Why I Stopped Complaining About Military Life

laying-in-the-grassWhen people ask me how I am, I try to respond with, “I can’t complain.” Because really, I can’t.

Complaining has become a mode of conversation; a way of commiserating with, and relating to each other, especially in the military lifestyle. We complain about the rain, the heat, the slow lady at the commissary, our duty station, or the line at the gate while the guards check IDs. Even drill weekend makes the list. I am guilty of complaining, too. Did I mention I walk 18 blocks to get to work every day?

We all have those “pity parties” sometimes, but lately I’ve been trying to catch myself and quit all my complaining. Before another complaint escapes my mouth, I try and remember my dear friend and ex- coworker, Trang.
I met Trang when we both started working for Conroe Independent School District in 2009. She is from Vietnam, and came to the United States when she was 5. Her story escaping from Vietnam is truly amazing. Have you ever read the book, Escape from Saigon? Well, Trang’s journey is something like that.

In 2011, we started working with the same group of students. Lucky for me, Trang is exceedingly bright and the very best Life Skills teacher I know. She has one of the most beautiful families I have ever met, and was a main reason why leaving Texas because of a PCS move was so hard. We worked together, ate together, camped together with our families, and ate beef jerky together.

Then came our military orders. In a blink of the eye, I was packed and ready to move to New York. I left her healthy, and with a full passion for life. She loves to hunt, camp, and fish. Her kids are involved in sports, and her husband is just amazing. A few months after my move, I received the devastating news—she was diagnosed with Stage 3 colon cancer. No way! It hurt being far from someone who made my military life much easier. Right now, she is going thru chemotherapy. She is a fighter. It breaks my heart when she tells me she can’t be there with her children while they are practicing their sports. She has always been there for them.

Trang always has a smile on her face, despite circumstances, and reminds me to be mindful of what I say.

Whenever I am having a not-so-good day, I think of Trang. When my alarm goes off in the morning and I want to push snooze, I think of Trang and how she would happily trade places with me. She misses many camping trips with her family because her time off from chemotherapy is used to recover, only to prepare herself for the next round of treatment.

There is also a worker at the PX of our duty station that I can’t help but think of during “pity parties.” Each time I ask him how he’s doing, his response is always, “I’m alive!” We both joke about life in the military – he is a retired Veteran. Always with a bright smile on his face, he loves his job at the PX. I have learned so much from Ernest. And he is right, we are alive! And healthy! And with food on the table! And with a bed to sleep in!

We are living the life my friend Trang, and many others, are not living. So if you ask me how I’m doing in my military life today, I will respond, “I’m alive! I can’t complain.”

jennifer-cPosted by Jennifer Colon-Marin, Ft. Hamilton, New York

Got Some Free Time? Write for Us!

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Our blog is quickly becoming a place for military spouses and family members to share their experiences, tips, tricks of the trade, and best of all: their influence. And now, we need you.

Contributing to our blog is a great way to broaden your network, and can even spice up your resume! So what do you say?

October is a great month to focus on family bonds, building strong relationships, and thriving as a military family. What do you think makes a strong family bond? We want to hear your story! How to do you thrive during long deployments, or geo-bachelor orders? Tell us!

Send us your blog posts and join our team of awesome contributors! We’re looking for blog posts between 200-400 words, easy to read, and all around awesome! And don’t forget about your photos – if you’ve got some pictures that go perfectly with your blog post, we want to see them!

Now, what are you waiting for? Get typing and send your blog post to us, here: Blog@MilitaryFamily.org!

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Content Development Manager

Survive and Thrive: Twentynine Palms, CA!

Honey – we have orders . . . to Twentynine Palms, CA.

While the thought of being stationed in the California desert may feel like the middle of nowhere – there are several hidden gems in this desert oasis to keep you and your family busy.

Here are my top 9 tips for things to do around Twentynine Palms:

1. Joshua Tree National Park: One of the best national parks our country has to offer! Be sure to check out the Joshua Tree Ranger Programs that offers guided hikes, patio talks with rangers, and an evening program to introduce visitors to various aspects of the park. Pro tip: Check the weather report available on the parks website. Some days you’ll need to bring a jacket and other days, you’ll need sunscreen and plenty of water. Wear comfortable shoes and bring a camera. Bonus pro tip: Show your military ID and you’ll receive a National Parks and Federal Recreation Annual Lands Pass for FREE!

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2. Earn your two year degree or take a class for fun at Copper Mountain College: In addition to two year Associates of Arts or Associates of Science degrees, CMC offers a variety of certificate, guest speakers, and community education classes. Pro tip: AS and AA degrees transfer from CMC to the California State University system and guarantee your admission with junior standing.

3. Music Festivals: So many music festivals! From the Joshua Tree Music Festival to the Spring Concert Series and Yucca Valley Summer Music Festival, if you’re in to music, you’ll find plenty of it here. Pro tip: Wear comfortable shoes, bring a folding chair, drinks, and snacks. Check out festival website’s for any specific details.

4. Theater 29: Check out the local theater productions! This fall/winter, Theater 29 will be featuring the comedies Shakespeare in Hollywood and Young Frankenstein. For curtain times, check out their website. And if you have the acting bug, check out their website for information on auditions. Pro tip: this is a casual community theater, no need to dress up and be all fancy, unless you want to.

