Pass the Torch: Put Your Black Friday Savings to Good Use This #GivingTuesday

You’ve downloaded the shopping apps, checked the sale papers, and even sat outside the toy store waiting to buy the coveted gift of 2015. You know how much it costs and where the best place is to buy it. But have given as much thought to this year’s charitable donations?

Today is Giving Tuesday—a day where Black Friday and Cyber Monday shoppers are encouraged to share the holiday spirit by giving back to their communities and the organizations that support them. We know you work hard for your money, and you make careful choices when it comes to spending. We have found an option we think you’ll be pleased with.


Your donation to the National Military Family Association makes a huge impact.

Last year, NMFA sent more than 3,000 military family members to our Operation Purple® Programs, and awarded more than $500,000 in scholarships and professional support to military spouses and caregivers through our Spouse Scholarship Program.

How does your gift make a difference?

$30 will provide that military child a full day of meals at Operation Purple Camp.

$100 sends one military kid to an Operation Purple Camp, where they don’t have to worry about the stressors of military life while they enjoy a summer-camp atmosphere with other military kids.

$500 provides the funds for a military spouse to obtain a certification and, ultimately, a job to help provide a stable financial foundation for their family.

$1,500 allows a military family of three to attend an Operation Purple Family Retreat or Operation Purple Healing Adventures camp, where they can reconnect, create new memories, and learn skills to overcome the obstacles military families face.

$2,500 covers a semester of college for that military spouse, helping them achieve their goal of higher education and a coveted degree.

For 46 years, military families have depended on NMFA. Now they’re depending on you. Why not use those Black Friday savings to make a noticeable difference for our nation’s families?

Donate now and watch your dollars do amazing things.

Together we’re stronger.

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Content Development Manager

No Hum-Bugs Allowed! Everything You Need to Know About European Christmas Markets!

We live in a highly politically correct society. Growing up, Christmas parties were the norm in grade school. Today, you can barely get away with having a “Holiday Party” or a “Winter Social.”  On the other hand, most of America is upset about a red cup at Starbucks.

To be completely honest, I don’t get too bent up about what words to use (despite being a writer!), and I’m adult enough to respect other people’s ways of life.

However, since moving to Germany, Christmas has taken on a whole new life of it’s own for me!


Christmas Markets
If you are currently stationed in Europe, you’ve probably started hearing the buzz of the famous Christmas Markets…and for good reason!

Despite not even needing to be Christian to absolutely love and enjoy these delightful markets, the name still remains the same as it has for hundreds of years. Depending on where you are, it may vary, but it all means the same, “Christmas Markets.”

Here in Germany, locals, service members, and tourists, alike, all go nuts for the annual Weinacht or KristKindles Markt. You could be a direct descendant of Scrooge himself, yet somehow, attending any market will surely put you in a jolly mood!

Have you ever walked into a room and just felt an electricity in the air? This is what Christmas Markets are like! The smell of pine in the air, the most beautifully handcrafted items, food so delicious and, of course, Glühwein, the seasonal mulled wine, all create this magical feeling. It’s as if there is a “No Hum-Bugs Allowed” rule in the market vicinity!

Whether you are stationed in Germany, Italy, England, or elsewhere in Europe, your country is sure to have their own versions of Christmas Markets, with the same, general theme of putting anyone in a good mood and serving up delicious food and drinks–all with an enchanting Christmas theme.

Do you dread Christmas shopping? While many markets may have similar items, each market often has some unique and amazing items for sale. This makes holiday shopping a blast! Plus, who doesn’t love drinking warm wine while window shopping and looking at beautifully crafted items!? Your friends and family back home will love receiving thoughtful gifts from the foreign country you are living in, instead of the typical gifts we often receive that don’t have a unique touch.


The Christmas markets are also perfect opportunities to learn more about your local culture as well. Each country has their own versions of Santa, and the kids are sure to have a great time seeing the beautiful costumes and learning about the legends and traditions.

So, whether this is your first year stationed in Europe, or your fifth, like us, you’ll never get tired and bored of these magical markets. Go find a local one, or even make a trip of it and explore some of the world’s largest and oldest (Dresden, Nurnberg, Strasbourg) and most enchanting Christmas markets this year.

Some popular markets to attend are:
Germany: Dresden, Nurnberg and Koln
France: Strasbourg, Colmar and Lille
Italy: Verona, Balzano and Trento
UK: Winchester Cathedral, Caerphilly and Liverpool

Planning on going to a Market in Germany?  See what other tips and places the EconomicalExcursionists suggest while in Deutschaland!

Have you ever been to a Christmas Market in Europe? Which was your favorite?

LeAnna Brown currently doesn’t know what she wants to be when she grows up, so to delay major life decisions, her and her husband, Andy, have decided to move to Europe and travel the world via Travel Hacking. After almost 40 countries down in four years and only a few thousand dollars spent a year on travel, they have learned to penny-pinch their way to a bare minimalist lifestyle to help them see and appreciate the world. Read more about their close-to-free travel adventures at, or join in with the EE community on the Facebook page.

