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

GIVEAWAY! Every Week Should be as Awesome as Shark Week!

shark-week

Shark Week on The Discovery Channel is underway and we’re pumped! Being a shark must be tough (with the whole ‘no friends’ thing) but we know it’s even tougher being a military family, and we want to celebrate you by giving away some awesome Shark Week swag!

Enter below for your chance to win Shark Week swag bags, including some of the gear pictured here, and don’t forget to tune in to Shark Week on The Discovery Channel!

Contest ends July 12, 2015 at 11:59pm EST.

Sorry, no sharks are allowed to enter the contest.

ENTER HERE!

My PCS has Gone Bad…Now What?

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In the peak of summer, military families are immersed in the chaos of the Permanent Change of Station (PCS) cycle. This process involves so many moving parts; it is amazing that it works as well as it does. Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command (SDDC) is the executive agent for the Department of Defense’s (DoD) Personal Property Program. SDDC recommends diligent planning, attention to detail and flexibility for a smooth move. Our Association even has a fantastic smart phone app, called MyMilitaryLife, that does all the hard work for you! But we all know things go wrong, even with the best planning, and most flexible parties. SDDC’s website is a great starting point for links to everything that follows. Bookmark it, write it down, and make it your friend!

Even though we are on the downswing of peak PCS season, we still get questions on the “rules” about moving. US Transportation Command’s guide can be useful, with information from weight limits, to the hours your packers should be at your home. For questions about what can be moved to how, it is a great guide.

Most people are now moving using the online Defense Personal Property System via Move.mil instead of going through the Personal Property Shipping Office (PPSO, aka PPPO, TMO or TO) to arrange their PCS move, but you can still find your installation PPSO. By using the Move.mil website portal, you can stay informed of where you are in your moving process, along with access to your Transportation Service Provider (TSP). In most cases, you will want to contact your assigned TSP as your first line of defense with any complications that arise. However, you can also email, phone, or submit help tickets directly to SDDC via the Move.mil website portal.

If you are in the middle of the moving process and something goes wrong that costs you extra money (for example, your packers don’t finish in time and the movers are delayed, causing you to incur extra costs because you can’t leave as scheduled) you can file an Inconvenience Claim. This would be done through your TSP via Move.mil. Your claim must be reasonable and the costs must be directly related to the newly created hardship, and you must be able to provide receipts to support your claim. If you have trouble with an inconvenience claim through your TSP, you can contact the PPPO or Military Claims Office to assist in the settlement process. We sometimes hear the claims process can be cumbersome, but there are a lot of resources on the Move.Mil website portal to help you understand the process. Check out their guides and tutorials available.

If your problem is related to your Privately Owned Vehicle (POV), get in touch with the contractor moving your vehicle, International Auto Logistics (IAL). If your vehicle has not been delivered and the Required Delivery Date (RDD) has passed, you are entitled to reimbursement for a rental vehicle. The military will cover up to seven days at a rate limited to $30 per day that expires upon the date the POV is delivered. Any car rental required beyond seven days will have to be submitted to IAL. They will review claims for temporary lodging and rental car expenses due to a missed RDD via their website.

  • For damages to your POV, you need to contact IAL to file a damage claim. 1-800-389-9499 or email claims@ialpov.us.
  • For IAL’s customer service, email customerservice@ialpov.us.
  • For more assistance on POVs, you can reach the USTRANSCOM POV Inspector General Customer Support Team at usarmy.scott.sddc.mbx.pov-ig-reponse@mail.mil.

After your move, you want to make sure to fill out the Customer Satisfaction Survey. The scores you provide help determine whether or not the TSP you used will continue to ship for DoD families. Good or bad, your feedback matters.

Don’t forget that all of these resources and quick links are at the touch of your fingertip through our innovative, perfect-for-your-military-journey, smartphone app, MyMilitaryLife!

Have you used any of these resources? What questions do you have about PCSing? Share them, and your experiences, in the comments!

