5 Tips to Connect with LGBTQ in Your Military Community

My wife, Vanessa, is an Army veteran. When we met, she had already served and returned to civilian life, but she’s thinking of enlisting again, soon. And for me, I need information; I needed to know what my life would look like if my wife joins again. I googled my little heart out, but I saw little of what I was looking for.


I noticed there weren’t many blogs or voices from lesbians in the military, so I created a website and blog to create a positive place online for lesbian military spouses; a space I might need if I become a military spouse, too. I also wanted to create acceptance for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in the military. Creating this space online was a way to honor my wife as a veteran, because when she did serve, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) was still in effect. DADT made it hard for her to have a relationship and live her life the way she wanted. I’m thankful she was single when we met after she got out of the Army. It’s only been a few months since same-sex marriage was made legal, but not all LGBT military personnel may be publicly open about their personal lives. And that’s okay. 

What does same-sex marriage mean for your military family? Embracing change may be the simple answer. Today, more than 71,000 service members identify with the LGBT community, and it’s common to have an LGBT person serving military families. Same-sex marriage creates a chance for everyone to be proactive and treat families in military units or on bases with an open heart, regardless of their sexual orientation or self-identity. 

I’m passionate about writing, and I love that I can blog and create a positive place for LGBT military service members online. I want to use my voice to help military families see LGBT service members are people with families, too. It’s important to respect others and treat them as you want to be treated.

Here are 5 tips to get you engage and help you connect with LGBT within your military community:

1) Acknowledge everyone. Greet and introduce yourself to everyone in the room. When inviting people over, or to an event, use the term ‘spouse’ instead of wife, or husband, to be inclusive.

2) Be friendly and welcoming. This is an easy one: just be yourself. Ask questions about their life, and talk about yours. It’s always nice to feel welcomed and acknowledged, and who knows, you might make a friend in the process!

3) Be an ally. Invite co-workers, spouses, and significant others to events. Some LGBT military personnel join the military because their own families might not support them for being who they are. See if they need help with something, or just need a friend to talk to. Being an ally for someone who is LGBT is being someone who shows up and is tough, but gentle when needed.

4) Support equality and find common ground. The LGBT community is a great place to start! Educate yourself about the diversification of gender and sexuality so you can understand the range a person can identify as.

5) Be courageous and speak up. Learn what terms means within the LGBT community, and tell others who might not know. If someone starts a joke about being gay or transgender, let them know it’s offensive. Today, 7 in 10 Americans have close friends or relatives who are gay. By speaking against homophobia and transphobia, you support those in the LGBT community. You can make a huge impact on how others treat LGBT people in the future by engaging with others and talking about LGBT friends.


LGBT relationships are no different than straight relationships: two people in love with each other. The repeal of the DADT made it legal for any person, regardless of sexual orientation, to openly serve in the military. But LGBT families need continued support from straight allies. That’s why I think it’s important to be part of this open-minded, open-hearted movement within your military community. At the root of everything, we are all human beings with families, who love and want be loved.

The more you know about LGBT families the easier it will be for you to interact and introduce yourself within your military communities. It can be very intimidating or nerve racking being new to the military community as a military spouse whether you are in a straight relationship or same-sex relationship.

How have you connected with the LGBT community in your military life?

norine holguinPosted by Norine Holguin, creator of Lesbian Army Wife, and OMG Lesbian Army Wife Blog

Margaret Vinson Hallgren: In Memory

I remember the first day I met Margaret Hallgren. I was green–only 24 years old–and excited about my new job as NMFA’s Newsletter Editor. We were gathering for the Editorial Committee Meeting to walk through the upcoming newsletter articles. In walked a beautiful, older woman with slight build and gray (mostly white) hair. She was kind and gracious as she introduced herself to me as the former NMFA President and an English grammar enthusiast.


The latter part turned out to be the understatement of the century. Margaret was not only a grammar enthusiast, she insisted on nothing less than perfection. Our Editorial Committee dedicated hours to go through 8 newsletter articles as each member went through, line by line, with their changes. I was the fortunate soul who took the feedback from the 10-member committee and merged the changes into a final version that made sense. Margaret was the final eye and she took this responsibility very seriously. This process would often take several weeks. Young and eager to accomplish as much as I could, that initial frustration ultimately taught me not about editing, but about image, dedication, passion, and a genuine love for military families.

