Category Archives: Military Families

You Know You’re a Military Spouse When…

sunset-on-baseMilitary life is a funny thing. Nothing ever seems to stay the same, but somehow, we embrace change as our “normal.” Finding civilian friends who understand your “normal” is another funny, yet rare thing – much like a unicorn. We know they’re out there, and when we find one, it’s magical. While not all of our civilian friends understand military life, there’s always a military spouse out there who can relate to the exact place you’re at in your life.

In honor of your “normal,” here are a few of the funnier ways you know you’re a military spouse:

  • You have enjoyed a beautiful sunset on your installation, complete with barbed wire fences in the view.
  • The majority of your laundry consists of camouflage, green shirts, and brown socks. If you’re Navy or Coast Guard, it’s blue shirts and black socks.
  • You can pack and unpack a house within a couple days, but you still have a few boxes that haven’t been unpacked from your move 2 years ago.
  • Your kids have a drawer full of soccer jerseys from playing on so many different teams over your years of moving around.
  • You use a military I.D. all the time and get frustrated when places ask for a “real I.D.”
  • You still find colorful little moving tags on various pieces of furniture even though it’s been a year since your last PCS. Bonus points if you’ve found multiple tags from multiple PCS’s on the same piece of furniture.
  • You don’t panic when your doctor walks in wearing ACU’s or BDU’s.
  • You know that a month-long separation is short, no matter what anyone says.
  • You read all of the homecoming banners on base and smile over each one. Then wonder, “What will my banner say?”
  • You save voicemails from your spouse, so you can listen to them anytime you think of him or her.
  • You have two anniversaries: your Justice of the Peace anniversary and your wedding anniversary.
  • You answer your spouse’s text messages with “Roger.”
  • You know there is no such thing as “planning in advance,” and you know you can’t make solid plans on where you will spend Christmas until the middle of December.
  • You have three jobs on your resume for the last two years.
  • You know your spouse’s social security number better than your own and often confuse the two when filling out documents about yourself.
  • When you go out on the town, you constantly have to point out that your date of birth is on the back of your military I.D.
  • You celebrate holidays based on duty schedules.
  • You have 20 different sized curtains to fit all the different windows of houses you’ve lived in.
  • You refer to your spouse’s friends by their last name. And no one holds it against you if you don’t know their first name.
  • You have found at least 10 different sets of orange foam earplugs in the washer or dryer.
  • You always have to explain to employers why you have had so many jobs by age 26. Then you hope they take you seriously knowing you may be leaving soon.
  • You have a Florida driver’s license, with an Oklahoma license plate, and you live in Virginia.
  • You are a pro at prepping a dress uniform.
  • You tear up when you hear “God Bless the USA,” even though you’ve heard it 50 times before.
  • When your spouse is deployed, you are married to your phone, email, and/or Skype.
  • You know to stay FAR away from the commissary near the 1st and 15th of every month, and if you absolutely have to go on those days, it’s a planned mission with emergency exit options.

Can you relate to any of these? If so, let us know and submit your own in the comments section below!

Shannon-SebastianPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Online Engagement Manager

Recent Good News Won’t Keep the Yellow Ribbon from Unraveling in 2014

yellow-ribbon-tree-blogOn August 6, military families got a little sequestration relief. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced that the DoD civilian employee furloughs would be capped at six days rather than the planned 11. These furloughs had closed commissaries an extra day, made it more difficult for families to get health care appointments, cut family center hours, and would have closed DoD schools for several days in September.

So, let’s celebrate a little because the 2013 DoD furloughs will end this week. But, make it only a small celebration please! Sequestration is a 10-year menace and none of the good news from last week will carry over into the new fiscal year that starts on October 1. DoD officials have shared a lot of numbers about the difficulties sequestration will cause in 2014.

According to DoD, this summer’s furloughs that caused so much disruption saved the Department $1 billion. In 2014, DoD will have to find savings of $52 billion.

How much pain and disruption for military families will come as DoD tries to find those savings?

Forget about furloughs–how many civilians will be laid off? How fast will a drawdown in the number of uniformed troops happen? How many airplanes will the Air Force be able to fly? What training will be cancelled? What family support facilities will close? What will the DoD and civilian schools educating military children have to cut? How long will we wait for health care appointments? Will schedules for Permanent Change of Station moves lengthen? What ships will be repaired? Already, the Navy has announced it will scrap, rather than repair, a nuclear submarine damaged by arson. Why? Navy officials blame a $4 billion shortfall in the shipbuilding account and other maintenance priorities deferred by sequestration.

