Tag Archives: military families

“Look for the Helpers:” Encouragement After Devastation and Uncertainty

I’ve felt a bit stressed out lately. Things have been crazy at work–I’ve come the grim realization that I’ve said “yes” to entirely too many things! Closer to home, we’re adjusting to my husband’s retirement and my parents’ move from the farm where they’ve lived for almost 60 years to a retirement community. My kids have loving partners and happy lives, but I don’t see them often enough.

Then there’s all that craziness in the world today: terrorist attacks overseas and threats here, uncertainty for military families because of those threats, military budget pressures that are prompting downsizing, continued deployments, and the fear of too many unknowns.


A speaker at a conference I recently attended said, “Stress is not always bad–it’s how we respond to stress [that matters].”

This is not the first time I’ve felt stressed; I felt stressed when we moved every couple of years while my husband was on active duty, when my kids had to switch schools, when I had to put my career hopes on hold, and when my husband deployed. And sometimes other events intruded and added to the ‘out of control’ feeling: Desert Storm, September 11, natural disasters, school shootings.

When my kids were young, our TV viewing included some Sesame Street, lots of Looney Tunes, with some Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Disney videos also in the mix. But every once in awhile, when things were particularly harried, we’d spend some quiet time in Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. The slow pace, courtesy, and obvious love calmed even the most frenzied four-year old and his mom.

During Desert Storm, and again after the September 11 attacks, Mister Rogers reassured frightened children that grownups would take care of them, despite the things they saw on TV that seemed scary. He provided guidance for their parents. We still seek out his words when we’re on overload because of scary things happening in the world, “In times of stress, the best thing we can do for each other is to listen with our ears and our hearts, and to be assured that our questions are just as important as our answers.”

In tough times, Mister Rogers would often say, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”


And so, that’s what I’m trying to do these days–look for the helpers. It’s comforting to know they are everywhere for my family, for me, and for our military families. One of my ‘helpers’ is a friend–a widow–who meets me for dinner before choir practice. She thinks I’m helping to ease her loneliness, but the chance to relax after a long work day with a good friend over a glass of wine and a good meal is such a break for me!

Helpers are everywhere and I’m fortunate to find them in the course of my work. Our helpers include our service members, and their families, who answer our Nation’s call every day. Our National Military Family Association Volunteers are helpers to us, and their communities, as they link military families with resources and help us speak up for those families.

I met other helpers, veterans and veteran-serving organizations, at a summit on Bainbridge Island, Washington at Islandwood. These helpers developed recommendations for Washington’s Governor on promoting the health of military families and job readiness for veterans through programs in the outdoors. Most recently, I met hundreds of helpers in Fayetteville, North Carolina; they are the teachers, counselors, community organizations, and medical providers who gather each year at the Forward March conference to learn more about supporting military families and veterans.

Helpers are everywhere, and connecting with them not only helps reduce our stress, but also the stress others feel. In this crazy, scary world, let’s celebrate the helpers and join with them to make our part of the world a little less stressful.

Are there ‘helpers’ in your life who help relieve your stress? Share it with us in the comments and give them a big THANKS!

joycePosted by Joyce Wessel Raezer, National Military Family Association Executive Director

Operation Purple Family Retreat in the Tetons is Your Family’s “Rest Stop”

There are a wide range of emotions that happen after a service member returns home from deployment. Reunions are filled with excitement and joy that overwhelms the house, leaving a ‘honeymoon feeling’ that can last for days, weeks, even months.

But after the excitement settles, reintegration starts. This can be a long hard journey; it’s like the best road trip you ever took with your family. In the beginning, everyone’s excited, but two hours in things get rough and everyone keeps asking Mom, “Are we there yet?” Dad is telling everyone to settle down, kids are pouting in the backseat, and before you know it, this once fun road trip looks like an upset, stressed out family that needs a rest stop.


Operation Purple Family Retreats® at Teton Science Schools is that rest stop. Families drive from all over the country to reunite and reconnect at this family retreat. The best part is that families get to come together in the Grand National Teton Park doing activities they have never done before, seeing sites together for the first time, and enjoying time with one another in a place where they can stretch out and be a family after a long journey. They make new friends with other families, just like them, and get to celebrate what makes being a military family so special.

With amazing views that house beautiful wildlife and mountain ranges, our Operation Purple families build bonds with other families going through the same stressors of being a military family. These families all understand what it’s like to be military service member, a military spouse, and a military kid.

