Category Archives: Military Families

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

One Month Isn’t Enough: Who Really Cares About Military Families?

Each year, a Presidential Proclamation declares November as Military Family Month. Most years, it doesn’t even make national news. The backbone of our Nation’s military, the supporters behind the uniform, the ones who rise to meet the challenge of serving silently—military families hardly receive a minute of recognition.

Does anyone really care about military families?

Military families not only need your encouragement and support, they deserve it.

Here are four reasons why:

Reason #1: The Romesha Family

Romesha-family

Tammy Romesha, Army wife, and mother of three, manned the homefront while her husband did tours in Kosovo, Korea, and Iraq. After a violent tour in Afghanistan, where SSgt Clint Romesha’s outpost was overran by insurgents, injuring him and 22 others, and killing eight Soldiers, Tammy stood strong and supported her husband’s love for the Army. SSgt Romesha was awarded the Medal of Honor in February 2013 for leading the efforts to retake the overrun outpost. Today, Tammy sits on our Association’s Board of Advisors, lending knowledge, perspective, and support to our mission to advocate for other military families.

Reason #2: Military Kids

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A recent study found that about 1/3 of military children report symptoms of anxiety. These kids have worries that most normal adults don’t—stressors like deployed parents, frequent moves, and sometimes a parent’s injury. But military kids are resilient, and we’ve seen it firsthand. This Operation Purple Camper had a blast during her time at camp. One of three kids to a Retired Army dad, and a former military mom, she is a shining example of how military kids are able to thrive despite the challenges they face.

Reason #3: The Sisson Family

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Since losing their son, 2nd Lt. Justin Sisson, to injuries sustained when an IED exploded on his walking patrol in June 2013, the Sisson family has spent each day since remembering the life he left behind and thinking of legacy he never had the chance to create. Many Gold Star families—who have lost loved ones to war—share the same fear: that their loved one will be forgotten. Through the creation of a scholarship fund, annual memorial 5k races, and the outpouring of support, the Sissons continue to keep their son’s spirit and sacrifice alive.

Reason #4: Amy Chaffin

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During her three years as a military spouse Volunteer with our Association, Amy has raised important issues, such as the Army’s change in background checks, requiring those who volunteer with children to agree to have their medical and behavioral health records reviewed. Not only did Amy raise the issue, but she provided well-thought out reasons why this is problematic, and continued to follow the issue and provide subsequent information. Military spouses, like Amy, not only support their own service members, but lend their support beyond their own kitchen table, reaching out to their communities, military installations, and their fellow military spouses.

Though the Presidential Proclamation only declares November as Military Family Month, our Association believes every single day is Military Family Day. Join us every month as we honor, appreciate, and support the ones who make it possible for their service member to serve without hesitation.

Do you know any amazing military families who deserve recognition? Who would you add to the list?

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Content Development Manager

Silently Serving: Domestic Violence Awareness Month

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and each day, military families face this silent war in their own homes. Over the last five years, the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps, together, averaged just less than 8,000 domestic violence complaints per year. 

And the domestic violence battle rages on, thanks to the rough road spouses face when they report domestic abuse. We urge the Department of Defense to create a better environment for reporting abuse, so spouses can ask for help and know they’ll get it.

Military families shouldn’t serve silently.

For information on Military Protective Orders, or other resources to help, visit: www.MilitaryOneSource.mil, or www.MilitaryFamily.org.

Read more about DoD’s efforts to prevent and treat domestic violence,

Keep Your Military Life “Pinteresting!”

October is here and so is the unofficial start of DIY season. Are you creating a Halloween costume for the kiddos? Maybe making a fall wreath for your front door? Do you need a recipe to take to command “mandatory fun” events? We’ve got you covered! We’ve got boards upon boards of awesome ideas on our Pinterest page – from DIY home projects to patriotic tasty treats you’ll drool over. Follow us and start pinning those perfect holiday ideas!

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The Quiet Holiday: Gold Star Mother’s Day

justin-sissonEach year, countless holidays pass with celebration and joy. We look forward to cook outs, costumes, and even gift-giving. Then there are the days, like Gold Star Mother’s Day, occurring on the fourth Sunday in September, which we remember solemnly as a sobering reminder of the ones left behind after the ultimate sacrifice is paid.

For Phyllis Sisson, today marks her second Gold Star Mother’s Day. A day, among many, spent remembering her son, 2nd Lt. Justin Sisson, who died from injuries sustained when an IED exploded during his foot patrol in Afghanistan on June 3, 2013.

To most, Gold Star Mother’s Day passes without notice. For those who have lost, it’s another heartbreaking day that passes without their child.

“As a Gold Star Mother, I know what has been lost. I know what might have been. I hope that sharing my story will let another grieving mother know she is not alone. Others have stood in her shoes. We want to be there to support and keep the memory of our children alive.”

In the time since Justin’s death, communities, families, friends, and even strangers, have joined together in Justin’s memory to remember and honor the precious life behind the uniform.

At Justin’s alma mater, Florida State University (FSU), Students for America’s Military, a registered student organization, created a 5k race in Justin’s honor, with proceeds from the race going to fund an ROTC scholarship set up in his name, to be awarded to an exemplary FSU ROTC cadet.

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“He is also being honored by his school district in Overland Park, Kansas, with a Battlefield Cross statue and memorial at his high school. This will be unveiled on Veterans’ Day, November 11, 2014,” Phyllis shared. “We are also working on a stretch of highway in Kansas to be named in his memory.”

Though Gold Star Mother’s Day is a somber one, for Phyllis, it’s a special day to talk about her son.

“We talk about [Justin] all the time. The fear for us all, and that includes all Gold Star families, is that our loved ones will be forgotten. That is unbearable.”

On such a bitter sweet day for our Nation’s Gold Star Mothers, we encourage you to reach out to those who have lost children to war. Even simply sharing gratitude and thanks can bring joy to a quiet day.

“Hardly a week goes by that we don’t hear from someone, reaching out to tell us how Justin inspired and touched their life. That is a great legacy and testament to him.”

Even though Gold Star Mother’s Day is not filled with the type of celebration and joy associated with most holidays; the remembrance, honor, and the occasional funny anecdote shared among friends allows this day to become a celebration of life, honor, and memories that will live in the hearts of loving mothers forever.

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Content Development Manager