Category Archives: Military Families

Fort Bliss Movie Hits Home for Military Families

“Reality is messy and people are raw, and that’s just who we are.” – Claudia Myers – Writer, Director and Producer of Fort Bliss

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I was given the amazing opportunity this week to join some of my co-workers at a special screening of the movie, Fort Bliss, this week at The Women in Military Service for America Memorial.

Michelle Monaghan plays a soldier returning from a 15-month deployment to Afghanistan, only to face new battles at home. Her 5-year-old son has all but forgotten her, and she has forgotten how to relate to him. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house as the story explored aspects of military life that we talk about at the National Military Family Association (NMFA) daily, but that are rarely portrayed in Hollywood:

  • Why would someone re-enlist after spending so much time away from their family?
  • How can someone be a good soldier and a good parent?
  • What is it really like coming back from deployment?
  • Are there different expectations for female service members than their male counterparts?
  • How to families cope with mental health challenges after deployment?

Not only was the movie incredible, the actors (including Emmanuelle Chriqui, Ron Livingston Gbenga Akinnagbe and Pablo Schreiber) developed a real passion for military families while making the movie. During the Q & A session following the screening, the actors had a lot to say about gender roles, abuse, PTSD, transitioning veterans, and more.

Not long ago I shared my thoughts as a civilian caring for military families in a blog post titled, “Military Family Support Shouldn’t Just Come From Military Families“. I love seeing others display the same passion for the families NMFA fights for every day.

“Fort Bliss is what it is. It’s a gigantic film made on a micro budget with a huge impact,” said Producer, John Sullivan.

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Where can you see this movie?

Fort Bliss won the Best Narrative Feature at the G.I. Film Festival this year and we were lucky enough to see it before it hits select theaters this weekend in New York, L.A. and El Paso.

What if I don’t live in New York, L.A. or El Paso?

You can still support this incredible movie. Help us spread the word by sharing this with your friends, buy tickets at the theaters in those cities even if you can’t attend, and call your local theater to ask if they will bring the movie to your hometown.

“Service men and women are heroes, they are strong, they are resilient, and they all face challenges of leaving pieces of them behind when they fight for our country.” – Gbenga Akinnagbe

Let’s support a movie that supports military families. Together we’re stronger.

Jordan-BarrishPosted by Jordan Barrish, Public Relations Manager

Permanent Change of Sanity: Our Adventures in PCSing

moving-boxes-leftWhen my Marine told me we would be PCSing to TwentyNine Palms, California in January 2015, I thought, “Nice, there is enough time to mentally prepare and work on building my network without the stress of having to do it with only 30 days’ notice.” I felt like the luckiest girl in the world! Thanks Marine Corps; thanks for giving us an opportunity to actually have a solid (and maybe stress free) move!

In my head, I was planning our “Lowes Are Moving” holiday bash, where we would invite over all of our friends for one final toast in the home we had enjoyed for the last several years. We’d have a garage sale, and get rid of all our dead weight from the last few moves…or as we like to call it: unopened boxes with TMO stickers from 10 years ago. There would be going away parties, a few farewell girls’ nights, and some final visits to some of our favorite spots.

Silly me.

My husband came home a few weeks later and said, “Hey, so…our house will be ready in about 10 days, and the movers will be here at the same time.”

I can’t remember the EXACT conversation, but all my ears heard were ten days. 10 DAYS! Just like that. No parties, no final toast, no garage sale.

PCS translated to Permanent Change of Sanity.

This little change in plans ALMOST crushed my soul. I’m not one of those people who can plan and organize a move with the greatest of ease; I need time to mentality prepare. To the spouses who can easily create neatly organized lists: I salute you! I have marveled at your skills for years.

I’m more of an adventure seeker and “I wonder what’s going to happen next?!” type of person. There’s more flying-by-the-seat-of-my-pants than I would like to admit.

If you’ve got a quick PCS coming, take some of my advice:

Don’t stress. Well, a little is okay! Moving is stressful. Try to find ways to cope with the stress. I found a little 45 minute jog does wonders for me. It’s like my reset button. I’m also a big fan of a nice, hot shower to wash off all the cleaning, box dust and stress. Just take a few minutes to decompress.

Get to know your new area…virtually. One of my favorite ways to check out a new duty station is viewing the websites of various organizations. The Marine Corps Community Service page and the Chamber of Commerce are two of my favorite places to start. Are you seeking employment? Check out local job listings and employment pages. Or, are you thinking of a career change, or unleashing your entrepreneurial side? Go ahead and do that! A new duty station is a great opportunity to explore a new career field, or take a class in something you’ve always wanted to learn more about. Look for opportunities to volunteer in that field while you’re fine tuning your skills. I had been active in our previous community, so the sleuthing began as soon as I received our new destination. Is there a local extension of the organizations I have been working with for the last few years? Where is the gym? Are there spouse groups on this base? Who do I know that’s already there? WHO IS THE LOCAL INTERNET PROVIDER?!

moving-with-soldierGet to know your new neighbors. PCS season is virtually year round, so some of your neighbors are new, too! Our new neighbors brought over a delicious homemade pie the second day we were here. When a moving van showed up at the house next to us the week after, we paid it forward. This is the perfect time to ask for referrals, and recommendations for doctors, or places to go and see.
Take care of you. Take a break when you need it and just be. That could mean doing a coffee run for an iced quad venti caramel awesome latte, or just hanging out with your kids in their new park. The boxes will be there when you get back.

