Celebrating One of the 99 Percent Who Cared for Us–the 1 percent

Dick-Steinberg1Sometimes, when we’re tired, frustrated, or lonely, military families feel that no one outside our military world could possibly understand our lives. And if they can’t understand us, there’s no way they could possibly know how to support us.

We, the 1 percent of the Nation’s population who serve or have a family member who serves, look at the 99 percent and ask “Don’t you know we’re fighting a war—on your behalf?”

We suspect there are supporters among that 99 percent, but struggle to find them.

We lost one of those champions on March 4. Richard “Dick” Steinberg was a businessman whose company, S&K Sales, helped companies sell products at military commissaries. But Dick wasn’t interested only in selling things at the commissaries—he wanted to make sure those products were sold at the best prices possible. Why? Because he understood how much commissary savings meant to military families struggling to make ends meet.

In an email to me less than a week before he died, Dick denounced the proposed budget cuts to the commissaries because they would decrease the current 30 percent savings to only 10 percent. He wrote:

“Commissaries are about the savings!” When savings disappear, so will the commissaries.”

Years in the business of selling to the commissaries taught Dick—even more than his stint in the Air Force—about the challenges military families face. So, twice a year, Dick, his colleagues, and business partners at S&K Sales created promotions that would feature even lower prices and they would donate some of the proceeds from those promotions to charities supporting military families. For the last four years, the National Military Family Association received that support. We’re grateful for the grocery savings the promotions provided to the military families, which topped $5 million last year alone. We’re also grateful for the donations we received, which have helped us reach out to support families, send military kids to our Operation Purple® camps, and speak up on behalf of military families.

Dick was a patriot who valued the service of our military members and their families and always looked for ways to support them. He believed in us and in all military families and in the responsibility all Americans have to those who serve our Nation. He was hiring military spouses and veterans before everyone else figured out how valuable they could be as employees. He fought with determination to keep the commissaries strong and to protect the savings so important to military families. In his last days, he cheered us on, telling us to “keep up the good fight” for military families. His regret? That he wouldn’t be around to “man the barricades” on their behalf.

Military families may not know the name Dick Steinberg, but their lives are better because of him. All of us at the National Military Family Association will miss him and are grateful to his family for sharing him with us.

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

Want to Go Back to School? We Have an App for That!

road-to-educationAs if military life isn’t complicated enough, I, like many other military spouses, decided to make my education a priority. After making this decision, I was overwhelmed by the amount of schools I could attend. With frequent moves and deployments, distance learning is a military spouse’s best friend. But, would it be right for me? I found the process of narrowing down schools and deciding on a program completely overwhelming. It weighed on my mind day in and day out. Waiting at a doctor’s office, at the grocery story, or painting my nails, I would be racking my brain about school, and what my next steps should be. In those moments, I wish I had something right at my finger tips to help me do the research.

Enter, the National Military Family Association’s app, MyMilitaryLife.

MyMilitaryLife is a resource any military spouse can turn to! I followed the “Spouse Education” Life Path and found information I needed to pick a good school. The app walks you through the process, from start to finish, with a checklist of items to complete along the way. Whether you want to pursue a certification, or even your Ph.D., the MyMilitaryLife has information for you.

The “Spouse Education” Life Path has the answers to your questions…even the ones you didn’t think to ask, like:

  • Where do I start?
  • What program is right for me?
  • Is distance learning for me?
  • Where can I find money to pay for school?
  • Will my credits transfer?

With MyMilitaryLife, these answers are at your fingertips, and can help smooth the road on your education journey. This Life Path even includes reviews from trusted sources: military spouses! Who better to give you advice than spouses who have been there, too? These reviews help make the app a valuable, trusted resource you’ll return to again and again!

Another bonus: the app features a great list of scholarships available to military spouses!

So, next time you are waiting around for an appointment, jump on your smart phone and download MyMilitaryLife. Maybe this time next year you will have a new certification in hand or be a headed for a new degree!

Amanda headshotPosted by Amanda Anderson, Content Manager, MyMilitaryLife

Let’s Be Social: Connect With Us!

OscarsSelfie

We love that you’ve found our Association’s blog, but did you know that we’re also on practically every other social media platform? From Facebook to Youtube, we’ll meet you where ever you are! Follow us and see what we’re up to. Look what you’re missing: Ellen photo-bombed our staff’s Oscars picture!

Check us out on:

Facebook
Twitter
Instagram
YouTube
Flickr

What’s your favorite way to keep in touch with us?

The Soundtrack of my Deployment

girl-with-headphones-onEver wonder why there isn’t a “Top 100 Deployment Hits” soundtrack? Seems like an untapped market to me. Would you buy a CD full of songs to help you through the highs and lows of deployments?

