Monthly Archives: June 2013

Raising Awareness about PTSD Resource for Military Families

Raising Awareness about PTSD Resource for Military FamiliesIf your service member experiences a traumatic event including combat, sexual assault, or death of a loved one, he or she may have a puzzling reaction to particular situations. For example, loud noises from a movie or a crowded location may trigger a particular stressful memory or response from your service member. During the month of June, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs has launched a Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Awareness campaign. The goal of the campaign is to do just that, raise awareness and provide family members, loved ones, and concerned friends with resources in order to better understand the signs and symptoms of PTSD. In addition, it can help you connect your service member with resources.

After a traumatic event, you should expect a transition process while your service member adjusts before returning to everyday activities. What is normal for each person will vary. If you have concerns, it may be helpful to understand common reactions to trauma and when those reactions might be PTSD. You can also explore online assessments to help you understand your service member’s reaction.

It may be difficult to express your concerns to your loved one and encourage them to seek care. The VA has a program called Coaching into Care to help you determine the right thing to say to help your service member seek a medical professional.  It can be extremely difficult to see your loved one live with a traumatic experience. You may be frustrated that your loved one is not the “same.” The VA also has tips to help you adjust to the changes. Your well-being is also important. Be sure take care of yourself while you are seeking care for your service member, and keep a list of crisis resources available.

About 7 – 8% of the U.S. population will have PTSD at some point in their life and experts estimate about 1 out of 5 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan may have PTSD. The goal this month is to arm you with information so you can help navigate a loved one to the care they need. Knowledge is power. Make a difference this June and become familiar with the resources to help those who may be suffering from PTSD.

Watching your spouse address PTSD demons is heart wrenching. Remember there is help for both of you. Visit our website for additional information on Mental Health Care. Also, read about a military spouse and her personal situation in the article, Spouse Describes Impact of Post-traumatic Stress.

KatieBy Katie Savant, Government Relations Information Manager

How Are Military Families Doing? What Researchers Are Discovering.

How Are Military Families Doing? What Researchers Are Discovering.When the first Soldiers and Marines boarded the planes for Afghanistan in October 2001, no one was standing at the door asking them how they were doing. No one asked their families, either. Research on the well-being of service members and families affected by the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq was slow to appear. And, many military families had already experienced a deployment or two before researchers were able to begin their studies of family separations, mental health, the effects of service member’s injuries on family relationships, child well-being, and multiple deployments and returns.

I’m proud that the National Military Family Association was the first to launch a large-scale study of military children and deployment as we commissioned RAND to follow 1,500 children and their at-home caregivers for a year. RAND reported in our Views from the Homefront study, released in 2011, that most military children and their families were handling deployment stresses well. But, researchers found military children had more anxiety symptoms than civilian kids. Military families were more at risk the longer the service member was deployed. Children had a harder time if their at-home parent was having problems dealing with deployment or if there was poor family communication in the home.

Other research is now being released and more is underway that is adding to our understanding of how the past decade of multiple deployments is affecting families. It’s both heartening and disappointing that this research is validating some of the conclusions of our study.

Right now, I’m trying to figure out how to understand and how our Association can use the latest research on military families presented at two recent conferences: a symposium on National Guard and Reserve families held in April at the University of Michigan and the International Research Symposium for Military Families held last week by Purdue University’s Military Family Research Institute.

What are researchers reporting they’ve learned about military families? They find that most service members and families remain resilient, but:

  • More months of deployment are associated with more family challenges, more mental health services and medication use by military spouses and children, and more academic issues for children.
  • Spousal support has a strong impact on the ability of ill/injured service members to work towards getting better, but spouses need accurate information about illness, warning signs, and strategies for communicating concerns to health care providers.
  • Female service members and veterans identify several barriers to accessing support services, including gaps in information about the issues they face and a perceived lack of understanding of gender differences, especially concerning parenting.
  • Among deployed service members, family stress appears to be primarily related to service members’ actual or perceived inability to be a source of support for family members at home.

Getting more information about what’s happening to military families affected by war is important for many reasons. It can help guide the creation of better programs, policies, and laws. It can pose questions about what else we need to know about military families to support them. In this era of tight budgets, knowing what service members and families need must be the first step in creating new programs and deciding which existing programs need to be cut.