Brooke-GoldbergPosted by Brooke Goldberg, Government Relations Deputy Director

Summertime Backyard Fun for Your MilFam (with tutorials!)

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Camp season is officially here!

This week, I boarded a plane to Calfornia, eager to head off to Operation Purple® Camp in Angelus Oaks. I’ve been a military spouse for 10 years, and spent the last three of them in Germany teaching art to military kids on base. I just love how MilKids are so creative, friendly, and fun-loving. Heading to camp with them is something I’ve been looking forward to for months.

To make it even more special, California is “home” for me. Germany was just too far, and my family was too big, so we weren’t able to afford the trip back during our European tour. I’ve been away from home four long years now, and boy, has the California landscape changed. The first thing I noticed when the plane touched down was how brown California has turned since I left!

Unfortunately a brown, dry landscape doesn’t make for a calm fire season. A fire has broken out in the San Bernardino mountains, right outside of the Operation Purple Camp in Angelus Oaks. The roads to camp are closed, and the air conditions are not healthy for kids… which means NMFA had to make the hard decision to postpone camp.

We’re all pretty heartbroken about it. This is something we haven’t had to do in the past, but at this point, the most important thing is making sure our camp kids are safe.

Camp will be held for these kids in a couple weeks, instead. If I’m this disappointed, I can’t imagine how bummed all our MilKids were when they heard camp was going to be postponed.

In the meantime, we don’t want the fires to hold you back from having a little summer fun. We’ve put together a whole list of fun activities (with linked tutorials on our Pinterest Board) for you to try with the kids while you wait for the air to clear up at camp:

1. Pitch a tent in the backyard
2. Make foil packet dinners
3. Eat Smores
4. Learn how to tie knots
5. Make a miniature bow and arrow
6. Make a marshmallow popper
7. Play with giant bubbles
8. Make a dreamcatcher
9. Learn to identify trees from their leaves
10. Learn about bugs
11. Start a nature journal
12. Go on a geocache
13. Learn the constellations
14. Lay down and look at the clouds
15. Have a picnic

Keep busy, have some “camp at home” fun, and hopefully, we’ll see you soon at Operation Purple Camp!

What are some of your family’s favorite summertime activities?

HeatherPosted by Heather Aliano, Social Media Manager

Celebrate Your Freedom by Standing Behind Military Families!

military-kids-raising-flagOnly a few more days until we celebrate the birth of our great nation, and the smell of bar-b-que, fireworks, and sunscreen will fill the air. The Star Spangled Banner will play loudly, and we’ll take a minute to remember the price of freedom.

But is a minute enough?

While most of us will be enjoying a long holiday weekend, we ask you to show your support of those military families who will spent, yet another, holiday apart. An easy, quick way to show you support is by helping us on our quest to win $25,000 through the Crowdrise Veterans Charity Challenge 3!

With just a few clicks, a few dollars, and a few pats on your back for being awesome, you’ll help us in two ways:

1. Now through July 2, Crowdrise will give an additional $20 for the first 100 donations of at least $20! Free money?! Awesome!

2. You’ll become one of the selfless military family supporters who keep NMFA’s  mission alive by continuing to serve the ones who stand behind the uniform.

We hope your holiday weekend is relaxing, and filled with joy and fellowship. Please take a few minutes and clicks to help fill a military family’s life with those same things.

Donate to the National Military Family Association’s via Crowdrise.

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Content Development Manager

Georgia Doesn’t Want “These People…” and They Mean YOU, Military Spouse!

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This week, as part of my position here at NMFA working on spouse licensure issues, an article from The Daily Report popped up in my news feed. It detailed a recent board of governors meeting from the State Bar of Georgia. Apparently, things got heated when board members were asked to vote on whether or not to allow military spouse attorneys the opportunity to provisionally practice law in Georgia.

One board member was quoted as saying, “Why should we let these people come in our state who may not know a…thing about Georgia law and maybe get [their clients] in more trouble than when they started?”

As a military spouse, being called “these people” will always get me riled up. It’s not a very nice thing to say, and I am being nice by putting it that way.

