Monthly Archives: March 2013

Sequestration adds stress to military families: Association meets with DoD officials

Sequestration adds stress to military families:Association meets with DoD officialsShortly after the new Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, arrived at the Pentagon, he told his staff that he wanted to reach out to military and veterans organizations. As a result of that request, I recently spent two days at a Pentagon roundtable meeting with Secretary Hagel, senior Department of Defense (DoD) officials, and twenty-one other military and veterans organization leaders. I appreciate Secretary Hagel’s early outreach and the opportunity his roundtable discussion provided for me to ask many of the questions military families have been asking us about sequestration, support for military families, and what lies ahead for our military community.

Secretary Hagel shared his opinion that the tough budget realities facing DoD would not change. He asked how DoD can effectively work with military and veterans organization to expand the services and support our service members and military families need. This was an important discussion for a new Secretary of Defense to have with the organizations in the room and, I hope, with many others in the future. Partnerships and collaborations are important, but we also need to talk about the unique obligation our government, through the Department of Defense, has to support and sustain military families during times of war and peace.

We remain a nation at war. Our all-volunteer force, making up less than one percent of the nation, has made extraordinary sacrifices for our country. Military families are navigating new uncertainties: unpredictable deployment schedules; downsizing; worry about how the stress of separation and reunion will affect family relationships; and concern that the foundation of support families have come to rely on will disappear.

The reality of sequestration adds to the stress of military families. Will the military be able to retain mental health counselors and will civilian mental health providers continue to care for our families to the extent needed? How will DoD address the consequences of civilian employees furloughs on the delivery of support services? Will child care services be available for school-aged children who suddenly have fewer school days? Will families be reimbursed for out-of-pocket costs made in anticipation of a deployment only to learn the deployment has been cancelled? Will DoD have robust resources for the families affected by suicide or sexual assault? Does DoD have the funding and capacity to meet the mandated requirements of the new transition assistance program to effectively prepare transitioning families?

Our Association’s highest priority is to fight for military families. We will fight to ensure programs and benefits critical to the wellbeing of military families are authorized, funded, and implemented to maintain their readiness and allow them to meet the challenges of military life. We will fight to protect families from destructive budget cuts. We will fight to relieve the emotional stress of military families as service members respond to crises worldwide.

What budget cuts are you most concerned about?

Joyce RaezerPosted by Joyce Raezer, Executive Director at the National Military Family Association

Living overseas: picking up treasures and trash along the way

Living overseas: picking up treasures and trash along the wayI never thought that I would be preparing to write an entire post about trash, but here I am. And when I say “trash,” I mean the refuse, stinky, garbage kind not the fun, guilty pleasure television programming or smutty novel kind.

Germany takes recycling and refuse removal very seriously; it took me a solid three months to remember all the sorting rules and absorb this new attitude. Recycling programs aren’t nearly as extensive or comprehensive back in the States. Now that we are getting ready to leave Germany, I have seriously wondered what I will do with all of my extra plastics and food waste! Of all the things that I thought I would bring back with me from our great Army Adventure in Europe, a zeal for recycling was NOT one of them!

Recycling is required by law in Germany, and yes, there are trash inspectors. A person could be fined if more than 10% of her trash is found to be recyclable! Every type of plastic, paper, foil, metal, and food is recyclable. Some towns do bulk pickups of these items but in most areas you have to sort your different types of plastics, paper, and metal at the sort facilities. There are many ways to tell you are adapting to your new home here in Germany and for us, our ability to effortlessly sort our trash was one indicator that we’d made it!