Cuts totaling $52 billion in 2014 will hurt service members, families, and the communities where they live. Even though the 2013 furloughs will soon end, sequestration’s effects can still be seen in programs affected by hiring freezes, in reduced training for service members, and deferred maintenance of equipment and facilities. Those effects will get worse unless Congress acts to #EndSequestration.

The National Military Family Association and the other organizations that have joined with us in our campaign thank the families who have sent us pictures and stories about how sequestration is affecting their communities. Please continue to send pictures showing sequestration’s effects to social@militaryfamily.org. We’re creating a booklet of your photos and sequestration stories and will deliver it to every Member in early September.

Our Nation’s leaders must keep the yellow ribbon from unraveling. #EndSequestration.

How Are Military Families Doing? What Researchers Are Discovering.Posted by Joyce Wessel Raezer, Executive Director



**By submitting your photo, you agree that the National Military Family Association may use your submission, the language within, and any subsequent photos in any way including, but not limited to, publications, promotional brochures, promotions or showcase of programs on our website or social networks, showcase of activities in local and/or national newspapers or programming, and other similar lawful purposes.

Operation Purple Camp: 2013 season wrap up

Our 2013 Operation Purple Camp season wraps up this week! The National Military Family Association has collaborated with outstanding camp partners to continue supporting military kids throughout our 10th year of camp. We’ve heard great stories and look forward to sharing some of the memories and friendships that were made this summer. This camp season once again demonstrated the personal and financial commitment of our partners who joined with us to provide a no-cost, fun-filled week of camp for more than 1,200 kids. If you would like to support our Operation Purple camps, please visit www.militaryfamily.org to donate.

“Being @ OPC is lots of fun and I wish I could do it every year of my life!”—Daphne, Operation Purple camper

theresaPosted by Terry Buchanan, Youth Initiatives Director

Inside Operation Purple Camp: Inglis, FL

OPC-8-8-13-postMilitary children experience multiple moves, change schools and friends and deal with challenges during their parent’s deployments. It is hard for civilian children to understand them. Luckily, kids whose parents are deployed get a chance to relax and forget about their worries during the Operation Purple Camp in Inglis, Florida. Here, children from all branches of Service are united as one big cheerful family.

Operation Purple is no ordinary camp. At the Caruth Camp in Inglis, everyone looks forward to receiving the military children and engaging in fun activities especially designed for them. When entering the campground you are greeted by a large American flag, which is put up especially during Operation Purple week. One of the highlights of the campground, which the kids seem to enjoy, is a welcoming military robot at the dining hall entrance. Next to it, on the wall of honor, the kids bring photos of their parents and post them with pride. The room is decorated with photos from various activities, but one banner that says “Kids Serve Too,” stands out as a central theme for the camp.

“This as a whole [Operation Purple Camp], I feel it gives children an outlet, not just any kind of outlet, a safe outlet to breath, not to worry,” says Patricia Nelson, Caruth Camp Director. She explains the kids here are very busy throughout the day with various activities, ranging from archery to canoeing and everyday award celebrations. To the kids, she is also known as Miss Nelson. To her, the children are everything and she goes to great lengths to make sure they are happy. She sometimes goes and picks up the children out of the state, in order to make it easier on the families who live far from the camp. “I try to give back to some of the parents who continually give their support and services to us here,” she says.

Miss Nelson considers herself as a grandma to the children and she gives them her unconditional love. Every child who goes to camp is given a bear, also known as “Miss Nelson Love Bears,” she says smiling. “That bear is something they can hold on to and take home with them in remembrance of what we did here on camp,” she adds.

But a bear is not the only thing children take back with them from this experience. “The important part is that they get to bond with other branches,” says the Military Family Life Consultant who is specifically assigned to Operation Purple camps.

The Caruth Camp is ideally located in a very picturesque part of Florida. The nature trails and natural springs provide a unique sense of tranquility. The camp is spread across approximately 240 acres, which was all donated. The cabins where the children sleep are modern and equipped with air conditioning. Moreover, local staff always makes sure the place is impeccable, teaching the children how to protect the environment, explains Bill Rappleyea, Deputy Sheriff. He is one of the passionate sheriffs on campus who dedicates part of his duty hours and his time off to spending time with the children on camp. As he offers a tour of the entire campground, he says how he is very excited to have military kids from all over the country. Part of his mission is to show that law enforcement is a friend, using fun activities such as CSI crime solving. He believes it is wonderful for the military children to be around other children who understand what they are going through.

