Category Archives: Military Families

Meet the Best Military Spouse Photographers of 2016!

Last year, NMFA ran a promotion hoping to pair up fabulous military spouse photographers with families who deserved some family photos to cherish. These photographers volunteered to share their time and talents, and were eager to send us the best shots from their photo sessions.

Here at NMFA, we are proud to support military spouses as they chase their dreams. This contest gave us an opportunity to celebrate the talent found within our communities, and we hope next time you need a photographer, you check this list to hire a military spouse in your area!

Photo Contest Photographers

April Kroenke Portland, OR: April Kroenke Photography

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April Kroenke is an international award winning photographer who is recognized for the experience she creates for her portrait clients. She specializes in modern lifestyle portraits that tell the story of her clients through connection, expression, personality, and the surrounding environment. April’s passion is in creating beautiful works of art and a wonderful experiences for her clients. She looks forward to telling your story!

Find her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest.

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Ashley Langtry Brunswick, ME: Ashley Langtry Photography

View More: http://ashleylangtry.pass.us/kellyfamily

Ashley Langtry specializes in baby and lifestyle photography. Her site says “I am painfully awkward, but equally awesome. I am an aspiring gypsy, lover of all things whimsical, and mama to two little crazies. I am hopelessly optimistic, believer in romance, hugger of trees, and lover of a US Navy Sailor. I try to design a photo, as well as document a moment. When people hire me to photograph for them, they are hiring me because someone they love is on the other side of my lens. For me, it is an honor to capture that love for them.”

Find her on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and Google+.

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Athena Plichta Naples, Italy: Athena Plichta Photography

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Athena is a food, lifestyle, and travel photographer currently based in southern Italy.

Find her on Instagram.

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Cindy Corcoran Newport, RI: Ellie Lynn Photography

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Cindy is a lifestyle photographer, specializing in portraits for families, children, couples, military members, seniors, and special occasions. Memories are only but a moment captured in time and she loves to capture real people living their real lives.

Find her on Facebook.

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Danielle McCown Lakenheath, England: Danielle McCown Photography

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Danielle has a beautiful natural style, and is wonderful with children and families.

Find her on Facebook.

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Emily Grace Fort Rucker, AL: Emily Grace Photography

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Emily says it best: “What photographs are you passing on to your kids’ kids? Instagram selfies? (No way!) Stop thinking you have to look a certain way to be photographed! You are you, and that’s beautiful. Don’t believe me? Ask your kids. Ask your spouse. Ask your neighbor. Ask me.”

Find her on Facebook and Instagram.

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Judith Lovett Atlanta, GA: Judith Lovett, Photographer

Judith loves to take portraits that tell a story.

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Find her on Facebook.

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Julie Rivera El Paso, TX: Julie Rivera Photography

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Julie has a message for you: “Your life, at this very minute, is enough. I want to show you the majesty in between the highlights. The day-to-day that is the very essence of your child’s childhood. I want you to see that everything you do is more than enough: it is the life of your family. And it is tremendous!”

Julie is not currently taking new clients, but you can see her work on Facebook and Instagram

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Kathryn Bailey Hessen, Germany: LittleB Memories

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“A toothless grin. A newborn snuggle. Tiny arms around your neck. Moments like these happen far too fast. Portraits bring those memories back long after those little ones have left the house. LittleB Memories is a place where that magic is treasured; I capture the times you value the most, so you can relive your favorite moments again and again for years to come.”

Find her on Facebook.

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Meagan Drew Monterrey, CA: Momma Mea Photography

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Meagan strives to capture moments for you and your loved ones just as a Momma would see them!

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Michelle St.Clergy Fort Polk, LA: Chaque Bonne Memoire Photography

Chaque Bonne Memoire means “Every Good Memory.” And that is exactly Michelle’s mission: to ensure each moment, each facial expression, and each journey that you take us on with you is left with an everlasting good memory.

Find her on Facebook and Instagram.

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Nichole Glover Fort Gordon, Ga: Glover Images

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Nicole specializes in family photography.

Find her on Facebook.

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Robyn Mroszczyk Huntsville, AL: Vanderport Designs 

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Robyn Mroszczyk is a natural-light photographer who specializes in family, maternity, and children sessions. She is a military spouse to her high school sweetheart, and they have two boys who keep her busy. Robyn believes in affordable photography so that everyone can have special moments captured and displayed. When she is not doing photography, Robyn is an Accredited Financial Counselor, where she assists transitioning Service members preparing for a deployment, redeploying, retirement, and everything in between. Her sense of humor, patience, and ability to make a fool of herself have served the photography world for the last four years. Robyn looks forward to creating memories in the Huntsville area until the fall when her family will move to Washington D.C.

