Got $10? That’s All You Need to Help Military Families!

soldier-hugging-dadThere’s a quote that we like to refer to at the National Military Family Association:

“The strength of our Soldiers is our Families.”
-General Raymond T. Odierno, General and 38th Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army

Our Association serves the family- and you can too!

This week only, we need as many people as possible to donate just $10 towards our Crowdrise Veteran’s Charity Challenge 2 fundraiser!

The charity that gets the most individual donations wins $2,500—putting us that much closer to the grand prize of $20,000.

Here’s what $20,000 would do for military families:

  • Fund the education and career path for 20 military spouses
  • Send 40 children to an Operation Purple camp, or
  • Host 10 families at a Family Retreat!

Tell your friends, share it on Facebook, and help us win this week’s challenge!

Click here to donate!

Thanks for your support – we couldn’t do it without you!

carolinePosted by Caroline Rasmus, Development and Membership Manager

DIY PCS Moves: A Just-Do-It Story!

AZ-sunsetWhen my coworkers found out my husband and I decided to do a personal procured moved (PPM) – or “a FULL DITY” move for you old school folks – from Northern Virginia all the way to southern Arizona, their reactions ranged from a simple, “Wow, good luck!” to speechless laughter (think: the ‘you have got to be kidding me… you must be insane!’).

We were fortunate this time around. This PCS didn’t come as a shock to us. We practically knew when it was coming. And we knew exactly where we were heading for our next career course: good ol’ Fort Huachuca, Arizona.

I started organizing way before we started packing, cleaning out junk drawers, purging closets, and things of that nature. Being organized really helped when we started filling the boxes. I scored free boxes from Craigslist, and made several runs to Home Depot for packing supplies like tape, packing paper, and bubble wrap because they have a 10% military discount!

Moving along, (get it? The pun was totally intended) we notified landlords, canceled utilities, submitted change of address, and requested necessary medical records, including our dog’s. A tip to remember: a month after the move, check back with the old utilities companies and make sure your accounts are closed out and have no remaining balance.

Once our cars were weighed, sans stuff, we convinced a few friends to help us load everything onto the trailer we purchased for the move. Our awesome crew happily accepted payment in the form of pizza and smiles!

All packed and ready to go, we stopped at the weigh station outside of town to get our full weight (loaded cars and trailer), and then we were off! The first leg of the trip was drama free. We stayed at a LaQuinta Inn in Nashville – they are inexpensive, super dog and pet friendly, and have military discounts! Score!

puppyThen, our truck lost its brakes between Memphis and Dallas. Try driving through downtown Dallas without brakes… actually, no, don’t try it! My husband managed to make it, thanks to the trailer hand brake.

We stopped in Dallas for a few days, stayed with family, fixed the truck and hit the road, again. Our poor pup was sick of the car by this point. I swear he rolled his eyes whenever it was time to go.

We crossed into Arizona as the sun was setting – a terrific way to welcome us to our new state. A few days of permissive temporary duty (TDY) was all it took for us to find a house to rent. The bonus was that we didn’t have to wait for any household goods to arrive! With keys in hand, we unloaded our boxes, filled the fridge and poured the wine.

Doing a PPM is not for everyone. But it can be done, and it can be worth it. We had it EASY, with only one furry ‘kid’ in tow.

Most people are weary of a PPM move because of the cost. Not every service member will receive the same amount money for moving expenses, which can end up costing a substantial amount upfront, and this may not work for your family.

We chose to put the expenses on a credit card with reward points, and paid it off along the way. In some branches, service members are able to get a cash advance from the military. So, don’t write the PPM option off immediately!

