Category Archives: Events

Fort Bliss Movie Hits Home for Military Families

“Reality is messy and people are raw, and that’s just who we are.” – Claudia Myers – Writer, Director and Producer of Fort Bliss

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I was given the amazing opportunity this week to join some of my co-workers at a special screening of the movie, Fort Bliss, this week at The Women in Military Service for America Memorial.

Michelle Monaghan plays a soldier returning from a 15-month deployment to Afghanistan, only to face new battles at home. Her 5-year-old son has all but forgotten her, and she has forgotten how to relate to him. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house as the story explored aspects of military life that we talk about at the National Military Family Association (NMFA) daily, but that are rarely portrayed in Hollywood:

  • Why would someone re-enlist after spending so much time away from their family?
  • How can someone be a good soldier and a good parent?
  • What is it really like coming back from deployment?
  • Are there different expectations for female service members than their male counterparts?
  • How to families cope with mental health challenges after deployment?

Not only was the movie incredible, the actors (including Emmanuelle Chriqui, Ron Livingston Gbenga Akinnagbe and Pablo Schreiber) developed a real passion for military families while making the movie. During the Q & A session following the screening, the actors had a lot to say about gender roles, abuse, PTSD, transitioning veterans, and more.

Not long ago I shared my thoughts as a civilian caring for military families in a blog post titled, “Military Family Support Shouldn’t Just Come From Military Families“. I love seeing others display the same passion for the families NMFA fights for every day.

“Fort Bliss is what it is. It’s a gigantic film made on a micro budget with a huge impact,” said Producer, John Sullivan.

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Where can you see this movie?

Fort Bliss won the Best Narrative Feature at the G.I. Film Festival this year and we were lucky enough to see it before it hits select theaters this weekend in New York, L.A. and El Paso.

What if I don’t live in New York, L.A. or El Paso?

You can still support this incredible movie. Help us spread the word by sharing this with your friends, buy tickets at the theaters in those cities even if you can’t attend, and call your local theater to ask if they will bring the movie to your hometown.

“Service men and women are heroes, they are strong, they are resilient, and they all face challenges of leaving pieces of them behind when they fight for our country.” – Gbenga Akinnagbe

Let’s support a movie that supports military families. Together we’re stronger.

Jordan-BarrishPosted by Jordan Barrish, Public Relations Manager

Aim High! Fly-Fight-Win! Happy Birthday Air Force!

Founded in 1947, the United States Air Force turns 67 years old today! Happy birthday Air Force! Aim High! Fly-Fight-Win!

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Military Families: Living the History of September 11th

September 11, 2001—the day our Nation stood still. The day that seemed as if it would never pass. The day that started the longest war in our country’s history. While families of the 2,996 lost that day grieved for their loved ones, families of those serving grieved for what they knew loomed around the corner.

More than 6,800 service members have paid the ultimate price in the 4,749 days since September 11, 2001.

What our Nation remembers as a day in history, military families continue to live every day.

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Lessons Learned Washing the Vietnam Memorial Wall

The first time I visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was in 1983 while on a family vacation to DC. There was something powerful about that memorial, even to a 6-year-old. I stared, moved by the people tracing the names of their loved ones on pieces of paper to take home with them. So when our Association had the opportunity to wash the wall, I was honored and proud to participate with my family.

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Here’s what I learned from the experience:

There’s a reason you wash the wall early in the morning. A 5:30 wakeup isn’t always appealing, but even without coffee, I felt energized watching the sun rise behind the Washington Monument while we washed the wall. Plus, it’s the only time of day the wall isn’t flooded with tourists.

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Kids are actually helpful. Washing the fingerprints and smears off the granite isn’t physically difficult, but it can be emotionally draining. In fact, the memorial was created to help the 3 million who served with the healing process. Seeing the kids, elbow deep in suds, scrubbing the bottom part of the wall brought levity and life to the experience.

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The wall was controversial, like the war. Everything about Vietnam was marred in controversy, even a memorial to those who served. The design was the result of a nationwide contest, and the entries were judged anonymously. 21-year-old Maya Lin, a student at Yale, came up with the winning design. Some said that only listing tens of thousands of names may as well be a tribute to anti-war activist Jane Fonda. Some even called it ‘a nihilistic slab of stone.’ The statue of three American soldiers was later added as a compromise.

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What some see as a chore, others see as an honor. My dad, originally from Kosovo, was perhaps the most energetic wall washer in our group. He stood alone with the hose, even when others had moved on, paying extra care to each name. He shared that, in communist countries, people are forced to clean war memorials, which are built to honor communist leaders and their ideology—not the people who fought; it’s not something you volunteer for. He went on to explain to the group why this particular experience meant so much to him. “America is seen as a beacon of hope for people around the world,” he said. “Each time America sent troops to parts of the former Yugoslavia, they saved thousands of lives. I can’t think of anything more important than honoring those soldiers.”