When I discovered how much I would miss the recycling here, I realized that in our military travels we don’t just bring back new end tables, wall decorations, mugs, or other souvenirs from each duty station. We are changed in a very personal way by each assignment. Perhaps we adopt a new family tradition (Glühwein at Christmas?), we develop a love for new foods (Lebkuchen, YUM!), we pick up a new hobby (Volksmarch and skiing?), or we adopt new ideas and change for the better because of our experience in a new place. (I was never very dedicated or committed to recycling!). These are stories, memories and traditions that we cherish as we move from place to place. Years from now, when we are no longer an Active Duty family, these are things we will laugh about and trace back with stories that begin with “Remember when we were in…”

So, yes, here I sit, thinking fondly about my adventures with trash and recycling in Germany and laughing about how difficult it seemed at first. I really hope that I am able to maintain my German-like zeal for recycling and reducing my footprint when we return to the States. One man’s trash may be another man’s treasure, but for me, trash will be a treasure I bring home from our adventure in Germany.

What assignments have you picked up “treasures” from? Are they hobbies? New favorite foods? Family traditions? Or maybe you’re like me and picked up a good habit along the way?

Posted by Jennifer Herbek, Volunteer with the National Military Family Association

Trash day: spring cleaning for PCS season

Trash bags: spring cleaning for PCS seasonI have a love affair with trash bags. Specifically trash bags full of junk my family has collected. I love the feeling of filling up those trash bags, hauling them to the curb on trash day, and purging the junk. It is unbelievable the amount of stuff we amass.

Don’t get the wrong idea. My family doesn’t get rid of the junk often enough, maybe once or twice a year. Usually in the spring. Ahh, spring cleaning and the beauty of lightening the load!

One of the gifts the military gives us is an opportunity to start over every few years. With each PCS move, we rummage through our household goods and either donate, sell, or throw away the things that weigh us down before we move on.

This time there were a lot of extra bags at our curb. It has been four years since my husband retired from the Service and eight years since we last moved. We recently purchased a new home and are in the process of moving. Imagine the junk we had stashed away in eight years.

Some of my favorite finds:

  • Baby stuff my boys had long out grown but I can’t part with
  • My grandmother’s childhood desk
  • High school yearbooks
  • My husband’s dress uniform
  • Pictures from my college days that I thought were lost

Some other finds had outlived their usefulness:

  • A box of cassette tapes from my years of rockin’ out with my boombox
  • Boxes of stationery (Who uses stationery anymore?)
  • My husband’s military record on microfiche
  • The Disney movie collection on VHS
  • All those curtains I’ve moved from house to house in case I could use them

How do you decide what to keep, sell, donate or throw away? What has been your best find?

michellePosted by Michelle Joyner, Communications Director at the National Military Family Association

Infographic: sequestration + military families

Throughout the process of anticipating and now feeling the effects of sequestration, military families have had many questions and concerns.  Our Association staff has worked hard to address a lot of the rumors around the situation, but another way to speak out is to continue to talk about the way our leaders’ hesitance will cut military families to the core.

We’ve written open letters to the President and to Congress, but one of the most effective ways we’ve spread this message is our online community sharing important facts with their own networks of military and civilian friends.

Here are all our infographics in one place. Let’s continue to share these startling facts and keep the conversation going. We won’t stop talking about it until our leaders reach an agreement and keep the promises made to military families and we hope you won’t either!

government enemy

dod budget

army flight hours

civilian workforce

navy maintenance

TRICARE shortfall

NG medical

Tips for PCSing with your professional license

Tips for PCSing with your professional licenseMilitary spouses move 14% more often than their civilian counterparts, making it difficult to maintain a career. As an active duty military spouse, I can certainly understand the challenges of frequently moving and finding a fulfilling career at a new duty station. The National Military Family Association hears from many military spouses who face career challenges, especially with professions that require a state license.  Although state licenses and certifications are in place to meet a certain level of competency, the difficulties that spouses face in obtaining these credentials often mean a delay in employment, additional out-of-pocket costs, lengthy background checks…the list goes on!

Recently, First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden announced renewed efforts to streamline state licensing requirements for returning veterans and mobile military spouses. To date, there are 28 states with legislation that assist military spouses with license portability, but there is still a long way to go. The National Military Family Association has provided several support letters urging states to pass this needed legislation.

Finding employment can positively affect not only a family’s financial situation, but also the professional development many spouses yearn for. Since PCS (Permanent Change of Station) season is right around the corner, here are a few tips and resources for military spouses who have a career that requires a license:

Visit our website for more information on Spouse Employment.

