Category Archives: Military Families

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

 

Looking for a Few Good AmeriCorps Members!

americorps-logoAre you a military spouse or recent college graduate looking for a service opportunity in the National Capital Region? The National Military Family Association is looking for candidates to serve for a one-year term as an AmeriCorps member at our headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia.

For 3 years, our Association has reaped the benefits of hosting AmeriCorps members through the American Legion Auxiliary Call to Service Corps AmeriCorps Project. Our AmeriCorps members have helped boost our Association’s capacity to serve military families by working primarily with our Government Relations staff, while providing assistance to other departments, such as Volunteer Services, Youth Initiatives, and our Scholarship program.

We are pleased to announce we are accepting applications for AmeriCorps members for the coming year, beginning immediately.

As an AmeriCorps member with our Association, you can expect your work to be ever changing as needs arise. You may be researching changes to TRICARE in the morning, analyzing survey results at lunch, writing a blog about your help at one of our Operation Purple camps in the afternoon, and attending a gala for service members and their families in the evening.

We try to tailor our projects for our AmeriCorps members based upon their skills and interests, and our Association’s needs.

Due to AmeriCorps regulations, our AmeriCorps members can’t lobby the government in any way, so if you’re hoping to storm Capitol Hill to end sequestration, or convince Department of Defense officials to save the commissary, AmeriCorps might not be the position for you.

If you’ve got the tenacity and drive to storm Capitol Hill, and fight for military families, KUDOS! We love your spirit, and still want you to join us!

While not a purely volunteer position, the stipend is around $12,000 a year. The job is 40 hours a week, and considered full-time. Which means we’ll see your smiling face Monday through Friday in our offices in Alexandria, Virginia. There are healthcare and scholarship aspects to the position, too!

Still want to learn more? We’ve got AmeriCorps members who have served in our office previously, and would be happy to talk to you about their experiences. And just like we mentioned, they write blog posts for us, too! Read why Nate loves military families, and find out why he refused to say ‘good bye’ to us!

If you want to provide support to military families of the seven Uniformed Services in a welcoming office environment, while improving your professional expertise, apply today! You can reach us at Info@MilitaryFamily.org.

kathyPosted by Kathy Moakler, Government Relations Director

Military Family Support Shouldn’t Just Come From Military Families

patriotic-girlI am not a military spouse and neither of my parents served in the military. So why would I want to work to help support military families? Because in one way or another, we all have a connection to military families.

My mom was a military kid. She and her five brothers and sisters lived in Texas, New York, Georgia, Alabama, Kansas, Germany, and Colorado, and finally settled in Florida after my grandpa retired. My grandfather was a Lt. Colonel in the Army and served in the military during both the Korean and Vietnam wars. Sadly, he passed away a few weeks after I was born, so I was never able to hear his stories firsthand. But I still get to hear stories at each family get-together—stories about PCSing, deployments, living overseas, and living on base.

Even though I don’t know what military life feels like, I know military families are strong and resilient, and they serve too.

I have always been grateful to the military for all they do. I was in 7th grade when September 11th happened. In college, I felt compelled to stand on the streets to show my respect while the funeral procession of a boy from my high school passed by. He was brought back to our hometown after losing his life protecting ours.

When the 10th anniversary of September 11th came, I helped organize a ceremony in my hometown which honored families who had lost someone on that tragic day, and throughout the wars that followed.

I have enjoyed supporting our military since I was young, and I wanted to find a way to support our military as an adult.

As a new member of the Communications department here at our Association, I could not be more proud to be working with this organization. I want to help secure better resources and benefits for military families. I want to make sure military families’ voices are heard.

And I want to make sure civilians know military families shouldn’t be the only ones supporting each other.

I don’t think you need to be a military family to love military families. We are all connected to a military family in some way. Whether it’s a direct connection, a friend, or a neighbor.

Even in the short time I’ve worked for the Association, I’ve met so many military families within our community, and across the country, and I am honored to do my best to support them.

jordanPosted by Jordan Barrish, Public Relations Manager

Military Spouses are Changing the Face of the Mental Health Profession!

soldier-hugging-childIt’s common knowledge that there’s a mental health crisis brewing in the United States. May is Mental Health Awareness month, but at the National Military Family Association, the mental health of our military families weighs on our minds all year.