Find her on Facebook and Etsy.

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Rosie Suerdieck Colorado Springs, CO: Reflections by Rosie

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Rosie is a wife, mother of four, cuddler of her Lab and Jack Russell, and momma to 10 chickens. “Life is an adventure, and I take it on. I specialize in high school senior portraiture for the fashionable girl, and mentor fellow photographers on how to be better businesswomen.”

Find her on Facebook and Instagram.

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Sarah Case Washington, DC: Tiny Sparrow Photography

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Sarah’s intention as a photographer is simple: “When time has erased all the details — of the long stretches of sleepless nights, small meltdowns, first words and first steps — what I hope will remain are the beautifully captured moments and timeless photographs I have created for you — that we’ve collaborated on together.”

Find her on Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter.

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Stefanie Adams-Figueroa Ramstein, Germany: Wunderkind Photography

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…because they’re only this little once…

Find Stephanie on Facebook.

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MilSpouse PhotographerWhy choose a military spouse photographer? These entrepreneurs have set up their businesses again and again at each new duty station. Many photographers build their business through word of mouth, and when you move every 2-3 years, it isn’t easy.

We are proud to be able to promote these photographers as a special “thank you” for the time and service they donated to their communities this year! Help us encourage these spouses  by hiring one in your area next time you need family photos taken. This is an investment you won’t regret!

Interested in being featured on NMFA as a military spouse photographer? Our family photo contest runs each spring, and pairs hardworking photographers with military families for a special photo session. If you’d like to hear more about the program and donate a photo session to a deserving family while building your business at your current duty station, fill out this form.

Bloom Where You’re Planted…With Little Commitment!

During my 10+ year journey as a military spouse, I have tried to keep the old adage, “bloom where you’re planted,” as my personal motto. And believe me, I have been planted in some places I never thought I would be. As a girl from the Pacific Northwest, it can be pretty crazy to try to set down roots in Central Texas, Southern Oklahoma, or most recently, Western Louisiana.

What has been the most surprising is how trying to bloom where we’re planted has provided experiences and opportunities I never would have dreamed about. I have learned the only way to really flourish in a place that is foreign to me is to put myself out there and get to know the area AND the people who are there with us.

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My journey as a military spouse truly began when I joined my husband in Ft. Hood when he redeployed from Iraq. We had been married for over a year and a half, but it was the first time we were going to be able to start our life together.

However, I had no experience with the military lifestyle, so I did what I knew how to do: I got a job and established a routine with my husband. I wasn’t involved with an FRG, any unit functions, or anything having to do with the Army at all. I was very isolated from the people and things that were part of my husband’s career.

After another deployment to Iraq, we found ourselves in Fort Sill, Oklahoma. I left my job to move, we had a baby on the way, and I had NO IDEA what to do. I realized if we were really going to do this ‘military thing’ for the rest of our lives, I better learn more about it. I started taking classes at Army Community Services (ACS), and when the classes were over, I realized I liked the ladies who worked there so much, I started to volunteer. I joined the Spouses’ Club, because some of the spouses I met volunteering at ACS were members, too. I started attending fitness classes on Post, and once my son was born, I went to every playgroup I could find.

A lot of the same people were popping up in many of the groups I was involved with; people who were going through the same thing I was–trying to build a life on this crazy military journey. And sometimes we don’t have the time or opportunity to work outside the home, but we still crave the personal connection with other adults. During our almost four years at Fort Sill, I met some of the most wonderful people I have ever known and truly created life-long friendships.

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We left Fort Sill for Washington D.C., where my husband spent almost 4 years between Capitol Hill and the Pentagon. We were not in a traditional unit and did not live on any of the Posts in the area. We found ourselves very separated from military life…again. After welcoming our daughter, it was time to find some connection with our military life. I decided to go to work at a non-profit supporting military families. That job gave me the personal relationships and friendships I had been missing. And luckily, I was able to work with a few other military wives who gave me the connection to military life I had been missing.

The time came for us to move on to new orders. We left Washington D.C., and I left my job and friends to move to Fort Polk, Louisiana; a new place, with new people. I will need to really push myself, put myself out there to meet some other moms, spouses, and friends to connect with. I am going to use what I learned during our time at Fort Sill to try to find the people who I mesh with.