Are there any additional resources you would add to the list?

ccPosted by Christine Gallagher, Army Spouse and Government Relations Deputy Director at the National Military Family Association

Staff Picks: 6 healthy recipes for National Nutrition Month

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Every day around noon at the National Military Family Association office, employees start poking their heads out of their offices and heading down to the lunch table. Eating lunch together is a fun break in the day to chat and laugh with coworkers, and inevitably, check out what they brought for lunch.

Besides the occasional group trip to Five Guys, we all like to eat pretty healthy and we LOVE to exchange recipes. Since March is National Nutrition Month, we asked some of our staff to share their favorite healthy recipes. Check them out below!

Cheesy Meat Loaf Minis from Eileen in Government Relations

Lobster Panzanella from Hannah in Communications

Mixed Berry Crumble from Caleb in Development and Membership

Actually Delicious Turkey Burgers from Cindy in Finance

Avocado and Grilled Corn Salad with Cilantro Vinaigrette from Dustin in Youth Initiatives

Chocolate Decadence from Christina in Volunteer Services

What is your favorite healthy recipe? Share it with us in the comments!


Photo via Authentic Suburban Gourmet


Military families: did you know you can take a free college or language course online?

Military spouses: take a college course or learn a language online, for free!Military families face tough decisions when selecting a higher education program. Location, scholarships, standardized tests, getting accepted, and selecting the right program are just a few reasons to postpone taking the step.

The good news is that now military families everywhere, and anybody else interested, can enjoy free courses by professors at renowned universities across the United States. Harvard, Colombia, UCLA, Duke, Princeton, and Stanford are just a few of the universities accessible to all students.

The courses are available through online platforms where prospective students enroll by simply creating a login and joining a class, absolutely free. One of the top websites for free education, and my personal favorite, is Coursera. There is a wide variety of classes, ranging from computer sciences and finance to healthcare and entrepreneurship.

Once you join a class, you have access to the video lectures posted by the professors, weekly assignments and quizzes. You can also join discussion forums and even meet fellow students living in your area. Courses can last anywhere between two to 12 weeks and students can enroll in as many courses as they feel comfortable. There are always new courses that open up and with more than 300 courses to choose from, you cannot miss a class that you like.

Apart from being free, another important benefit is that you can take them at your own convenience. All you need is a computer and an internet connection and you can take the classes from virtually anywhere in the world, 24/7. While these courses are not accredited by the respective universities, upon successful completion of a course, students will receive a certificate signed by the professor. This certificate can be a great addition to your resume and enhance your educational and professional development.

Another website for free education is Udacity. The website was created by Stanford professionals and only offers courses in science- and math-related topics. One highlight of the classes offered is that they are free of deadlines and quizzes.

A third option is Open Culture. This is a cultural and educational media with an impressive collection of over 400 courses. Plus, students can watch free classic movies.

For those that would like to learn a foreign language for free, Memrise might just be the perfect option. Memrise offers access to a variety of languages including sign language, and various other education topics.

No matter which site you choose, you have the opportunity to discover the course of study you want to pursue absolutely free. In addition to broadening your horizons and gaining knowledge on a topic, the achievement certificate you receive upon successful completion of some courses can turn out to be a useful tool when searching for a job. Be sure to visit the Spouse Education section of our website for more information on pursuing your education goals.

What courses will you enroll in this week?

Marlis Perez RiveraPosted by Marlis Perez Rivera, Volunteer with the National Military Family Association

Tips for using volunteer experience on your resume

Using volunteer experience on your resumeAs military spouses dealing with frequent moves to exciting and new locations, we’re often faced with potential gaps in our resumes. So, you ask yourself, what can I do to keep my expertise current, learn new skills, and add to my resume? The answer is easy. Fill your soul and your resume at the same time by volunteering!

The most important fact to remember is that experience gained through volunteering shouldn’t be put at the bottom of your resume under “Volunteer Positions.” When you volunteer, you are working. You have made a commitment of time, resources, and energy to complete a mission. Don’t short-change yourself, your accomplishments, your skills, or your time spent helping others.