In the words of a long-time employee, “Margaret lived and breathed advocacy—so she’d wait until each word was perfect for mobilizing, without alienating, others. Sheer perfection.”

Throughout the years I worked with Margaret, I learned the importance of high-quality work. Her expectation for nothing less than the best was born from her character of integrity and grace. Her slight build was deceiving, underneath her porcelain exterior was pure iron and grit. Her presence commanded authority and anyone else in the room paled in comparison, to include high ranking officials. She was a trailblazer; a woman clearly ahead of her time.


A Congressional Tribute presented by former Virginia Representative James Moran called Margaret “the vanguard of Congress and the Department of Defense’s efforts to sustain readiness and the all volunteer force.”

I can confidently say that all who knew and worked with Margaret were influenced by her quiet, yet formidable poise. With the fierceness of a lion and the grace of angel, Margret will remain in our hearts and minds as we forge on to support and protect today’s military families. We will always remember her and be forever changed by her presence.

Margaret Vinson Hallgren
June 20, 1928 – September 19, 2015

hannahPosted by Hannah Pike, NMFA Communications Deputy Director

Being #MoreThanASpouse is More Than A Mantra

When we entered the world of military service, now, almost five years ago, I set aside my part-time career as an adjunct English instructor at my alma mater.


This was a job I enjoyed for almost eight years; a job for which I trained; a job for which I earned a Master’s degree; a job for which I strategically planned to coincide with motherhood; a job for which I spent many hours perfecting my craft and aiming to competitively stand out among my peers. This was a job where I made a difference in the lives of hundreds of college students on their path to a bright future, full of promise.

I felt fulfilled by and called to the profession of teaching. I enjoyed having my foot in the working world while my children were young. I felt validated earning a paycheck and contributing financially to our family’s future.

When my husband commissioned into the Army, I set aside my career with feelings of simultaneous willingness and disappointment. I was willing to do my part as a wide-eyed military spouse and yet, part of my heart was left in the classroom alongside the SMART Board, dry erase markers, and composition notebooks.

I consider myself a positive person, a supportive wife, and a woman who longs to make the world a better place. It was with this same bravado that I embraced my role as a chaplain spouse, cavalry wife, and dependent (as we spouses are so often namelessly called).

During those first three years at our inaugural duty station I poured the same amount of passion, work-ethic, and heart into my new role. I sincerely enjoyed my endeavors in unit leadership, chapel ministry, and the work of being the steady, always-available default parent and partner in our home. I wasn’t earning a paycheck, but my payment for this hard work came in the form of hugs, high-fives, ‘atta-girls,’ and certificates of completion for all manner of Army Family Team Building (AFTB), Key Caller, and Care Team trainings.

During that season, I know I was absolutely fulfilling the roles I was called to be filling. I served as president of a women’s ministry, homeschooled our three children, taught Sunday school and a Bible study, organized a LEGO camp, did some freelance writing for a local business, and I kept the home fires burning during my husband’s deployment to Afghanistan. I faithfully attended more than my share of spouse coffees and unit functions; all with a smile on my face, and all while wearing the appropriate pin and insignia over my honored and satisfied heart.

mtas-mantra-2As efficacious as those years were, there was also a complex sense of anonymity that I sensed. Sometimes among a roomful of people, I’d feel alone. One of the great disappointments of military life is that we don’t always really, truly, and deeply get to know those we are serving alongside.

As a life-long overachiever, I often wanted to make sure people around me knew that I was capable, trained, educated, smart, available, or as the National Military Family Association’s campaign suggests, #morethanaspouse. I have gifts, talents, and abilities of my own. I’m not just a wife, spouse, dependent, or sidekick to my soldier. See me! Notice me! Take advantage of my skills, my expertise, my competence and qualifications!

Unlike our beloved service members, I don’t wear my rank, experiences, or education on my sleeve or blouse. Whether you know my husband or not, you see part of who he is based on his visible Army flair. As a spouse, you may never know how awesome I am unless you get to know me and I share with you my credentials and personal narrative. That’s the world we live in as military spouses.

Most of the time, most of us are mostly okay with this arrangement. Most of us are resolved to being in the shadows and in the background. We’re mostly cool with being the wind beneath our soldier, seaman, or airman’s wings. Most of us are comfortable with setting aside our passions and dreams for the call of duty. We feel proud to support the missions of our spouse’s career, the military, and our great country!

