Category Archives: Make a difference

What’s On Your Birthday List? Probably Not This…

chloe-and-miya-megaroKids and gifts seem to go hand in hand, right? From birthdays, to holidays, the lists of gotta-have-its never stop growing. But for nine year old Chloe Megaro, and seven year old Miya Megaro, their gotta-have-its were a little different than most.

Shortly after the attacks on 9/11, the Megaro family felt a strong desire to help support the military, and the families who support our brave men and women. The Megaros were inspired by the many individuals who lost loved ones in the tragedy. Especially how those who lost so much managed to raise awareness, and money, for others who suffered as they did.

At first, the Megaros collected items for charities that prepared care packages to troops overseas.

But then something amazing happened. The idea to give back grew.

Their family decided to dedicate their annual children’s Valentines party, which they called “Open Your Heart to a Soldier,” to our service members and their families.

Chloe and Miya invited friends and family to the party where they provided food, fun, and raffled gift items donated from local vendors. In an effort to continue supporting military families, the family hosted this party for three consecutive years, and collected more than $3,000!

“We feel so proud to have not only raised funds, but also increased awareness and concern for our troops and their families. Many of our guests thanked us for hosting such a thoughtful event.” said Cathy Megaro, Chloe and Miya’s mother.

Due to personal circumstances, the Megaro’s were unable to continue the “Open Your Hearts to a Soldier” Valentines event this year, but that didn’t stop Chloe and Miya from giving. Instead, the girls requested donations to military charities in lieu of gifts at their birthday parties. Their guests donated $200, which the Megaro’s matched, and added an additional $100 to make a minimum total donation of $500!

“[Chloe and Miya] are aware of how blessed they are, and how important it is to help those in need, especially our soldiers and their families.”

Now that’s a gotta-have-it.

What ways do you teach your kids to give back? Share it with us in a comment!

anniePosted by Annie Morgan, Development and Membership Deputy Director

 

45 Ways You Can Support Military Families!

Julia-Yeary-at-Rep,-Mark-Pocans-office“How can I help?”

If you are a volunteer, I’m certain you have probably asked yourself this question before! It seems to be one that is woven into the kind-hearted souls of those who strive to give back.

April is National Volunteer Month–a time to reflect upon the good deeds and generosity of a Nation of givers.

Did you know Volunteers are woven into the fabric of the National Military Family Association? Our Association was established 45 years ago by a group of Volunteers wanting to improve the lives of military families. We celebrate and recognize those who have helped pave the way to the Association during Volunteer Appreciation Week, which occurs during the second week of April.

Volunteering can come in all shapes and colors, especially when it comes to helping military families. No good deed is too big or too small. So, in honor of our Association’s 45th anniversary, we’ve made a list of 45 ways you can volunteer to help our service members and their supportive families:

  1. Become part of our Association. Join Today!
  2. Stay current on issues that affect military families.
  3. Send letters of support or sign petitions to Congressional members regarding military matters.
  4. Help fill the void left by deployed service members in the community. Be a youth sports coach or scout leader, etc.
  5. Volunteer with military support organizations like the USO.
  6. Donate monetarily to organizations that support the military and their families.
  7. Spread the word about what’s going on with military families in your state.
  8. Act as an adopted grandparent/aunt/uncle to a military child since they rarely live near their own families.
  9. Send holiday cards to deployed services members.
  10. Mentor a military teen.
  11. Donate to military thrift stores.
  12. Send care packages prepared for service members overseas.
  13. Become a reading buddy for a military child with a deployed parent.
  14. Participate in community ceremonies that honor the military.
  15. Babysit for a military family.
  16. Volunteer at military hospitals.
  17. Donate financially to the education of the children of fallen service members.
  18. Assist or hire a service member who is transitioning out of the military.
  19. Hire a military spouse in your place of business.
  20. Attend important doctor appointments in lieu of the service member so the spouse does not have to be alone.
  21. Donate, time, toys or educational materials to military daycare facilities.
  22. Give a service member your place in line.
  23. House-sit or watch a pet for a service member on temporary duty assignment.
  24. Volunteer to help clean military facilities or grounds.
  25. Tell a uniformed service member how much you appreciate him/ her.
  26. Perform spring cleanup in a service member’s yard; especially if they are deployed.
  27. Shovel snow from the driveway of a service member.
  28. Help military kids make gifts/cards for their parent on Mother’s Day or Father’s Day.
  29. Cheer loudly and stand tall when the military marches in a community parade.
  30. Put wreathes on graves of the fallen at holidays with Wreaths Across America.
  31. Have a pizza delivered to a military family when their member is deployed and you know they are tired.
  32. Give a military family a gift card to a movie theater.
  33. Offer to help a military spouse with car maintenance when the service member is deployed.
  34. Donate to organizations that support families of wounded service members.
  35. Set up a car pool during deployments to help shuttle busy military kids to activities.
  36. Act as an occasional caregiver for families of a wounded service member so the full time caregiver can take a break.
  37. Surprise a military spouse with a bouquet of flowers and a note that says “Thank you for serving too”!
  38. Let military families that are moving into or out of your community borrow household items or tools.
  39. Pet sit for free.
  40. Drive military families to the airport when they travel to visit their families.
  41. Host a tea/coffee for a group of spouses in your community center/church.
  42. Host a parent’s night out at your church for a military group.
  43. Donate blood.
  44. Follow social networking groups that are associated with military support organizations and repost on your personal pages.
  45. Hang the American flag in front of your home.

