what you would say an expert. I worked for an organization called the US Army Soldier For Life. Yet, as I was transitioning or retiring from the army after 20 years of dedicated service, I had pretty much come to an end. What I mean by that is I went through an unexpected divorce. I didn’t come to grips with the trauma. Through my service, I had been assaulted. I went through three combat tours during my service. There are things that I needed to work through on top of the fact that I was coming through an identity crisis. I was letting go of who I am and trying to figure out who I needed to be. Here I was at the end of my service, going through an unexpected divorce with the man that I had built my whole entire adult life when I knew him. We started at the very beginning, married for 16 years, we had two children together and my seemingly perfect world was crashing all at once. It took me to rock bottom. I wanted to end my life; I had planned how to end my life.  

The one thing I talked about is the military made me a very effective planner, I say deadly plan. I was very, very good at what I did. So, here I was planning three effective ways how to take my life out and I realized at the very last minute that I needed help, and I cried out for help. That was a very hard thing for me to do. The military is filled with type-A aggressive personalities, and I’m no different. Uttering the words “help” was very difficult for me. When I finally did, I had a very hard time finding resources to assist in. Yet here, I was a transitioning expert that knew all these resources. Let me be clear, it wasn’t that these resources weren’t willing to help, they knew who I was. But they just were tapped out themselves, they didn’t have the capacity to help me. The conversations went much like this, “Olivia, we really couldn’t help you in six months, best case a year.” And when I reached that point, I didn’t even know if I had six days left, I can’t accept that as an answer.  

I am a Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Army and that’s a very high rank in the military, right that I’ve achieved success. I had the ability as a senior military member who understood ‘no’ is not an answer. I had the type of personality that’s going to say, ‘No’, and to be candid, and frank. But here’s the thing, the military is made of, not of high-ranking military officers, or high-ranking non-commissioned officers, most of the military rank structure resides at that E-5 and below, what we say is Junior Enlisted. They don’t necessarily understand or have the rank structure to say or the ability to accept ‘no’, they’re going to accept that, especially because they don’t have the experience, the age, or the understanding. I’m not saying it has to do with being smart, that’s not what I’m saying. They just don’t have the experience or knowledge that’s why they’re more likely to accept that. With that being said, this is why we’re sitting at 22 a day of veterans committing suicide. If you really are following that, we’re really looking more unlikely at 44 a day and that’s unacceptable.  

I understand that in a way that I thought I would never understand suicide or mental health, I just can’t sit back, having gone through my own storm. Now I use that as a hashtag, #IAmTheStorm understanding in a way, I just can’t accept that. That has become a passion of mine, changing that narrative. Not only it is a part of my business, Olivia Nunn Communications, but also my notoriety that I’m asked as an army officer, and now that I’m in the public sector, but as a storyteller, ‘How can I use my talent? How can I use my business to change that?’ And also, ‘How can I use it in my life?’ And that’s where I find the balance. That’s what drives me every morning 

Luana Ribeira

Luana Ribeira is a best selling author, international speaker and host of business Innovators Radio.