Category Archives: Military Families

Hold Your Applause: A Military Spouse’s Take on ‘American Sniper’

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As new parents, we take every opportunity we can to go see movies, and when American Sniper was released, we quickly bought our tickets ahead of time. On day of the show, we shoved snacks in my purse (shh!) and headed to the theater. I brought tissues, and cursed the fact that I didn’t wear waterproof mascara that day. I read the movie was intense and may be hard to watch at times, so at least I was prepared an emotional rollercoaster—and the movie delivered.

As a military spouse, it was hard to watch. But strangely enough, I didn’t end up using the tissues. When my husband was in Afghanistan in 2008, he called me from an MWR phone room, not on a satellite phone from a fire fight. I didn’t hear gun shots and people yelling on the other end of our phone calls. He wasn’t in danger in the same way Chris Kyle was, and I’m thankful for that.

Later, my husband told me about near-misses and close calls, but nothing compared to what Taya Kyle endured on the other end of that phone. ”How could Chris put Taya through a phone call like that?” I asked my husband, “Why call your wife when you’re being shot at?” He stoically responded “Most likely, he wasn’t thinking of it like that at all. It could have been the last time he talked to her.”

I also didn’t endure the hardship of being pregnant while my spouse was deployed, nor have I had to raise our 1-year-old with a father gone much of the time, or suffering from PTSD. My husband has been an awesome partner in her care. To the spouses forced to do much of it alone: you are my heroes.

American-Sniper-the-movieMy husband had a different take on the movie. He’s lost close friends in these wars. He’s attended far too many memorial services in his decade of Army service. One of his closest friends from ROTC was killed in her Humvee just weeks before she was slated to return home. And when I first met my husband in 2007, he was wearing the black KIA bracelet with her name on it …a name that would later become our daughter’s middle name.

As the movie ended, there were photos of Chris Kyle, his family, his brothers in arms, and his memorial service. My husband told me this was the hardest part of the movie for him to watch. The theater was completely silent as people filed out. We left the theater once the actual credits began to roll, still in complete silence, wrapping up our trash as quietly as possible.

That silence is what has stayed with me. I’ve seen movies where the audience applauded at the end, so I wondered how moviegoers would show respect for this story at the end of this film. Applause just didn’t feel right. A moment of silence out of respect for Chris Kyle was so much more impactful. And, if #AmericanSniper tweets are any representation, it seems that’s the way it’s been throughout much of the country.

Though the story was incredibly tragic, ultimately, it’s serving a purpose: educating our country about the dangers of PTSD. Though we were all silent as we exited the theater that day, we must not remain silent on this important issue. If you know someone you think may be suffering from PTSD, please support them in finding help. Say something and possibly save a life.

Have you seen American Sniper? How did the movie make you feel? Tell us what you thought of this amazing film in the comments below!

Melissa-JudyPosted by Melissa Judy, Social Media and Brand Manager

Cupcakes to 10K: The Fitness Struggle is Real

fitness-and-cupcakesMy husband is in the Army, and because he’s not in a job that requires him to do regular PT, he does CrossFit to stay in shape. He ran the Army 10 Miler last year with barely any training, and he prepares things like salmon and quinoa for dinner pretty regularly. It’s safe to say, he’s definitely fit.

I’ve always hated working out. Cake and I are best friends for life. The office I work in has a giant bowl of candy (usually chocolate) refilled often, and conveniently located near my desk. Office celebrations typically involve doughnuts and cake. Have I mentioned I love cake? And last year, I had my first child. So yeah, I’d say I’m a little fluffier than I’d like to be, but I’m still trying to set a good example for my daughter, who currently loves peas and blueberries; two foods I really don’t eat.

This year I’ll (attempt to) run my first 10K race. I’m doing it with sorority sisters who don’t live close to me, so to stay motivated, we text each other about our training. I’ve only ran 5K races before, so I’m definitely nervous the loser bus will pick me up before the finish line, and I won’t get to take a selfie with that shiny medal. I can see it now: I’ll be in my Cinderella costume, complete with tutu, guzzling water at each and every station, in an effort to NOT die. I really hate running.

Each year, I tell myself this is the year I’m going to work out all the time and eat kale …which is gross no matter how much you do to it. But somehow I manage to convince myself I’m not that unhealthy, even though I’m constantly sucking in my stomach and avoiding any clingy clothing. Recently, a woman behind the counter at a local deli actually asked me if I was pregnant. “No,” I said, “I just love cake.”

So is this the year, finally? I still don’t know, it’s too early to tell. With each run I take, I feel my lungs stretch a little more, and it’s slowly becoming easier. The sparkling water I drink, instead of my beloved Coke, tricks my brain into thinking I’m drinking soda, and most veggies are good if you dip them in hummus.

