Category Archives: Events

Cyber Crisis: Protecting your family in a war waged by hackers

cyber-crisisRaise your hand if you’ve ever heard the term “OPSEC.”

What about “PII?” Or “PERSEC?”

It’s fairly common for military families to know an arsenal of acronyms that pertain to their service member, or military culture in general. While a lot of them are important, not understanding these three acronyms in particular can put you and your family in harm’s way.

OPSEC, or Operational Security, keeps our military information secure and out of the hands of those who could harm us – not just in person, but online, too. Sharing things like your loved one’s rank or job title, where they’re stationed, or when they’re returning home could get you in trouble. In some cases, even having a unit-specific sticker on your car could be a violation of OPSEC.

PII, or Personal Identifiable Information, is any information that can be pieced together to determine your identity. Things like your social security number and name are the obvious ones. But when someone knows your first name, email address, and the town you live in, it becomes easier to then determine your last name. With your full name, a person could search property records and find your address. And by simply driving by your home, they’d see the decal on your car, “Half of my heart is in Iraq.” They now know your service member is deployed and you are home alone, just from sharing too much PII.

PERSEC, or Personal Security, like OPSEC, reminds us to be aware of what we are sharing. Terrorists are just as tech savvy as you and I, and in most cases, have the means and abilities to find out things about us that we didn’t know they could.

With the internet being our main way to communicate with our service members when deployed, pay your bills, share photos, and do online banking, we have to be even more cautious of what we share online. If you aren’t careful, each of these seemingly harmless actions can lead to over-sharing, and can put your family in danger.

Are you doing everything you can to protect your family? Find out this Thursday at 3:00PM, when we bring you a live stream discussion with Former CIA and NSA Director, General Michael Hayden and one of America’s top private cyber sleuths, Kevin Mandia . They’ll share a real-world evaluation of threats and solutions, plus tips to keep your military family safe.

Do you have questions for General Hayden or Mr. Mandia? We’ll be asking them! Leave your question in the comment section below.

Tune in to find out how to protect your military family from danger online.

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Online Engagement Manager

Military Family Appreciation Facebook Photo Contest!

In celebration of National Military Family Appreciation Month, we’d like to honor our military families with a special Facebook cover photo contest! Please post a picture of your military family to our Facebook page and we’ll choose one lucky family a week throughout the month of November to be featured in our cover photo! We’ll post the new cover photo on Monday of each week.

Thank you for your service and good luck!

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Association Takes the #EndSequestration Case to Congress

Storm-Capitol-HillToday, September 12, more than fifty National Military Family Association staff, Board members, Volunteers, and friends head to Capitol Hill to let our elected leaders know how sequestration is hurting our Nation’s military families. Last month, we asked families to send us photos and stories highlighting the difficulties they’ve faced as they’ve experienced sequestration in their communities.

Military families from all over the world showed us sequestration means more difficulty in getting care for their sick child, delays in arranging moves or in processing changes in pay, and reduced training time for the service member. As they encountered these hardships, military families also shared how much their service members’ ability to protect our Nation is now at risk.

We compiled families’ sequestration photos and stories into a photo album that we’re delivering to every Member of Congress today.

Our message is simple: The arbitrary, across-the-board cuts caused by sequestration are hurting military families, their communities, and service members’ readiness to perform their mission. Congress must end sequestration!

Military families are taxpayers, too. They understand the Department of Defense must share in efforts to cut government spending. BUT, those cuts must be made in a balanced way that does not impose a disproportionate burden on our military and the people who serve.

Remember, sequestration was intentionally designed to be so devastating to our defense that it would never be allowed to happen.

But it did happen.

Our purpose today is to show our Nation’s leaders the faces devastated by the aftermath of sequestration’s destruction–our military families. We present our photo album as evidence that sequestration is not a painless way to reduce the deficit. The devastation for our military families will be worse every year sequestration continues. It must stop. NOW.

The National Military Family Association thanks the families who shared their sequestration stories and photos. We thank our partners in this effort—Macho Spouse.com, Military Partners and Families Coalition, Military OneClick, Military Spouse Magazine, and Spouse Buzz—for their outreach to military families and for joining us on Capitol Hill today. We appreciate the work of our friends in The Military Coalition to seek an end to sequestration.

Sequestration is unraveling the yellow ribbon of military family support. If our Nation’s leaders allow sequestration to continue, the yellow ribbon will continue to fray. Please keep our military families strong. #EndSequestration!

Together we’re stronger!

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

Operation Purple Camps: 10 amazing years

MichelleObama-OPkids

Who knew when we started Operation Purple Camps in 2004 that we were kicking off a legacy! It has been an amazing 10 years.

Here’s a glimpse of how the program has grown:

2004

  • Operation Purple Camps kick off in 12 states
  • Jessica Lynch makes guest appearance at OPC Pennsylvania

2005

  • Senators Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Dole host Capitol Hill reception to kick-off the 2005 summer camp season
  • Operation Purple Camps make the front page of the Chicago Tribune
  • OPC was featured on NBC Nightly News and in the Wall Street Journal

2006

  • Operation Purple featured on CBS Early Morning and Fox and Friends
  • OPC camp highlighted in Time magazine

2007

  • Operation Purple Camps make the cover of USA Today
  • Operation Purple Camps featured on CBS Sunday Morning

2008

  • Operation Purple Leadership Camps pilot program opens for military teens
  • First Operation Purple Healing Adventures for families of wounded, ill and injured
  • We host an Operation Purple Camp to support the children of delegates attending the Army Wounded Warrior (AW2) Symposium
  • Sierra Club releases “Red, White, and Green,” a short film about Operation Purple Camp
  • CNN features Operation Purple Camp on its website homepage
  • 1,500 Operation Purple applicants participate in an Association funded research study looking into the effects of deployment on military families
  • Camp attendance tops 10,000 kids in one summer

2009

  • Mullen-at-OPCOperation Purple Camp featured on NBC Nightly News segment, “Making A Difference”
  • Operation Purple Family Retreats program hosts first families
  • Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and his wife, Deborah, visit Operation Purple Camp California

2010

  • Operation Purple Family Retreats featured on NBC Nightly News segment, “Making A Difference”

2011

  • Operation Purple Campers participate with First Lady Michelle Obama in Extreme Makeover: Home Edition
  • Defense Secretary Robert Gates and his wife Becky visit families at Operation Purple Healing Adventures Washington

2012

  • First year without national sponsors; Local camps help fund the program so that it remains free for military families

2013

  • Operation Purple Camp reaches 10 year milestone! In 10 summers, 48,000 military kids have participated in the program

All of this would have been impossible without the generous donations and support from so many individuals and organizations committed to taking care of military families. Thank you!

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

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

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