From Growing Up a Military Kid to Helping Today’s Military Kids Grow

vets-day-parade-1It’s a story you may have heard—or even lived. A young girl watches her dad go in and out of the hospital due to injuries sustained at war. Yvonne Brunner’s father came back from the Korean War with physical injuries, a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). All of those things placed a heavy weight on Yvonne’s family, who didn’t have a support system in place. She knew, even at a young age, that she wanted to help those kids who grow up each day facing the stresses and consequences of war—but how?

Yvonne grew up to become a Navy spouse. Her husband is an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran and a paramedic with the Nassau County Police Department in New York. Meanwhile, Yvonne has served as Children & Youth County Chairman at the American Legion Auxiliary, a position that eventually led her to us. She became a volunteer with our Association in 2013 and has become a rising star to military kids.

Yvonne started going to elementary schools in her area, teaching kids about the American flag, hosting mini-parades, and holding a contest called ‘Red, White, and Blue: What the Flag Means to You.’ On Halloween, she handed out safety coloring books. During the winter holidays, she baked cookies and cupcakes and participated in toy distribution programs for military kids.

“It has been cathartic,” Yvonne said about her volunteer experience with our Association. “A journey of self-healing. “

Yvonne’s passion for military kids aligns perfectly with our Operation Purple® Program. When American Legion Auxiliary hosted a fundraising concert on Long Island, C.J. Ramone, who was performing, introduced her to comedian Dave Attell. She shared her experience and desire to help military kids, and they were moved to action. The three of them put together a concert benefitting the Operation Purple, and Yvonne acted as a one-woman dynamo—funding the event upfront and promoting it through radio interviews, town hall meetings, and hitting the pavement distributing flyers throughout Long Island.

The concert raised more than $6,000, and inspired Dave Attell to make two additional $25,000 donations and host a comedy show fundraiser on Veterans Day.

“Each and every one of us is an incredible person, capable of extraordinary things,” Yvonne said.  “It is my continued hope that we all join together to give back to our service members and their families.  Our children are our hope. They are our ‘littlest warriors’ who, by the simple act of saying good-bye, become the symbol of hope for peace.”

karen-cookPosted by Karen Cook, Volunteer Services Coordinator, North Region

Dave Attell and 4 Comedians Whose Names Start with “J” Supporting Military Families

When we first met comedian Dave Attell more than a year ago, we never could have imagined where we’d be together today. After performing at a fundraiser and being disappointed with the amount of donations we received, Dave gave NMFA $25,000… and then a few weeks later another $25,000, along with a promise to do more to help military families. This Veterans Day in New York City, Dave came through on that promise, big time.

He invited some of the top comedians in the world to join him on stage for “A Salute to Military Families,” a benefit at the Gotham Club in our honor. Besides Dave, a superstar himself, here was the lineup:

Jamie Kahler: Navy vet and host on the American Heroes Channel (AHC)
Jeffery Ross: the Roastmaster on Comedy Central
Judah Friedlander: best known for his role as Frank Rossitano on 30 Rock
Jim Gaffigan: author of bestseller “Fat Dad” and “Food: A Love Story”

These guys, whose names all happen to start with a “J,” kept the side-splitting laughs going all night. They also took the time to hang out before the show and get to know the military families, veterans, and friends of NMFA who’d be in the audience.

Thank you, Dave, for being the host with the most—and for caring about military families.

Together we are stronger.

Donate to our mission today.

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MilFams: Win a FREE House Cleaning from Merry Maids!

boxes-in-man-roomWith a few PCS moves under my belt, this is what’s left of the unpacked boxes inside my house. We moved in a year ago. That’s a win, right? Military families know boxes will inevitably move from state to state, sometimes country to country, and most likely won’t be opened for whatever reason. The unpacked boxes become a shrine of collected moving stickers–you know the ones. I won’t even talk about the chaos in my garage right now. I couldn’t tell you what’s in half of the boxes sitting out there.

Each time we prepare to move, I tell myself this time I’ll get rid of all the extra stuff, donate, purge, and move to our next home simplified and ready to unpack.

Easier said than done.

And once you finally get in the right mental state (because it is totally necessary, isn’t it?!) to start unpacking, placing things in their new spots, and turning your house into a home, you’re left with packing paper, empty boxes, and a house begging for a deep clean.

That’s where Merry Maids comes in.

garage-2Our Association has partnered with Merry Maids, a premier home cleaning company with over 30 years of experience to give five lucky military families a free house cleaning in honor of National Military Family Appreciation Month!