But here’s the thing: I LOVE being one of “these people,” and the board member who called us “these people” obviously doesn’t know that “these people” are amazing.

“These people” include military spouses who started out their lives with a plan, and things changed. They married a service member, committed to selfless sacrifice, duty, and honor.

“These people” followed their service member, with tens of thousands of dollars in law school loan debt and left high paying job offers behind. They put the commitment of their service member ahead of their need to make money.

Yet, “these people” remain committed to service of their own, advocating for clients and causes.

“These people” spent thousands of dollars, and hundreds of hours studying and sitting for bar exams, which would only serve them for two or three years. Many of “these people” have three or more active bar licenses before the age of 35, that require them to take continuing legal education courses annually (which cost money), pay annual dues, and adhere to the same code of ethics as their colleagues who are actively practicing.

But “these people” will earn less than those colleagues because they relocated with their service member spouse, over and over again. “These people” have been embraced by 12 states and the Virgin Islands, who recognize the value military spouses bring to the table, and provide a provisional license if a military spouse is licensed through exam in another state.

What “these people” are not asking for is a handout, a lower level of professional, or ethical scrutiny, or different standards. “These people” are asking for a reasonable chance to share their talent and commitment; an opportunity to advocate and represent, and to bring their very specialized, unique and broad perspective to the legal profession in the state where their service member spouse is stationed for what will be too short of a period of time to sit for another state bar exam (a 6-12 month process).

“These people” are serious, professional, dedicated, smart, ambitious, and repeatedly challenged in ways you can’t be if you practice law in the same place your whole career.

“These people” inspire me, and I am lucky to be able to call myself a member of the Military Spouse JD Network, made up of “these people” around the globe, working to, not only, improve each others ability to work and thrive in our careers, but to provide legal assistance and support to other military families.

And the amazing traits of “these people” aren’t limited to attorneys. Military spouses who need licensing accommodations include teachers, nurses, mental health providers, and more.

“These people” are committed to helping their communities, no matter what state they live in. Do not turn “these people” away. I promise, we are worth the trouble.

Brooke-GoldbergPosted by Brooke Goldberg, Government Relations Deputy Director and JD

Beat the PCS Summer Time Blues: Keep Your MilKids Connected

keep-military-kids-busy-during-summer

PCS season during the summer months is a blessing and a curse. For military families with school-age kids, moving during the summer break means your kids will be able to finish the school year and say goodbye to friends. Yet, at the same time, it may be difficult for your kids to make new friends at your new duty location during the summer months when school is out.

So how do you keep your military kids connected and engaged during the summer months and help them make friends before the school year starts?

Here are 5 tips that have helped my kids make new friends during the summer months:

Parks: We have made it a mission to visit a new park each Friday afternoon. We have several parks in our new community, and my children love to play on the play equipment and meet new kids. Visit your community’s park and recreation division for a list of neighborhood parks.

Swim lessons: It’s hot during the summer months and swim lessons are a low-cost way to keep cool, learn or practice skills, and meet new friends. My kids have taken lessons at pools on base and in the community. Check with your installation aquatics department, local YMCA, or city’s aquatics program for swim lesson opportunities.

Grab a book: Local libraries and the Department of Defense (DoD) and Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) both offer summer reading opportunities and hands-on activities to keep your kids engaged. Read to Rhythm is the 2015 DoD-MWR summer reading program theme.

Pinterest: I’m not a crafty mom, but Pinterest has great tips for keeping kids busy during the summer. To find local activities, try combining the following search terms “your location” + “kids” + “activities.” If a local mom’s group has a Pinterest page, you should be able to find it here.

Follow event calendars: Whether you live on a military installation, or in a civilian community, local summer events are bound to be nearby. Find local event calendars and look for activities to entertain your family. Free summer concerts, movies in the park, or annual rummage sales may be the perfect opportunity to engage in your new community.

How do you help your military kids meet friends and stay busy during the summer months? Share your tips in the comments section!

katie2Posted by Katie Savant, Government Relations Information Manager