I have met a few ladies from our unit and talk to the other moms at our daughter’s gymnastics class. I plan on joining the Spouses’ Club, too. With my husband preparing to join a unit already in Afghanistan, I know my ability to get involved with a lot of things will have to wait, but I am going to grab the little moments in daily life to try to bloom where I have been planted.

How do you get involved with military life without much commitment? Share it with us in the comments!

mandy-culverPosted by Mandy Culver, Army Spouse and National Military Family Association Volunteer

A New Year Literally Means New Everything

As the month of December comes to a close, I think back to the resolutions I have made over the years. I reminisce about the time and place, and the hopes and expectations of a fresh start. Whether my goals included fitness, travel, professional growth, or even a simple attitude adjustment – I was ready and determined to succeed.

This year, however, change is inevitable and my determination is failing. Today, December 31st, marks the end of my husband’s active duty military career. My assumption was that this time would be fulfilling and exciting. What does that say about me? In reality, there is a finality that feels something like an 800 pound gorilla sitting on my chest. And a sadness that I still can’t explain.

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In our situation, a job in the civilian world is prompting a mid-year move from Georgia to North Carolina. Much like many of our military moves, decisions were made late in the game, causing a flurry of activity in a fairly short amount of time. Understanding that retirement was getting closer, we bought a house and slowly began digging our roots a little deeper. As we prepare to uproot this time, familiarity mixes with the unknown, sparking new feelings and emotions. Ones we will learn to deal within the New Year.

Military families out there know the drill. New home, new schools, new friends, new sports teams, new church, and new activities all come to be in new surroundings. Being a military family is an identity of sorts, and leaving that behind is new, too.  Don’t get me wrong; I don’t feel like we are being banished from Military Family Island, but the lifestyle we knew is soon going to be a thing of the past.

It feels like we are going to plow into 2016 like a high-speed train about to jump its track. I am nervous because this fresh start seems very daunting. So, ready or not, this New Year’s resolution to ‘tackle and embrace NEW’ is almost here. I’d be lying if I said I was ready, but I would also be lying if I said I was not.

Good or bad, here’s to new.

Are you preparing for something new in the new year? How will you tackle it?

kimPosted by Kim Edger, Website Architect

30 MORE Reasons We’re Thankful for This Military Life!

We know military life can be filled with up’s and down’s, and with plenty of reasons to be sad, mad, let down, and lonely. Most military spouses, however, can find many more reasons to be grateful, joyful, excited, and thankful (and we love that about you!).

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Have you been following our #30DaysofThanks (Military Family Edition) on our Facebook page? There, we’re highlighting some of the awesome reasons why military families, like yours, are thankful for your military life. Follow us on Facebook to check out the other 30 Days of Thanks posts!

But that got us thinking: there are WAY more than 30 reasons that we’re thankful for our military journey! Here are a few other reasons:

  • Having a friend in 20 cities around the world
  • Never having to look farther than your Facebook feed for travel advice
  • Not being the only one to ask a stranger in the CDC to be your emergency contact
  • The smell of jet fuel/gunpowder
  • Not having to worry about your power bill in the winter (God bless base housing!)
  • Having a chance to start over every 2-4 years
  • Curtains in every style, for every room
  • Starbucks mugs from all over the world
  • Frequent flyer miles and hotel points from PCSing and visiting family so much
  • Cheap lunch at the chow hall (best date ever!)
  • The National Anthem before a movie begins
  • That one spouse who knows how to make all the baked goods
  • Friends who bring wine on bad days
  • Not having to explain how you are feeling because the other spouses ‘get it’
  • Irreverent military humor
  • Seeing other people stop and thank a service member (thank you, humanity)
  • When the colors play on base and seeing everyone stop/stand at attention
  • Commissary prices!
  • Running into an old military spouse friend at your new installation
  • All the kick-butt women in uniform!
  • Gold Star families
  • Getting into base housing without a wait list!
  • The ability for dependents to continue their education, thanks to the Post 9/11 GI Bill
  • Hourly child care on base (and the awesome people who work there!)
  • Friends who open their doors during the holidays when you can’t make it home to family
  • When you find out your spouse made the list to be promoted, take a command, etc.
  • Having a Christmas card list a mile long because you have moved so many times and have THAT MANY FRIENDS you still keep in contact with
  • The unique furnishings, or souvenirs, you pick up from different assignments, TDYs, etc., around the world
  • When your spouse shows up to your child’s sporting event in uniform (because they are racing home from work), and random people come up and thank him or her for their service.
  • Planning a PCS move and stopping to stay with military friends along the way to your new home.