Do you have an idea of how you might volunteer to support military families in your community? If so, tell us about it!

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

Our Volunteers Rock!

This week, we’re celebrating Volunteer Appreciation Week, and what a huge impact our Volunteers have had our both our Association, and the military community!

If you’re looking to find a place where you can give your time and make a difference, consider joining our amazing corps of Volunteers!

So, what do our Volunteers do?

  • Provide local military community information to the Association to support our advocacy efforts on behalf of military families
  • Write for the Association
  • Attend local meetings on behalf of the Association
  • Supply content for MyMilitaryLife, our Association App
  • Host Association information tables in local communities
  • Review, rate, and evaluate applications for Association programs such as our Military Spouse Scholarships


Whether or not you’re affiliated with the military, our Association – along with thousands of military families around the world – could use your voice to advocate for them! Interested? Apply now!

Our Volunteers are a critical part of our Association’s mission and we couldn’t do it without them! Our Volunteers Rock!

Shannon-SebastianPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Online Engagement Manager

Volunteer With Us! Change the Rules of the Game!

photo-1-(3)Being a volunteer means doing what you love and fighting for issues you are passionate about. As a military spouse, you might be inclined to think you don’t make much of a difference in the Uniformed Service. Don’t be fooled! All it takes is your strong voice and persistence to change the lives of military families everywhere.

When you join the Association as a Volunteer, you are immediately welcomed to this extended military family. You meet and interact with fellow military spouses, whom you can relate to. The more involved you get, the more you see the difference you make. When I first heard about the Association, I was amazed at what a handful of military spouses were able to accomplish. I did not know much about the military, but I immediately knew I wanted to get involved and help military families. Having a background in journalism and communication, I decided to contribute my skills and write for the Association’s publications. This has been a very rewarding experience, because I could make the voices of military families heard.

What I love most about volunteering for the Association is knowing that what I do affects military families at a national level. Through monthly reporting to the Association, Volunteers give a voice to the issues impacting their community. That’s what it’s all about. You don’t need to wait for someone else to take a stand, you can make all the difference by sharing what you know today!

It all starts with the dedicated Volunteer who introduced you to the Association in the first place. From there it grows into a network of like-minded military spouses. By representing the Association at various events, you gain credibility and people begin paying attention to your message. The network you create will not only support you in your efforts and offer mentorship, but can also help you land your dream job. Connections and networks made through Volunteering with our Association go with you wherever you move!

The most exciting part of being a Volunteer is the connections I’ve made along the way. It has been a wonderful journey that opened the door to a lot of opportunities and ultimately lead to my current position with the Association, as a Content Specialist for MyMilitaryLife app.

Where will your volunteer efforts take you? Become a Volunteer today and find out! Together we are stronger!

Are you interested in volunteering with us? Let us know in the comment section, or apply here!

Marlis Perez RiveraPosted by Marlis Rivera, Content Specialist, MyMilitaryLife

Testimony Countdown: Getting the Military Family Message to Congress

Kathy-testimonyHave you ever been invited to testify before Congress? It’s a rare opportunity, and no matter how many times it happens (30+ times for our Association since Operation Enduring Freedom) it really gets your adrenaline pumping. Our next opportunity is this week—March 26th.