A key part of the discussion at these recent research conferences focused on what else we need to know. We need to know more about the experiences and needs of female service members and veterans—and their children. We need to know more about the long term effects of the past decade of war on military children, not just while their parent is on active duty, but after the service member becomes a veteran. How are military families making the transition to veteran status? What help did they receive from the Department of Defense? What do they need after leaving the military and settling into their new civilian community? What kind of support are families seeking in their communities and is it helping? What are the long term effects of a service member’s serious injury on the family, including the parents and siblings of single service members? What new issues will emerge for families as they face new military missions?

What questions do you wish researchers would ask about the military family experience? What do your think our Nation needs to know about service members, veterans, and their families in order to support them in the future? Tell us!

How Are Military Families Doing? What Researchers Are Discovering.By Joyce Wessel Raezer, Executive Director

Meet the Association Tweeters!

Meet the Association Tweeters! At the National Military Family Association, we believe in engaging with military families. That’s why we’re on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. These platforms are an avenue for us to listen to what military families have to say, provide you with important resources and alert you to news that could affect your military family. While we use a general twitter account (@military_family – please follow us if you aren’t already), we thought it would be nice to introduce you to some of the faces that make up our Association and encourage you to connect with them too!

Below are a few women you should “meet”—send them a tweet, introduce yourself and let the relationship building begin!

Joyce Raezer@NMFAJoyce – As our Executive Director, Joyce leads our Association. Passionate about being an advocate for military families, she’s always “on the ground” connecting with families to understand their needs and concerns. She focuses on posting news and events that are relevant to military families as well as noting our work as an advocate on their behalf.

Spoken like a true leader, Joyce’s quote to live by? “Lead, follow, or get out of the way!”

christina@NMFAChristina – As Volunteer Services Director, Christina is immersed in working with people who want to help others.  She tweets about activities and events we participate in but her main focus is demonstrating how wonderful our Volunteers are and why it’s something you should consider doing.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Amanda headshot@NMFA_Amanda – A proud Army spouse with two young boys, Amanda is our Content Manager for MyMilitaryLife and uses her twitter account to build relationships with other spouses and share information that can help them and their families.

As a spouse who’s had to move several times in the past few years, she stands by the quote “don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”

Katie@NMFAKatie - As the Government Relations Manager, Katie tweets about our Association’s advocacy work. Tweets include Congressional hearings of importance to military families and retweets of the work of the Government Relations Director and Deputies. She’s a USMC spouse stationed at Twentynine Palms, CA.

Katie doesn’t have a favorite quote but enjoys reading leadership philosophies from working moms and looks for work-life balance tidbits.

eileen@NMFA _Eileen – As a Navy spouse with two children, Eilieen shares information that could potentially affect her family, or other military families.  She serves in the Government Relations department and acts as an advocate for ALL military families.

Spoken like a true advocate, Eileen’s quote of choice? “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”

Are you following us on Twitter? If not, now’s the time! Connect with us, share your stories, concerns and let us know how we can better serve you!

Let me introduce myselfPosted by Michelle Joyner, Communications Director

Tribute and Memorial Gifts

Tribute and Memorial GiftsCharitable giving can be a meaningful way to honor someone special. Tribute gifts given in honor of family and friends for retirements, birthdays, Father’s Day, or other holidays—or memorial gifts given in memory of someone special— are significant and lasting ways to show someone you care, and help military families, too.

We recently received an outpouring of love and support in memory of a very special Army spouse. Karen Chandler Clark passed away unexpectedly on May 10, 2013, her 64th birthday. The San Antonio native graduated from Texas Tech University, and while there she met her future husband, Robert T. Clark, also of San Antonio. They were married more than 40 years. Karen was a gifted educator, and taught at every level from preschool to college. She enjoyed teaching English to foreign-born wives of Soldiers, so that they could write letters to their husbands who were deployed during Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm. As her husband rose through the Army ranks from Second Lieutenant to Lieutenant General, Karen served at his side with grace. She greatly enjoyed “the sisterhood”—the camaraderie of her fellow Army wives.

Retirement from the military didn’t end her service. She participated in the Military Civilian Club, a ladies’ community organization. Her life affected so many others, including all the students she taught and the countless Army wives she loved and supported. Her family asked that in lieu of flowers, family and friends make a donation in support of military families. Through the generosity of her many family and friends, Karen will continue to make an impact on military families.

Giving gifts that truly benefit the needs of others can be a wonderful way to honor the special people in your life. These gifts also allow you to emphasize important values and support the causes that are personally meaningful to you.