Do any of these reasons hit home for you? What would you add to this list?

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Content Development Manager

I’m Scared for What’s Next: A Military Spouse’s Thoughts on the Paris Attacks

There are some things in life that, no matter how hard you try, just don’t make sense. No amount of contemplation, insight, or prayer can bring sense to the evil of this world. September 11, 2001 shaped the way I grew up, and the way I view things around me. It took away my ability to see good and heroic things happening, and replaced it with fear and uncertainty.

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As a military spouse, fear can become a daily emotion. When tragedy strikes, our worlds seem to close in on us as we run the gamut of possible outcomes for our loved one; will they deploy, and where? When will training start? What holidays will he miss? How dangerous will it be?

President Obama recently said that he would keep troops in Afghanistan through 2017. This decision, sadly, didn’t seem to take any of us by surprise despite earlier pledges to withdraw them. My gut is twisted thinking of the other military families who won’t have their loved ones home for the holidays. My heart aches for the families who received news that their service members are being sent to relieve those left in Afghanistan or to protect our nation in other remote parts of the globe.

It’s been 14 years of war, and the state of the world isn’t getting any better. I’m not ready for an endless war, where places we thought were safe can become the frontlines of new types of battle. Places like Paris–beautiful, beloved Paris–a place where dozens of my friends have visited, even lived. Why would any evil target Paris?

As I was processing the death tolls, the injuries, and the eventual claim of who was responsible, I was overcome with emotion. I’m scared for what’s next.

There are military families in France and other countries in Europe; I’m scared for them. Stateside military families are wondering, no doubt, if their service member might deploy as a result of these attacks. I’m scared for them, too. I’m scared for the service members who are still enlisting in our all-volunteer military—they’ll be the next wave of support to join our nation’s longest war.

I don’t know what to expect except fear and uncertainty.

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Paris could have been anywhere—a military base, New York City, a theme park, an NFL football game. And I could have been there. My family could have fallen victim. And that scares me. Evil is out there, lurking, planning, targeting. And we’re only doing the best we can to protect ourselves.

Paris’ Night of Horror was unbelievably senseless and evil, and there’s no way to process why other humans would commit such an act of terror. As a military spouse, my heart hurts for the families of the victims. And I’m scared for what’s next for my own family.

There aren’t many historic events in my lifetime that give me hope that good still exists. But seeing the sacrifice our men and women in uniform, and their families, make to protect our nation gives me that hope. Tragedy isn’t avoidable, but I know that someone’s loved one—including my own—vowed to protect us from it as best they could.

I’m scared for what’s next because I know our service members are at stake. I know some military families will have to bear the burden of another deployment, another holiday alone, even another tragedy. And some of those families are my friends.

I’m asking you to rally behind the military families you know. Just as we all are finding ways to stand by the people of Paris, don’t forget to stand by our service members in harm’s way. Support the cause and display your pride in all ways. The war isn’t over. Military families need to know their country has their back.

Seeing our country stand behind the military and their families is the good that drives out the fear and uncertainty bred by tragedy.

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Content Development Manager

Department of Defense is Paying for “Acts of Patriotism?”

We’ve all been to a sporting event of some kind, and felt that pang of pride in our gut when the National Anthem plays, and our service members take part in some kind of patriotic display. Some displays are beautiful—like a flag that covers an entire football field—and others are just plain awesome—like a service member rappelling down rope in the middle of a hockey arena to drop the puck.

I was a little confused when I read this week that the Pentagon has been paying sports teams for the opportunity to showcase service members in their pre-show routines.

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What? The same Pentagon that doesn’t have the funds to properly equip service members in the field, or to train them prior to deployment because there’s no money in the Defense budget? Where did the money come from? And should we be mad?

I’m on the fence.

But Senator Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., isn’t. He’s made sure Congress knows about these acts of ‘paid patriotism.’ Earlier this spring, contracts between the Department of Defense (DoD) and certain professional sports teams came to light (72 to be exact), totaling $6 million in taxpayer dollars.

So where IS this money coming from?

A few of the sports teams claim they’ve never accepted money from the DoD, while others aren’t sure. The National Football League (NFL), sent a letter to Congress advising they are launching their own external audits to see if money was exchanged; if it was, the NFL says it will be refunded.

Well that’s all nice and polite, but I’m still wondering where the money is coming from?

