Category Archives: Military spouses

Calling All Bloggers! Share Your Story on Branching Out!

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It’s no secret—military families have collected their fair share of stories, experiences, and traditions throughout their military journeys. We know you’ve got plenty of tips, tricks, pictures, and laughable moments up your sleeve. That’s why we want you to be a guest blogger!

Our blog covers all areas of military life, including PCS moves, raising military kids, spouse employment, military marriage, and the tough stuff—like transition, being a caregiver, and even divorce.

During the months of July and August, we’re looking for unique stories in about:

Think you’ve got awesome blogging skills and want to share your journey with other military families? We’d love to hear from you!

What works:
Inspirational stories – we want readers to jump out of their seats because they were moved by your journey. Sharing personal stories, hardships, or humor can be just what someone needs to relate to you. Don’t be afraid to amaze and inspire!
Original content – We will not publish content that has already been published elsewhere on the web. We aim for authentic and unique content!
Well-written content –Your writing should reflect your individual voice! So if you feel excited, let us know! Had a hard time with a recent PCS? Express that in your writing. Great blog posts will grab the reader and keep their attention through awesome details!
Topics about military families or military life – We are 100% military family focused, so make sure your submission is, too! Are you a company looking to share a resource? Great! Use your original content to tie back to the military community, and keep in mind: our subject matter experts will review any resource prior to posting.
Sending your own photos – Pictures are the best! And we want to share yours! Make sure images are appropriate, clear, and don’t violate OPSEC or PERSEC.

What doesn’t work:
Incomplete, unedited articles – Always be sure to proof read your work before submitting it. If you’re unsure if something is well-written, have a friend or family member read over it and give their thoughts!
Inappropriate content – No profanity, graphic, obscene, explicit or racial comments will be accepted. Make sure you aren’t oversharing, or violating OPSEC or PERSEC! If you’re submitting photos, please be sure they are tasteful.
Advertisements – We don’t promote any business or organization we are not in direct partnership with, and we do not offer advertisements on our blog; however, we do have advertising opportunities through our mobile app, MyMilitaryLife. Please email App [at] MyMilitaryLife [dot] org.

How to Submit:
Email your completed article to Blog [at] MilitaryFamily [dot] org. Because Branching Out is 100% military family focused, we will review each submission to ensure it aligns with our content strategy. If it does, you’ll receive an email from us to let you know your article will be published. Please allow us some time to respond – our little fingers type as fast as possible!

Blog submissions must include:
First and last name
Contact email
Service affiliation and location
250-700 words per post
Headshot or clear photo of yourself

The Fine Print:
Sharing is caring – We want your original content, but that doesn’t mean you can’t share the link on your own website after we’ve published your submission! Share like crazy!
Editing and adapting – We reserve the right to edit and adapt your guest blog content as we see fit.

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Content Development Manager

Is Cyberbullying a Sign Our Military Community is Imploding?

military-cyberbullying

Why are service members making it a point to create hateful, misogynistic jargon online about military spouses? And what makes military spouses turn on each other creating the same?

By now you’ve probably seen the op-eds in Task & Purpose, and the Washington Post, declaring a ban on ‘entitled’ veterans, active duty service members, and their families. I’m sure you’ve read the counterparts to these articles in the Huffington Post, and on Military.com.

Anti-bullying campaigns have been around for quite some time, and an overwhelming number of them just don’t work. They aim to ‘fix’ the bully, and ‘teach’ the victim with an overarching theme reminding us we’re just doing it wrong–we’re just existing wrong. (Read: when we don’t stand up for ourselves, we become victims. When we stand up for ourselves, bullies emerge to fight back.)

Bullying stops when an environment is positive, supportive, and enriching, and when character and value are promoted.

I think that’s where the mess happened; our environment shifted, and we had to fight back.

Since September 11, 2001, 2.5 million military families have seen a loved one deploy, 600,000 service members have been wounded, and nearly 7,000 lives in our all-volunteer force have paid the ultimate sacrifice.

Add in Sequestration, force reduction, and politics, and you’ve all but knocked out our military and their families cold.

Those who once supported our nation, and this military, have quieted. Flags that used to be as bright as the sun that shone upon them, are now torn, faded, and walked upon in protest.

The bigger picture is this: military families don’t feel entitled.

We feel unappreciated, ignored, stuck between a rock and a hard place, not supported, and now, hated. With nowhere to turn, our community has imploded, finding acceptance and support by picking apart each other, and the network that has long supported our service members: military spouses.

The internet is full of viral videos of veterans and active duty service members calling out others who illegally impersonate a military member in uniform, and controversial Facebook groups which exist to target unsuspecting military spouses by making fun of them.