My husband has been away for a few months on a training deployment, so I’ve had the TV remote control, the DVR, and the bed all to myself. A few nights ago, I started thinking about all the things I’ve done since he’s been gone. I pressure washed our house, jump-started our car when it had a dead battery (thanks to YouTube), fixed a broken toilet, redecorated our living room, went from a red head to a blonde, and learned to eat at restaurants by myself.

As those memories were flashing through my mind, songs just randomly started accompanying them. Songs as eclectic as the curtains in my house.

There’s no telling when the “Top 100 Deployment Hits” is going to be released, so in the meantime, here are some songs that might be musical therapy for you during those ups and downs of deployment:

  • “(You Drive Me) Crazy” by Britney Spears. Suggested for playing very loudly while locking yourself in a dark bathroom to avoid screaming children. Because that’s acceptable, right?
  • “Thrift Shop” by Macklemore. Perfect for playing on the car ride to Walmart. You’re gonna pop some tags…only got $20 in your pocket…which will obviously buy lots of things at Walmart. You can probably get a set of lawn darts, nail polish, and a 12 pack of socks.
  • “The Lazy Song” by Bruno Mars. Because I don’t care about wearing pants today.
  • “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor. The theme song for fixing a broken toilet. Also suggested: theme song for having a baby while your spouse is deployed.
  • “Livin’ on a Prayer” by Bon Jovi. You’ve hit the halfway mark of deployment. Woah, you’re halfway there. Woah, livin’ on a prayer…and chocolate.
  • “All By Myself” by Celine Dion. Suggested for the milspouse eating alone at Chili’s.
  • “I’m Too Sexy” by Right Said Fred. This one’s for you, Mom of four, who got a free night of babysitting at the CDC. GIRLS NIGHT!

And of course, no deployment soundtrack would be complete without the perfect song to play on repeat when your solider finally comes home.

I’m going with “Danger Zone” by Kenny Loggins….no explanation needed!

Shannon-SebastianPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Online Engagement Manager

Special Operations Forces: A War Weary Community Needs Support

air-force-special-ops

When Secretary Hagel dropped his budget proposals in February, it did not recommend cuts to US Special Operations Command (SOCOM). As a spouse who spent over a decade living the Special Operations Forces (SOF) family life, I can say I am relieved that they will not suffer direct budget cuts, but this also carries with it a significant amount of worry. No cuts, means the same or more missions, right?

You see, while SOCOM funds SOF missions, the programs that support families and dependents are provided by the “big” Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, and Navy. SOCOM’s service members will be equally hurt by low pay raises, decreased Basic Housing Allowance (BAH) and changes to TRICARE. As “big Service” budgets get smaller, and the operational tempo for SOF families continues or increases, where will they get their support?

In 2010, Admiral Eric Olson, then Commander of SOCOM, initiated a study of SOF warriors and their families and was able to document a “fraying” of the force with strong data. Admiral William McRaven turned those concerns into Preservation of the Force and Family (POTFF). POTFF primarily helps the service member focus on physical, spiritual, mental, and social issues. Of course, this assists the family as a whole, but POTFF programs aimed at the families are limited because of legal restrictions on who SOCOM can spend money on and how.

I have loved the idea of POTFF since its inception. I was part of those who were studied in 2010. I KNOW this fraying. I knew that I needed to do whatever I could to help future SOF spouses avoid the fraying that I felt for many years.

I am terrified that budget cuts to the programs provided by the Services will devastate everyone, but particularly SOF families because while the war draws down in Afghanistan, the SOF mission does not.

SOF families endure operational tempos and unpredictability in an unending cycle. Resiliency is NOT optional, and it comes at a cost. There were years when I had friends ask me if I was happy, and I could only answer, “I will be, when he’s home.” That routine lasted and lasted–it was the ‘SOF life.’

I can say that I am stronger than I ever imagined I would or could be, but I still cry for the new mom who, despite being a SOF spouse for three years, couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.

The family programs offered at our installation were stellar, but the amount of people deployed at any given time and in constant rotation needed far more manpower than the military family programs could offer. Our Airman & Family Readiness Center was staffed for the regular Air Force mission, not SOCOM’s.

So, now with Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, and Navy budgets shrinking, while SOCOM’s remains unchanged, what happens to those spouses and families? Of the 1% who serve in the military, 67,000 are in SOF units – a remarkably small, but growing number. The vision for the future of SOF is one of expansion. The stress will not decrease for these families. They have not and will not get a break. Our SOF families NEED adequate support for their growing missions from the Services, Defense Department, and Congress.

We are war weary – don’t forget us and the unique mission our service members provide within the military community.