Here’s a glance at our breakdown of expenses:

Total Out of Pocket Expenses: $7,180

  • Trailer (we bought instead of renting): $5,000
  • Moving Supply Expenses: Roughly $200
  • Total fuel for two cars (one hybrid SUV, one diesel truck hauling a trailer): $1,100
  • Food for the trip: Roughly $350
  • Fix for truck brakes: $50 – an inexpensive fix thanks to a savvy father-in-law
  • Lodging while traveling: $80, LaQuinta Inn Nashville
  • Lodging during permissive TDY: $400, Holiday Inn Express Sierra Vista

Total Amount Collected + sale of trailer: $18,000 (after Taxes)

  • Trailer (sold it for the purchase cost): $5,000
  • Per Diem Pay, Dislocation Allowance, Mileage: $5,700
  • Pay per weight of move: $7,300

Total Profit: $10,820

This move ended up being a win for us, and a win for the Army, since they only pay us 95% of what they would pay professional movers.

So, would I do it again? Let me get back to you on that…

Has your family ever done a PPM (fully DITY) move? What were some of the challenges you faced?

alliePosted by Allie Jones, Program Manager, Spouse Education + Professional Support

Looking for a Few Good AmeriCorps Members!

americorps-logoAre you a military spouse or recent college graduate looking for a service opportunity in the National Capital Region? The National Military Family Association is looking for candidates to serve for a one-year term as an AmeriCorps member at our headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia.

For 3 years, our Association has reaped the benefits of hosting AmeriCorps members through the American Legion Auxiliary Call to Service Corps AmeriCorps Project. Our AmeriCorps members have helped boost our Association’s capacity to serve military families by working primarily with our Government Relations staff, while providing assistance to other departments, such as Volunteer Services, Youth Initiatives, and our Scholarship program.

We are pleased to announce we are accepting applications for AmeriCorps members for the coming year, beginning immediately.

As an AmeriCorps member with our Association, you can expect your work to be ever changing as needs arise. You may be researching changes to TRICARE in the morning, analyzing survey results at lunch, writing a blog about your help at one of our Operation Purple camps in the afternoon, and attending a gala for service members and their families in the evening.

We try to tailor our projects for our AmeriCorps members based upon their skills and interests, and our Association’s needs.

Due to AmeriCorps regulations, our AmeriCorps members can’t lobby the government in any way, so if you’re hoping to storm Capitol Hill to end sequestration, or convince Department of Defense officials to save the commissary, AmeriCorps might not be the position for you.

If you’ve got the tenacity and drive to storm Capitol Hill, and fight for military families, KUDOS! We love your spirit, and still want you to join us!

While not a purely volunteer position, the stipend is around $12,000 a year. The job is 40 hours a week, and considered full-time. Which means we’ll see your smiling face Monday through Friday in our offices in Alexandria, Virginia. There are healthcare and scholarship aspects to the position, too!

Still want to learn more? We’ve got AmeriCorps members who have served in our office previously, and would be happy to talk to you about their experiences. And just like we mentioned, they write blog posts for us, too! Read why Nate loves military families, and find out why he refused to say ‘good bye’ to us!

If you want to provide support to military families of the seven Uniformed Services in a welcoming office environment, while improving your professional expertise, apply today! You can reach us at Info@MilitaryFamily.org.

kathyPosted by Kathy Moakler, Government Relations Director

Military Family Support Shouldn’t Just Come From Military Families

patriotic-girlI am not a military spouse and neither of my parents served in the military. So why would I want to work to help support military families? Because in one way or another, we all have a connection to military families.

My mom was a military kid. She and her five brothers and sisters lived in Texas, New York, Georgia, Alabama, Kansas, Germany, and Colorado, and finally settled in Florida after my grandpa retired. My grandfather was a Lt. Colonel in the Army and served in the military during both the Korean and Vietnam wars. Sadly, he passed away a few weeks after I was born, so I was never able to hear his stories firsthand. But I still get to hear stories at each family get-together—stories about PCSing, deployments, living overseas, and living on base.

Even though I don’t know what military life feels like, I know military families are strong and resilient, and they serve too.

I have always been grateful to the military for all they do. I was in 7th grade when September 11th happened. In college, I felt compelled to stand on the streets to show my respect while the funeral procession of a boy from my high school passed by. He was brought back to our hometown after losing his life protecting ours.

When the 10th anniversary of September 11th came, I helped organize a ceremony in my hometown which honored families who had lost someone on that tragic day, and throughout the wars that followed.

I have enjoyed supporting our military since I was young, and I wanted to find a way to support our military as an adult.

