Monthly Archives: July 2013

An Outsider Looking In: Military life perspective from an AmeriCorp member and civilian

volunteer-with-flagAs I wrap up my first month here at the National Military Family Association , I wanted to share my perspective as a civilian working for a nonprofit that advocates for military families. For the next year, I’ll be a member of the Government Relations team through the AmeriCorps Call 2 Service Corps

Honestly, when I initially decided to apply for positions through AmeriCorps, I anticipated something along the lines of “feed the hungry!” or “clean up this polluted stream!” Those are both issues that pull at my heartstrings, and are typically what one thinks of when “AmeriCorps” comes to mind.

However, when I came across the Association’s job posting, I liked what I read about the kind of work I would be doing (think: research, reading, and writing), while working alongside these great experts in the Government Relations department. I thought to myself, “Well, I’m not sure about the whole ‘military thing’, but they’re working for the betterment of families, so let’s do it!”

I haven’t regretted the decision to accept my position for one second. Learning how different the lives are of military families, in comparison to civilians, has astounded me. I had so many preconceived notions about military life, many of which greatly underestimated the realities of the hardships the families face, and many more of which were completely off base and entirely inaccurate. For instance, I assumed “military brats” moved to 2 or 3 different places by the time they finally graduate high school. In reality, many of them move every 2-3 YEARS!

I can’t begin to imagine trying to navigate the confusions of childhood and adolescence all while having to make new friends and adjusting to a new location on a regular basis. I knew that deployments were often long and not easy for military families, but I didn’t quite grasp just how hard they were. To get a better idea, check out these videos. My coworker (and military spouse), Karen, showed these videos to me to help me grasp the realities military families face every day – the same realities SHE faces every day – while husbands and wives, siblings and children, are deployed.

I am looking forward to my year of service to the Association. I am excited to continue learning about military families, and the issues that matter to them. I am excited to further develop my skills as an ally and resource. I am excited to see, firsthand, the efforts our Staff and Volunteers make to ensure military families receive the benefits and help they deserve. I am excited to be a part of the National Military Family Association.

What tips do you have for those wanting to learn more about military families and the military community?

nateBy Nate Parsons, Government Relations and Volunteer Services AmeriCorp Member

Military Student Loan Forgiveness: What to do with your student loans?

Soldier-StudentMilitary families may rely on a variety of financial aid packages to help afford a higher education; including scholarships, grants, and loans. If your service member has federal loans, he or she will want explore the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program.

The PSLF is a program for federal student loan borrowers who work in a range of public service jobs, including military service. The program forgives remaining debt after 10 years of eligible employment and qualifying loan payments.  In most cases eligibility is based on whether you work for an eligible employer. Your job is eligible if you:

• are employed by any nonprofit, tax-exempt 501(c)(3)organization
• are employed by the federal government, a state government, local government, or tribal government (this includes the military and public schools and colleges); or
• serve in a full-time AmeriCorps or Peace Corps position.

PSLF applies to federal Stafford, Grad Plus, or consolidation loans as long as they are in the Direct Loan Program.  Borrowers with Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP) loans must switch to the Direct Loan program to participate in this benefit.

In order to qualify for loan forgiveness the borrower must make 10 years (or 120 monthly payments) after October 1, 2007. Qualifying payments are made through the Direct Loan program. To count, the payments must be made while working full-time in an eligible job. “Full-time” means 30 hours per week or the standard for full-time used by the employer, whichever is greater. If your service member meets all of the eligibility criteria the earliest the remaining debt could be forgiven under the program is October 2017.

With advanced planning, the PSLF is another tool your family can use to help make higher education affordable. Since federal student loan interest rates reset each July , now is a good time to explore the PSLF program to see if it is right for you and your family.

KatieBy Katie Savant, Government Relations Information Manager

Father’s Day at the White House: A military family’s experience

MWI was ecstatic when we were offered tickets to the White House Father’s Day event on June 14th. We’ve been in the DC area for a little over a year and I knew that this was a once in a life time opportunity.