Very recently, however, I experienced an unpredictable and long-suppressed sort of pride.

Our family is now onto our second duty station and in the midst of “savoring the lull” of a slower op-tempo. I applied for and accepted a part-time job that morphed into a full-time teaching gig. I’ve found myself holding class in the college classroom again and I’m overjoyed. Here are a few of the top reasons why:

I’m thrilled to have an employer who took a chance on me despite reading a vitae full of professional and volunteer experiences from three different states in less than four years. Tennessee, Georgia, and Texas endeavors all enumerate my resume and speak loudly and clearly to a life that won’t be settled in one place too long. (If you are a military spouse, you know this is a real crisis plaguing our employability as dependents.)

I’m ecstatic to be earning a paycheck that is commiserate with my education and experience. I’m not above taking a minimum wage job if necessary, but my pay should reflect my background, training, and work history. For the first time in a long time, I feel valued and motivated by financial success.

I’m delighted to be getting some personal, positive feedback from my students, inquiries about my successful methods and practices from my peers and colleagues, and occasional accolades from my superiors. I don’t work hard simply for the praise, but it’s nice to be complimented and recognized by others for a job well done.

And ultimately, I’m elated that for the moment, I know that I am #MoreThanASpouse. It’s not just a mantra I’m repeating in my head; it’s not just a cry of my heart. Presently, I am in a role where others see me, where I am flourishing, and where an actual paycheck validates that I am, indeed, more.

Reality tells me that this job, this duty-station, this wave of professional fulfillment isn’t permanent. I know that it is finite; it has an expiration date. I know we will be moving again before I know it. But for now, during this academic year (and possibly one more) I am Mrs. Wood.

I am an English instructor. I am a teacher. I am an encourager. I am a leader. I am an influencer. I am a coach. I am a mentor. I am a preceptor to a group of nearly 140 college students. I am #MoreThanASpouse.

What’s your #MoreThanASpouse testimony? Share it with us!

claire-woodClaire Wood writes about her own struggles to make sense of military life at www.elizabethclairewood.com and she has recently released her faith-based book for military spouses, Mission Ready Marriage. She enjoys reading, early morning outdoor walks, trying out new recipes, and hosting friends and family in her home. Claire is married to Ryan, an Army Chaplain. They and their three children are stationed at Fort Gordon in Augusta, GA.

Four Things Gold Star Moms Want You to Know

Gold Star Mother's Day Graphic

Today, the fourth Sunday in September, is Gold Star Mother’s Day—a day to honor the moms who have lost a son or daughter in service to our country. Losing someone you gave birth to goes against the natural ways of the world—we expect to bury a parent one day, painful as that is, but we never expect to bury our own child.

Talking to Gold Star Mothers, there are certain feelings many of them share.

Here are four things they want you to know:

  1. We want to talk about it.We want to talk about our child, so don’t be afraid of “reminding us” of what happened. We’re just glad you remember, too. As Gold Star Mother Phyllis Sission told us about her son, 2nd Justin Sisson: “We talk about [Justin] all the time. The fear for us all, and that includes all Gold Star families, is that our loved ones will be forgotten. That is unbearable.”
  2. We still support our military.Yes, something horribly tragic happened to our babies. Yes, they were in the military when it happened. But we all knew this was a possibility. When our sons and daughters took the oath of duty, it was with the purest of hearts. They wanted to serve this country, even if it meant making the ultimate sacrifice.
  3. We are never “over it.”Some of us became Gold Star Mothers 30 years ago. Some of us are new to this pain. No matter how much time passes, though, we never forget. We do get better at getting through each day, but we are never able to move on.
  4. We enjoy celebrating with you.When our child’s friend earns a promotion or an award, please include us in the celebration. It helps to be around those who served alongside him or her. We are their mothers but you were her brothers and sisters in arms. Please remember that we are family.

This Gold Star Mother’s Day, let’s honor these mothers’ wishes along with their child’s memory.

Besa-PinchottiPosted by Besa Pinchotti, Communications Director

Military Balls: Save the Antics for the After Party

I love military balls. I love any formal event, really. I love the fancy dresses. I love the traditions and ceremonies. I love spending the night with my spouse (who looks pretty darn handsome in his Mess Dress). I always go home from the party madly in love with military life and my spouse.