Everything is temporary. You know that moment when your family is begging for food and you can’t find plates in the sea of boxes, the dog throws up on the carpet in your brand new home, the cable guy can’t find your address, and your mom is calling NON-STOP to see how things are going? Yeah, that moment is stressful. And that moment is temporary. Just go one box at a time, and one foot in front of the other.

Cleanse and discover! That military ball dress you wore six years ago, that doesn’t quite fit right anymore… get rid of it. Moving is a great opportunity to cleanse your home of things you don’t need, use, or want anymore. And it’s one less thing you have to deal with on the other side. On the flip side, going through all those old boxes gives you the chance to find things that you haven’t seen in years. I found my degrees and awards hanging out with some old papers in a box that wasn’t even opened at our last duty station. That stuff is going on the wall of our new home.

Learn the local language… and other stuff too! Some duty stations require deep learning. At other places, it’s just a matter of getting out in your local community and asking questions. Last weekend, I had dinner with a group of locals who schooled me on the language, places to see, key phrases, and great places to eat (and some to avoid). Apparently, I was interchanging some phrases that didn’t make sense to the locals, and was referring to places that didn’t exist in the context I was using. But I managed to find a great Thai place for dinner (totally picked via Yelp reviews), and it turned out to be one of the best!

One going away party at Denny’s, and four weeks later, we are settling into our new home. We picked up the “Things to Do Guide,” with at least two years’ worth of action packed adventures. So, we started going through it and put things to do in order of awesomeness – which is a great job for kids and teenagers! We found a hiking group, a yoga group, an entrepreneur group, and a pretty great deli. Outside of the new bugs, insects, and strange little footprints I am trying to identify, it’s been a pretty good experience!

I hope your PCS turns out to be a good experience, too!

Have you ever gotten orders and had no time to prepare?

Posted by Sue Lowe, Marine Corps Spouse, TwentyNine Palms Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center (MCAGG), CA

Military Families: Living the History of September 11th

September 11, 2001—the day our Nation stood still. The day that seemed as if it would never pass. The day that started the longest war in our country’s history. While families of the 2,996 lost that day grieved for their loved ones, families of those serving grieved for what they knew loomed around the corner.

More than 6,800 service members have paid the ultimate price in the 4,749 days since September 11, 2001.

What our Nation remembers as a day in history, military families continue to live every day.

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A Toast to Temporary: It’s Who We Are

rohe-famThe other day, I was at Dollar General picking up balloons for my kids’ “Boohoo Woohoo” tea, a yearly way of saying farewell summer, hello new school year, held on the first day of school. As I waited to have 8 blue stars and 8 white stars filled with helium, my heart started racing, I began to sweat, and I couldn’t catch my breath.

“I’m sick of temporary,” I thought.

I don’t know what school colors my children will have when they reach high school. I have no idea what their mascot will be. Will they ever even talk to anyone they had in their kindergarten class? I grew up in a small town where your school colors and mascot were the same from kindergarten all the way through your senior year. Our parents ordered a larger size for spirit wear because they wanted it to last a few years. Now, as a military family, I question even ordering spirit wear knowing it will only be worn for the next 6 weeks while my child is actually playing on that team.

Temporary. I don’t want to accept temporary anymore. I want to establish roots. I’m tired of looking around this house and accepting its flaws because it’s only temporary. I’m saddened when I think about my friends here – there’s only two options ahead: they’ll move first, or I’ll move away, leaving them behind. I don’t want my kids to have to try out for a new team next year. I don’t want to have to find a new running partner.

Then something crazy happened.

My husband planned a fancy dinner at home for our anniversary. He is an amazing cook and prepared a fabulous seafood feast. He put a bottle of wine in my hand and told me to read the description. The wine, called Gnarly Head, states, “Here’s to the vines, and to a life lived boldly. These heroic vines, produce intense fruit flavors and deeply concentrated wine-matched only by the passion of the people who drink them.”

And there it is! US! Living life boldly, with a passion for our country.

Temporary is who we are.

Do you ever feel overwhelmed with things feeling temporary? How do you see the bright side?