The viral videos and hateful social media groups have given others a pass to rip into anyone who ‘impersonates’ anything. Ask the Washington Post and Task & Force op-ed authors what they think of military spouses, like me, they’d say we’re ‘impersonating’ service members in our own way: by declaring our own sacrifices, demanding support from our government, and by wearing our husbands’ rank for power.

In such a climate of hatred, it’s hard to see the ones who are trying to clean up the mess. We ignore the spouses who are receiving death threats for asking people to stop the tormenting. We mock the spouses who are trying to disbar the ‘Dependapotamus’ stereotype by pursuing higher education, getting their own insurance (gasp!) through full time employment, and who are being recognized by the White House as Champions for Change.

Yet, nothing seems to be good enough to make the cyber-bullying stop.

What we need are positive, supportive, enriching communities who are steadfast with their loyalty, and encouraging even in times of stillness. Our military and their families need to be reassured that we are accepted, wanted, and appreciated.

That’s not ‘entitled,’ or high-maintenance. It’s human nature. Calling us entitled is adding fuel to the fire. We ferociously defend ourselves, only to be met by more hate, name-calling, and follow up articles putting us in our place.

Instead of making a military spouse feel ostracized for not knowing the TRICARE handbook, respond positively, and share a resource. Rather than laughing when a young spouse admits they’re having trouble making friends, be their mentor. And for those service members who call us ‘Dependas,’ ask yourself where that hate is coming from and remember that we are here to support you.

It’s up to us to clean up the mess, military community. If we don’t provide ourselves with the environment we want to live in, how will anyone else?

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Content Development Manager

Win a FREE Photo Session for Your Military Family!

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In honor of Military Family Appreciation Month, we’ve teamed up with 25 amazing military spouse photographers to bring you the contest to beat all others! You’re not going to want to miss out on this opportunity!

We’ve got photographers in all corners of the world, ready to offer you a free photo session for your military family! Yes – we’re talking to you, in Germany, and you, in Japan! And entering is as easy as a few clicks. If you’re near any of these locations or installations, we want you to enter!

All of these amazing photographers are military spouses donating their time for this awesome contest. Stop by their websites and like their Facebook pages to check out their work!

Colorado Springs, CO:  Reflections by Rosie Photography
Fredericksburg, VA:  Jessica Green Photography
Washington, D.C.:  Tiny Sparrow Photography
El Paso, TX:  Julie Rivera Photography
Montclair, VA:  Judith Lovett, Photographer
Des Moines, IA:  Britney Brown Design Photography
Newport, RI:  Ellie Lynn Photography
Jacksonville, FL:  Amy Hensley Photography
Pensacola, FL:  DJENNphoto
Sangdahlem AFB, Germany:  Little Bit of Life Photography
Joint Base Lewis-McChord, WA:  Simply Immaculate Photography
Naples, Italy:  Athena Plichta Photography
San Diego, CA:  Ashley Langtry Photography
Taunusstein, Germany:  Little B Memories
NAF Atsugi, Japan:  Lina Elyse Photography
Ft. Leavenworth, KS:  Patton Portraits
Charleston, SC:  Haley Hickman Photography
Ft. Hood, TX:  April Kroenke Photography
Huntsville, AL:  Vanderport Designs
Monterey, CA:  Momma Mea Photography
Oahu, HI:  Tabitha Ann Photography
Maine: Neola Photography
Ft. Rucker, AL:  Emily Grace // Photography
Ft. Drum, NY:  Wunderkind Photography
RAF Lakenheath, UK:  Danielle McCown Photography
Ft. Polk, LA:  Chaque Bonne Memoire Photography

Are you ready to win? ENTER HERE!

Entries are being accepted until midnight on May 31, 2015. Winners will be selected June 1, 2015.

Have trouble viewing the entry form? Visit our Facebook page and click the “Enter to Win!” tab.

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Content Development Manager

This One’s For You, Military Spouse!

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May 8th is Military Spouse Appreciation Day—a day to recognize and thank the person who ties up all the loose ends in our lives that we don’t always have time to deal with ourselves. In my nine years of active duty service in the Navy, my wife has been with me for eight of them. I couldn’t have accomplished as much as I have without her. Our spouses deserve to have the spotlight on them, not just on Military Spouse Appreciation Day…but every day we put on our uniforms and lace our boots.

Being a military spouse is sometimes harder than most people think. Let me tell you just a few reasons why my wife is awesome:

She keeps me motivated. She’s always encouraging when I miss rank advancement by only a couple of points. And when I don’t score as high as I want in my college classes, she’s there to push me harder in the next class.

Her skills in the kitchen. I’ll just say this: award-winning chicken salad. Literally.