When we arrived, we waited at one of the entry gates with about 30 other people. After going through a ton of security, we were eventually met by a White House employee who also volunteers for the National Military Family Association. She gave us an amazing mini-tour of the west wing of the White House and walked us to where we would be having lunch shortly thereafter. Along the walk we were able to admire many of the pictures taken of our nation’s leaders throughout history, including Presidents, First Ladies, and celebrities. One picture which was especially memorable to me, personally, was a picture of Princess Diana and John Travolta dancing. It was certainly not something that I would expect to see occur at the White House, but it was impressive.

Much to the delight of my youngest son, Brady, a military band played nearby as we stood in the buffet line. Lunch turned out to be a simple, yet delightful meal: hamburgers, French fries, fruit, and salad.  There was a bit of a lull after we finished eating and Brady was becoming restless. I gave him my iPhone to keep him entertained while we waited for President Obama to arrive.  Shortly after, the President walked into the room and started speaking. I tried to grab my phone from my son to get a picture and when I grabbed it he started yelling, “NO, NO, NO!!”

President Obama replied back, “YES!”

Now, our family jokes that Brady is the youngest Presidential heckler! The President gave a short speech stating that being a father is the best job he has and when he looks back on life, he will remember the times with his kids and Michelle.

AndersonFamilyAfterwards, the President took the time to come around to each table – about 8 tables in total – to take a picture and chat for a few minutes. It was a surreal experience to shake hands and speak with the President! He looked and sounded exactly as I expected, probably because of all the speeches and appearances I had seen during this last election season. He asked my husband about his military service, where he currently worked, and also asked about how we met. When my husband told him that we met in Oklahoma, he asked me if I had any family affected by the recent tornadoes. He also made small talk with our boys and shook their hands. Normally, you are lucky to get a high five out of my two year old, but even Brady knew he needed to shake the President’s hand. He thanked my husband for his military service three different times. Being thanked by the Commander-in-Chief was so memorable and amazing. It is something I will never forget.

After President Obama left the room, it was his dog, Bo’s, turn to make an appearance. Bo ran around and sat by the tables so all the kids could pet him and take pictures.

In between the events, we went to Jefferson Park, which is conveniently located across the street from the White House. My two sons chased birds, ducks, and squirrels, and eventually met a friend – a child from Canada – to dig in the dirt with. After playing in the park, both boys were tired and wanted me to carry them for the rest of the long walk around the White House (which is no easy feat). When my oldest son pointed at a Pedicab and asked what it was, I decided this happened for a reason and we hopped right in. The Pedicab, a bicycle powered rickshaw, dropped us at the gate for the Dwight D. Eisenhower Executive Office Building for an early preview of Monster’s University. My kids haven’t been to a theatre before, so it was especially cool for them to experience their first movie in the White House.

We often hear that as a military family, we will see and experience amazing things during our travels around the world. I believe this recent experience in Washington D.C. will be hard to top going forward in my military life.

What experiences have you had that made you feel appreciated as a military family?

Amanda headshotBy Amanda Anderson, Content Manager, MyMilitaryLife App

Joanne Holbrook Patton Military Spouse Scholarship recipients for 2013

shutterstock_1722702The checks are out the door and the classes are being scheduled! The military spouse scholarships recipients from 2013 are busy planning, prepping and furthering their education. In 2013, the National Military Family Association spouse scholarship program awarded $274,500 to 254 military spouses. Our scholarship recipients are all military spouses representing the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard. Some are spouses of wounded veterans, some are surviving spouses, and others are spouses of active duty service members, guardsmen, or reservists.

The Association is honored to recognize and award military spouses and assist in giving them an opportunity to reach their educational goals.  As one spouse puts it, “Military families face unique challenges regarding education, I personally moved from one city to another and began to piece together our lives in a new area, as well as put together educational plans for myself.”

Along with the general scholarships awarded to spouses seeking higher education, this year marks the first year we offered scholarships to students seeking a mental health career. To qualify for our Mental Health Career scholarship the applicants must have completed, at a minimum, a Master’s Degree in Psychology, Psychiatry, Counseling or Social Work, and need to be seeking clinical supervision hours as a requirement for their clinical licensure.