If you are new to military life or haven’t attended a ball yet, you’re in for a treat. There are a few things you need to know before you put on your glass slippers and head out for the party.


Choose Appropriate Attire

Pay attention to the invite to the ball to make sure you understand what the dress code is. Each event will be a little different, but the majority of evening events will call for your spouse wearing their Mess Dress, and you in either a formal, floor-length gown or a tuxedo.

A great rule of thumb is to ask yourself “What Would Kate Middleton Wear?” (thanks NextGenMilSpouse) and go with that. Keep it classy- no cut-outs, no short dresses, nothing see-thru. It should match the level of formality your spouse is wearing.


Don’t be the Mean Girl (or Guy)

If you pick the perfect, classy gown, and show up to the party to discover that one crazy wife is in a mini-dress with all her goods showing, do not be catty or talk about her all night. Worry about yourself and enjoy the evening.


Be on Your Best Behavior

Military balls are considered an “official place of duty.” Your spouse is at work, and most of his chain of command and co-workers are going to be there. You absolutely want to be yourself, but you also want to make sure your behavior is in check so your spouse is not worrying about whether or not you are going to embarrass them after drinking one too many glasses of wine.

Many events will have a receiving line where you and your spouse will shake hands with everyone who is someone at the party. Your opportunity to make a good first impression doesn’t end there. You can use this event as a place to network and make new friends, just be sure you aren’t being remembered for all the wrong reasons!


Participate Respectfully in the Program

Each event will be a little different, but there should be a speaker, some sort of call and response, your branch’s song may be sung as a group, they will present and retire the colors, there may be a POW/MIA table. The program should have all the information you need to follow along, but when in doubt, keep still, keep quiet and do what the others at your table are doing. Stand when they stand, sit when they sit and enjoy the pageantry!


Follow Etiquette Rules 

Don’t stress too much about this part, but again, while at the party, keep your eye on someone you trust to know how all this “fancy-schmancy” stuff works and do as she does.

More importantly, have fun. In this situation, trying your best is all that matters. You don’t need to take it so seriously that you can’t enjoy yourself. No one is really going to remember if you said someone’s rank wrong or garbled the words to the Air Force song.


Party It Up On the Dance Floor! 

Service Members know how to cut loose! When the head table takes off their jackets and heads to the dance floor, that is your cue to have some fun as well. No bumping and grinding please, but do get out there and shake it!

Also, make sure you know the line-dance of the day. Everyone will be on the floor for the Cha Cha Slide.


Check out our Pinterest board for more articles (and more hilarious videos of service members dancing.)



What is your best piece of military ball advice?

Give Me a Break: The Case for Hourly Care


When I was pregnant with my first child, I went to the gym every day. I participated in exercise classes for pregnant women, I used the cardio equipment and weights, and I felt great. That was six years ago and I have not been to the gym since my son was born. He’s in first grade now, but I have a toddler daughter at home. It turns out that finding quality, affordable part time child care on military bases is incredibly difficult, which means that my trips to the gym have become a thing of the past.

I also work part-time from home as a writer. Well, I did. I haven’t taken on any projects in two years because I found that in order to complete my work on deadline, I often had to work through the night. Working was impossible while also caring for my kids, so the only time I had to write was while they were asleep. Needless to say, this was terrible for me and my family. If part-time or hourly care were available on the installation where I live, I could go back to work. I could also volunteer with local organizations. Heck, I might even be able to use the bathroom by myself once in a while! Like most installations, the base where I live has a Child Development Center, but also like most CDCs it offers limited to no options for hourly or part-time care. Current base policies in many locations require that there be no wait list for full-time care before any part time care may be offered.   Priority for enrollment is given to dual-military families, single parents, and families with spouses employed or enrolled in school full-time. The CDC enrollment package at our current base states, “Employment and status as a student with current enrollment are taken under consideration when determining the need for childcare. Due to the many families requiring care in order to work or continue their education, an unemployed spouse is required to gain employment of 30 hours per week or more or show proof of registration as a full-time student in order to remain eligible for care.”