She’s involved in my Command. I love that she cares about other military families, and serves voluntarily as our Ombudsman. (And it’s nice to see her during the work day, when she is doing things for our command Sailors, Marines, and their families)

Her unending support. Whether I’m shining my boots, ironing a uniform, or studying for an upcoming exam or an awards Board, she’s always there to help…even if we just talk to pass the time.

If you’re a service member, take my advice: on your break today, call your spouse, say “Thanks for doing what you do!”

And to my wife: don’t worry about dinner tonight…Chick-Fil-A, Franzia, and I have it covered.

Have an awesome spouse? What do you appreciate most about them? Send them an eCard to show your love!

matt-s-headshotPosted by Matt S., Logistics Specialist, United States Navy

Military Spouses Threatened Via Social Media: Where Do We Go From Here?

social-media-apps-on-phoneMany evenings I sit in my car in the parking lot of my kids’ school taking one last minute to myself before the chaos of our evening routine. I take one last glance at my social media accounts and see how others in my life are spending their day. Recently, that meant reading post after post on the latest round of military family “targeting” by those claiming to be ISIS supporters. A friend of mine shared a blog post, written by our friend Amy Bushatz at SpouseBuzz. Amy is one of five spouses quoted in a CNN article about their social media accounts being compromised.

As military spouses, so many of us use our social media accounts to stay connected to our friends and family around the world. Sometimes life is lonely, and I use social media to remind myself that I’m part of a much larger community.

So, what do we do when our connection to our community might be the very thing that puts us at risk?

Shut down? Crawl in a hole? No, we do what our spouses are trained to do – mitigate the risk! How many times has my husband stayed late before a training exercise to work on another risk assessment report?

Here’s how I manage the online risks for my family:

  1. Lock up the privacy settings on my accounts. I don’t want to stop sharing pictures of my kids or husband, but my settings are locked up tight so people I don’t know can’t access my stuff. And I have to check those settings often, because Facebook is always making changes.
  2. Know which other applications have your social log-in information. A lot of websites and applications let you log in with your social media account (Pinterest, for example), but I always make sure to check the application’s privacy settings and only sharing the information I want to have available.
  3. Don’t accept friend requests or followers from people I don’t know. This may sound simple, but I make sure that the people on my friends and followers list are actually people I trust. And think about the channel. I don’t post things on Twitter that can be linked back to my family or the military because I don’t feel like I have enough control over who can see it (plus, I prefer to tweet about The Bachelor).
  4. Don’t reference specific locations in my general profile. This may be a good time to take where you work off your Facebook description and “proud Army wife” off your Twitter bio. I don’t make it easy for people to find me or know my connection to the military through a general search.
  5. Watch out for each other. We’ve all heard “See Something, Say Something,” right? If you see something strange on a friend’s social media, let them know. If you notice someone using “looser” privacy tactics, give them suggestions.

In times like these, our gut reaction might make us want to hide in our house, lock our doors, and tell our spouse it’s time to leave the military. But, we need to remember that people who target us really don’t know what they are dealing with. We are the strong, we are the resilient, and we have a community like no other. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from our military journey, it’s that we take care of each other.

So, tonight, I’ll seize that last minute of sanity in the parking lot. And when I tuck in the kids, I’ll know they’re safe. Because as Amy said in her post “Being afraid doesn’t mean the terrorists won — it’s the living in fear that gives them the victory. I’m not giving them the victory.”

What are your risk assessment tips? Share them with us in the comments!

mandy-culverPosted by Mandy Culver, Executive Administrative Assistant

Lima Oscar Victor Echo: Valentine’s Letters from a MilSpouse

marine-valentines-dayRoses are red,
violets are blue.
I have a few love letters I’d like to read to you.

If you’ve been married to the military for any amount of time, you know there are things you come to love, and many other things you grow to….not love. In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, here are a few love notes I’m sending this year:

Dear Commissary,
I love the way you make me use those tiny little carts that have no leg room so when I walk, my shins kick the wheel axel and I say bad words loudly in the parking lot. Shopping with you is always a good experience, except around the 1st and the 15th, when all your other lovers come around. You have such friendly employees. I really feel the love when they squint at me after I tell them I can take my own groceries to my car. Most of all, I’m just glad to have you in my life. You’re not perfect all the time, but I appreciate the things you offer me…like accepting all manufacturers’ coupons.

Dear television in the MTF,
I get so happy when you play kids’ shows while I wait for my appointment. You’ve consistently come through for moms everywhere who just need a few more minutes to occupy a mischievous child while waiting for their own appointment or prescription. And you’ve also helped the childless keep a few more minutes of our patience, since said children are occupied and not screaming. Your existence is crucial, and I’m glad you’re here.