More than 70 applicants have applied for the Mental Health Career scholarship, which has remained open as we build our support efforts within the Mental Health field. Many of the spouses seeking a career in Mental Health have expressed intentions of paying it forward to the military community by using their education and experiences to counsel military families. “Without a doubt, this scholarship will play a key role in helping me reach my career goal of serving wounded warriors and their families as a licensed clinical psychologist.”

See what other spouses are saying about the benefit of these scholarships in their lives.

The National Military Family Association recognizes and thanks all the sponsors who help make the Joanne Holbrook Patton Military Spouse scholarships possible. Thank you to Fisher House Foundation, BNY Mellon, May & Stanley Smith Charitable Trust, Lockheed Martin, Fluor, Health Net Federal Services, US Family Health Plan, ASMBA Star, General Dynamics, Phillip & Gayle Staton, George Russell, and many more for the generous donations!

If you are interested in applying for or receiving notice of spouse scholarships and other education opportunities, visit our website and sign up for eNewsletters and eNotices!

We are proud to support all of our military spouse scholarship recipients and their educational and career aspirations. The recipients for 2013 are:

Abby Sims
Aislinn Deely
Alena Barosa
Alexann Masiko-Meyer
Alison Portis
Alita Baggett
Allison Hagan
Allison Burnett
Allison Murphy
Alyssa Stiles
Amanda Todd
Amanda Adams
Amanda Deal
Amanda Oakley
Amanda Walker (Jones)
Amber McCart
Ameye Carpenter
Amy Creason
Amy Dituri
Amy Fuhs
Amy Muir
Ana Karina Chavez
Angela Farr
Angelia Dittmeier
Angelina Plater
Angelina Suarez-Popplewell
Anna Eklund
April Abreu
Ashley Wallis
Ashley Fielder
Ashley Haynes
Ashley Louie
Astrid Santini
Barbara Blackford
Barbara Toscano
Beatriz Giraldo
Bianca Strzalkowski
Blanca Alejandra Svensson
Brenda Valdez
Brittany Curtis
Brittany Taylor
Brittany Thompson
Bukola Olatunji
Callista Tkacs
Carmelita Taylor
Carmen Johnson
Carmen Waga
Carolina Johnsen
Carolyn Blumenfeld
Carrie Scheib
Cassandra Flowers
Cassandra Turner
Catherine McGuire
Catherine Schopp
Cathy St. Julien
Celena Janton
Celia Nilson
Celine Texier-Rose
Charlotte Stewart
Chelsea Watkins
Cheryl Moore
Christin Hall
Christina Webb
Christina Wheeler
Christine Bessler
Corinne Blake
Courtney Harrison
Courtney Johnson
Cristina Vera
Csilla Lyerly
Cynthia McQuarrie
Dana Thompson
Danielle Allison
Danielle Hochrine
Dawn Hall
Deborah Ellis
Debra Milstein
Denise Gil-Perez
Diane Porter
Donnice Roberts
Elizabeth Bull
Elizabeth Jennings
Elizabeth Spatz
Elizabeth Walters
Emily Flaming
Erica Bryant
Erin Lamb
Erin Stock
Faith Hess
Frances Karnuth
Frances Sharp
Gerivonni Darden
Gina Xavier
Gordon Azeb
Guadalupe Gonzalez
Hanna Sauer