Ultimately, it’s a battle I wage with myself each day. No one else but me. Even though my husband sees this slightly ‘fluffy’ body and whistles with pride, it’s me who must be happy with the woman in the mirror. No amount of bulky sweaters and draping fabric will make me feel healthy. Feeling healthy will take work and discipline, both of which take more time than putting on camouflaging clothes.

Work and discipline are values my husband holds dear, and I know he’ll be an excellent person to lean on when I want to get a cupcake AND macarons.

Did you make a New Year’s resolution to get healthy? How did you stay motivated? Leave me a comment with your tips!

Melissa-JudyPosted by Melissa Judy, Social Media and Brand Manager

‘Tis the Season of Giving: Help Give Military Families Hope

While this holiday season is just a few weeks long, for military families, the giving is year round. They give up time with their loved one, special moments with their children, and spend holidays away from their own families. And some are struggling.

The transition home has not been equally kind to all our military families. And when things are not going well, the holidays can accentuate the difficulties.

But you and I can give them hope this holiday season. Through our unique and powerful Operation Purple® programs we can give them what they hope for.

They hope to make up lost time with their children.

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 They hope for an even stronger relationship with their spouse.

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They hope for peace on Earth, so others will not face the sacrifices they have.

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Military families have done so much for us, please help us give them new hope for their own future.

Can Military Connected Women Have It All?

As a working mom, it was an honor and a privilege to moderate a conversation between 4 amazing women at this year’s Leadership Lunch.

The topic: does a work-life balance exist for women in the military community? But really, the conversation applied to women—and even men with families.

Lieutenant General Flora Darpino, the first female Judge Advocate General of the U.S. Army is married to a retired Army colonel. They raised two daughters together. For LTG Darpino, it’s not about work-life balance. It’s about life.

“For me, work and life don’t have to be two separate things. I don’t look at it as two different buckets on a tight rope that I am trying to balance. I just have to figure out what is going to be in the bucket that I am going to carry.”

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Lakesha Cole, 2014 Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year®, is an entrepreneur. She’s founder and CEO of “She Swank Too,” a boutique for women and girls.  She stays balanced by bringing her kids to work with her, going along with the theme that life and work aren’t necessarily separate.

“My daughter lets me know that I am spending too much time at the computer. My daughter went so far as hiding my computer charger. Set those boundaries and stick to them.”

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Reda Hicks, 2014 Armed Forces Insurance Army Spouse of the Year®, has been a “remote” spouse for the past 6 years. She’s a practicing attorney in Houston, Texas where she lives with her son while her husband is stationed at Ft. Riley, Kansas.

“Women are their own worst critics. Is something that I am going to do when he is 3-years-old going to mess him up for the rest of his life? A lot of us are Type A, and we need to sometimes let some of that control go. I don’t have a formula for how it’s all supposed to work, but you just have to take it day-to-day.”

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Claudia Meyers, wrote, directed and produced Fort Bliss, a movie about an Army medic who comes back from deployment and struggles to resume her role of “mom” to her young son.

“It was the ultimate working mom scenario. Just like civilian mothers, it’s finding that balance between career and family. It’s one of the elements that goes into decision making – she is trying to make the best decision she can in an imperfect situation. When can you really be present and what compromises do you have to make.”

So, does a work-life balance exist for women in the military community? I learned that the answer depends on what balance means to each individual.

Now excuse me while I go reevaluate what’s in my bucket.

Besa-PinchottiPosted by Besa Pinchotti, Communications Director

A Full Home and a Full Heart, Thanks to 3 Midshipmen

macy-comes-home-087It’s just before Thanksgiving and our house is abuzz with excitement. You can feel it; the anticipation of days off from school, delicious food, and decorating for the upcoming Christmas holiday. You know–it’s that cozy, warm, fullness in your heart feeling. The holidays. Friends, family, and magical moments with the people you love.

But every now and again, for us military families, you get hit with an intense moment of loneliness. I felt it the other day when I was walking through the parking lot on the way home from running some errands. The wind blew and made the air chilly for Southern California… and I felt it. The need for my family. For the traditions from home. And for those friends who’ve known me since I was young. I feel it at least once every year during the holiday season and this year is no different.

Our assignments with the Air Force have all been full with new experiences and adventures, and amazing people who I am so grateful to know. I have loved all of our assignments, but the one I hold on extra tight to is our time in Annapolis, Maryland when my husband (remember, he’s Air Force) was a professor of Engineering at The United States Naval Academy.

This assignment was special for many reasons, but what made it extra special was our experience as a Sponsor Family for several young Midshipmen from The Naval Academy. We signed up to be a sponsor family within days of arriving in Annapolis, and I was so eager for the experience. Little did I know, these three particular young men would end up meaning so much to all of us.

Weekend after weekend, we would drive to the Academy promptly at 12 noon, and our 3 Plebes (freshman) would pile into the minivan, crisp in their uniforms, sitting among the car seats. Duffle bags of laundry in hand, we would drive home, and for the next 12 hours (they had to be back no later than 12 midnight) our home was their home. They would sleep, eat (oh, they ate so much), play with the kids, help around the house, do their laundry, study, and watch A LOT of TV.

