Are Veteran Kids Military Kids, Too?

NMFA-Veteran's-Day-2014-165“I’m a military kid too, right Mommy?” Zana, my 4-year-old asks hopefully. “I want us to be a military family!”

Clearly, I’ve been talking about the National Military Family Association a lot. And our recent trip to New York for the Veterans Day sealed the deal–military kids are awesome. Both girls had the privilege to walk with dozens of military families representing our Association in America’s Parade. Our message was so powerful that even a 4-year-old heard it loud and clear. It’s cool to be part of a military family!

But are we a military family?

My older daughter, Lira, was born when my husband was an active duty Marine—so she was definitely a military kid. But is she now? And what about Zana? Does being the child of a veteran count?

I thought about the poem written and recited by military kid Laura Marin at our Veterans Day reception:

“I’m an unrooted child. My life is mostly in brown boxes.”

“I’m leaving behind all that is familiar, again. I’m facing the unknown one more time.”

dave-and-liraNone of this describes my kids’ lives. We’ve lived in the same house, since transitioning out of the military, with no plans of moving. They don’t have to deal with deployments and separations. They don’t have to change schools or constantly make new friends. But they do have that military kid spirit.

They are proud. They are resilient, and even though one of my daughters wasn’t born and the other can barely remember when Dave was in the military—they are military kids.

They are growing up with a love of country. They respect and honor service. And like many veteran kids—they have to deal with the after-effects of military life . Dave was medically separated after having his spine fused (among other injuries), and can’t physically do what he once could. Going for a run isn’t an option, but he’ll ignore the pain and hold the girls on his shoulders when we go for a walk.

So Zana, yes. We are a military family. And we share this sentiment, also from Laura’s poem:

“Sleep peacefully in your beds at night United States of America. My family and I got your back.”

Do you think kids of veterans are still military kids? Let us know your thoughts!

Besa-PinchottiPosted by Besa Pinchotti, Communications Director

Our First Duty Station: Making a House a Home on a Newlywed Budget

rachel-marston-dityFort Belvoir, in Alexandria, Virginia has been the first official duty station for my husband and I since getting married. Before he received orders to Fort Belvoir, he’d never heard of the installation, and honestly, it wasn’t one we were expecting. Despite not knowing much about Fort Belvoir, I was just excited to put together a home with my husband, so the unknown wasn’t much of a concern for me.

Getting married was the easy decision for us, but deciding to live on-post or off-post took a bit more consideration. Searching for housing was an emotional rollercoaster for me. After all, I was planning my wedding AND a Permanent Change of Station (PCS) at the same time. I saw my husband’s leave time between an overseas tour and a stateside move as the perfect opportunity to get both done.

Eventually, we decided living off-post in an apartment would be an advantage to us. Right now, it’s only my husband and I, and between the two of us, we don’t really have many belongings. He was coming from barracks life, and I had been living with roommates. Our goal was to get the most out of our Basic Housing Allowance (BAH) straight out of the gate, so to speak. One of our favorite tools for accessing the housing market and staying in budget was AHRN.com. It allowed us to use our BAH rate to find a home off-post that fit our needs.

AssemblingFurnitureOnce we moved my belongings to Fort Belvoir, we realized we didn’t come close to filling our two bedroom apartment. We knew we didn’t have much, but we didn’t anticipate an empty living room! (All the living room furniture in my previous apartment belonged to my roommates.) Whoops!

It was important for me to have things from everywhere my husband and I have traveled and lived, so I brought a little Texas flair, and he brought a little Boston. We met while we were both in New York, so we have many decor items from there, too.

Finally, after a year of planning and lots of agonizing PCS details, we began putting together our first home. Not only did we incorporate where we came from, but we also had to be mindful of our budget. We created the home of our dreams on a very tight (and newlywed) budget using these tips:

IKEA for the win! I know, I know. The furniture isn’t really built to last forever, but it’s great to have as temporary starter furniture. We bought our couch, coffee table, side table, entertainment center, DVD case, curio cabinet, and tall lamps there. We plan to get more ‘durable’ items in the future.

Give the thrift store a try, too. Our installation has a thrift store on-post and there are also several other stores in our area we visited to pick up some items. You can land a deal on some great designer home goods and art work for your brand-new home at a steal of a price!

Scope out your options online. Practically everything in my home office was acquired online and shipped to my home. That made it easier for the bigger items because it came straight to our door. There are websites out there offering free shipping, which came in handy for us! Overstock.com offers their Club O program to military members for free, which includes a 5% discount and free shipping, too. Be sure to read the reviews on items online. We bought our futon bed online on Target.com, but we were able to see it in store, too. So if you have the luxury to go to a brick and mortar store to see it in person, do it!

Do you have any tips for newlyweds on putting together their first home?

rachel-marstenPosted by Rachel Tringali Marston, Army Spouse, Ft. Belvoir, Virginia

From Growing Up a Military Kid to Helping Today’s Military Kids Grow

vets-day-parade-1It’s a story you may have heard—or even lived. A young girl watches her dad go in and out of the hospital due to injuries sustained at war. Yvonne Brunner’s father came back from the Korean War with physical injuries, a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). All of those things placed a heavy weight on Yvonne’s family, who didn’t have a support system in place. She knew, even at a young age, that she wanted to help those kids who grow up each day facing the stresses and consequences of war—but how?

