Category Archives: Military Families

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.

Jordan-BarrishPosted 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

45 Ways You Can Support Military Families!

Julia-Yeary-at-Rep,-Mark-Pocans-office“How can I help?”

If you are a volunteer, I’m certain you have probably asked yourself this question before! It seems to be one that is woven into the kind-hearted souls of those who strive to give back.

April is National Volunteer Month–a time to reflect upon the good deeds and generosity of a Nation of givers.

Did you know Volunteers are woven into the fabric of the National Military Family Association? Our Association was established 45 years ago by a group of Volunteers wanting to improve the lives of military families. We celebrate and recognize those who have helped pave the way to the Association during Volunteer Appreciation Week, which occurs during the second week of April.

Volunteering can come in all shapes and colors, especially when it comes to helping military families. No good deed is too big or too small. So, in honor of our Association’s 45th anniversary, we’ve made a list of 45 ways you can volunteer to help our service members and their supportive families:

  1. Become part of our Association. Join Today!
  2. Stay current on issues that affect military families.
  3. Send letters of support or sign petitions to Congressional members regarding military matters.
  4. Help fill the void left by deployed service members in the community. Be a youth sports coach or scout leader, etc.
  5. Volunteer with military support organizations like the USO.
  6. Donate monetarily to organizations that support the military and their families.
  7. Spread the word about what’s going on with military families in your state.
  8. Act as an adopted grandparent/aunt/uncle to a military child since they rarely live near their own families.
  9. Send holiday cards to deployed services members.
  10. Mentor a military teen.
  11. Donate to military thrift stores.
  12. Send care packages prepared for service members overseas.
  13. Become a reading buddy for a military child with a deployed parent.
  14. Participate in community ceremonies that honor the military.
  15. Babysit for a military family.
  16. Volunteer at military hospitals.
  17. Donate financially to the education of the children of fallen service members.
  18. Assist or hire a service member who is transitioning out of the military.
  19. Hire a military spouse in your place of business.
  20. Attend important doctor appointments in lieu of the service member so the spouse does not have to be alone.
  21. Donate, time, toys or educational materials to military daycare facilities.
  22. Give a service member your place in line.
  23. House-sit or watch a pet for a service member on temporary duty assignment.
  24. Volunteer to help clean military facilities or grounds.
  25. Tell a uniformed service member how much you appreciate him/ her.
  26. Perform spring cleanup in a service member’s yard; especially if they are deployed.
  27. Shovel snow from the driveway of a service member.
  28. Help military kids make gifts/cards for their parent on Mother’s Day or Father’s Day.
  29. Cheer loudly and stand tall when the military marches in a community parade.
  30. Put wreathes on graves of the fallen at holidays with Wreaths Across America.
  31. Have a pizza delivered to a military family when their member is deployed and you know they are tired.
  32. Give a military family a gift card to a movie theater.
  33. Offer to help a military spouse with car maintenance when the service member is deployed.
  34. Donate to organizations that support families of wounded service members.
  35. Set up a car pool during deployments to help shuttle busy military kids to activities.
  36. Act as an occasional caregiver for families of a wounded service member so the full time caregiver can take a break.
  37. Surprise a military spouse with a bouquet of flowers and a note that says “Thank you for serving too”!
  38. Let military families that are moving into or out of your community borrow household items or tools.
  39. Pet sit for free.
  40. Drive military families to the airport when they travel to visit their families.
  41. Host a tea/coffee for a group of spouses in your community center/church.
  42. Host a parent’s night out at your church for a military group.
  43. Donate blood.
  44. Follow social networking groups that are associated with military support organizations and repost on your personal pages.
  45. Hang the American flag in front of your home.

Do you have an idea of how you might volunteer to support military families in your community? If so, tell us about it!

Posted by Meredith Moore, Volunteer Services Coordinator, National Capital Region

Making the Military a Career: How an Elephant Sat on My Dreams

flag-on-a-white-picket-fenceThere’s been an elephant in the room between my husband and me for a while. That one huge topic we’ve been dancing around. We think we know what the other is thinking, and feel okay when the topic drifts away, untouched. Because it’s a big, fat, life-changing elephant:

Are we really going to make the military a career; we’re really going to do 20 years of this?

I’ll be honest: I dreamt of a life where my kids would grow up having the same friends since second grade, like I did. I hoped to see my husband work a job with normal hours and be able to come home at 5pm and coach little league. I thought I’d get to have tons of quality time with my best girlfriends from college, since they’d live right around the corner. I relished in the idea of being able to take a vacation with little to no advanced planning.