Years of listening to military family concerns, years of becoming experts in military health care, child care, spouse employment, and our premier issue – the well-being of military families- go into crafting our statement. Since last year, we’ve been faced with the threats of sequestration and a proposed budget that asks military families to sacrifice once again. We’ve been asking Congress to remember military families, and to understand that the resources to keep those families ready must be sustained not diminished.

So where do we begin?

  1. We develop our position. We start with our blueprint – the 2014 Legislative and Policy Priorities. We add in the newest information from the budget proposal and analyze the impact it will have on military families. We spend a lot of time in discussion – with other advocates, with subject matter experts. We talk to military families – our volunteers, the ones we interact with on social media. We ask questions through surveys and through our scholarship applications.
  2. We write, rewrite and then rewrite again. All the Government Relations deputy directors – Eileen, Karen and Brooke – have been glued to their keyboards crafting their sections of the testimony for the past two weeks. We worry about writing too much or not writing enough. We need to include enough background to put the issue in context. While I have certain sections to write in my areas of expertise, it’s my job as director to compile all the pieces.
  3. We make tough editing decisions. Our initial document—all 30 pages of it—then went to our Government Relations advisory committee. They all agree it’s too, too long. But what do we leave out??? Joyce Raezer, our Executive Director, and I spent several hours one evening going over the statement line by line to make sure we captured every concept we needed to. Katie, our information manager, did a long distance final edit that (hopefully) captured every typo.
  4. We seal it with a social media kiss. On Friday morning, we declared it “done” and sent the statement on its way to the Subcommittee staff. This year, we’ve incorporated our Communications department more closely into the process. We want military families like yours to know exactly what we are fighting for, and we want to give you the opportunity to raise your voice with us.

I have one thing left to write: my 3-minute oral statement that I’ll give at the hearing. Condensing everything we’ve worked on into a few short minutes will be difficult, but I won’t be alone. Three other members of The Military Coalition will testify alongside me. Those panelists will talk about compensation, health care, and the concerns of the National Guard and Reserve. I’ll use my time to talk about why the savings we get from shopping at the commissary are vital, and how our families rely on family support programs and resources not only during deployment but to empower us during uncertain times. I’ll also reinforce the importance of support for surviving families and for the caregivers of the wounded, ill and injured.

After our statements, we’ll answer questions from the Senators who attend the hearing.

You already know what I’ll say – it’s what you told us to say. We’ve listened, and we’ll make sure that Congress hears you loud and clear on Wednesday and on the days to follow.

You can read our statement on line right after we present it. You can also watch the hearing live online and follow us on Twitter where we’ll be live tweeting throughout the day.

Tomorrow is the day. Will you tune in to see our testimony before Congress?

kathyPosted by Kathleen Moakler, Government Relations Director

HomeFront Rising: Military Spouses are Changing the Face of Politics!

working-womanA few weeks ago, something amazing happened. And it happened because of military spouses. Like many things that military spouses get frustrated by, a conversation happened and that conversation became an idea, and that idea became Homefront Rising – Political Action Training. A group of forward thinking, career-minded spouses decided to bring experts together to teach military spouses how to become leaders, advocates, and politicians.

In Gear Career and the Military Spouse JD Network hosted the day long workshop focused on teaching military spouses to pitch and message themselves, raise money for campaigns, get political leaders to listen and follow through, and how to overcome gender barriers in politics. All of this was done without leaning toward any political party. It was spectacular! And much of what we learned could apply to any career or leadership role, not just politics.

We heard from great speakers; Congresswoman Niki Tsongas (D-3rd/MA), Governor Nikki Haley (SC), Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D-2nd/HI), Congressman Jim Bridenstine (R-1st/OK), Congressman Dave Reichert (R-8th/WA), Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth (D-8th/IL), and a list of professionals who coach, fund, train, and connect political candidates at different steps in their careers.

My takeaways from this workshop were many, but I will share a few of my favorite nuggets:

  • For building a career (including a political one): You must build your network wherever you are. If you are still moving because of your service member’s career, then engage in a network that has a national presence so you can connect in each new location (think League of Women Voters, Toastmasters, etc.).
  • For getting what you want (funding, votes, legislation, a job): Find out what you want in common with the person you are making “the ask” to. Put a face to the issue by telling a story, and be part of the mutual solution.
  • For preserving your public face: Use kindness as a rule, and wait for two hours to do or say anything that doesn’t meet that standard. After that, do another gut check before going forward. If you make a big public mistake, own it, and fix it.