All these activities are made possible exclusively through donations to the Operation Purple program and the individual camps. Deputy Sheriff Rappleyea emphasizes how any donation is essential: toys, cloths, toothbrushes, etc. “They always find a use for it,” he says. A simple donation can change the lives of children all over the country. To donate to Operation Purple camp, please visit http://www.militaryfamily.org/donate. In order to support Caruth Camp and make a donation, please visit http://www.youthranches.org

Marlis Perez RiveraPosted by Marlis Perez Rivera, National Military Family Association Volunteer, Tampa, Fl

TRICARE Standard: Is it right for you?

flag-stethoscopeAs a new spouse, or even a seasoned spouse, the difference between TRICARE Standard and TRICARE Prime can be somewhat confusing. I remember how overwhelming it felt when I was faced with the decision on whether I wanted “Prime” or “Standard”. After reading through the literature available, as well as on TRICARE’s website, I decided TRICARE Standard was the best for me. If you are considering TRICARE Standard for your family, here are some points to consider:

TRICARE Standard is an option which allows you to choose your own doctor. You are able to see any type of doctor, from a specialist to a primary care physician. To search for the type of doctor you need, go to TRICARE’s “Find a Doctor” feature. If you choose a network provider, you end up paying less of a cost share . The cost share depends on what care you get at that particular appointment, whether or not you use a network or non-network doctor, or whether you are an active duty family member, retiree, or retiree family member.

The “in network” doctors file the TRICARE claims for you so you do not have to deal with the paperwork of filing the claim yourself. Using a network doctor is called TRICARE Extra . Also, there is no pre-authorization required when you need lab work or testing done. Each fiscal year you have an annual deductible to meet, which varies based on your service member’s status. As an active duty spouse, I pay only 20% of any allowable charges after I have paid my deductible for the year. There is also a $1000 “catastrophic cap” for active duty families. This means your out of pocket expense will not exceed that cap.

TRICARE patients have the option to choose which pharmacy they would like to use. Using TRICARE retail pharmacies are especially convenient for patients using TRICARE Standard, but are the most expensive option. Major drug store chains such as RiteAid, CVS, Target, and Walmart are in-network pharmacies. By using an in-network pharmacy, you are responsible for a $5.00 copay for generic medications and a $17.00 copay for brand name medications. You can save money if you use the TRICARE Pharmacy Home Delivery to have your prescriptions mailed right to your home.

A common misconception of TRICARE Standard is the idea that patients are not able to use the military pharmacy because they are not seeing a doctor at a Military Treatment Facility (MTF). As a TRICARE Standard user, you have the option to use the MTF pharmacies, which may be the best value if the MTF stock your drugs. Personally, I have never used a MTF Pharmacy because they were not as convenient for me because I did not live on the Army Post. However, if you want to save money, using the MTF pharmacy is a great option because both generic and formulary drugs have no copay!

TRICARE Standard has been the best choice for me because I enjoy choosing my provider instead of being assigned one. I also enjoy the flexibility of changing providers if I am not happy with my current doctor. Unlike TRICARE Prime, TRICARE Standard does not require a referral to see a specialist. Because of these choices, I don’t mind paying to see a doctor when I am ill and can’t survive another day without an appointment! I feel I am in control of my healthcare experience with TRICARE Standard. I encourage you to read about the other differences between Prime and Standard in order to make the best decision for your family. I hope that by shedding some light on the sometimes confusing and often-misunderstood TRICARE Standard, your decision may come a little easier.

Stephanie-OSullivanBy Stephanie O’Sullivan, National Military Family Association Volunteer, Fort Bragg, NC

A Video Glimpse of Operation Purple Camps

We have spent the week recognizing the 10-year anniversary of Operation Purple Camps. We’ll leave you this Friday with one of our favorite clips so you can see just how special this program is.

Operation Purple Camps: 10 amazing years

MichelleObama-OPkids

Who knew when we started Operation Purple Camps in 2004 that we were kicking off a legacy! It has been an amazing 10 years.