5. Smiths Ranch Drive-In: One of the last remaining drive-in theaters in the US, the Smiths Ranch Drive-In is a ton of fun. It can be a great date night destination or fun for the whole family. And it’s $5.00 for two movies, you can’t beat that! They also offer all the normal movie food and snack options (soda, popcorn, candy). Pro tip: bring your own snacks or set up dinner at the drive in! Let the kids play and enjoy watching a movie under the stars.

6. Pioneer Days Celebration: October 16th-19th. Held annually the 3rd weekend in October this family-friendly event includes a parade, carnival rides, games, Lego design challenge. Pro tip: For the ultimate family bonding experience, consider entering some of the events, such as the Outhouse race.

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7. HWY 62 Open Studio Art Tours: Over 140 artists with 95 studio locations make this event a win for any art lover. Sponsored by the Morongo Basin Cultural Arts Council, tour dates are October 25-26 and November 1-2 each year. Pro tip: Grab your friends, water, and road snacks because this tour takes you through the Morongo Basin on Highway 62.

8. Run for your life: So many great runs and walks to participate in! Whether you’re a seasoned runner or just want to participate in community fun runs and walks, there are plenty of opportunities to trail run, join a running group or support your community though a fun run. My favorites are the Tram Road Challenge 6K and the Think Pink Challenge at Felix Field hosted by the OSC of Twentynine Palms. Pro tip: New to the area? Take some time before you charge the trails and running courses. With the elevation changes, it usually takes the seasoned runner a few weeks to adjust. But you’ll be a ROCKSTAR runner at lower elevations.

9. Go down the hill: Otherwise known to locals as the “low desert” be sure to visit the Palm Springs area in the Coachella value for a host of seasonal events, dining, shopping and activities. From the annual Stagecoach country music festival to a trip to a local zoo there’s something for everyone here. Pro tip: Please sure to attend a local brief about desert survival tips. From extreme highs during the day to low temperatures at night – desert living is an adjustment.

Have you been stationed at Twentynine Palms? What are your must-not-miss events?

sue-lowePosted by Sue Lowe, NMFA Volunteer and Marine Corps Spouse

Happy 239th Birthday U.S. Navy!

Started as the Continental Navy in 1775, the US Navy celebrates it’s 239th birthday on October 13. Thank you to all the Sailors serving on land, air, and sea, and a special thank you to the families who support them!

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Throwback Thursday: Halloween Style!

Our Association has been dedicated to supporting and advocating for military families for 45 years…we’re also extremely dedicated to office contests, and Halloween is no exception! Some departments are already brainstorming and getting their winning costume together for the 2014 contest. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram to see what we come up with!

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In this throwback from 2010, our departments went all out to win best costume. Who do you think was the winner? The Glee cast? The Three Blind Mice and the Farmer? Or was it the crew of pirates?

 What will your military family be for Halloween? Let us know in the comments!

Silently Serving: Domestic Violence Awareness Month

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and each day, military families face this silent war in their own homes. Over the last five years, the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps, together, averaged just less than 8,000 domestic violence complaints per year. 

And the domestic violence battle rages on, thanks to the rough road spouses face when they report domestic abuse. We urge the Department of Defense to create a better environment for reporting abuse, so spouses can ask for help and know they’ll get it.

Military families shouldn’t serve silently.

For information on Military Protective Orders, or other resources to help, visit: www.MilitaryOneSource.mil, or www.MilitaryFamily.org.

Read more about DoD’s efforts to prevent and treat domestic violence,

#OurVolunteersRock: Spotlight on Amy Chaffin

What does it take to receive the prestigious Novella Gibson Whitehead award from our Association? A lot of talking to military families!

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We are proud to announce Amy Chaffin as our 2014 Novella Gibson Whitehead Award recipient. This award is given to a Volunteer who best defines the position’s roles and responsibilities: identifying, studying, researching, and evaluating issues relevant to the quality of life for military families. Amy is a direct link between Fort Carson military families and our Association staff, bringing shared local concerns and stories of positive community impacts. She is highly deserving of this award.

So what did Amy do? Amy was appointed as a Volunteer in 2011. She advocates for military families to become familiar with the Interstate Compact for the Educational Opportunity for Military Children so parents can ensure their children’s schools are following the intent of the agreement. During her three years she has raised important issues, such as the Army’s change in background checks, requiring those who volunteer with children to agree to have their medical and behavioral health records reviewed. Not only did Amy raise the issue, but she provided well-thought out reasons why this is problematic, and continued to follow the issue and provide subsequent information. Amy introduced our Association to numerous military communities, and helped us with mentoring and welcoming new volunteers into her area. She interviews potential volunteers as the first touch point with our Association.

Whether Amy is talking with the Superintendent at school board meetings about children’s education, or introducing her hairdresser to our app, MyMilitaryLife, Amy is an outstanding representative of our Association. Congratulations, Amy!

Think you have what it takes to volunteer with us? We think so!

christinaPosted by Christina Jumper, Volunteer Services Director