Yvonne grew up to become a Navy spouse. Her husband is an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran and a paramedic with the Nassau County Police Department in New York. Meanwhile, Yvonne has served as Children & Youth County Chairman at the American Legion Auxiliary, a position that eventually led her to us. She became a volunteer with our Association in 2013 and has become a rising star to military kids.

Yvonne started going to elementary schools in her area, teaching kids about the American flag, hosting mini-parades, and holding a contest called ‘Red, White, and Blue: What the Flag Means to You.’ On Halloween, she handed out safety coloring books. During the winter holidays, she baked cookies and cupcakes and participated in toy distribution programs for military kids.

“It has been cathartic,” Yvonne said about her volunteer experience with our Association. “A journey of self-healing. “

Yvonne’s passion for military kids aligns perfectly with our Operation Purple® Program. When American Legion Auxiliary hosted a fundraising concert on Long Island, C.J. Ramone, who was performing, introduced her to comedian Dave Attell. She shared her experience and desire to help military kids, and they were moved to action. The three of them put together a concert benefitting the Operation Purple, and Yvonne acted as a one-woman dynamo—funding the event upfront and promoting it through radio interviews, town hall meetings, and hitting the pavement distributing flyers throughout Long Island.

The concert raised more than $6,000, and inspired Dave Attell to make two additional $25,000 donations and host a comedy show fundraiser on Veterans Day.

“Each and every one of us is an incredible person, capable of extraordinary things,” Yvonne said.  “It is my continued hope that we all join together to give back to our service members and their families.  Our children are our hope. They are our ‘littlest warriors’ who, by the simple act of saying good-bye, become the symbol of hope for peace.”

karen-cookPosted by Karen Cook, Volunteer Services Coordinator, North Region

Dave Attell and 4 Comedians Whose Names Start with “J” Supporting Military Families

When we first met comedian Dave Attell more than a year ago, we never could have imagined where we’d be together today. After performing at a fundraiser and being disappointed with the amount of donations we received, Dave gave NMFA $25,000… and then a few weeks later another $25,000, along with a promise to do more to help military families. This Veterans Day in New York City, Dave came through on that promise, big time.

He invited some of the top comedians in the world to join him on stage for “A Salute to Military Families,” a benefit at the Gotham Club in our honor. Besides Dave, a superstar himself, here was the lineup:

Jamie Kahler: Navy vet and host on the American Heroes Channel (AHC)
Jeffery Ross: the Roastmaster on Comedy Central
Judah Friedlander: best known for his role as Frank Rossitano on 30 Rock
Jim Gaffigan: author of bestseller “Fat Dad” and “Food: A Love Story”

These guys, whose names all happen to start with a “J,” kept the side-splitting laughs going all night. They also took the time to hang out before the show and get to know the military families, veterans, and friends of NMFA who’d be in the audience.

Thank you, Dave, for being the host with the most—and for caring about military families.

Together we are stronger.

Donate to our mission today.

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MilFams: Win a FREE House Cleaning from Merry Maids!

boxes-in-man-roomWith a few PCS moves under my belt, this is what’s left of the unpacked boxes inside my house. We moved in a year ago. That’s a win, right? Military families know boxes will inevitably move from state to state, sometimes country to country, and most likely won’t be opened for whatever reason. The unpacked boxes become a shrine of collected moving stickers–you know the ones. I won’t even talk about the chaos in my garage right now. I couldn’t tell you what’s in half of the boxes sitting out there.

Each time we prepare to move, I tell myself this time I’ll get rid of all the extra stuff, donate, purge, and move to our next home simplified and ready to unpack.

Easier said than done.

And once you finally get in the right mental state (because it is totally necessary, isn’t it?!) to start unpacking, placing things in their new spots, and turning your house into a home, you’re left with packing paper, empty boxes, and a house begging for a deep clean.

That’s where Merry Maids comes in.

garage-2Our Association has partnered with Merry Maids, a premier home cleaning company with over 30 years of experience to give five lucky military families a free house cleaning in honor of National Military Family Appreciation Month!

To enter: send us a photo of your house at it’s messiest (via Facebook or email to Social@MilitaryFamily.org) by November 30, 2014. A winner will be selected in each of Merry Maids’ five regions.

About that garage–you thought I was kidding, didn’t you?

What are your tips for cleaning up and unpacking? Share your tips with us!

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Content Development Manager

America’s Parade 2014 in Photos: We Love Our Military Families!

What a beautiful day to march down 5th Avenue! For the first time ever, our Association participated in America’s Parade, New York City’s famed event honoring Veterans Day. Families who’ve attended NMFA Operation Purple Camps marched alongside our staff and their families waving to hundreds of thousands of spectators who lined the streets. It was an honor to represent the families who stand behind the uniform. Thank you, Discovery, for sponsoring our float!

Photos: By Jmill Photography

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The Few, the Proud: Happy 239th Birthday, Marine Corps!

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