At Operation Purple Family Retreats in the Tetons, military families will go on hikes through the Tetons, sit in a raft and float down a river seeing beavers, eagles, and sometimes a moose (if you’re lucky)! In the winter, families go cross-country skiing and snow shoeing, and will get one-on-one attention from trained outdoor educators. All while learning resiliency skills from trained licensed professionals.


The best part of Operation Purple Family Retreats at Teton Science Schools is the bond and recharge the families have at the end of camp. It’s a week-long retreat, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s a rest stop on their reintegration road trip.

Operation Purple Family Retreat in the Tetons can be your family’s break to stretch out, relax, and get everyone excited for the road ahead.

If your military family is in need a of ‘rest stop’ to recharge, consider attending Operation Purple Family Retreat in the Tetons! Check our website for updates or sign up to receive notifications when the application window opens!

simmonePosted by Simmone Quesnell, Operation Purple® West Program Manager  

I’m Scared for What’s Next: A Military Spouse’s Thoughts on the Paris Attacks

There are some things in life that, no matter how hard you try, just don’t make sense. No amount of contemplation, insight, or prayer can bring sense to the evil of this world. September 11, 2001 shaped the way I grew up, and the way I view things around me. It took away my ability to see good and heroic things happening, and replaced it with fear and uncertainty.


As a military spouse, fear can become a daily emotion. When tragedy strikes, our worlds seem to close in on us as we run the gamut of possible outcomes for our loved one; will they deploy, and where? When will training start? What holidays will he miss? How dangerous will it be?

President Obama recently said that he would keep troops in Afghanistan through 2017. This decision, sadly, didn’t seem to take any of us by surprise despite earlier pledges to withdraw them. My gut is twisted thinking of the other military families who won’t have their loved ones home for the holidays. My heart aches for the families who received news that their service members are being sent to relieve those left in Afghanistan or to protect our nation in other remote parts of the globe.

It’s been 14 years of war, and the state of the world isn’t getting any better. I’m not ready for an endless war, where places we thought were safe can become the frontlines of new types of battle. Places like Paris–beautiful, beloved Paris–a place where dozens of my friends have visited, even lived. Why would any evil target Paris?

As I was processing the death tolls, the injuries, and the eventual claim of who was responsible, I was overcome with emotion. I’m scared for what’s next.

There are military families in France and other countries in Europe; I’m scared for them. Stateside military families are wondering, no doubt, if their service member might deploy as a result of these attacks. I’m scared for them, too. I’m scared for the service members who are still enlisting in our all-volunteer military—they’ll be the next wave of support to join our nation’s longest war.

I don’t know what to expect except fear and uncertainty.


Paris could have been anywhere—a military base, New York City, a theme park, an NFL football game. And I could have been there. My family could have fallen victim. And that scares me. Evil is out there, lurking, planning, targeting. And we’re only doing the best we can to protect ourselves.

Paris’ Night of Horror was unbelievably senseless and evil, and there’s no way to process why other humans would commit such an act of terror. As a military spouse, my heart hurts for the families of the victims. And I’m scared for what’s next for my own family.

There aren’t many historic events in my lifetime that give me hope that good still exists. But seeing the sacrifice our men and women in uniform, and their families, make to protect our nation gives me that hope. Tragedy isn’t avoidable, but I know that someone’s loved one—including my own—vowed to protect us from it as best they could.

I’m scared for what’s next because I know our service members are at stake. I know some military families will have to bear the burden of another deployment, another holiday alone, even another tragedy. And some of those families are my friends.

I’m asking you to rally behind the military families you know. Just as we all are finding ways to stand by the people of Paris, don’t forget to stand by our service members in harm’s way. Support the cause and display your pride in all ways. The war isn’t over. Military families need to know their country has their back.

Seeing our country stand behind the military and their families is the good that drives out the fear and uncertainty bred by tragedy.

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Content Development Manager

Department of Defense is Paying for “Acts of Patriotism?”

We’ve all been to a sporting event of some kind, and felt that pang of pride in our gut when the National Anthem plays, and our service members take part in some kind of patriotic display. Some displays are beautiful—like a flag that covers an entire football field—and others are just plain awesome—like a service member rappelling down rope in the middle of a hockey arena to drop the puck.