Place your volunteer experience in with your “paid work” experience. If you are writing a skills-based resume, include the skills you learned or utilized while volunteering. If you volunteered with several organizations or projects, you may want to group and categorize them to keep your resume at an appropriate length.  Looking for a helpful guide? “Making Volunteerism Work for You” is a great resource.

One question I am asked regularly is, “What if I volunteered with an organization that my employer may disagree with? Should I include it on my resume?” My answer is that it is completely up to you. If you don’t feel comfortable including it, then don’t. You can still find a way to incorporate your skills without listing specific organizations. It’s all about what you are comfortable presenting as a reflection of you.

Remember, just because you didn’t collect a paycheck for your work doesn’t make it less valuable. The skills you learned or shared, and the impact your work had on a person, project, or organization are invaluable. Volunteering may fill your soul, but it also fills gaps in your resume.

Have you used volunteer experience to fill gaps or enhance your resume?

christinaPosted by Christina Jumper, Director of Volunteer Services at the National Military Family Association

Ordinary people change the world

OPCTWOur friends at Wholly Guacamole® teamed up with New York Times bestselling author Brad Meltzer to honor our “Wholly Heroes” – military families. The Wholly Guacamole team sold “Ordinary People Change the World” t-shirts and donated 100% of the money raised to our Operation Purple® program; camps specifically designed for military kids with deployed parents. Their donation of $50,000 will send 100 military kids to Operation Purple® camps in 2013.

“In the past, to mark National Guacamole Day, we’ve given customers coupons for Wholly Guacamole products, and we’ve been active in the world of social media. Recently, I came across Brad Meltzer’s “Hero” video, and the message really hit home,” said Tracey Altman, Vice President of Marketing for the Wholly Guacamole brand. She explained a desire to do something a little different to mark the occasion. “The concept that ordinary people can change the world is so simple and so true. We had the idea to take this concept and use this occasion as a day for our company to give back.

“Military spouses and kids are true heroes, and we want to thank them,” stated Altman.

The t-shirt art was designed by Brad Meltzer and his team at Ordinary People Change the World. Meltzer developed the website hoping to inspire people to make a difference. The idea of creating a movement of ordinary people who can change the world one day at a time came to him after his son was born.

“‘Ordinary People Change the World’ was created because I wanted more than sports figures and movies stars to be influencers in my kids’ lives,” Meltzer said. “I wanted to show them real heroes so they could be inspired. Teaming up with the folks at the Wholly Guacamole brand is a great way to show military kids that they do matter and you don’t have to wear a cape to be a super hero.”

Many thanks to our friends at Wholly Guacamole and Mr. Meltzer for recognizing that our military families are our heroes too – Wholly Heroes!

anniePosted by Annie Morgan, Development and Membership Deputy Director at the National Military Family Association

Military and Veterans Caregivers Week: America’s hidden heroes

Military and Veterans Caregiver Week: America's hidden heroesMore than a million military caregivers serve our Nation every day by helping their Wounded Warriors do things many of us consider simple: eat, bathe, dress, and more. They are America’s hidden heroes.

Military and Veterans Caregivers Week is a time to turn the spotlight on these heroes. It is a week when Americans recognize and honor military caregivers’ sacrifices and successes.

In honor of this week, the National Military Family Association is asking caregivers for their best tips. Knowledge is a powerful guide, especially the knowledge gained from the real-life experiences of someone who has already walked the road to recovery.

Please take our survey and share your wisdom. What was most helpful to you as a caregiver? What advice do you want to share? What would you avoid? You’re the expert—your recommendations can empower other caregivers and their families!

This survey is open to all caregivers of wounded, ill, or injured service members or veterans and made possible by a grant from Caring for Military Families: The Elizabeth Dole Foundation.

By taking the survey, you will be entered into a drawing for a $100 gift card and other prizes!

We know you are busy. Thank you for your time and support helping us help our community. Take the survey now!

Posted by the National Military Family Association