Heather Pahman
Heather Pell
Jacquelyn Barnes
Jamie Womble
Janee Zimmerman
Jayme McArthur
Jayme Bering
Jennefer Walden
Jennifer Kyte
Jennifer Mashburn
Jessica Olivarez
Jessica Byrd
Jessica Dunn
Jessica Fikes
Jessica Fountain-Bowlus
Jessica Yost
Jill Hendrickson
Johanna Gomez
Joyce Lindsey
Joyce Vang
Judy Stine
Julie DeLeon
Kaitlin Orcutt
Kamilia Seay
Karen Caverly Molineaux
Katherina Kirby
Katherine Anders
Katherine Cole
Katherine Phillips
Kathleen Whittle
Kathryn Curry
Kathryn McDevitt
Katie Hill
Katrina Zilberman
Kelley Jeans
Kelly Fennell
Kelly Gress
Kelvin Telesford
Khali Koetting
Kiley Spicocchi
Kimberley Marcopul
Kimberley Wildman
Kimberly Dong
Kourtney Johnson
Krista Nielson
Kristi Stauffer
Kristin Grimes
Kristin Tubbs
Laura Watson
Laurel Wood
Lauren Martin
Lauren Sims
Leah Coppo
Leah Eischen
Leah Roberts
Leofe Douglas
Lianna Bodine
Linda Maldonato
Lisa Lamar
Loubna Bouna
Luella Cook
Makeeka Harris
Mallory Galbreath
Margaret Trimble
Mariah Armenta
Marie Brown
Marion Hudson
Marleen Cook
MarQuita Banks
Mary Beth Ratzlaff
Mary Malone
Maureen Skinner
Megan Zimmerman
Megan Mayo
Meghan Fields
Megumi Fuda
Melanie Stone
Melinda Gabriel
Melissa Spurling
Melissa Wilkerson
Michael Crowley
Michael Moberley
Michelle Jackson
Michelle Krupa
Mina Petrosino
Nancy Barnes
Nanyail Smoke
Naomi Lorence
Natalie Purdy
Neah Velasquez
Nicholle McLochlin
Nicole Brackins
Nicole Parker
Nicole Berliner
Nikita Casanova
Nikki Brown
Patricia Burnette
Patricia Carreno
Patricia McCurdy
Phyllis Adams-Pickett
Rachel Jacobs
Rachel Selph
Rachelle Vaughn
Rebecca Letterman
Rebecca Royer
Rebecca Scott
Rebecca Tay
Reina Zuniga
Rhonda Lucas
Rhonda Maynard
Robert West
Robin Soifer
Rochelle Sosa
Sabita Walkup
Sally Windisch
Sandy Cullins
Sara Seemayer
Sarah Dryer
Sarah Goodman
Sarah Jackson
Sarah Milo
Sarah Staggs
Sefra Perkins
Shalee Torrence
Shari Williams
Shawna Dennison
Shelby Rose
Shenae Whitehead
Sherika Hite-Feast
Sherry Matis
Shirley Chitjian
Sofie Castacio
Sonja Harris
Stacey Helman
Staci Chiomento
Stephanie Dannan
Stephanie Foehl
Stephanie Lee
Stephanie Olson
Susan Hampton
Susan Hernandez
Tabitha Thompson
Talia Clate
Tamika Montgomery
Tammy Wilson
Tana Kornachuk
Taryn Allen
Tatyana Peterson
Tiffany Herndon
Tilma Cruz
Tina Anderson
Tina Johnson
Tonya Murray
Tracy LaBreck
Veronica Jones-Felton
Veronica Joseph
Wendy Linehan
Whitney Harrison

allieBy Allie Jones, Military Spouse Scholarship Program Coordinator

Turning 65: Another milestone known as Medicare

Turning 65: Another milestone known as MedicareRecently, I began the rite of passage for another milestone in my life: turning 65. (And thank you to all those muttering under your breath, “I didn’t think she was THAT old!”) Armed with advice from my high school classmates via our reunion Facebook page and our Association’s website, I sat down at my computer to enroll in Medicare.