Lyndy-RohePosted by Lyndy Rohe, Communications Administrative Assistant

5 Tips to a Healthier Military Family Lifestyle!

fitmilfamsIt’s no secret that summer months lure families outside, and draw attention to health and fitness. This year, the Coca-Cola Foundation focused on health and wellness within military families, and provided our Association with a donation of $50,000 to award to military spouses seeking their degree or certification in a health and fitness-related field.

We asked our military spouse scholarship recipients to share a few helpful tips for families, like theirs, to get on the right track towards a healthier and active lifestyle. Here’s what they said:

  1. Get Physical! Get outside and play– make daily activity a ‘norm’ in your family’s life! Create fun activities so exercise isn’t a chore.
  2. Make Health Food Fun! Have kids help in the kitchen and give them options so they learn to make healthy decisions. Try making fruit and veggie smoothies! Cook meals as a family and enjoy the change in lifestyle together!
  3. Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail. Have fruits or veggies on hand and chopped up for an on-the-go snack. Pack lunches to avoid the unhealthy options from school. Take time on the weekend to meal plan and make a grocery list.
  4. Get your Zzz’s! Create regular practices to wind down at the end of the day. Make sleep something your family values. Stick to a routine when possible.
  5. Hydrate! Hydrate! Hydrate! Drink more water! Use a fun water bottle to encourage water consumption all day long. Add your favorite fruits or vegetables to infuse water with flavor. Yum!

Is your family staying active and leading a healthy lifestyle this summer? We want to see! Share a picture using hashtag #FitMilFams of your family getting fit and healthy with us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, and be entered to win a Coca-Cola Visa card worth $200, $100 or $50! Photo submissions will be accepted August 18-August 24, 2014.

Get out there and get fit!

Contributors:
Melinda Boyd, Air Force Spouse – Registered Dietitian working towards a doctorate in clinical nutrition
Laura Hand, Navy Spouse – Working towards becoming a registered yoga teacher
April Walker, Marine Corp spouse – Pursuing a certification in group fitness Instruction

Protecting Your Military Family Online: It’s YOUR Duty

militarycybersecurityHow many times have you heard the phrase, “Loose lips sink ships?”

What about “The enemy is listening?”

If you’re a military family, you’ve heard them before. And you’ve probably seen the posters around your installation reminding you to practice good Operational Security (OPSEC). As much as we sometimes tire of hearing the reminders, our military would fail to thrive without it.

In a time where deployments, reunions, births, and even deaths are blasted across social media channels, the lines drawn between being supportive, and being dangerous become blurred. Are you keeping your family safe?

We hosted a panel of experts to talk about this. General Michael Hayden, former CIA Director and Cyber Security Expert, and Kevin Mandia, top Cybercrime Sleuth offered tips for military families to protect themselves online.

Protecting our Nation is the duty of our service members. Protecting your military family online should be yours.

Could you be doing more to protect your family? What other tips could you give other military families?

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Online Engagement Manager

Parent Pride: Being the Parent of a Gay Service Member

american-and-pride-flagI was honored to be asked to part of a panel for the Pentagon Pride event recently. As part of the recognition of cultural diversity, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community in the Pentagon comes together to speak about what it means to be gay and to work for, or be in, the military.

I was there as the parent of a gay service member; one who loves her child and, who, before the recent changes to Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act, worried about her as well.

Her father and I always supported her. We always loved her and welcomed her partner (now wife) into our family with open arms. It broke my heart to listen to one couple on the panel, living the military life with children, who did not have the love and support of other family members.

I listened to the other panel members talk about their experiences as they came out to co-workers and military comrades. For the most part, those folks were welcomed in their military communities, and were gifted with extraordinary kindnesses. I heard them talk about experiences so similar to my family’s as we raised our military kids. Volunteering as a family, experiencing moves, doing all the things families (especially military families) do.

But now they can do them in the open and not worry about adverse impacts on careers.

The most wonderful aspect of the whole panel? How ordinary the lives of these newly minted, and newly recognized, military families seemed to be, and how easily they had been assimilated in the short two years since the repeal of Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell.

I see that in the life of my daughter and her wife. No drama, just everyday life. Work, play, TDYs, caring for their canine child, keeping up their new home…living the military dream.

There are many organizations that members of the military’s LGBT community have created to support their families, and to work to overcome the obstacles that still exist, like recognition of gay marriage by individual states. Dear to my heart is the Military Partners and Families Coalition, who reached out to our Association the day before the repeal of Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell, looking for support for their families. We are a proud member of their coalition.

The American Military Partner Association invited our Association to be sponsors of their first-ever military gala, which we gladly accepted.

And, I can’t forget to salute Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) – the original parent support group for the parents of LGBT children. Their original support book for parents has been replaced by specifically targeted booklets and brochures, but the message is still the same – loving and supporting your children.

And isn’t that what it’s all about?

Are you a parent of a gay service member? What ways do you support them?

kathyPosted by Kathy Moakler, Government Relations Director