If you make a tribute or memorial donation to the National Military Family Association, the recipient or family will receive a letter sharing that you made a gift in his or her honor, including a special message from you, and will state how the contribution will improve the lives of military families. It’s the perfect gift for someone special!

annieBy Annie Morgan, Development and Membership Deputy Director

Becoming a Military Spouse: Words of advice

Becoming a military spouse: words of adviceIt’s finally wedding season (hurray for warmer weather!) and we thought it’d be nice to focus on one of the most pivotal moments for military families – the wedding day. For military spouses and service members alike, this is the beginning of a grand adventure. We’ve asked our staff members for words of advice to celebrate this occasion, along with a few fun pics to share.

Michelle-wedding-outsideChange is constant. Always have a back-up plan and be OK with the fact that you will probably have to use it.—Navy spouse

Get involved. Get to know the other spouses. Who knows, you might just meet your next best friend! –Army Spouse

cc-wedding-cut-cakeMarriage is, like a box of chocolates—a super deluxe, king size, assortment.—Army spouse

Bring a sense of humor to your military adventure. You never know where the journey will take you.—Marine Corps spouse

Remember, it’s not where you are, but who you’re with. Your next assignment Becoming a military spouse: words of advicecould be a hole in the wall, but if you make the best of the situation with those around you, it could be the best assignment you’ve ever had. Attitude is everything!—Air Force spouse

Try not to get overwhelmed by the new lingo full of acronyms and such. You have the rest of your military life to learn it all!—Army Spouse

Being married in to the military is such an Becoming a military spouse: words of adviceadventure. Get involved and take advantage of every opportunity you get!—Army spouse

Treat your friends like family. You may be thousands of miles from your closest relatives – but your friends and neighbors – they are your family, too. Embrace them.—Air Force spouse

It’s an honor to be a part of such a special community; focus on the positives and count your blessings.—Army spouse

If you’re newly married or soon-to-be married into the military, be sure to download our MyMilitaryLife App for more information on what to expect.

What do you wish you knew when you married into the military?

hannahBy Hannah Pike, Communications Deputy Director, Online Engagement

 

Military Advance Pay – It’s not a Payday loan

Money in JarA little known provision of military pay is called “advance pay.” Advance pay is neither an entitlement nor a guarantee, but may be an option your service member can request before or shortly after a PCS (permanent change of station) if there is a need. Advance pay is a type of pay that is used to help offset the cost of the move and cover extraordinary expenses such as, loss of a spouse’s income, down payment on a home, or cost of maintaining two households. Advance pay is just that – an advance of your service member’s basic pay.

DoD Instruction 1340.18 provides the nitty, gritty details about advance pay. A service member may be eligible to apply for 1 – 3 months of advance pay. The repayment period ranges from 12 – 24 months. A service member can make a request to receive advance pay 30 days prior to a PCS or 60 days after a PCS. The service member’s administrative department can help process the necessary paperwork, form DD 2560.  A service member must be able to demonstrate why the funds are needed and a shopping spree or a new pool does not count as an unmet need. For example, the service member may be asked to complete a budget or financial worksheet outlining the additional costs related to the move. The service member must also be able to show that other pay entitlements do not cover these additional out-of-pocket costs of the move. If the service member requests more than one month of basic pay, the request will need to be reviewed by the service member’s immediate command. Likewise, if the service member requests a repayment period exceeding 12 months, the service member must justify the extended payback period.

Cautionary notes:

  • Advance pay is an interest-free advance of the service member’s basic pay and must be repaid. This means the service member’s pay will be reduced each month during the repayment period.
  • Advance pay must be repaid even if the service member voluntarily or involuntarily separates from the service. You borrowed against your future earnings and must pay it back.
  • Your advance pay is taxable income and may impact your income taxes. Be sure to consult with a tax professional to review your specific situation.

Personal stories from families who have applied for advance pay suggest having your justification and supporting paperwork ready. Many families are able to receive one month of basic pay with a 12 month repayment period. Anything beyond one month of pay and a 12 month repayment may not only involve the service member’s command but may also require financial counseling. Be sure to fully understand the cautionary notes before you request this benefit.

Have you requested advance pay? How did it impact your family’s budget?

Military Advance Pay – It’s not a Payday loanby Katie Savant, Government Relations Information Manager

Happy Father’s Day: honoring the men in your life

Happy Father’s Day: honoring the men in your lifeAs Father’s Day draws near, I find myself thinking about how important the men in my life are to me. The majority of them have served in the military. My dad was in the Army, my husband in the Air Force, my oldest brother served in the Navy. My maternal grandfather was in the Navy. I couldn’t remember if my Grandpa Howard served in the military so I called my dad to find out.