Here’s a glimpse of how the program has grown:

2004

  • Operation Purple Camps kick off in 12 states
  • Jessica Lynch makes guest appearance at OPC Pennsylvania

2005

  • Senators Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Dole host Capitol Hill reception to kick-off the 2005 summer camp season
  • Operation Purple Camps make the front page of the Chicago Tribune
  • OPC was featured on NBC Nightly News and in the Wall Street Journal

2006

  • Operation Purple featured on CBS Early Morning and Fox and Friends
  • OPC camp highlighted in Time magazine

2007

  • Operation Purple Camps make the cover of USA Today
  • Operation Purple Camps featured on CBS Sunday Morning

2008

  • Operation Purple Leadership Camps pilot program opens for military teens
  • First Operation Purple Healing Adventures for families of wounded, ill and injured
  • We host an Operation Purple Camp to support the children of delegates attending the Army Wounded Warrior (AW2) Symposium
  • Sierra Club releases “Red, White, and Green,” a short film about Operation Purple Camp
  • CNN features Operation Purple Camp on its website homepage
  • 1,500 Operation Purple applicants participate in an Association funded research study looking into the effects of deployment on military families
  • Camp attendance tops 10,000 kids in one summer

2009

  • Mullen-at-OPCOperation Purple Camp featured on NBC Nightly News segment, “Making A Difference”
  • Operation Purple Family Retreats program hosts first families
  • Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and his wife, Deborah, visit Operation Purple Camp California

2010

  • Operation Purple Family Retreats featured on NBC Nightly News segment, “Making A Difference”

2011

  • Operation Purple Campers participate with First Lady Michelle Obama in Extreme Makeover: Home Edition
  • Defense Secretary Robert Gates and his wife Becky visit families at Operation Purple Healing Adventures Washington

2012

  • First year without national sponsors; Local camps help fund the program so that it remains free for military families

2013

  • Operation Purple Camp reaches 10 year milestone! In 10 summers, 48,000 military kids have participated in the program

All of this would have been impossible without the generous donations and support from so many individuals and organizations committed to taking care of military families. Thank you!

PCS: Panic, Cry, Scream

ShannnonSeb1In the military community, summertime is notoriously known to be “PCS Season” – the most popular time for service members to receive new orders, or their “Permanent Change of Station.” In my world, I like to think of it as “Panic, Cry, Scream,” because that is usually how I feel shortly after we get the news of our new orders. Panic sets in when I realize all the things already on my To-Do list, followed by a good cry because, once again, it’s time to pick up and find a new home. Screaming happens frequently as the time to move gets closer. To-Do lists are left undone, there are no more tears to cry, and whether I like it or not, change is coming.

That’s the funny thing about this lifestyle – being a military family. Change is inevitable. I remember the turning point when I realized life was going to change drastically. This moment left me with no other choice but to embrace change.

I left my small hometown in Florida in 2009, where I lived for all 23 years of my life, and moved with my now-husband all the way to Oklahoma. He and I had been dating for a while and being left behind while he got new orders to Oklahoma was not an option. I was going with him whether we were married or not! I packed all my things from the bedroom I’d grown up in, took the furniture from my room which still showed 10 years of pencil marks my mom made to track how much I’d grown, and began dreaming of a new life in the Midwest.

The morning came when we packed the car, said goodbye to my mom and dad, and set off for our new installation. I took in the moment like it was the last breath I’d ever take. The smell of pine trees mixed with the humid Florida air while my parents stood at the end of the driveway, waving as their only child drove away. I was fresh out of college, unmarried, and leaving my Southern bubble behind.

Then it hit me. Thoughts scrambled through my head as all the familiar things I knew and loved passed by the car window. My mind raced and all I could do was embrace the change that was happening. I had to be brave and fearless, kind and understanding. It was time to be determined and ferocious to take on the military “lifestyle” and be the best supporter I could be for my service member. This was the moment life changed for me.

I married my husband seven months later.

ShannonSeb2

I never dreamed of a life as a military spouse. In fact, I never dreamed of a life outside of my small, Southern town. Call me naïve, but I did not think life existed in a world where there was no sweet tea, or beach access. Choosing to pull out of the driveway that humid morning in 2009 has been the best decision I have ever made.

Today, I am a strong-minded, gritty military spouse with a few years of deployments and PCS’s under my belt. I am resilient and determined to make the best of any situation. I have learned how to rely on like-minded people for support. I have figured out it is okay to attend military balls wearing the same dress each year because, chances are, no one would remember. I learned how to be a banker, chef, tailor, and nurse!

