Category Archives: Military Families

Is War From the Homefront Sabotaging Military Marriages? ‘Good Kill’ Says Yes.

Good Kill trailer image
Last night, I attended the D.C. premiere of the new Ethan Hawke-January Jones movie, “Good Kill,” about Air Force pilot turned drone operator, Maj. Tom Egan. If you’re interested in drones, you’ll learn a lot from this movie—but what hit home for me was how this service member’s high-stress job impacted his relationship with his wife.

As a drone pilot, Maj. Egan often kills dozens of people, watches the aftermath on the computer screen, then drives home to his wife and kids. The film explores how the emotional stress and responsibility of being a drone pilot creates a wedge between his wife and him. Mostly, he shuts down. “It’s not about the security clearance, I just don’t want to rehash it.” But when he does confide in her he admits, “I feel like a coward every day.”

Their marriage heads south fast, due to his internal struggles, alcoholism, and anger management. In one scene, they talk about how things were so much better when he was actually flying planes over Afghanistan for months at a time. “It was scarier back then, but at least we made each other laugh.”

In the Q&A following the movie, I asked Ethan Hawke and Director Andrew Niccol why they chose to depict the relationship that way. Niccol said that’s what the drone pilots he interviewed experienced. As he explained, there’s no time to decompress; they can’t compartmentalize; their family doesn’t understand what they’re dealing with on a daily basis, or how – even though they’re technically “home”—they can’t be available in the same way other non-service members are.

There’s a scene in the movie when Maj. Eagan sends a last minute text saying he can’t pick up their kids from school.

“You promised,” his wife reminded him. “And I had an appointment today.”

“Was your appointment life or death?” he asked. “Because mine was.” He had been assigned—at the last minute—to keep a group of soldiers safe by watching them through a drone camera so they could get some sleep.

That part of the movie hit me like déjà vu. I was taken back to my first year of marriage. It was Valentine’s Day and we had plans. I’d made a candlelit dinner and a handmade book chronicling our first year together. There I was in Jacksonville, North Carolina waiting for my Marine to come home and celebrate. Hours later, sometime after 10pm he came home apologizing, but there was nothing he could say. I was hurt and enraged. He begged me to understand, saying a life-or-death situation kept him at work. One of his Marines had attempted suicide in the barracks and nearly succeeded, and he was dealing with the aftermath—the hospital, the NCIS agent, the rest of his Marines. Meanwhile, I was dealing with the fact that he didn’t call, text, or come home on Valentine’s Day.

The line between the battle front and the homefront is blurred, and military life is hard on families. Let’s remember to care for all of our military families, whether that service member is deployed or at home.

As “Good Kill” shows us, we don’t know what burdens they may be carrying.

Can you relate to this movie? How do you deal with the unexpected changes in military life? 

Besa-PinchottiPosted by Besa Pinchotti, Communications Director

We’re Listening! What’s Happening in Your Military Community?

navy-family-says-goodbyeWorking directly with military spouses is one of the awesome things we get to do at the National Military Family Association; we get to listen to their concerns and bring their voices to the forefront of the minds of our nation’s leaders to help make change happen.

Last week, we had two opportunities to bring groups together and talk about what our military families need.

On Tuesday, we hosted a group of senior spouses where our Government Relations team provided an overview of the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission report and the 2016 Defense Budget. This was the perfect opportunity for these senior spouses to discuss what they’re seeing in their own military communities. Families’ access to health care–especially for those families who have special needs–and child care are concerns in many of the senior spouses’ communities. Hearing these struggles from a ‘boots on the ground’ perspective is extremely important in continuing NMFA’s mission of advocating for, supporting, and strengthening military families.

On Thursday, we were lucky enough to host a magnificent group of students from the University of Southern California (USC) School of Social Work in our Alexandria, Virginia headquarters. These social work students are pursuing the ‘military track,’ and intend to use their education to assist and work with military families and communities. Our Government Relations and Youth Initiatives teams joined other staff to share some of the struggles that military families face when dealing with mental and behavioral health needs. The USC students shed light on where they see the social work field headed, and how they hope to impact military communities in the future.

We are always grateful that we’re able to engage with military families, and those who support them, at a grassroots level. Getting direct feedback from spouses and experts in the community is what allows NMFA to continue being a voice and resource for military families.