It’s true that our family requires fewer hours of care each week than a family with two parents working full time. That does not make our need for care any less urgent. Part-time work, volunteer work, and part-time university enrollment are all situations that create a need for childcare. These are all valid pursuits. Volunteering or working part time are worthwhile activities for anyone, but without safe, reliable, and affordable child care available, they are impossible. Child care is also critical to help maintain physical and emotional well-being. Military spouses are strong and capable. We usually live far from extended family members, often in remote locations. Many of us live on a small salary in an area with a high cost of living. Add a couple of small children, send the service member on deployment, and you have a recipe for major stress. I once took a stress management workshop on base (before I had children), and the recommendations included: meditation, exercise, volunteering to connect with your community, caring for your health, etc.  At the time I thought they were good suggestions. Now I think they are hilarious because, of course, all of this is next to impossible with small children in the home while the service member is working long hours or deployed.

Quality child care choices off base are often incredibly expensive or impossible to find. At our current duty station for example, preschool costs $1000 per month! Some organizations offer child care reimbursement for volunteers, but most do not offer the going rate for an in-home sitter, which can be $10-15/hour or more, depending on the location of the duty station. That adds up quickly!  You might be able to trade child care with a friend once or twice a week, but the American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes of exercise per day, five days per week. Of course, that total doesn’t include the time required to drive to the gym, change clothing, shower, etc. So that’s at least an hour a day, five days a week. That’s really asking a lot of a friend. We are already asking our friends to help out when we need to mow the lawn or do other vital household tasks that aren’t child-friendly.

I know I am not alone in my need for quality part-time care. Our military and family service providers need to understand why hourly and part-time care is so important to our military families. It would be a welcome tool to keep our families on track and running smoothly.


10 Things Your Child Must Know Before Kindergarten

Starting kindergarten is a major milestone for both child and parent, exciting on the one hand, fraught with potentially worrisome unknowns on the other. Even military kids, who are great little adapters to new situations can struggle. The key to successfully launching students on this first step of their academic journeys is making sure they’re prepared. Most educators agree children need to master a number of basic skills before entering kindergarten.


Here are a few of those, ten things your child must know before that first day of school:

  1. How to be independent
    Students should be comfortable apart from their parents, be able to function independently, and know how to control themselves without constant guidance.
  2. His/her vital statistics
    Children entering kindergarten must be able to spell and write their first and last names—legibly. (Nobody expects perfection.) They should also be able to recite their addresses and know family contact numbers.
  3. Basic self-care
    Can your child tie his/her shoes? Work buttons and zippers? Before entering kindergarten, a child should be able to do all those things, as well as eat with utensils, bounce a ball and manage bathroom breaks.
  4. Social skills
    Being able to speak understandably and form sentences of at least five or six words is a critical skill for children entering kindergarten. Children must also have at least a basic understanding of the need to share and cooperate with others.
  5. kindergarten-must-knowsClassroom etiquette
    Classroom etiquette includes the abilities to sit still and listen without interrupting. Children must also be able to recognize authority, obey rules and focus their attention—for brief periods, at least—on guided tasks. Finally, they should understand their actions have both causes and consequences (good or bad).
  6. Manual skills
    Children should know how to correctly hold (and use) a pencil, crayons and scissors. They must be able to trace or cut out basic shapes.
  7. The alphabet 
    Students should know the alphabet in order and be able to recognize letters randomly, in both upper and lower case. They should be able to relate each letter to its sound.
  8. Word basics
    Children should be able to recognize a few sight words—e.g., stop, she, said, my, have, here, been, was—and understand how a book works (front to back, story in letters versus pictures, etc.). They should also be able to identify some beginning sounds of words and rhyming sounds.
  9. Numbers
    Before entering kindergarten, children should know how to count from 1—10, and be able to recognize written numerals 1—10 in random order. They should also be able to differentiate between groups of objects by how many objects are in each group—one, two, three, and so on.
  10. Colors and shapes
    Children entering kindergarten should be able to recognize and name primary colors—red, green, yellow, blue, etc.—as well as basic geometric shapes like circles, squares and triangles. They should be able to sort objects according to color, size and shape.

If your child attends preschool, chances are he/she will master most, if not all, of these skills before entering kindergarten. If your child hasn’t attended preschool, you can easily work on these must-knows at home.

Do you have any tips for parents preparing their kids for kindergarten? Share them in the comments!

Aubrey Moulton, military kid, and writer for DiscoveryTreeAcademy.com, a leading provider in safe, secure and fun Preschool for children in Utah County