From spouses who spend their days caring for an injured or wounded service member, to children who struggle with a parent’s deployment, it’s more and more apparent that the military lifestyle affects the mental health of not only the service member, but those who support them, too.

But are there enough mental health professionals out there to help military families? While the number of mental health professionals who have experience with military families grow, there’s one group of people who know they’ve got what it takes to change the face of mental health in the military community….

More and more military spouses are continuing their own educations and joining the mental health profession.

“With my degree, I hope to work with service members and their families who struggle with the after effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD),” says military spouse Stephanie Dannan.

But did you know our Association offers scholarship funding for spouses seeking clinical supervision hours to become mental health counselors?

Thanks to a $100,000 gift from United Health Foundation, we’re awarding spouses money to cover such hours, and move them closer to becoming licensed! United Health Foundation is the charitable arm of UnitedHealth Group, the most diversified health care company in the United States, and a leader worldwide in helping people live healthier lives and helping to make the health system work better for everyone.

Military spouses entering the mental health profession bring knowledge of the military community, and an ability to relate to other spouses and service members that their civilian counterparts might lack. These spouses have a generous spirit and want to help the communities they call home.

Stephanie was able to make her dream a reality by applying for, and receiving one of our military spouse scholarships, “I have an opportunity to give back to those who have fought for my freedom, and with this scholarship, I am one step closer to helping them.”

alliePosted by Allie Jones, Military Spouse Scholarship Program Manager

Appreciating the Military, One Homecoming at a Time

sailors-on-carrier-shipHuddling on the pier on a frigid April morning, I shivered and wished I had thought to wear a winter coat instead of a light spring jacket. Who would have expected it to be 40 degrees in Norfolk, Virginia in April? Beside me, my teenage daughter yawned exaggeratedly, reminding me that it was not her choice to be awake and at the base by 7:00 AM. Neither one of us was quite as excited about this homecoming as we should have been. My husband had flown out to meet the ship toward the end of its long deployment, so we hadn’t experienced the many months of separation that other families had. Still new to the command, we hadn’t yet met many of the other families and stood off to the side, feeling awkward and out of place.

Before too long, however, we were caught up in the excitement of the families gathered on the pier. Proud parents held cameras high, ready to catch a photo of their young Sailor’s first homecoming. Young moms cradled newborns and kept careful watch on wound up toddlers. Everywhere there were banners and flags welcoming Sailors back home. Soon even my usually “too cool for school” teenager was waving a flag and jumping up and down, craning her head to catch the first glimpse of the ship.

A few minutes before 8:00, a roar went up from the crowd as the ship appeared in the harbor. Despite the wind and cold, Sailors in their summer whites stood proudly at attention along the ship’s rails. Families waved their banners wildly, hoping to catch their Sailor’s eye. I knew from experience that the crew couldn’t wait to rush off the ship and find their waiting families, but unfortunately guiding a massive warship into a slip isn’t quite as easy as parking a car. Minutes dragged on as the ship maneuvered carefully into place and secured to the pier.

Finally, the ship secure and the gangplank in place, Sailors began streaming off the ship. First, the lucky winner of the “First Kiss” raffle sprinted off the ship and into the arms of his thrilled wife. Then the new dads emerged to meet the babies born during the long months the ship was away. Finally, the rest of the crew began to disembark. All around us, families were reuniting, sharing their first hugs in months. Tearful moms held on to their Sailors as proud dads beamed and shot photos. Other Sailors knelt before shy preschoolers who barely remembered the parent who’d been gone for so long. Young moms gladly handed off heavy toddlers to dads who couldn’t believe how much they’d grown.

My daughter and I stood in the middle of the crowd, taking it all in. The excitement and emotion of families reuniting after such a long time was overwhelming. Right then, I realized how privileged we were to share in this moment. We might not know everyone there, but we were still part of the same family – the military family. I glanced at my daughter to see if she was feeling the same way, but she was looking past me, toward the ship. She grabbed my arm and without a trace of teenage boredom in her voice, squealed, “Look, Mom! There’s Dad!”

eileenPosted by Eileen Huck, Government Relations Deputy Director