Change is inevitable, especially in the military culture. It’s important to remember that each PCS is a chance to see the sunrise from a new place, meet new friends, and find new adventures. Maybe it’s not “Panic, Cry, Scream,” but instead, “Perfect Change of Scenery.” I’ll tell you firsthand, our first PCS was a pivotal moment in my life, and it has shaped who I am today! Embrace it and see what kind of person it makes you.

Shannon-SebastianBy Shannon Sebastian, Online Engagement Manager

An Advocate is Born: Affecting change for military families

Susan-Reynolds-and-son

We have all heard the phrase from William Shakespeare, “All the world is a stage, and all the men and women merely players.”

A few years ago I was content with my starring role in the production of “Susan’s Military Life”. An active volunteer, educator, mentor, and friend were my starring roles. That changed when my infant son was denied healthcare coverage for a cranial reshaping helmet. I was offered a different role – the role of a lifetime – and I couldn’t pass it up.

The National Military Family Association and I were introduced in October 2011 when I was asked to be a volunteer. From there I discovered a world of advocacy that I never knew existed. The Association was working on issues ranging from education to healthcare. I fell in love and knew I was ‘home’.

In July 2012, I was invited to a conference in Washington, D.C. to tell my son’s story. In two days I had eight meetings on Capitol Hill and my performance had to be flawless. Fortunately, I had great support from the Association’s Government Relations department, as well as Kara Oakley from the Children’s Hospital Association.

The National Military Association encouraged me to use my voice to advocate for my son and all military children. I learned not to be afraid to share my story because I had a gift for speaking. You see, according to the Association, my story and my voice is powerful and should not be forgotten.

A year has passed since those meetings, and so many doors have opened because I’m a volunteer with National Military Family Association. The Association has helped me define my story and because of their support, I’m a stronger, more confident volunteer and advocate for military families.

As the saying goes, “a star is born every second.” In my case, an advocate was born and is supported by the National Military Family Association.

Susan ReynoldsBy Susan Reynolds, National Military Family Association Volunteer

FAQ Series: Military commissary questions

Grocery-Store-Shopper

You have questions, we have answers. This week we respond to your frequently asked questions about the commissary benefit.

Q: If commissary goods are sold at cost, why do I see an additional “surcharge” on my receipt?

A: Commissary shoppers buy goods “at cost” meaning the commissary does not generate a profit from sales. Shoppers pay a 5% surcharge. The surcharge is calculated on the total before coupons are deducted. The surcharge goes back into the stores to pay for new construction, renovations, repairs, and equipment. The surcharge does not decrease commissary savings because it is included in the savings calculations.

Q: How much should I tip the commissary baggers?

A: Baggers are not commissary or government employees and are paid solely by the tips they receive from commissary shoppers in exchange for bagging/carryout services. Baggers are self-employed, and work under a license agreement with an installation commander. The amount you tip is up to you. Some folks suggest twenty-five cents a bag; others tip a flat rate between $5 – $10.

Q: I am deploying and my children will stay with someone who does not have a military ID. Can the caregiver shop at the commissary for our children?

A: The caregiver will need an agent letter to shop at the commissary for the children. The caregiver does not have to be an authorized commissary shopper; however only the installation commander can authorize agent privileges. It is recommended that you contact the commissary store director near the caregiver’s location and request contact information for the installation office that prepares agent authorization. It may be helpful to ask what documentation an agent needs to gain access to the installation. You can find a list of commissaries here.

Q: Do I really save more money by shopping at the commissary?

A: Shoppers save an average of more than 30 percent on their purchases compared to commercial prices – savings that amount to thousands of dollars annually when shopping regularly at a commissary. In addition to lower costs on products, the commissary also accepts coupons and uses a rewards card program to help increase your savings. While savings may vary from location to location, it’s important to remember that profits made by commissaries contribute to family readiness and enhance the quality of life for service member’s and their families. Those profits also cover the costs of building new commissaries and modernizing existing ones.

What interesting information have you learned about the Commissary? Share it in a comment!

Send your questions or comments to PR@militaryfamily.org and don’t forget to follow our blog, Branching Out, for our next FAQ series.

Source: http://www.commissaries.com/documents/contact_deca/faq.cfm

KatieBy Katie Savant, Government Relations Information Manager

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