Category Archives: Make a difference

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

On the Hill: Calling on Congress to end sequestration

Morning-Brief1Last week, on September 12, the National Military Family Association was joined by more than fifty staff, Board members, Volunteers and dedicated partners in our fight to #EndSequestration.

The #EndSequestration Team met at our headquarters in Alexandria, VA where they received matching t-shirts, a bag containing our freshly printed books, and receive a brief on the day’s events. Donning bright blue t-shirts with the words “#EndSequestration” on the back, the team boarded a bus and headed to Capitol Hill.

Following in the footsteps of our founding mothers, we divided into teams and headed to meet with all 535 Members of Congress to hand deliver our #EndSequestration book. We met with several Members of Congress, military and defense legislative assistants, and other staffers along the way.

Rep-Bill-Keating

The message was clear – the short-term impact of sequestration hurts military families, yet the long term consequences will be catastrophic.

Our #EndSequestration team reflected on their experiences of the day and shared the following:

Chairman of the Board Mary Scott, an Army spouse and mother of six children, who have all served in the military, stated , “I am very proud of [our] efforts in organizing this event. If we are who we say we are – strong advocates for military families – we must be willing to present their needs and challenges directly to those who can make a difference. This effort, on behalf of those we serve, delivered a powerful message in a personal way. I was very proud to introduce myself as a military family member and a representative of the National Military Family Association.”

Association volunteer Alicia McAfee said her first-hand experience advocating for military families left her optimistic that the unraveling yellow ribbon of support can be restored to its full potential.

rep-boehner-office-2

“Every office we visited was very welcoming. I definitely believe our voices were heard. I’m optimistic that the unraveling yellow ribbon of support can be restored to its full potential. It was encouraging to have other people on the Hill comment on our t-shirts and thank us for our efforts to end sequestration,” McAfee said after arriving back at our headquarters on Thursday.

After three dedicated hours of storming the Hill, we headed back to the bus to return to our headquarters. Some felt empowered; others hoped they did enough to get our message across. But all were appreciative to have this direct experience with the legislative process. This is the very foundation on which our government operates – by the people, for the people. And change doesn’t happen unless the people make their voices heard.

Delivering the albums to Congress is the beginning of the battle. We know we raised awareness about the concerns military families have about the long-term impact of sequestration. We will continue to demand that Congress keep their promises to our service members and their families by working to #EndSequestration.

Together we’re stronger.

Shannon-SebastianPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Online Engagement Manager

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

Build Your Resume: Volunteer with our Association!

group-of-volunteersSummer is winding down. The kids are headed back to school. Maybe you don’t have kids but you’re looking for a new way to gain experience and make a difference? The military has, once again, moved your family to a new location and hopefully, you’re settling in. Now what? Volunteering is a great way to meet people and learn more about your new community. Have you considered volunteering with the National Military Family Association?

Let me share a few reasons why you should volunteer with us:

  • Get out and meet new people! While volunteering, you will meet and talk to a variety of people all over the world and create lasting friendships.
  • Tap into your passion for military families! Where better than with an organization that is the voice of military families. Our Volunteers are out in the field letting us know what is happening within their military community.
  • Add to your professional resume! Volunteering not only benefits our Association, it’s also a great addition to your resume. Employers look favorably on volunteer experience. Volunteering allows you to work with professionals who will be valuable references in the future. It is a win-win situation!
  • Develop new skills! Our Association offers many different volunteer opportunities such as writing, editing, and researching. The best part is that many of our volunteer opportunities can be completed at home on your own schedule.

Be a part of something meaningful that will enhance the quality of life for military families. Being a volunteer with the National Military Family Association is a position that you can take wherever you move! Our volunteers are global, and we want you to be a part of our Volunteer Corps.

For more information about volunteering with the National Military Family Association, please contact Christina Jumper by email: CJumper@MilitaryFamily.org or apply today!

Do you have a great story about a volunteer experience? Share it with us!

karen-cookPosted by Karen Cook, Volunteer Services Coordinator, North Region