Dad reminded me that his father lost an eye as a child and couldn’t enlist. He did, however, work at the naval station at Port Hueneme, California during World War II. Dad told me his brothers had all served, too. Wayne was in the Air Force in missile electronics at Cape Canaveral. Jess was an MP (military police officer) and played baseball for the Army while assigned to Fort MacArthur. Uncle Harold was in the Army infantry.

My father was assigned to the 7th Division and served in Korea from 1955-1956. He handled payroll. Back in the day, the troops were paid with military script. Dad said it looked like monopoly money and that even the coins were made of paper.

He told me one story that could have seriously impacted my life! One night while out on patrol, they encountered enemy fire. It was dark and they couldn’t see the enemy, but they had been taught to “look for the muzzle flash, point your gun to the right and shoot.” When he returned to camp later that night, he found a bullet hole through the left armpit of his field jacket. My dad is right handed, but because my Grandpa Howard only had one eye, he had taught him to shoot left handed. Dad said “If I would have shot right handed, I’d be dead and you wouldn’t be here today.” That was a story I had never heard before!

This year, I am honoring not just my Dad, but all the men in my life by making a donation to the National Military Family Association. I want to show my support of all the military families in my life, and honor their service to our country.

This Father’s Day, pay tribute to the special men in your life by making a donation in their honor. And spend a little extra time and find out more about them – you might be surprised what you learn!

Happy Father’s Day, Dad – I love you so much!!

anniePosted by Annie Morgan, Deputy Director for Development and Membership

I’m a Military Spouse…Let Me Introduce Myself

Flat Daddy DVDRecent articles about lavish benefits and ketchup choices have sparked many conversations in our community about the lack of understanding of the military lifestyle. Many feel that our civilian friends just don’t understand what it’s like. There are feelings of frustration and anger pitted against the sacrifices made during these past 12 years of war. As a military spouse, I can identify with the emotions these conversations evoke.

However, I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know what it is like to be the wife of a firefighter or police officer. I don’t know what it is like to have a long haul truck driver, a pilot, a teacher, or a chef in my family. My point is no one knows what it is really like on the other side. There are many inaccuracies and misunderstandings, but as military families, we have to face the fact that we hold some responsibility. We need to share our story, educate the community, and speak up for ourselves.

There are several resources to help. One in particular is the movie, Flat Daddy, now available on DVD. Flat Daddy follows four families who used “Flat Daddies,” life-sized cardboard cutouts of their loved ones to ease the pain of separations. Filmed over the course of a year, the film explored the impact of war on those left behind. The filmmakers’ primary goal was to raise awareness about the challenges military families face and the long-term effects war can have on families.

Other great tools include the How to Help Military and Veteran Families print series that offers valuable information to families, friends, neighbors, and teachers to assist and support members of the military, their families, and veterans. Also, check out our Community Toolkit with action items and useful resources for anyone who wants to stand behind military families. For a lighthearted take, read Sarah Smiley’s Dinner with the Smileys, the story of an adventurous mission Sarah embarked on with her sons to fill the empty chair at the dinner table during her husband’s deployment. Each week the Smileys invited a guest for dinner and learned important lessons about families and the community.

What I’ve learned in the last several years is that I need my family and friends. They understand what my life is like, but that is only because they’ve had the chance to learn. We have to be brave enough to share and educate.

Let me introduce myselfBy Michelle Joyner, Communications Director

Military Families in All Shapes and Sizes

Military Partners and Family CoalitionWhen you marry someone in the military, there are things about your life that will change pretty drastically. We all know that. How you live, where you live, how long you’ll get to stay at a job, whether you’ll even find a job—these uncertainties, and many more, come with the territory. Even the presence or absence of your spouse in your household is no longer something you always get to decide.

Military spouses and military children are expected to make these sacrifices for the sake of our Nation’s military every day. The missed birthdays, the school play Mom or Dad couldn’t come see, the graduations, births, deaths, joys and disappointments we experience without members of our families all come with this life. Some of our brothers and sisters face the enormous challenges of welcoming home a beloved service member who must now rebuild their lives because of a war-related injury, or cope with unimaginable heartbreak when a loved one doesn’t come home at all.