As a new member of the Communications department here at our Association, I could not be more proud to be working with this organization. I want to help secure better resources and benefits for military families. I want to make sure military families’ voices are heard.

And I want to make sure civilians know military families shouldn’t be the only ones supporting each other.

I don’t think you need to be a military family to love military families. We are all connected to a military family in some way. Whether it’s a direct connection, a friend, or a neighbor.

Even in the short time I’ve worked for the Association, I’ve met so many military families within our community, and across the country, and I am honored to do my best to support them.

jordanPosted by Jordan Barrish, Public Relations Manager

“525,600 minutes – How Do You Measure a Year?”

nateIt’s hard for me to come terms with the fact that my year of service as an AmeriCorps member with the National Military Family Association has come to a close. I’ve laughed and I’ve cried. I’ve grown and I’ve learned. I’ve gained even more respect for the men and women in the seven Uniformed Services (I learned there are seven, and not just five) and those who love them back home.

By far, my favorite part of working here has been interacting directly with our military families. I had the privilege to attend many prestigious events over the last year that I would not have otherwise. I have witnessed families reconnect and overcome injuries at the Operation Purple Healing Adventures. I helped guide military families to the resources and services available to them at numerous exhibitions and fairs.

I wept as gay and lesbian service members and their spouses and families were recognized at the American Military Partners Association Inaugural Gala. As a gay man, I was particularly inspired to see the LGBT military community finally able to come together in the open, and throw an event just for themselves. I know a few years ago, before the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, such an event would have been impossible without the fear of discharge. I was proud our Association was a Silver Sponsor of the gala, showing support for ALL military families and celebrating diversity.

Beyond my direct service, I’ve learned the National Military Family Association is just that— one big family. We’ve had potlucks galore, a party every possible chance, and a few office competitions to keep things interesting. I can’t say there’s a single person in our office who I won’t miss when I leave, especially the ladies (and Zac!) that make up the rest of the Government Relations Department.

  • Katie, despite the physical distance between us, you’ve been integral in teaching me how the Association works, and I’ll always appreciate the help you’ve given me throughout the year.
  • Eileen, you always put a smile on my grumpy morning face with your cheerful kindness, and you always made me feel so welcome here.
  • Karen, for the rest of my life, thanks to you, I’ll think about the research that goes into every product, especially car trunks, and remember all the zany stories you have to share about your family.
  • Brooke, you’ve been a great mentor and advisor, giving me realness when I needed it. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
  • Zac, I’ve enjoyed having our high-level intellectual chats, and thanks for bringing some much-needed extra testosterone into the department!
  • Natalie, there’s a million things I could say about the friendship I’ve developed with you, but I don’t know where to start, so I’ll just say I’ll miss you.
  • Finally, Kathy, thanks for taking a chance on a small-town Midwestern boy who had dreams of working in the nation’s capital. I’ve learned so much from you over the last year that I will carry on during the rest of my professional lifetime, as well as my personal one. I don’t know if I’ll ever find a more caring and understanding supervisor. Thank you for making me a part of your family.

To my entire family here at the National Military Family Association, I’d like to say thanks for all the love you’ve given me, and “See ya later!” because goodbye is far too permanent.

natePosted by Nate Parsons, Americorps Member

Point. Click. PCS: House Hunting Just Got Easier!

House-for-saleRachel Marston is a military spouse and is the Public Relations and Communications Manager for the Red Door Group based out of the Washington, D.C. area. Eager to share a great resource, Rachel has laid out some of the awesome features of The Automated Housing Referral Network, a tool for military families to use when house hunting!

Orders are coming down quickly and military families are preparing for their upcoming Permanent Change of Station (PCS). With so many details to look after, it can be difficult to know where to start.

What are the good neighborhoods?

What is there to do?

Where are the schools?

Finding the perfect home is more than just answering those questions, it’s also finding a home that fits within your budget. There are many great resources out there, but The Automated Housing Referral Network (AHRN.com) is one resource that has proven to be a great asset for military families in all aspects of the PCS process.