Brooke-GoldbergPosted by Brooke Goldberg, Government Relations Deputy Director

I’m a Military Spouse: I Started My Own Business, You Can, Too!

ecommerceMy story is not unlike that of many other military spouses. I met my husband on a ski trip in Colorado (okay maybe that part isn’t typical), and then dated him long distance before getting married and moving to South Carolina to be with him.

My husband is an Air Force pilot, and by the time I arrived in South Carolina it was clear that we would be leaving in less than a year. I soon realized that moving would become a frequent part of our lives and that I would need to find a career that could adapt to our lifestyle. That’s when I learned about flexibility of running an eCommerce business. An eCommerce business, like Amazon.com, for example, makes a profit by buying or selling goods through electronic systems, or in my case, the internet.

Here are the five reasons that I ultimately decided to take the plunge and start my own business:

  1. My husband supported me. He not only supported me, but he agreed to partner with me in every facet of the process. I wouldn’t have been able to start, and effectively run, the business without his involvement. He is technically inclined and very detail oriented while I am, well, none of those things! I knew that in order to have a real chance at success, we would need to approach the business as a team.
  2. Low investment = low risk. It costs very little money up front to get most eCommerce businesses started. The biggest chunk of investment is time and effort. And trust me, it takes a lot of both – there are no short cuts! We have passed up a lot of time that could have been spent relaxing, or having fun doing more enjoyable adventures to get this business off the ground.
  3. Location independent. I loved the idea of being able to take the business with us at a moment’s notice, wherever we ended up. Perfect for military spouses and partners!
  4. A unique learning experience. I knew, whether the business failed or succeeded, I would learn so many new things. From website design, customer service nuances, and how to incorporate a business, I was excited about the challenge and the opportunity to learn and develop new skills.
  5. Great potential for growth. If we could be successful, the profits from this venture could support our family for years to come. It had the potential to pay significant dividends in the future, and that was definitely a huge motivating factor in deciding to start our business.

After diving in and doing a lot of research, we chose our “niche” – selling night vision equipment. We recently opened our store and have been pleased with the steady progress and growth we are seeing! eCommerce is not a “get rich quick” proposition and, like all business start-ups, is no sure bet. It requires an enormous amount of time and effort, patience, and drive to ‘stick to it,’ as any business does!

Have you ever started your own eCommerce business? What were your struggles and triumphs?

lindsey-almLindsay Alm is a military spouse entrepreneur and co-owner of ViperEyes.com. Her husband Adam is currently serving in the Air Force as a pilot.

HomeFront Rising: Military Spouses are Changing the Face of Politics!

working-womanA few weeks ago, something amazing happened. And it happened because of military spouses. Like many things that military spouses get frustrated by, a conversation happened and that conversation became an idea, and that idea became Homefront Rising – Political Action Training. A group of forward thinking, career-minded spouses decided to bring experts together to teach military spouses how to become leaders, advocates, and politicians.

In Gear Career and the Military Spouse JD Network hosted the day long workshop focused on teaching military spouses to pitch and message themselves, raise money for campaigns, get political leaders to listen and follow through, and how to overcome gender barriers in politics. All of this was done without leaning toward any political party. It was spectacular! And much of what we learned could apply to any career or leadership role, not just politics.

We heard from great speakers; Congresswoman Niki Tsongas (D-3rd/MA), Governor Nikki Haley (SC), Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D-2nd/HI), Congressman Jim Bridenstine (R-1st/OK), Congressman Dave Reichert (R-8th/WA), Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth (D-8th/IL), and a list of professionals who coach, fund, train, and connect political candidates at different steps in their careers.

My takeaways from this workshop were many, but I will share a few of my favorite nuggets:

  • For building a career (including a political one): You must build your network wherever you are. If you are still moving because of your service member’s career, then engage in a network that has a national presence so you can connect in each new location (think League of Women Voters, Toastmasters, etc.).
  • For getting what you want (funding, votes, legislation, a job): Find out what you want in common with the person you are making “the ask” to. Put a face to the issue by telling a story, and be part of the mutual solution.
  • For preserving your public face: Use kindness as a rule, and wait for two hours to do or say anything that doesn’t meet that standard. After that, do another gut check before going forward. If you make a big public mistake, own it, and fix it.

This workshop came at a great time because fewer and fewer members of Congress have been service members. As spouses, we care as much about the future of the military, veterans, families, and survivors as anyone who has served in uniform. I think Homefront Rising inspired military spouses to speak up and get involved in their communities and to change the political conversation!

Over 60 very motivated and dedicated military spouses attended the event, and I don’t expect this will be the end of it. You can read tweets from the event at #HomefrontRising, and find blog posts inspired by spouses who attended.

Keep your eyes and ears open for military spouses changing the conversation, because they are! Or will you will be inspired to try it out for yourself?

Brooke-GoldbergPosted by Brooke Goldberg, Government Relations Deputy Director