Happy Thanksgiving, Military Families!

With warm hearts and joyful spirits, we wish you and your military family a Happy Thanksgiving. Need a reason to be grateful for your military life? We’ve got 30 reasons to give thanks!


30 MORE Reasons We’re Thankful for This Military Life!

We know military life can be filled with up’s and down’s, and with plenty of reasons to be sad, mad, let down, and lonely. Most military spouses, however, can find many more reasons to be grateful, joyful, excited, and thankful (and we love that about you!).


Have you been following our #30DaysofThanks (Military Family Edition) on our Facebook page? There, we’re highlighting some of the awesome reasons why military families, like yours, are thankful for your military life. Follow us on Facebook to check out the other 30 Days of Thanks posts!

But that got us thinking: there are WAY more than 30 reasons that we’re thankful for our military journey! Here are a few other reasons:

  • Having a friend in 20 cities around the world
  • Never having to look farther than your Facebook feed for travel advice
  • Not being the only one to ask a stranger in the CDC to be your emergency contact
  • The smell of jet fuel/gunpowder
  • Not having to worry about your power bill in the winter (God bless base housing!)
  • Having a chance to start over every 2-4 years
  • Curtains in every style, for every room
  • Starbucks mugs from all over the world
  • Frequent flyer miles and hotel points from PCSing and visiting family so much
  • Cheap lunch at the chow hall (best date ever!)
  • The National Anthem before a movie begins
  • That one spouse who knows how to make all the baked goods
  • Friends who bring wine on bad days
  • Not having to explain how you are feeling because the other spouses ‘get it’
  • Irreverent military humor
  • Seeing other people stop and thank a service member (thank you, humanity)
  • When the colors play on base and seeing everyone stop/stand at attention
  • Commissary prices!
  • Running into an old military spouse friend at your new installation
  • All the kick-butt women in uniform!
  • Gold Star families
  • Getting into base housing without a wait list!
  • The ability for dependents to continue their education, thanks to the Post 9/11 GI Bill
  • Hourly child care on base (and the awesome people who work there!)
  • Friends who open their doors during the holidays when you can’t make it home to family
  • When you find out your spouse made the list to be promoted, take a command, etc.
  • Having a Christmas card list a mile long because you have moved so many times and have THAT MANY FRIENDS you still keep in contact with
  • The unique furnishings, or souvenirs, you pick up from different assignments, TDYs, etc., around the world
  • When your spouse shows up to your child’s sporting event in uniform (because they are racing home from work), and random people come up and thank him or her for their service.
  • Planning a PCS move and stopping to stay with military friends along the way to your new home.

Do any of these reasons hit home for you? What would you add to this list?

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Content Development Manager

“Look for the Helpers:” Encouragement After Devastation and Uncertainty

I’ve felt a bit stressed out lately. Things have been crazy at work–I’ve come the grim realization that I’ve said “yes” to entirely too many things! Closer to home, we’re adjusting to my husband’s retirement and my parents’ move from the farm where they’ve lived for almost 60 years to a retirement community. My kids have loving partners and happy lives, but I don’t see them often enough.

Then there’s all that craziness in the world today: terrorist attacks overseas and threats here, uncertainty for military families because of those threats, military budget pressures that are prompting downsizing, continued deployments, and the fear of too many unknowns.


A speaker at a conference I recently attended said, “Stress is not always bad–it’s how we respond to stress [that matters].”

This is not the first time I’ve felt stressed; I felt stressed when we moved every couple of years while my husband was on active duty, when my kids had to switch schools, when I had to put my career hopes on hold, and when my husband deployed. And sometimes other events intruded and added to the ‘out of control’ feeling: Desert Storm, September 11, natural disasters, school shootings.

When my kids were young, our TV viewing included some Sesame Street, lots of Looney Tunes, with some Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Disney videos also in the mix. But every once in awhile, when things were particularly harried, we’d spend some quiet time in Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. The slow pace, courtesy, and obvious love calmed even the most frenzied four-year old and his mom.

During Desert Storm, and again after the September 11 attacks, Mister Rogers reassured frightened children that grownups would take care of them, despite the things they saw on TV that seemed scary. He provided guidance for their parents. We still seek out his words when we’re on overload because of scary things happening in the world, “In times of stress, the best thing we can do for each other is to listen with our ears and our hearts, and to be assured that our questions are just as important as our answers.”

In tough times, Mister Rogers would often say, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”


And so, that’s what I’m trying to do these days–look for the helpers. It’s comforting to know they are everywhere for my family, for me, and for our military families. One of my ‘helpers’ is a friend–a widow–who meets me for dinner before choir practice. She thinks I’m helping to ease her loneliness, but the chance to relax after a long work day with a good friend over a glass of wine and a good meal is such a break for me!