As a housing referral website for the military community around the world, AHRN.com provides a list of relevant homes at a designated location. It also breaks down your BAH to assess the expected costs for rent and utilities, which can be really helpful when working through your budget.

AHRN

The amount of BAH given to a family is the driving force for any housing decision. Your BAH rate is probably the first thing you look at when receiving orders. AHRN.com creates a special search with homes that fit within 25% (higher or lower) of your BAH budget taking into consideration the cost for rent and utilities. It compiles a list of homes and identifies how far they are from your installation, which can be really helpful to see all in one place before making the move.

Another great resource is the ability for military families to personalize their housing profile, enabling AHRN.com to match preferences and the listing that best fit your needs. The profile works by asking what type of home is best for you. Whether that’san off-base house, community rental, for sale by owner, etc., and the, number of bedrooms, budget range and much more!

The ability to search for housing online by using AHRN.com’s BAH tools helps families execute the ideal budget plan for their next station. By determining costs ahead of time, you can prepare for out-of-pocket expenses. From sharing tips for a smooth transition on our blog to the live support chat rooms, AHRN.com is committing to assisting families in all aspects of the PCS process.

Register now and start house hunting and you can also take part in AHRN.com’s 10 Year Anniversary Giveaway Celebration, which is going on now through June 27!

 

What to do for Father’s Day When Your Father Isn’t Here

annie-and-dadLast year, I had the honor of writing a blog post for Father’s day. As Father’s day approaches once again, I read over the fond memories I shared about my dad and his military strength. At the time, I didn’t share his recent diagnosis of Stage 4 lung cancer, and I didn’t know it would be his last Father’s Day.

In the spring of 2013, I traveled back to Oregon to help my mom recuperate after knee replacement surgery. While I was there, we found out what my dad believed to be a pulled muscle was actually a deadly form of cancer. Life for all of us began moving at a very fast pace.

My dad served in the Army during the Korean War, and enjoyed going through the many boxes and albums of old photos from his younger years. He reminisced about his days in Korea with his Army buddies. Most have passed away, but a few are still hanging around. It was fun to hear his stories and to see his eyes light up with delight when a long forgotten name was suddenly remembered. A couple years ago, he started jotting names down on the backs of those pictures and began tracking down those who still survived. Some he found, but his search wasn’t complete.

We lost my dad on November 26, 2013, almost six months to the day he was diagnosed. He was a strong, courageous man who fought the good fight, kept the faith, and finished strong!

This will be our first Father’s Day without him.

I’ve been trying to think (and on some days not think because it’s just too hard) of how I would pay tribute to him this Father’s Day. I enjoy making donations to military charities in his honor because he was very proud of his military service. This year, my gift will be “in memory” of him, something I know my mom will appreciate.

But I also want to do something special to remember my dad. So I came up with a brilliant idea. I made a “Flat Stanley,” or “Flat Frank” in my case. I plan to take him with me and visit some of the places my dad never had a chance to see. One of those places is New York City, where I’ll be during Father’s Day. After that, “Flat Frank” and I will hit the road to see some other sights!

Being in a military family often means spending holidays, like Father’s Day, apart. But there are plenty of ways to honor the special men in your life:

  • Take your dad to a minor league baseball game. Tickets are inexpensive, and games are filled with fun family activities!
  • Share an experience, like hiking in a local park. Spend some quality one on one time with Dad and ask him what his life was like growing up.
  • Make him breakfast and serve it to him with a smile and thanks for all his hard work.
  • Simply write him a letter and tell him how much you appreciate all he does for your family.

herobraceletOne very special way I honor my dad is something I actually wear most days. I bought a Hero Bracelet in honor of my dad. I adore it and it gives me strength and comfort on those days I need it most. Hero Bracelets also donate a portion of their proceeds to various military charities, so it’s a win/win!

This Father’s Day, pay tribute to the special men in your life by making a donation in their honor. And spend a little extra time and find out more about them – you might be surprised what you learn!

Happy Father’s Day, Dad. Our memories live in my heart forever. I love you!

anniePosted by Annie Morgan, Development and Membership Deputy Director