Category Archives: Make a difference

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

‘Board’ering Awesome! #WayBackWednesday

Our Board of Directors is integral in the day-to-day operations at our Association. We have an awesome team of leaders keeping our mission to support and strengthen military families in the forefront of our daily work. From securing partnerships and donations, to promoting our Association through the media, and planning our advocacy efforts, our Directors do it all– just like those pictured here, in 1983!

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Storming the Hill Since 1969! #WayBackWednesday

It’s the 1990s, and our Association is making waves on Capitol Hill. During this decade, we released an innovative health care plan for military families, which included recommendations that were later incorporated into TRICARE.

Twenty years later, we are still on the forefront of TRICARE issues, including those controversial topics that your military family needs answers to. Not finding the answers you need? Leave us a comment and let us know how we can help!

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Join Our Association Today! #WayBackWednesday

We’ve come a long way since our early information tables, like this one in 1983, when we were still known as the National Military Wives Association! Whether we had handmade signs, or awesome goodies like our Volunteers today, our mission has never wavered: advocating for programs and benefits that strengthen and protect our Nation’s uniformed services families.

Have you considered becoming a member of our Association? With an annual fee less than what you’d spend on Starbucks in a week, you’ll not only directly help support military families with your donation, but you’ll also be eligible to join PenFed Credit Union, and receive updates on our advocacy efforts.

As our festive information table says, Help Make a Difference: JOIN TODAY!

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Taking Risks: “You can’t learn how to fly, unless you fly.”

shadow-of-womanDr. Regina Dugan was the first female Director at Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and is now Vice President of Engineering and leader of the Advanced Technology and Projects  group at Google.

In 2012, during a TED talk, Dr. Dugan asked, “What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?”

She said, “If you really ask yourself this question, you can’t help but feel uncomfortable. Because when you ask it, you begin to understand how the fear of failure constrains you, how it keeps us from attempting great things…The path to truly new, never-been-done-before things always has failure along the way…We cannot both fear failure and make amazing new things.”

This has been a guiding principle for me since I heard her talk.

What would I do if I knew I would not fail?

Here’s an example: what would I do to support military families if I knew I would not fail? I’m happy to report that the answer is – exactly what I’m doing now. I’m leading our Association in the development of a new communication tool using a mobile app, called MyMilitaryLife.

To be honest, the don’t-be-afraid-to-fail mentality is part of the National Military Family Association personality. As an Association, we’ve done truly new, never-been-done-things.

Our Association is a built on a foundation started by women in the ‘60’s. In the 80’s, we convinced Congress to pass a bill to benefit military families living in an area no one had constituents – overseas. More recently, our advocacy organization started a summer camp program, fondly known as Operation Purple Camps. We changed the way we think about military spouse education through our innovative scholarship program.

Looking back, we would have never been able to send nearly 50,000 military kids to camp if we were constrained by fear. We would have never been able to risk investing $2.5 million in military spouses to advance their education if we were afraid to try new things. And we would have never been able to harness the power of technology to make our military families’ lives easier if we didn’t attempt the next great thing.

Is it scary? You betcha.

Is it risky? Yep.

Did we have failures along the way? Sure. It is part of the learning process. Regina Dugan explained, “you can’t learn how to fly, unless you fly.”

But is it worth it? ABSOLUTELY.

What would you do if you knew you would not fail?

michellePosted by Michelle Joyner, Mobile Initiatives Director

#OurVolunteersRock: Meet Jackie, our “OORAH” Historian!

Jackie-history-projectShe sat in the back of an undesirable office space with her eyes peering through a magnifying glass, garnering clues from an old photo. Minutes later, she ambled down the hall to let me know a water logged ceiling panel had just crashed to the floor, barely missing her head. She wasn’t worried about her safety; she wanted to protect the historical papers and pictures she was investigating! I immediately knew I wasn’t managing the average Volunteer.

Who is this special Volunteer? She is Colonel Marguerite J. Campbell, United States Marine Corps, Retired.

At the National Military Family Association, we call her Jackie!

She was commissioned in 1967 as a Second Lieutenant in the Marine Corps. Yes, a FEMALE officer in the Marine Corps in the 60’s! It wasn’t an unusual choice for her to make – she had grown up the daughter of a USMC Master Sergeant. Her father was the first to salute her at her commissioning! Jackie never makes a big deal about being a female in what was, and still is, a predominately male world, but she does note that she had to ask the permission of her superiors to become a mother.

Here are some of the highlights of her fascinating career:

Jackie was an Administrative Officer.
She commanded the Women Marines of D-2 in 1974 and 1975.
She spent many years as the Protocol Officer at the United States European Command (EUCOM).
Jackie served two Joint Tours at the Pentagon and was the J2J5 Joint Specialty Officer for Colin Powell.

When you pop into her cubicle in our new office space, she might share some stories of famous military leaders and presidents she has come in contact with during her stellar career.

But that’s not all! She’s also a professional chef! After her retirement from the Corps in 1993, Jackie pursued another passion, and graduated from Johnson and Wales University. She worked as a caterer and chef for 10 years, and last week, she made a glorious 15 pound poached salmon for a special church event!

And if the Marine and chef experiences aren’t fascinating enough, just ask her about her husband (also a retired Marine), her three daughters, six granddaughters, two great grandchildren and seven cats! She beams with pride when speaking about her family.

In 2011, she was asked to sort, organize, and label photos and documents of our Association’s history. Three years later, Jackie has created a filing system for all of our history, and she continues to add to it. Jackie has logged almost 300 volunteer hours with our Association so far this year!

In a time when volunteerism is dwindling, Jackie is a rare gem. She volunteers diligently to preserve the history of the National Military Family Association. She also volunteers for the Armed Forces Hostess Association at the Pentagon.

Oh how I wish we could clone her!

Lets give a big “OORAH” to our retired Colonel, friend, and Volunteer Historian, Jackie Campbell!

Does a Volunteer you know have a special story? Leave us a comment and tell us about it!

meredithPosted by Meredith Moore, Volunteer Services Coordinator, National Capital Region

Got $10? That’s All You Need to Help Military Families!

soldier-hugging-dadThere’s a quote that we like to refer to at the National Military Family Association:

“The strength of our Soldiers is our Families.”
-General Raymond T. Odierno, General and 38th Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army

Our Association serves the family- and you can too!

This week only, we need as many people as possible to donate just $10 towards our Crowdrise Veteran’s Charity Challenge 2 fundraiser!

The charity that gets the most individual donations wins $2,500—putting us that much closer to the grand prize of $20,000.

Here’s what $20,000 would do for military families:

  • Fund the education and career path for 20 military spouses
  • Send 40 children to an Operation Purple camp, or
  • Host 10 families at a Family Retreat!

Tell your friends, share it on Facebook, and help us win this week’s challenge!

Click here to donate!

Thanks for your support – we couldn’t do it without you!

carolinePosted by Caroline Rasmus, Development and Membership Manager