One of the ways the military has traditionally acknowledged these sacrifices is to assure military members that, come what may, their families will be taken care of. From the routine—PX access, health care, housing allowances—to the extreme—SGLI, survivor benefits—military families know that their basic needs will be met. It doesn’t make it easy, but it makes it doable. That is, unless your spouse is the same gender as you are.

I reached out to Military Partners and Families Coalition (MPFC), an organization that provides support, resources, education and advocacy for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender military partners and their families, because I know how hard this life can often be, even with the benefits extended to heterosexual married service members and their families. I also got in touch because every day I look around our beautiful neighborhood in San Diego and see the joy, companionship and acceptance woven into the fabric of this diverse community as couples of every variety hold hands, fall in love and share their lives. All military members can now openly experience this joy in their relationships, too, and that’s an enormous step forward. But we need to do more.

June is LGBT Pride Month. It is a perfect time to renew our commitment to support ALL military families. Families serve too and military families deserve to be given the gratitude and the benefits to which they are entitled, regardless of their family composition. They’ve earned it, just like heterosexual partners and families have, and the American public wants to thank them the same way they thanks us. In fact, there should be no “them” or “us.” MPFC is working to make this ideal a reality and I’m proud to stand with them as an ally military spouse.

Kim-PlaceGuest Post by Kim Place-Gateau, MPFC ally. A wanderer by nature, Kim grew up on three coasts and two continents, and has no plans to settle. She is a former restaurant owner, caterer, wrangler of at-risk teenagers, Ropes Course instructor, legal dweeb and tutor, and is now a writer. Her work has appeared in Military Spouse Magazine, The Broad Side, Front Porch Fredericksburg and wherever old newsletters, menus and flyers from her popular restaurant still exist.

Military Partners and Families Coalition (MPFC) is the only organization founded by partners of active duty service members. The MPFC mission is to provide support, education, resources, and advocacy for partners and children of LGBT service members – including families of service members on active duty, in the reserves, national guard, and veterans. The National Military Family Association is a member of MPFC and works with them to raise awareness of the needs for support for all military families. We applaud Kim Place-Gateau, an MPFC ally spouse, for working to create an awareness and a welcoming spirit in her community for LGBT service members and their families.

Digital scavenger hunt results: and the winners are…

With all of the excitement surrounding the launch of our mobile app, MyMilitaryLife, we wanted to kick-off the completion of all 10 Life Paths in a unique and fun way. We hosted two digital scavenger hunts (on Twitter and Facebook) using clues hidden within the app and offered an awesome giveaway…FOUR round-trip airline tickets!

Congratulations to our winners, Jean and Melissa, both are proud USMC spouses! It was great to be able to connect with these ladies, learn a little about their families, and share in their excitement.

Association: Tell us about your military family…

Digital scavenger hunt results: and the winners are…Jean: Nate and I have been married 16 years and have 2 kids, a 7 and a 10 year old. My husband just reached his 20th year in the Marine Corps.  We have lived in 7 different states throughout his career and have spent many summers moving.

Digital scavenger hunt results: and the winners are…Melissa: My family consists of my husband and I, and our cat. I moved with him in July 2011 as his girlfriend of 2 years, and we eloped on November 11, 2011 in Virginia Beach. My husband is a Sergeant in the Marine Corps and is stationed in Maryland as a Recruiter. I am a full-time Nursing Student and work part time as a Nanny. We both have VERY busy schedules and hardly see each other, but we count our blessings every day.

Association: How long has it been since your last vacation?

Jean: Our last real vacation was to Disney World back in 2009 when we were stationed in South Carolina.  We drove down for a 5-day trip and really had a blast.  We are thinking about adding a trip to Disneyland while we are in California.

Melissa: My last real vacation with my husband was before he started Recruiting Duty in 2011.

Association: What trip do you plan to take with the tickets you just won?

Jean: We are so happy to have the opportunity to visit my parents and friends in California this summer.  The kids haven’t been back to visit in over 3 years.  My parents already have big plans for us and my 7 year old started making a list of what to pack!  We plan on visiting old neighbors, my extended family, and my closest friends.

Melissa: They will be used to visit my family in California.

We had so much fun hosting this digital hunt and couldn’t be more thrilled for our winners! A big thank you to all who participated and please continue to check back for new features that will be added throughout the summer! If you haven’t already downloaded the app, you can get it for free in the App store and Google Play.

lauren kuenBy Lauren Kuen, Communications Administrative Assistant