What are you seeing in your community? How can we help to make the lives of military families better? Posts your suggestions in the comments below.

Jordan-BarrishPosted by Jordan Barrish, Public Relations Manager

Red, White, and Zoo: If the Military Were an Animal

chesty-usmcEver thought about the mascots representing our military service branches? I wondered, so I did a little research to find out what each of them are like, and if they truly embody the branch they represent. Like Bill the Goat, beloved mascot of the Navy, or the Army’s awesome…mule? The falcon, bear, and bulldog seem strong, like the Air Force, Coast Guard, and Marine Corps, respectively.

But the more I started reading, the more I reflected on how I picture the military. As soon as an animal would come to mind, I started self-evaluating my choice. What does it say about me if I think the military is a deadly Great White shark, ravaging anything in its path? Am I prideful, or am I regretful of my military journey?

I asked a few military spouses, veterans, and active duty service members to tell me what animal they thought accurately represented the military. Surprisingly (and ironically) enough, we could start a legitimate zoo with all the different animals.

Let’s take a stroll around the ‘United States Military Zoo,’ shall we?

Work Horse
One military spouse described the military as a work horse – deprived and overworked. This species may have been a beautiful Arabian at one point, exuding beauty and prestige. Now, it’s just fallen on hard times.

Lions and Tigers
Another military spouse stood proud, claiming the military takes on the life of a tiger, with regal stripes as badges of honor, and a vibe that’s cool, calm, and collected…until it strikes and becomes deadly. Similar to the tiger, an active duty service member claims the military is definitely a lion: a symbol of strength, taking what it wants, when it wants. RAWR.

A Marine Corps veteran was quick to tell me the military is best represented by an eagle; a beautiful, tactful, strong predator, always involved in ‘wars.’ Unfortunately, this species is currently on the endangered species list…much like the career service member.

Like this agile, one of a kind creature, one spouse considers the military to be much like a chameleon due to its uncanny ability to change frequently, at the drop of a hat. Most military families will agree – this is one of our super powers, and gosh, it can really be beautiful, can’t it?

This species most resembles the military, says one spouse. It’s cunning, clever, intense, adaptive, and regal; qualities that undeniably describe our armed forces.

Honey Badger
Pegged as one of the most deadly animals on the planet, the honey badger is what another spouse says her life has been like being married to the military. “It does what it wants, with no regard for anyone (or anything else). And it’ll kill you if it wants to.”

I can see qualities of each of these animals in my own military journey. Some days, I would definitely go so far as to say it’s taken on the honey badger role – leaving me feeling defeated and rocked to my core, wanting out. Other days, I get a lump in my throat watching someone thank my husband for his service, or hearing the National Anthem at a sporting event. Those days, the eagle fits just perfectly. So, does the animal we choose say anything about the person who chose it?

I don’t know, but it’s a zoo out there.

What kind of animal would you say embodies the military? Is that animal telling of your military journey? Share it with me in the comments!

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Content Development Manager

My Military Family Paid off $20k in 13 Months: Here’s How!

financial-freedomThere we were, sitting on our couch, looking at our online banking while deciding what to do for dinner. My husband and I did a double take simultaneously, “We only have $37.00 to last us until next payday…which is 5 days away.”

We were scared.

We sat quietly, surrounded by all of our things; 48” flat screen, two new cars in the driveway, brand new shoes, and that wreath for the door I just HAD to have. We were chained to our things, reflecting on how we’d gotten there.

We were both just 23 when we got married, he’d been in the military for a little over three years, and I’d only been out of college for a year, and had lived with my parents only a few months earlier. I thought we were on the straight and narrow with our finances – I had a full time job with the state government that paid me about $32,000 a year, and our rent was covered, thanks to BAH. We were golden. Or so I thought.

It wasn’t until that day with only $37.00 in our joint account that I realized we needed to find a new way to manage our money. We had no savings, and had bought a brand new bedroom set with the few thousand dollars we got from wedding guests. Newlywed life was paycheck to paycheck for us, and at the time, I thought it was okay. At least we had a nice bedroom set. In reality, we were one ‘emergency’ away from having it all come crashing down. Ironically, my husband is a Command Financial Specialist, and has counseled many other Sailors with their own finances.