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One of the most beautiful parts of the wall washing was seeing the reflections of my fellow volunteers in the wall as they worked to clean it. As the park ranger so eloquently put it, “we are all a part of that wall.”

Have you ever been particularly moved by a service project? Tell us about it in the comments below.

Photos: By JMill Photography, 2014

Besa-PinchottiPosted by Besa Pinchotti, Communications Director

Semper Paratus and Happy Birthday Coast Guard!

Founded on August 4, 1790, and celebrating it’s 224th birthday this year, our Association would like to recognize the United States Coast Guard for it’s continued service and sacrifice to our Nation. Happy Birthday, Coast Guard!

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What to do for Father’s Day When Your Father Isn’t Here

annie-and-dadLast year, I had the honor of writing a blog post for Father’s day. As Father’s day approaches once again, I read over the fond memories I shared about my dad and his military strength. At the time, I didn’t share his recent diagnosis of Stage 4 lung cancer, and I didn’t know it would be his last Father’s Day.

In the spring of 2013, I traveled back to Oregon to help my mom recuperate after knee replacement surgery. While I was there, we found out what my dad believed to be a pulled muscle was actually a deadly form of cancer. Life for all of us began moving at a very fast pace.

My dad served in the Army during the Korean War, and enjoyed going through the many boxes and albums of old photos from his younger years. He reminisced about his days in Korea with his Army buddies. Most have passed away, but a few are still hanging around. It was fun to hear his stories and to see his eyes light up with delight when a long forgotten name was suddenly remembered. A couple years ago, he started jotting names down on the backs of those pictures and began tracking down those who still survived. Some he found, but his search wasn’t complete.

We lost my dad on November 26, 2013, almost six months to the day he was diagnosed. He was a strong, courageous man who fought the good fight, kept the faith, and finished strong!

This will be our first Father’s Day without him.

I’ve been trying to think (and on some days not think because it’s just too hard) of how I would pay tribute to him this Father’s Day. I enjoy making donations to military charities in his honor because he was very proud of his military service. This year, my gift will be “in memory” of him, something I know my mom will appreciate.

But I also want to do something special to remember my dad. So I came up with a brilliant idea. I made a “Flat Stanley,” or “Flat Frank” in my case. I plan to take him with me and visit some of the places my dad never had a chance to see. One of those places is New York City, where I’ll be during Father’s Day. After that, “Flat Frank” and I will hit the road to see some other sights!

Being in a military family often means spending holidays, like Father’s Day, apart. But there are plenty of ways to honor the special men in your life:

  • Take your dad to a minor league baseball game. Tickets are inexpensive, and games are filled with fun family activities!
  • Share an experience, like hiking in a local park. Spend some quality one on one time with Dad and ask him what his life was like growing up.
  • Make him breakfast and serve it to him with a smile and thanks for all his hard work.
  • Simply write him a letter and tell him how much you appreciate all he does for your family.

herobraceletOne very special way I honor my dad is something I actually wear most days. I bought a Hero Bracelet in honor of my dad. I adore it and it gives me strength and comfort on those days I need it most. Hero Bracelets also donate a portion of their proceeds to various military charities, so it’s a win/win!

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. Our memories live in my heart forever. I love you!

anniePosted by Annie Morgan, Development and Membership Deputy Director

 

The Bittersweet Truth About Being a Privileged Military Family

muppets-movieLiving in our Nation’s capital and working for a military organization gives me certain opportunities—privileges that other military families don’t have. We all know that as military families, we have little control over circumstance. So when we were recently invited to an advanced screening of “Muppets Most Wanted” with the First Lady, it was a bittersweet feeling. We were no more entitled to that moment than any other military families who weren’t there—but still it was an amazing opportunity.

The Sweet
My children were so excited to see the First Lady and be given the opportunity to do something so exclusive. When Mrs. Obama spoke about how important military kids are and how proud she is of them, my son got a little bit emotional. So did I. To have the First Lady of the United States call out the hardships military kids endure—the circumstances that they go through and don’t even realize are extraordinary—meant the world to my children. As military families, we may tell our kids every day how proud we are of them and how strong they are. But hearing it from someone else, someone who doesn’t even know them, and is the most famous mom in the United States, means it must be true, right?

The Bitter
I was so grateful to have my children experience that moment, but honestly, it made me feel incredibly guilty. Thousands, upon thousands, of military families are just like us. What made us so special? Why did we deserve to feel that moment of recognition? I wanted all of our peers and friends to be there, too. They, too, deserve to see the joy in their child’s eyes. I didn’t feel right being there without them. I felt like I was cheating someone else out of the experience. I wondered if this is what my husband feels like, coming home from war feeling guilty about enjoying life at home while his peers are still sacrificing.

The Plain Truth
The truth is, although there were only about a dozen families there, Mrs. Obama was speaking to all of our military kids—even the ones who weren’t in the room. Every military kid should be told they are strong; that what they do is important; that they are heroes. They need to know that.

Every single one of them.

Brooke-GoldbergPosted by Brooke Goldberg, Government Relations Deputy Director