To enter: send us a photo of your house at it’s messiest (via Facebook or email to Social@MilitaryFamily.org) by November 30, 2014. A winner will be selected in each of Merry Maids’ five regions.

About that garage–you thought I was kidding, didn’t you?

What are your tips for cleaning up and unpacking? Share your tips with us!

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Content Development Manager

America’s Parade 2014 in Photos: We Love Our Military Families!

What a beautiful day to march down 5th Avenue! For the first time ever, our Association participated in America’s Parade, New York City’s famed event honoring Veterans Day. Families who’ve attended NMFA Operation Purple Camps marched alongside our staff and their families waving to hundreds of thousands of spectators who lined the streets. It was an honor to represent the families who stand behind the uniform. Thank you, Discovery, for sponsoring our float!

Photos: By Jmill Photography

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The Few, the Proud: Happy 239th Birthday, Marine Corps!

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30 Ways in 30 Days to be a Grateful Nation

Sure, we see American flags flying in yards, and we clap for service members getting off their planes at the airport. But are we really being a grateful Nation?

Our Association is teaming up with 29 other organizations and military movers-and-shakers to bring you 30 Days of Thanks. By following along using the hashtag #30Days, each day you’ll see a quick idea you can do to show your appreciation during Military Family Month.

But don’t limit yourself to 30 days! The yellow ribbon of military support is unraveling–and with your act of kindness, donation, or appreciation, we can show our service members and their families we stand proudly behind them all year long.

Don’t miss out on each day’s video! Follow along or watch them, and take a peek at today’s way to show thanks!

Do you plan to share this quick idea to help make a #GratefulNation?

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Content Development Manager

One Month Isn’t Enough: Who Really Cares About Military Families?

Each year, a Presidential Proclamation declares November as Military Family Month. Most years, it doesn’t even make national news. The backbone of our Nation’s military, the supporters behind the uniform, the ones who rise to meet the challenge of serving silently—military families hardly receive a minute of recognition.

Does anyone really care about military families?

Military families not only need your encouragement and support, they deserve it.

Here are four reasons why:

Reason #1: The Romesha Family

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Tammy Romesha, Army wife, and mother of three, manned the homefront while her husband did tours in Kosovo, Korea, and Iraq. After a violent tour in Afghanistan, where SSgt Clint Romesha’s outpost was overran by insurgents, injuring him and 22 others, and killing eight Soldiers, Tammy stood strong and supported her husband’s love for the Army. SSgt Romesha was awarded the Medal of Honor in February 2013 for leading the efforts to retake the overrun outpost. Today, Tammy sits on our Association’s Board of Advisors, lending knowledge, perspective, and support to our mission to advocate for other military families.

Reason #2: Military Kids

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A recent study found that about 1/3 of military children report symptoms of anxiety. These kids have worries that most normal adults don’t—stressors like deployed parents, frequent moves, and sometimes a parent’s injury. But military kids are resilient, and we’ve seen it firsthand. This Operation Purple Camper had a blast during her time at camp. One of three kids to a Retired Army dad, and a former military mom, she is a shining example of how military kids are able to thrive despite the challenges they face.

Reason #3: The Sisson Family

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Since losing their son, 2nd Lt. Justin Sisson, to injuries sustained when an IED exploded on his walking patrol in June 2013, the Sisson family has spent each day since remembering the life he left behind and thinking of legacy he never had the chance to create. Many Gold Star families—who have lost loved ones to war—share the same fear: that their loved one will be forgotten. Through the creation of a scholarship fund, annual memorial 5k races, and the outpouring of support, the Sissons continue to keep their son’s spirit and sacrifice alive.

Reason #4: Amy Chaffin

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During her three years as a military spouse Volunteer with our Association, Amy has raised important issues, such as the Army’s change in background checks, requiring those who volunteer with children to agree to have their medical and behavioral health records reviewed. Not only did Amy raise the issue, but she provided well-thought out reasons why this is problematic, and continued to follow the issue and provide subsequent information. Military spouses, like Amy, not only support their own service members, but lend their support beyond their own kitchen table, reaching out to their communities, military installations, and their fellow military spouses.

Though the Presidential Proclamation only declares November as Military Family Month, our Association believes every single day is Military Family Day. Join us every month as we honor, appreciate, and support the ones who make it possible for their service member to serve without hesitation.

Do you know any amazing military families who deserve recognition? Who would you add to the list?

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Content Development Manager