This workshop came at a great time because fewer and fewer members of Congress have been service members. As spouses, we care as much about the future of the military, veterans, families, and survivors as anyone who has served in uniform. I think Homefront Rising inspired military spouses to speak up and get involved in their communities and to change the political conversation!

Over 60 very motivated and dedicated military spouses attended the event, and I don’t expect this will be the end of it. You can read tweets from the event at #HomefrontRising, and find blog posts inspired by spouses who attended.

Keep your eyes and ears open for military spouses changing the conversation, because they are! Or will you will be inspired to try it out for yourself?

Brooke-GoldbergPosted by Brooke Goldberg, Government Relations Deputy Director

Mentor or Protégé: Both Make an Impact in the Military Community!

mentorI’m at a stage in my life where I find myself in the position of the mentor; the one who offers sage advice, the perspective of my long years of experience, and sometimes just general thoughts or judgments on how things ought to be.

After 18 years with our Association working with policymakers and volunteers, I have the historical perspective of how we arrived at a particular decision – be it legislation or our position on those issues and why they are so important to our military families.

I thoroughly enjoy the role of mentor. As the oldest in a family of eight, I have been doing it all my life. At some point in all of our lives, we find ourselves in a role that requires a generous spirit, good communication skills, and a willingness to share our knowledge for the betterment of the others. With a recent staff overhaul in our Government Relations department, I’ve been spending a lot of time mentoring here at work. It also makes me appreciate the women and men who have been mentors to me.

As a young military spouse, I enjoyed the mentorship from spouses who had walked the path before me, whether in the same unit, or in the Army as a whole. These were the spouses who had weathered Vietnam wartime deployments – where family support was found with your own family, back in your hometown. Even still, they shared the connection with other spouses and fostered the continuation of the spirit of our “military family.”

In the “stone age” of military spouse employment – the 70s and 80s – spouses who were lucky enough to find employment, mentored me by pointing me to the best schools where I could substitute teach. Others would reach out from a duty station where we were headed to let me know of a position that would be opening at the chapel around the time I was showing up.

When I finally landed at the Association, I learned from the best: military spouses who decided to capitalize on their experiences and let policy makers know the importance of military families. Not just their importance to the readiness of their service members, but to the success of the force . Sydney Hickey was the first, among many, to train me to be a voice for military families. She, and our other Association foremothers, helped shape our organization and our staff and volunteers to be successful today.

There is a lot of national attention on mentoring these days, especially for military spouses in the employment arena. We work closely with the Business and Professional Women’s (BPW) Foundation’s Joining Forces initiative and the AcademyWomen’s Military Spouse eMentor Program mentoring military spouses.

Have you had any mentors in your life that have helped you in your military spouse journey? Are you a mentor to someone else? Let us know!

kathyPosted by Kathleen Moakler, Government Relations Director

Military Spouses Take Action: Volunteer with us!

The power of volunteeringHooray! 2014 is here! For some, a new year means taking things OFF of their busy plates. For others, the more they can pile on, the better! In either case, there’s never been a better time to  volunteer and do something that makes a difference. It might be helping out at the animal shelter, local food bank, or taking on the troop leader position. But I have one more that I’d like you to think about: volunteer with the National Military Family Association.

Just think about it. In 2013, your family was affected by sequestration, benefits cuts, and lower pay raises. Threats to programs, services, benefits, or opportunities for military families continue everyday. So, being an advocate for your military family is something you already do. But volunteering with the National Military Family Association allows you to  help all military families.

You can be the voice of your local military community. You can help create change. Here are five great reasons why you should choose us.