I was a little confused when I read this week that the Pentagon has been paying sports teams for the opportunity to showcase service members in their pre-show routines.


What? The same Pentagon that doesn’t have the funds to properly equip service members in the field, or to train them prior to deployment because there’s no money in the Defense budget? Where did the money come from? And should we be mad?

I’m on the fence.

But Senator Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., isn’t. He’s made sure Congress knows about these acts of ‘paid patriotism.’ Earlier this spring, contracts between the Department of Defense (DoD) and certain professional sports teams came to light (72 to be exact), totaling $6 million in taxpayer dollars.

So where IS this money coming from?

A few of the sports teams claim they’ve never accepted money from the DoD, while others aren’t sure. The National Football League (NFL), sent a letter to Congress advising they are launching their own external audits to see if money was exchanged; if it was, the NFL says it will be refunded.

Well that’s all nice and polite, but I’m still wondering where the money is coming from?

The National Military Family Association has been fighting tooth and nail since before Sequestration took effect in 2014, for Congress to stop balancing the budget on the backs of military families.

Commissaries had to close down, military treatment facilities (MTFs) weren’t fully staffed, and military spouses were sending their service members overseas without proper equipment or training, all because there wasn’t enough money in the budget.

But somewhere, in that budget they couldn’t balance, was money to pay professional sports teams for patriotic displays before games?


Here’s where I’m on the fence: The future of our military force is in dire straits, and any form of recruiting is a necessary evil.

Service members and their families are packing up their toys and leaving; the benefits don’t seem so great to some, and the sacrifice doesn’t seems worth it to others. More military families are getting out and transitioning back to civilian life.

The military already has multimillion dollar ‘displays’ intact for recruiting future service members—demonstration teams like the US Navy Blue Angels, and the US Air Force Thunderbirds have been wowing crowds and inspiring America’s youth to give back to their country through military service for 69 years, and 62 years, respectively.

But are these recruiting tools working? Are other forms of ‘paid patriotism’ really needed?

Senator Flake doesn’t think so. He told ABC News, “These [sports] teams do a lot of good work. The problem is when activities like this are paid for by the tax payer, it cheapens everything else they do and that’s why it ought to go away.”

What will happen if the DoD really is paying for these ‘advertisements?’ And who should be held accountable?

I want to know what in the world is going on… or I’m jumping over the fence and rushing the field.

Do you think about the Department of Defense paying for these ‘acts of patriotism?’ Share your thoughts in the comments!

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Content Development Manager

Military Spouse Finds Fulfillment Through Volunteering With NMFA!

We’d just moved cross-country…again, and I was looking to keep myself busy. There was a posting on a social media site that a local organization was going to be hosting a resource fair, so I thought I’d check it out. Since we had gotten to our new duty station, I hadn’t really found where all the community services were, and I knew this would be a great start to finding what was out there.

As I was moving through the tables on the day of the fair, I saw the National Military Family Association table. I applied for their scholarship once, but vaguely remembered about it, since it had been so long ago. One of the regional coordinators greeted me and spoke about the Association with so much passion. And they needed volunteers.

I could take some time and do this, why not?

Volunteer banner NMFA

I hadn’t found a job yet, and the prospects were meager. So I took the brochures, looked through them, and saw all the great things NMFA does for military families. They had me at Operation Purple Camps! I hadn’t known much, back then, about the Association, other than scholarships, but once I found out about all the great things they do, I jumped on the opportunity to help.

Since joining the NMFA Volunteer Corps, I have hosted NMFA tables a few resource fairs–spreading the word about the Association is a great thing! I am also on social media, sharing posts from NMFA. When we lived in the Washington D.C. area, I was so fortunate to be able to take part in Association-sponsored events and related opportunities, events hosted at NMFA headquarters, and I even attended White House events, too! Those are a once-in-a-lifetime opportunities!

What I enjoy about volunteering is telling people all about what the Association does for military families. They are surprised at the amount of advocating we do on Capitol Hill. I also enjoy hearing they have sent their children to an Operation Purple Camp, or that they went to one of the retreats and thoroughly enjoyed it. Recently, one of our NMFA scholarship recipients came up to the table I was hosting, and told me she was a scholarship winner; to me, those are the things that make me happy and proud to be a Volunteer. It’s awesome to hear all of the great, first-hand stories of all the ways NMFA helps military families!