I was surprised by how easy it was to enroll online. My application was approved by the end of the week (which I could check online by using my confirmation number) and my Medicare card arrived in the mail a week later. Along the way, I learned a thing or two:

  • Somehow the whole world has received notice that you are soon turning 65. Every insurance company you’ve heard of and those you haven’t will start sending you information and calling you about Medicare supplemental insurance plans. Military retirees, their spouses, and survivors shouldn’t need those policies because they qualify for Tricare for Life, which picks up the cost shares not paid by Medicare. But, remember—to be eligible for TRICARE for Life, you MUST sign up for Medicare Part B!
  • You want to sign up for Medicare before you turn 65. If you wait until afterwards, not only will you turn 65 anyway (it’s inevitable), but you may also need to pay a penalty. I signed up in May before my August birthday.
  • You will start using Medicare at the beginning of your birth month. So even though you are not yet technically 65, Medicare thinks you are for part of the month.
  • You will need to get a new military ID card. My ID card was expiring in June so I thought I could kill two birds with one stone. I took my new red, white, and blue Medicare card with me in June to renew my military ID card. But all they did at the ID card facility was laminate my Medicare card and renew my “old” military ID card. I have to go back in August when I’m officially on Medicare. Then I’ll get a military ID card that doesn’t expire (and hopefully has a better picture).
  • You will need to update DEERS too.
  • It took me a while to discover how I was supposed to pay for my new Medicare Part B. (You don’t pay a premium for Part A.) If you’re already receiving Social Security, they deduct it from your paycheck. Otherwise, they send you a bill.

So now I’m waiting for August. 65!!! Yikes!

What milestone have you recently experienced in your journey as a military spouse? What advice do you have to share?

Susan-EversBy Susan Evers, Volunteer Services Coordinator, West Region

Happy Birthday USA

This week, the National Military Family Association joins America in celebrating Independence Day. It’s difficult to think about our Nation’s birthday without thinking about the service members and their families who have served our country throughout the years.  As you reflect on what makes America great and enjoy time with your family, please remember military families and all they have done to secure our freedom and make this day of celebration possible.

Happy Birthday USA

A Luncheon for One Special Volunteer: helping military families

Volunteer-award-blog-imageWhen you volunteer for the National Military Family Association you know that you are making a difference in the lives of military families globally. This is one reason, Marielle Beniquez, winner of the 2013 Volunteer Corps Service Award, chose to become an Association representative.

Armed with knowledge, experience and love for what she does, Marielle has taken advantage of every existing opportunity to get involved in her community by consistently promoting the interest of the Association. From newcomers to military families already stationed in Tampa, Marielle has been a point of contact, a friend and a problem solver who made wise use of the resources she has access to as a volunteer. Moreover, she has always been up-to-date with new policies, local events and took leadership in initiating local gatherings and events from which military families would benefit.

In order to honor Marielle and present the award, the Association organized a luncheon in her local community at the MacDill AFB in Tampa, Florida. “When Marielle talks about the work of the Association, her enthusiasm makes you excited about joining and volunteering,” says Christina Jumper, Volunteer Services Director. For Marielle, to have Christina present the award to her in person, in front of her family and close friends is profoundly important. “Now I have to do more of my best to be consistent and get my leadership more at the level where I can do my volunteering effectively,” Marielle says.

A Luncheon for One Special Volunteer Marielle’s favorite part about volunteering for the Association is getting to know people and networking. She is a firm believer in sharing the information from her community to the Association for the benefit of military families everywhere. Her previous military service in the Air Force has taught her to have integrity first, to put service before self and achieve excellence in all that she does.  Marielle would stop at nothing to help military families. Even during rough medical times, spouse deployment and surgeries, she is still present in her community, actively fighting for the Association’s causes.

During the past year, Marielle has recruited a number of new volunteers in the region, worked extensive hours and attended events that would benefit various groups within the military community: deployed families, local church, school and child development center, spouses and parents. Additionally, Marielle has participated in extensive trainings both for the Association and for personal goals. She has also specialized in mental health, which paved the way for her to achieve her dream of further helping military families.

Marielle is always informed regarding everything that is happening in her community and she always has a solution for military spouses who seek her help. She at times might resemble an aggressive journalist who would go above and beyond to accomplish the mission of seeking the right information, follow up and spread the word in order to benefit the whole community. What is more, she will always have a smile on her face.

Marlis Perez RiveraBy Marlis Perez Rivera, National Military Family Association Volunteer, Tampa, FL