When I first met my husband, his goal was to do a short enlistment, then transition back to the civilian work force, allowing all of my little white-picket-fence dreams to come true. Now, we’re 8 years in, and my husband has some of the most elite and prestigious tours in the military on his resume. We have had amazing opportunities because of his service – some I never imagined possible…like meeting the President of the United States in the Oval Office and using the big, important phone on his desk. Okay, so only half of that is true, but still: IT’S THE PRESIDENT.

Recently, we stopped ignoring the elephant in the room and had the talk: are we staying in, or getting out? His eyes widened with excitement as he went through all the possibilities awaiting him in his next decade of service. Mine sank to my feet as reality set in that my perfectly planned life with the white picket fence probably won’t happen.

So, what does that mean for me and my perfectly planned life and white picket fence? Honestly, I have no idea, and that scares me a little bit. But in the last 8 years, I’ve learned that life doesn’t come in a perfectly packaged box. It might come in 3 year billets and surprise IA deployments. It can require a therapist and some serious amounts of wine. And wine is totally okay.

Military life doesn’t exactly give you the opportunity to dream up a life you’d love to have. But I guess that’s the beauty of this one of a kind journey. It gives you other things you never thought to dream up.

Have you and your spouse made the decision to make the military a career? What advice would you give?

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Online Engagement Manager

Testimony Countdown: Getting the Military Family Message to Congress

Kathy-testimonyHave you ever been invited to testify before Congress? It’s a rare opportunity, and no matter how many times it happens (30+ times for our Association since Operation Enduring Freedom) it really gets your adrenaline pumping. Our next opportunity is this week—March 26th.

Years of listening to military family concerns, years of becoming experts in military health care, child care, spouse employment, and our premier issue – the well-being of military families- go into crafting our statement. Since last year, we’ve been faced with the threats of sequestration and a proposed budget that asks military families to sacrifice once again. We’ve been asking Congress to remember military families, and to understand that the resources to keep those families ready must be sustained not diminished.

So where do we begin?

  1. We develop our position. We start with our blueprint – the 2014 Legislative and Policy Priorities. We add in the newest information from the budget proposal and analyze the impact it will have on military families. We spend a lot of time in discussion – with other advocates, with subject matter experts. We talk to military families – our volunteers, the ones we interact with on social media. We ask questions through surveys and through our scholarship applications.
  2. We write, rewrite and then rewrite again. All the Government Relations deputy directors – Eileen, Karen and Brooke – have been glued to their keyboards crafting their sections of the testimony for the past two weeks. We worry about writing too much or not writing enough. We need to include enough background to put the issue in context. While I have certain sections to write in my areas of expertise, it’s my job as director to compile all the pieces.
  3. We make tough editing decisions. Our initial document—all 30 pages of it—then went to our Government Relations advisory committee. They all agree it’s too, too long. But what do we leave out??? Joyce Raezer, our Executive Director, and I spent several hours one evening going over the statement line by line to make sure we captured every concept we needed to. Katie, our information manager, did a long distance final edit that (hopefully) captured every typo.
  4. We seal it with a social media kiss. On Friday morning, we declared it “done” and sent the statement on its way to the Subcommittee staff. This year, we’ve incorporated our Communications department more closely into the process. We want military families like yours to know exactly what we are fighting for, and we want to give you the opportunity to raise your voice with us.

I have one thing left to write: my 3-minute oral statement that I’ll give at the hearing. Condensing everything we’ve worked on into a few short minutes will be difficult, but I won’t be alone. Three other members of The Military Coalition will testify alongside me. Those panelists will talk about compensation, health care, and the concerns of the National Guard and Reserve. I’ll use my time to talk about why the savings we get from shopping at the commissary are vital, and how our families rely on family support programs and resources not only during deployment but to empower us during uncertain times. I’ll also reinforce the importance of support for surviving families and for the caregivers of the wounded, ill and injured.

After our statements, we’ll answer questions from the Senators who attend the hearing.

You already know what I’ll say – it’s what you told us to say. We’ve listened, and we’ll make sure that Congress hears you loud and clear on Wednesday and on the days to follow.

You can read our statement on line right after we present it. You can also watch the hearing live online and follow us on Twitter where we’ll be live tweeting throughout the day.

Tomorrow is the day. Will you tune in to see our testimony before Congress?

kathyPosted by Kathleen Moakler, Government Relations Director