Now that we’ve crossed the country (again!), we are at a duty station where not many have heard about the Association. This is the perfect opportunity to share such an awesome resources with the military families in my new area. Volunteering has been a great experience from the beginning, and I will continue to do so every chance I get!

Do you volunteer in your community? Tell us what you love about it!

sylvia-salas-brownPosted by Sylvia Salas-Brown, National Military Family Association Volunteer, Army Spouse, Fort Hood, TX

5 Tips to Connect with LGBTQ in Your Military Community

My wife, Vanessa, is an Army veteran. When we met, she had already served and returned to civilian life, but she’s thinking of enlisting again, soon. And for me, I need information; I needed to know what my life would look like if my wife joins again. I googled my little heart out, but I saw little of what I was looking for.


I noticed there weren’t many blogs or voices from lesbians in the military, so I created a website and blog to create a positive place online for lesbian military spouses; a space I might need if I become a military spouse, too. I also wanted to create acceptance for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in the military. Creating this space online was a way to honor my wife as a veteran, because when she did serve, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) was still in effect. DADT made it hard for her to have a relationship and live her life the way she wanted. I’m thankful she was single when we met after she got out of the Army. It’s only been a few months since same-sex marriage was made legal, but not all LGBT military personnel may be publicly open about their personal lives. And that’s okay. 

What does same-sex marriage mean for your military family? Embracing change may be the simple answer. Today, more than 71,000 service members identify with the LGBT community, and it’s common to have an LGBT person serving military families. Same-sex marriage creates a chance for everyone to be proactive and treat families in military units or on bases with an open heart, regardless of their sexual orientation or self-identity. 

I’m passionate about writing, and I love that I can blog and create a positive place for LGBT military service members online. I want to use my voice to help military families see LGBT service members are people with families, too. It’s important to respect others and treat them as you want to be treated.

Here are 5 tips to get you engage and help you connect with LGBT within your military community:

1) Acknowledge everyone. Greet and introduce yourself to everyone in the room. When inviting people over, or to an event, use the term ‘spouse’ instead of wife, or husband, to be inclusive.

2) Be friendly and welcoming. This is an easy one: just be yourself. Ask questions about their life, and talk about yours. It’s always nice to feel welcomed and acknowledged, and who knows, you might make a friend in the process!

3) Be an ally. Invite co-workers, spouses, and significant others to events. Some LGBT military personnel join the military because their own families might not support them for being who they are. See if they need help with something, or just need a friend to talk to. Being an ally for someone who is LGBT is being someone who shows up and is tough, but gentle when needed.

4) Support equality and find common ground. The LGBT community is a great place to start! Educate yourself about the diversification of gender and sexuality so you can understand the range a person can identify as.

5) Be courageous and speak up. Learn what terms means within the LGBT community, and tell others who might not know. If someone starts a joke about being gay or transgender, let them know it’s offensive. Today, 7 in 10 Americans have close friends or relatives who are gay. By speaking against homophobia and transphobia, you support those in the LGBT community. You can make a huge impact on how others treat LGBT people in the future by engaging with others and talking about LGBT friends.


LGBT relationships are no different than straight relationships: two people in love with each other. The repeal of the DADT made it legal for any person, regardless of sexual orientation, to openly serve in the military. But LGBT families need continued support from straight allies. That’s why I think it’s important to be part of this open-minded, open-hearted movement within your military community. At the root of everything, we are all human beings with families, who love and want be loved.

The more you know about LGBT families the easier it will be for you to interact and introduce yourself within your military communities. It can be very intimidating or nerve racking being new to the military community as a military spouse whether you are in a straight relationship or same-sex relationship.

How have you connected with the LGBT community in your military life?

norine holguinPosted by Norine Holguin, creator of Lesbian Army Wife, and OMG Lesbian Army Wife Blog

In Their Words: September 11th Through MilKids’ Eyes

Fourteen years have passed since the sunny Tuesday morning that would change our nation forever. As we reflect each year on the lives lost that day, and the years following in our nation’s longest war, there are some who haven’t seen the history unfold for themselves.

Many military kids weren’t alive when September 11, 2001 happened, though many of their parents joined the military as a result of the attacks. Many have seen their parent deploy, miss birthdays, even miss the birth of other children.

Some military kids may not have lived through our nation’s darkest day, but they’re left to grow up in it’s wake.

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Content Development Manager