These boys became like my sons–my kids’ older brothers. They were at our house the day we brought our 3rd child, Macy, home from the hospital. I will never forget taking pictures of these boys holding 2 day old Macy. They were at our house just days after my own father unexpectedly passed away. We always did our best to be there for them; break ups with girlfriends, failed tests, and when one of them also unexpectedly lost his father. Three years of ups and downs.

I loved having them around the most during the holidays, when the semester was winding down for them, and the buzz of going home to family and friends occupied their thoughts. That feeling of loneliness, longing for family and old friends, wasn’t as strong. My home was full, and my heart, fuller.

Cooking and decorating was more enjoyable knowing it was going to be enjoyed by, not only by us, but our “Mids,” as well. Those three young men, although they had no idea, were giving our family an extra purpose, an extra drive to make our house feel warm and welcome. They made our time in Annapolis meaningful. Although we opened our home and time to them, they gave us so much more.

Being a sponsor family is an experience I will always look back on with a grateful heart. Sadly, we weren’t in Annapolis for their entire four years at the Academy because the Air Force moved us to Los Angeles at the end of their junior year. Text messages and emails show up often, with updates from life in the Navy and Marine Corps.

I hope they will always know how special they were to our family, how often they cross our hearts, and even though they are no longer students, we are always here for them. And nothing will change that.

Jenny-ZollarsPosted by Jenny Zollars, Air Force Spouse

Are Veteran Kids Military Kids, Too?

NMFA-Veteran's-Day-2014-165“I’m a military kid too, right Mommy?” Zana, my 4-year-old asks hopefully. “I want us to be a military family!”

Clearly, I’ve been talking about the National Military Family Association a lot. And our recent trip to New York for the Veterans Day sealed the deal–military kids are awesome. Both girls had the privilege to walk with dozens of military families representing our Association in America’s Parade. Our message was so powerful that even a 4-year-old heard it loud and clear. It’s cool to be part of a military family!

But are we a military family?

My older daughter, Lira, was born when my husband was an active duty Marine—so she was definitely a military kid. But is she now? And what about Zana? Does being the child of a veteran count?

I thought about the poem written and recited by military kid Laura Marin at our Veterans Day reception:

“I’m an unrooted child. My life is mostly in brown boxes.”

“I’m leaving behind all that is familiar, again. I’m facing the unknown one more time.”

dave-and-liraNone of this describes my kids’ lives. We’ve lived in the same house, since transitioning out of the military, with no plans of moving. They don’t have to deal with deployments and separations. They don’t have to change schools or constantly make new friends. But they do have that military kid spirit.

They are proud. They are resilient, and even though one of my daughters wasn’t born and the other can barely remember when Dave was in the military—they are military kids.

They are growing up with a love of country. They respect and honor service. And like many veteran kids—they have to deal with the after-effects of military life . Dave was medically separated after having his spine fused (among other injuries), and can’t physically do what he once could. Going for a run isn’t an option, but he’ll ignore the pain and hold the girls on his shoulders when we go for a walk.

So Zana, yes. We are a military family. And we share this sentiment, also from Laura’s poem:

“Sleep peacefully in your beds at night United States of America. My family and I got your back.”

Do you think kids of veterans are still military kids? Let us know your thoughts!

Besa-PinchottiPosted by Besa Pinchotti, Communications Director

MilFams: Win a FREE House Cleaning from Merry Maids!

boxes-in-man-roomWith a few PCS moves under my belt, this is what’s left of the unpacked boxes inside my house. We moved in a year ago. That’s a win, right? Military families know boxes will inevitably move from state to state, sometimes country to country, and most likely won’t be opened for whatever reason. The unpacked boxes become a shrine of collected moving stickers–you know the ones. I won’t even talk about the chaos in my garage right now. I couldn’t tell you what’s in half of the boxes sitting out there.

Each time we prepare to move, I tell myself this time I’ll get rid of all the extra stuff, donate, purge, and move to our next home simplified and ready to unpack.

Easier said than done.

And once you finally get in the right mental state (because it is totally necessary, isn’t it?!) to start unpacking, placing things in their new spots, and turning your house into a home, you’re left with packing paper, empty boxes, and a house begging for a deep clean.

That’s where Merry Maids comes in.

garage-2Our Association has partnered with Merry Maids, a premier home cleaning company with over 30 years of experience to give five lucky military families a free house cleaning in honor of National Military Family Appreciation Month!

To enter: send us a photo of your house at it’s messiest (via Facebook or email to Social@MilitaryFamily.org) by November 30, 2014. A winner will be selected in each of Merry Maids’ five regions.

About that garage–you thought I was kidding, didn’t you?

What are your tips for cleaning up and unpacking? Share your tips with us!

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Content Development Manager