  • We offer you a mentor. From the first day you are appointed, you will have your own personal mentor, called a regional Coordinator. Your Coordinator is a trained volunteer manager and a military spouse! Together, you will create your personal volunteer experience. Have a talent or professional skill to share? We’ll find a way to help you utilize your knowledge.
  • We provide you with online training opportunities. Yes, we have a robust online training program for you. Numerous webinars, resources, supplies, publications, and a direct link to our subject matter experts.
  • We offer opportunities to network with other Volunteers. We have a closed LinkedIn group for all of our Volunteers to connect together. Ask questions, share ideas, or just find out what others think about their volunteer experience.
  • We offer opportunities for internal scholarships, internships, and jobs that are ONLY available to our Volunteers! We give a $1,000 scholarship to one Volunteer each year (Julia Abrams Scholarship). We offer a six-month internship with a small stipend (Sydney Talley Hickey Internship). Looking for a job? This is a great place to work! Some jobs require you to live local to the DC area; however we have several remote positions available too. We have employed people who lived in Italy, Hawaii, Texas, Alaska, North Carolina, Florida, California, and Illinois!
  • We have a 45 year history of successfully advocating on behalf of military families. Since 1969, we have been fighting for benefits to strengthen and protect military families. Beginning with the Survivor Benefit Plan, we know how to work with our Nation’s and Service leaders. We provide scholarships to speed the path to employment. For 10 years we have helped ease the pain of deployment and reintegration with families and kids. We have funded research to support what your needs are and what programs are valuable.

By volunteering, with the National Military Family Association you are part of a tradition of volunteers who knew they could make a difference!

Come join us in making a difference for your family, and other military families!

christinaPosted by Christina Jumper, Volunteer Services Director

Take Part in #GivingTuesday on December 3

giving-tuesdayDon’t want to get up early from your Thanksgiving dinner to stand in line for Black Friday sales? For those of you online shoppers who are ahead of the game, Black Friday specials have already come and gone. If Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday take a little too much out of you, then pencil in some time to relax on Tuesday, December 3rd.

#GivingTuesday™ was created as a National day of giving at the start of the annual holiday season. Tuesday, December 3 celebrates and encourages charitable activities that support nonprofit organizations. It’s a wonderful day to reflect on what’s meaningful in our lives, honor those who are important in our lives, and give a little back to those who make a difference in the lives of others day after day.

Unsure of what nonprofits would do with your donation? Charity Navigator provides tips on selecting charities that will make good use of your money in this video about giving responsibly on #GivingTuesday.

No one dreams of peace on earth more than military families. This holiday season, as you gather with friends and loved ones and count your blessings, we hope you’ll remember the sacrifices these families make—especially during this time of war.

Since 1969, the National Military Family Association has offered uplifting programs designed to help heal, strengthen, and comfort military families. We encourage you to  give a gift tomorrow that will have an extraordinary impact on a military family by donating to our Association.

Will you be participating in Giving Tuesday?

anniePosted by Annie Morgan, Development and Membership Deputy Director

Suicide Prevention Month: Listen, Respect, Share

marine-ceremony-flagRecently, I enjoyed a weekend getaway with my husband. We wandered in and out of beach front shops, miles away from a military base. It was nice to have a chance to be together and enjoy the beach scenery.

My husband and I were surprised when a local shop owner shared a very personal story with us. After exchanging pleasantries, she asked if my husband was in the military (his haircut gives it away). She also inquired where he was stationed and how long we had been assigned to this location. Her daughter’s family recently moved away from this particular location.

She shared with us that her son-in-law, an Army veteran, committed suicide. He was being treated for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). She was trying to grapple with her new feelings and offer support to her grieving daughter and grandchild.

After sharing our condolences, my husband and I both wanted to offer resources to help this anguished family. Before I rattled off a list of resources, I realized I need to step back and listen to the person speaking to me, respect what she was sharing with me, and share resources if she was agreeable to accepting information.

If you find yourself in a situation similar to mine, here are some suggestions:

Listen: Really listen. Try to understand what the person is communicating. Try not to think of a solution or offer a resource right away.

Respect: Respect that the person feels safe enough to share this information with you. Understand your boundaries and your comfort level.

Share: Is the person able to receive information? Do you have resources available? If not, and you are comfortable, exchange contact information and ask a professional for help.

I am not a counselor. I am not a medical expert. But, I am an involved military spouse. I was thankful I had read recent articles about the Military Crisis Line and Veterans Crisis Line.  Additionally, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24/7 support to those in crisis across the nation.

If you or someone you know has contemplated suicide, seek the support you need. The military and your local community provide a wide array of available programs for preventive care and support.

KatiePosted by Katie Savant, Government Relations Information Manager