Helpers are everywhere and I’m fortunate to find them in the course of my work. Our helpers include our service members, and their families, who answer our Nation’s call every day. Our National Military Family Association Volunteers are helpers to us, and their communities, as they link military families with resources and help us speak up for those families.

I met other helpers, veterans and veteran-serving organizations, at a summit on Bainbridge Island, Washington at Islandwood. These helpers developed recommendations for Washington’s Governor on promoting the health of military families and job readiness for veterans through programs in the outdoors. Most recently, I met hundreds of helpers in Fayetteville, North Carolina; they are the teachers, counselors, community organizations, and medical providers who gather each year at the Forward March conference to learn more about supporting military families and veterans.

Helpers are everywhere, and connecting with them not only helps reduce our stress, but also the stress others feel. In this crazy, scary world, let’s celebrate the helpers and join with them to make our part of the world a little less stressful.

Are there ‘helpers’ in your life who help relieve your stress? Share it with us in the comments and give them a big THANKS!

joycePosted by Joyce Wessel Raezer, National Military Family Association Executive Director

Behind the Front Door: Help Military Families This Holiday Season

With the holiday season around the corner, we know families are coming together, creating cozy, love-filled, homes to celebrate. Behind every front door are stories and traditions passed from year to year. For military families, the traditions and stories sometimes don’t include every member of the family.

Only 1% of the nation serves in the military. Since September 11, 2001, more than 3 million service members have deployed in response to the war on terrorism. That means 1.8 million family members were left behind to continue their holiday traditions without their loved one. More than 2 million children had a parent miss out on making special holiday memories.

This holiday season, you have the opportunity to help military families continue their traditions together.


Through generous donations, our Association is able to continue our mission to empower, strengthen, and heal our nation’s military families through programs designed to help them overcome obstacles together.

For $1,500, we are able to send a family of 3 to an Operation Purple Family Retreat® or Operation Purple Healing Adventure® camp, where they can connect and make new memories in a wilderness camp setting. And with a $30 donation, we can give a family member a full day of meals at camp.

But your donation doesn’t have to stop there. A $50 donation can provide a college or graduate-level textbook to a military spouse, furthering his or her education. With that education, he or she can build a stable and strong financial foundation for their family, and enjoy each holiday without the stress of wondering how they’ll afford gifts.

You have the chance to change the way a military family creates new traditions and memories for themselves. And we need your help. Our Association relies on the generosity of donors, like you, who want to make a difference, and who stand firmly behind the ones who serve in the silent ranks.

Military families need you. Please donate today.

TRICARE’s Breastfeeding Policy: A New Mom’s Experience

Recently, TRICARE implemented a new breastfeeding support policy including coverage for breast pumps. Our Association is generally pleased with this new policy because it gives families flexibility in terms of when, where, and how to purchase breast pumps and supplies.

But we wondered how this policy is panning out in military communities as families try to use it. So we asked Jaclyn, a Fort Benning Army Spouse, while she was expecting her first baby. Jaclyn had just purchased a breast pump.


I heard about TRICARE’s new breast pump policy from an online moms group.  I called TRICARE even before the policy went into effect and they were able to answer some of my questions.  They were at least aware that the policy would go into effect on July 1.

Back in August, I started to think about buying a pump again, so I needed to learn about the process for getting a pump covered by the new policy. At that point I was only seeing my midwife once a month for appointments.  I wasn’t sure if I would need to get a prescription before buying the pump. I checked my online Army Moms group and saw a post about how to buy a pump at Target so I decided to give that a try.

I called the 800 number for the Target breast pump program. They collected some basic information about me and my TRICARE coverage and then they took it from there. They sent me an email with three choices of pumps that would be fully covered by TRICARE. They also provided some options where I would have to pay part of the cost out of pocket. I chose the Medela In Style Advance (retail price approximately $200 at Target.)

It turns out that I didn’t even need a hardcopy prescription – Target followed up with my midwife directly to get the prescription. Target emailed me with a list of locations where I could pick up the Medela pump. I chose one and went to the store. I stopped by the Target customer service desk and the pump was there waiting for me.  I didn’t have to pay anything given the pump I selected!

My experience was pretty easy, but my friends on TRICARE Prime seem to be having a more difficult time. Some of them are having trouble getting a prescription from their OBs. It seems like Pediatricians are more aware of the policy and will provide a prescription without a problem. 

How does Jaclyn’s experience compare to yours? What worked well and what did not? Share your story with us in the comments section below.

And don’t forget about lactation counseling! We talked with Jaclyn while she was still expecting, so her story doesn’t touch on breastfeeding counseling. Have you tried to use TRICARE’s new coverage for lactation counseling?

Your stories will help us understand if TRICARE’S new breastfeeding supplies and support policy is working as intended.  Thank you for helping us advocate for military families!

karenPosted by Karen Ruedisueli, Government Relations Deputy Director