Dear awesome female service member,
I’m not sure you’re told this often, but you are so rad. Though you’re often labeled before you can speak for yourself, just know that you have a ton of us supporting you. Riddled by a man-dominated workplace, you still kick butt and take names. And I know you don’t always feel welcomed or appreciated by your coworkers’ spouses, but believe me, just give us a chance, we really like you. Answering the call to serve is extremely honorable, and I’m so grateful for your sacrifice. Girls rule, boys drool.

Dear parking spot reserved for basically anyone but me,
I know its Valentine’s Day, and I should be loving, but really, I don’t like you. I enjoy a brisk walk just as much as the next person, but rarely do I feel endorphins from the ‘exercise’ when having to park half a mile away just to swing by the commissary to get milk. Instead, I feel like a double-crossed lover – filled with bitterness. You’re never filled with a car. Don’t you feel lonely? If others could park their cars there, we’d be so in love with you. But we can’t. So until then, I’m only going to roll my eyes whenever I see you in public.

Dear military time,
I still don’t get you. You’ve stuck around for a long time, and I know you’re waiting for me to love you back, but I just can’t count fast enough to figure out what time it is in military time. 21:00? No clue. Wait. 21 minus 12 equals 9. Right? So it’s 9:00pm? I’m not going to lie to you, my love: I had to count on my fingers to figure that out. I’m not sure it’ll ever ‘click’ for this self-proclaimed math idiot, but because you’re so important, I’m going to keep trying. Will you still be mine?

Dear military support organizations,
Living this life without you would be impossible. You answer questions no one else seems to know. You’re there for me when I can’t figure out what to do next. I love the way you are determined to keep my military family strong, intact, and thriving, despite the obstacles. Knowing there is someone in my corner gives me the warm and fuzzies, and that makes you the best Valentine ever.

Who would you send a ‘love note’ to? Tell us in the comments!

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Content Development Manager

Giving Up Control in 2015: My “Let It Go” List

woman-standing-in-the-snowEvery year in December, I lock myself in our bedroom, with a never ending pile of presents and a glass of wine, and overindulge in Hallmark Christmas movies. I stay in that room until every present is wrapped. Don’t ask me why I insist on doing it all at once; somehow, over the years, it’s become a tradition. While wrapping, I reflect on the previous year and look ahead to the upcoming year.

Normally, I’m excited about a new calendar, but this year was different. When I envisioned the year ahead, my chest was tight, I was sweating, and I even felt short of breath. Why? What on earth was happening this next year to stress me out? The answer is simple: I’m wasting energy on guilt, worry, mistakes, and perfection.

So, in the name of our Frozen, winter-loving Elsa, I’ve created a list of five things I’m saying “Let It Go” to in 2015:

GUILT. I have an incredibly powerful guilt complex. I feel guilty for everything. Not making it to one of my kids’ holiday parties, leaving the family at home to go have dinner with a friend, the list goes on and on. Starting a Master’s program, or at least figuring out my plan to get a Master’s, is on my 2015 to-do list—but all the guilt has been holding me back. Can I handle it all? Will I be able to make enough time for my husband and kids? Will my work suffer? Then there’s the immense guilt about putting so much time and effort into something that’s only for me. ALL of this may happen, but it’s a calculated risk my family and I are willing to take. I need to let it go, enjoy the journey, and not look back.

WORRY. I worry about everything – a problem made worse by my role as military spouse. Will my husband get orders to deploy? Will we end up PCSing sooner than expected? Will his year group meet the Reduction in Force board again? These are all things I have absolutely NO control over. So, instead of worrying – you guessed it – I just need to let it go! Make the most of where we are now and tackle each day, one at a time. And if any of these scenarios do happen, I’ll be flexible because we all know change is inevitable in our military life.

MISTAKES. Confession: I am going to make mistakes. The people around me are also going to make mistakes. We’ll forgive and move on. I’m registered for a half marathon, and have my training and diet plan in place. Will I miss a run or two? Will I enjoy dessert or a dinner out? ABSOLUTELY! And everything is going to be fine! Let it go! Life doesn’t have to be perfect.

EXPECTATIONS. Say no, and accept when others say no. It’s OKAY! It’s also okay to say it without a laundry list of reasons why you had to say no. When I say no to something, I won’t worry about others’ expectations. I will accept my decision, embrace it, and (of course) let it go!

ATTITUDES. I tend to allow others’ attitudes affect my own personal happiness, but do you know what? Only I can control my emotions. I shouldn’t let others have such power over my well-being. This year, I won’t over-analyze every decision, and I won’t internalize other people’s displeasure. There’s no reason to! None! Say it with me…I need to let it go.

Will you channel your inner Elsa in 2015 and just let it go? Tell us about it in the comments below.

Lyndy-RohePosted by Lyndy Rohe, Communications Assistant