So, in 2012, after 3 years of marriage, and pushing countless paychecks to the brink, we took control of our money. We didn’t want to see what would happen when the ‘rainy day’ came without a decent umbrella in tow. By this time, we had PCS’d to another state, and I had gotten a new job, paying $34,000 a year.

We decided to take a popular religious-based finance class at our local church. There, we learned how to pay down our debt in the fastest way possible – from smallest to largest. We figured out how to account for every cent and give each penny a purpose. And we stopped using our debit cards for anything except gas, and to pay our bills online.

We cut back tremendously, and used cash for everyday things: groceries, dog maintenance, and the occasional lunch or dinner out. Every other dollar went towards our debt: two car payments and school loans. By following this plan, we paid off nearly $20,000 in 13 months, on top of our usual monthly bills.

Today, we still use a ‘cash budget,’ and put hundreds, sometimes thousands, of dollars into our emergency fund each month. ‘How-in-the-world-will-we-be-able-to-pay-for-this’ emergencies are now just little inconveniences. Like the time our dog got sick while we were on vacation, and we rushed her to the doggie emergency room. Nearly 4 hours and $475 later, we paid in cash and took our fur baby home to mend.

Many military families live paycheck to paycheck – like we did.  But this does NOT have to be your reality.

February 23-28th is Military Saves Week, when service members and their families are encouraged to take the pledge to start saving and put your family on the path to financial freedom.

As an incentive for you (yes, you!) to take the pledge and start saving, if you send us a photo of who or what you’re saving for, you’ll be entered to win a $100 gift card to help get started! Send your picture to, and be sure to include your name, email address, and what you’re saving for!

Have you found an awesome way for your military family to save money? Share it with us in the comments!

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Content Development Manager

Can Military Families Save Money on One Income?

calculator-and-coinsMy last paycheck came in, and it was a small one. I had just quit my job but had another one lined up, so it wasn’t a big deal. But on that day, I looked at my bank account and asked myself, where did all the money go?

My bank account reminded me of a clock moving counterclockwise. I thought about all the jobs I’ve had, from part time to full time to side jobs, and thought about where all that money had gone. I even wondered the same thing during the stint where I ended up with unemployment benefits after a layoff. If I had only just put all that money away and made it to where we lived off his salary, I could have a few thousand dollars in a savings account by now. But it didn’t happen that way.

My husband and I are blessed that we can survive on his salary alone, so whenever I have had a job, I’ve taken on the grocery bill, gas for my car, my bills, entertainment, graduate school (out-of-pocket, and a pretty penny), half of the daycare expenses, and anything else that was, what I consider, a minor expense. That way, it doesn’t go under my husband’s list of expenses.

However, some of the jobs I took never paid enough for me to actually put a good chunk of money away in savings because of these same expenses. And that’s a major problem for military spouses. Granted, I am also not the best saver, but when you have a low-paying job coupled with everyday expenses, I was left with no motivation to even put a mere $20 away. And with school-aged kids now, something always comes up. So many small things get in the way of saving.

Speaking of something always coming up, I had to get new clothes for work because my size changed after I got married… and after I had kids… and after I stopped having kids. Thankfully, I always headed for the clearance racks, and that helped me save some money. I also bought clothes for my kids as they got bigger. The money we could have saved would have been spent on other necessities, first and foremost, but also entertainment things, so I don’t regret the purchases.

It’s not all a loss though. I’ve been able to put money away while I’ve been employed, and kept it safe from my spending habits, but the amount is not nearly enough. I wish I did have a few thousand dollars saved up. We do have a family emergency fund, and it’s a nice little cushion, but for my personal financial well-being, my own savings are not enough for what I’d like.

Now, getting ready for a new PCS move, I hope to find a better job that pays more so I’m motivated to save more. I also want to find where I can cut my expenses so I’m not left with the lack of financial motivation to put a little money away.

February 23-28th is Military Saves Week, where military families take charge of their own finances and savings. Don’t wait until your bank account dwindles to nothing – living paycheck to paycheck doesn’t have to be your reality. Take the pledge to save NOW.

And to make the deal even sweeter, if you send a picture of who or what you’re saving for to, you’ll be entered to win a $100 gift card to put towards your new savings goal!

Are you a one-income family? How do you save money?

Posted by Sylvia Salas-Brown, Military Spouse and National Military Family Association Volunteer

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


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