The National Military Family Association has been fighting tooth and nail since before Sequestration took effect in 2014, for Congress to stop balancing the budget on the backs of military families.

Commissaries had to close down, military treatment facilities (MTFs) weren’t fully staffed, and military spouses were sending their service members overseas without proper equipment or training, all because there wasn’t enough money in the budget.

But somewhere, in that budget they couldn’t balance, was money to pay professional sports teams for patriotic displays before games?

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Here’s where I’m on the fence: The future of our military force is in dire straits, and any form of recruiting is a necessary evil.

Service members and their families are packing up their toys and leaving; the benefits don’t seem so great to some, and the sacrifice doesn’t seems worth it to others. More military families are getting out and transitioning back to civilian life.

The military already has multimillion dollar ‘displays’ intact for recruiting future service members—demonstration teams like the US Navy Blue Angels, and the US Air Force Thunderbirds have been wowing crowds and inspiring America’s youth to give back to their country through military service for 69 years, and 62 years, respectively.

But are these recruiting tools working? Are other forms of ‘paid patriotism’ really needed?

Senator Flake doesn’t think so. He told ABC News, “These [sports] teams do a lot of good work. The problem is when activities like this are paid for by the tax payer, it cheapens everything else they do and that’s why it ought to go away.”

What will happen if the DoD really is paying for these ‘advertisements?’ And who should be held accountable?

I want to know what in the world is going on… or I’m jumping over the fence and rushing the field.

Do you think about the Department of Defense paying for these ‘acts of patriotism?’ Share your thoughts in the comments!

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Content Development Manager

Do You Support Military Families? Prince Harry Does!

Yesterday, I, and several other NMFA employees and volunteers had the wonderful opportunity to attend the Invictus Games event at Fort Belvior, where the First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, along with His Royal Highness Prince Harry spoke about the importance of the games.

During the event, sixteen service members demonstrated their talents in a thrilling wheelchair basketball game. I had never seen a game like this before, and I spent the entire time just enthralled with the incredible grit, athletic ability and spirt of the players on the court. I couldn’t help but get excited about watching the games live when they come to the US in May of 2016.

The Invictus Games are a big deal, because they are about so much more than just playing sports and competing with other countries. These games are a driving force behind recovery and rehabilitation for wounded, injured and sick service members.

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Prince Harry founded the Invictus games in the UK back in 2014, while serving in the military there. Reflecting on his two combat deployments in Afghanistan, he said “”There is very little that can truly prepare you for the reality of war. The experiences can be stark and long lasting.” This experience left him with a feeling of “responsibility to all veterans, who had made huge personal sacrifices for their countries, to lead healthy and dignified lives after service.”

The Invictus Games do just that. They bring recovering service members, and their families, together to focus on a goal, and work towards a better future together.

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Here at NMFA, we also understand the importance of bringing families together to help them adjust to a new normal after a service connected illness or injury. At our Operation Purple Healing Adventures® camp, service members and their families connect with others on a similar healing journey. They share the feelings, struggles, and obstacles they have overcome with other families who just ‘get it.’ All while enjoying active, nature centered activities.

For the caretakers and children of these wounded service members, seeing their loved one participating in sport and physical activities can be as equally cathartic. A huge part of the military culture is grounded in physical activity and competition, and you can see the joy and admiration in the faces of the families as they watch their loved ones enjoying the activities they played before their injury.

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Some of our service members show visible wounds–missing limbs and bodies marked by war–while others are battling invisible injuries. As many as 1 in 4 service members left Iraq and Afghanistan with brain injuries, PTSD, depression and anxiety. We are thrilled to see Invictus welcoming service members suffering from the invisible wounds of war, as well.

At Operation Purple, we often hear how difficult it can be for service members and their families to work through these invisible injuries. While the physical injuries take a toll on the body, the invisible wounded, like PTSD and anxiety, wreak havoc on the mind and soul. We’ve heard stories from families battling these ‘quiet’ injuries, that recovery isn’t always easy. But all families agreed: taking the first step and asking for help was the most important choice.

At the event, we were reminded only 1% of the country puts on a uniform and takes an oath to not leave a fallen comrade behind. We, as a country, take the same oath. We cannot leave them behind. We cannot leave their families behind.

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Supporting programs, like Invictus and Operation Purple, is an easy way to give back to these families and let them know that they are not forgotten and we will not leave them behind.

Do you know any service members hoping to compete at the Invictis games next year? Will you be watching?

HeatherPosted by Heather Aliano, Social Media Manager