Monthly Archives: June 2013

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

To Deploy or Not to Deploy: Your orders were changed…again

To deploy or not to deploy: your orders were changed…againThe military lifestyle poses many uncertainties for families. For example, deployment orders, Permanent Change of Station Orders (PCS), or a job assignment could change at a moment’s notice. And when this happens, it can be frustrating. Let’s be honest, I want to jump up and down and scream how can this happen, AGAIN?  My heart starts to race, I take a deep breath, and then I’m able to focus on the task ahead: dealing with the latest change.

Here’s how I deal with changes to orders:

  1. Acknowledge my feelings. Some changes are good. For example, a deployment may be cancelled or the new orders may move your family to a duty location you have always wanted to call “home.”
  2. Review plans made based on the original set of orders. You may have already made plans based on the original set of orders, such as completing school registration for your child(ren), placing a deposit on a house, or alerting your employer of an upcoming move.
  3. Start a new to-do list. A new set of orders brings a new to-do list. Talk to your family and decide what task each family member will take to help you tackle your new list.
  4. Research military protections. This item may not apply to your situation. However, it is worth some research time because you could be eligible for military protections if you need to change a cell phone contract, break a lease, or inform your employer of a change in military orders. It may be helpful to contact your local legal assistance office for specific questions.
  5. Keep a sense of humor. I know this is easier said than done. It is hard to be upbeat when many changes are coming your way, but humor does make is better.

I also try to visualize where I’ll be in a one year. Of course, orders could change again, but imagining that I made it through the latest change helps me realize the chaos is only temporary.

Has this ever happened to you? How do you handle order changes?

katieBy Katie Savant, Government Relations Information Manager

The Veterans Charity Challenge – Help Us Win Up To $35,000

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Craigconnects, founded by Craig Newmark of craigslist, and The Rahr Foundation are teaming up to honor military families and veterans.  They’re launching The Veterans Charity Challenge and will be giving away $100,000. The National Military Family Association is competing in the challenge and we’re super excited to raise as much money as possible for our cause.

The charity that raises the most throughout the Challenge will receive $35,000. Second place gets $25,000 and third place gets $15,000. We’re out to raise as much money as possible for our cause so we can win that $35,000 donation!!

Any donation, large or small, can make all the difference. Please GO HERE and give what you can.

And, if you want to go one step further, visit our fundraising page  and click ‘Fundraise for this charity.’ In seconds, you’ll have your own fundraiser that you can share with all of your family and friends so that you can raise money for our cause too. And, please help us spread the word. If you email a list of your co-workers, family and friends and ask them to help, we can get that much closer to winning the grand prize and raising money for our cause.

Thanks so much for your support!

annie Posted by Annie Morgan, Deputy Director for Development and Membership