Tag Archives: military families

A Different Kind of Halloween: How Transition Changed Things

halloween-katieGhosts. Goblins. Princesses. A young Marine. Families dressed as the Jake and the Never Land Pirate characters. These are my 10 years of Halloween memories.

I love celebrating Halloween on a military base. I love the deep sense of community. I love the designated trick or treat hours in military housing. I love the fire pits and pot lucks and general good will in the community.
I felt safe and secure taking our young son to trick or treat on a military base.

But, this year will be different.

This is the first year we are a Veteran family. My husband is no longer active duty and he is not retired. He was medically separated after going through the Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES), along with a medical board. The entire process took about 12 months. IDES was complicated to navigate on its own, but add in my husband’s various medical appointments to the mix, and I’d say our transition out of the military was complex. We encountered many highs and lows during the entire process; it would have been awesome to have more resources or peer support to help me, as a spouse, help my husband and our family navigate through our transition.

With 1.5 million service members leaving the military in the next 5 years, transition from military to civilian life is, or will become, a reality for many military families.

halloween-katie-2And transition is hard–both emotionally and physically draining.
In fact, our Association hosted a Transition Roundtable event to talk about the needs of families during the transition process. We fielded a survey asking military families who have transitioned, or who anticipate transition, to share their top concerns.

Three out of four are stressed, or very stressed, about transition. They identified their top concerns as: being financial prepared, finding employment for the service member, accessing post-military health care, finding behavioral and emotional support, and understanding Veteran Affairs’ benefits and the claims process.

Our roundtable was the beginning of a conversation about transition. We’ll cover your top concerns, identify gaps, and develop resources to help YOU and YOUR FAMILY successfully transition from military to civilian life.

This year you won’t find our Jake, Izzy, or Cubby on your military base, but instead you’ll find a family of Super Heroes creating new memories in our hometown bravely navigating our transition from military to civilian life.

Has your family transitioned out of the military? Is transition around the corner? What are your top concerns?

katie2Posted by Katie Savant, Government Relations Information Manager

Survive and Thrive: Twentynine Palms, CA!

Honey – we have orders . . . to Twentynine Palms, CA.

While the thought of being stationed in the California desert may feel like the middle of nowhere – there are several hidden gems in this desert oasis to keep you and your family busy.

Here are my top 9 tips for things to do around Twentynine Palms:

1. Joshua Tree National Park: One of the best national parks our country has to offer! Be sure to check out the Joshua Tree Ranger Programs that offers guided hikes, patio talks with rangers, and an evening program to introduce visitors to various aspects of the park. Pro tip: Check the weather report available on the parks website. Some days you’ll need to bring a jacket and other days, you’ll need sunscreen and plenty of water. Wear comfortable shoes and bring a camera. Bonus pro tip: Show your military ID and you’ll receive a National Parks and Federal Recreation Annual Lands Pass for FREE!

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2. Earn your two year degree or take a class for fun at Copper Mountain College: In addition to two year Associates of Arts or Associates of Science degrees, CMC offers a variety of certificate, guest speakers, and community education classes. Pro tip: AS and AA degrees transfer from CMC to the California State University system and guarantee your admission with junior standing.

3. Music Festivals: So many music festivals! From the Joshua Tree Music Festival to the Spring Concert Series and Yucca Valley Summer Music Festival, if you’re in to music, you’ll find plenty of it here. Pro tip: Wear comfortable shoes, bring a folding chair, drinks, and snacks. Check out festival website’s for any specific details.

4. Theater 29: Check out the local theater productions! This fall/winter, Theater 29 will be featuring the comedies Shakespeare in Hollywood and Young Frankenstein. For curtain times, check out their website. And if you have the acting bug, check out their website for information on auditions. Pro tip: this is a casual community theater, no need to dress up and be all fancy, unless you want to.

5. Smiths Ranch Drive-In: One of the last remaining drive-in theaters in the US, the Smiths Ranch Drive-In is a ton of fun. It can be a great date night destination or fun for the whole family. And it’s $5.00 for two movies, you can’t beat that! They also offer all the normal movie food and snack options (soda, popcorn, candy). Pro tip: bring your own snacks or set up dinner at the drive in! Let the kids play and enjoy watching a movie under the stars.

6. Pioneer Days Celebration: October 16th-19th. Held annually the 3rd weekend in October this family-friendly event includes a parade, carnival rides, games, Lego design challenge. Pro tip: For the ultimate family bonding experience, consider entering some of the events, such as the Outhouse race.

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7. HWY 62 Open Studio Art Tours: Over 140 artists with 95 studio locations make this event a win for any art lover. Sponsored by the Morongo Basin Cultural Arts Council, tour dates are October 25-26 and November 1-2 each year. Pro tip: Grab your friends, water, and road snacks because this tour takes you through the Morongo Basin on Highway 62.

8. Run for your life: So many great runs and walks to participate in! Whether you’re a seasoned runner or just want to participate in community fun runs and walks, there are plenty of opportunities to trail run, join a running group or support your community though a fun run. My favorites are the Tram Road Challenge 6K and the Think Pink Challenge at Felix Field hosted by the OSC of Twentynine Palms. Pro tip: New to the area? Take some time before you charge the trails and running courses. With the elevation changes, it usually takes the seasoned runner a few weeks to adjust. But you’ll be a ROCKSTAR runner at lower elevations.

9. Go down the hill: Otherwise known to locals as the “low desert” be sure to visit the Palm Springs area in the Coachella value for a host of seasonal events, dining, shopping and activities. From the annual Stagecoach country music festival to a trip to a local zoo there’s something for everyone here. Pro tip: Please sure to attend a local brief about desert survival tips. From extreme highs during the day to low temperatures at night – desert living is an adjustment.

Have you been stationed at Twentynine Palms? What are your must-not-miss events?

sue-lowePosted by Sue Lowe, NMFA Volunteer and Marine Corps Spouse

Survive and Thrive in Pensacola, Florida!

Let me start by telling you that they don’t call it “The Emerald Coast” for nothing! Before moving here, Pensacola never really showed up on my radar. I hail from Jacksonville, Florida, and went to school in Tallahassee, only 150 miles away from home. I knew of Pensacola only by way of mandatory history classes growing up. Until my husband received orders to NAS Pensacola, I had no idea how awesome this little town really is.

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You see, the survive part has been easy for me. It’s the thriving that is a challenge. Our last two duty stations were learning curves. And they weren’t all fun. I didn’t make friends easily, my expectations were out of this world, and in the beginning, I struggled to find meaningful employment.

So when it came time to pack up and go, I planned to make the best of our time here.

If you are a Navy or Marine Corps family, there’s a good chance you may land in Pensacola at some point in your career. Home to A-Schools, flight schools, training squadrons, and even the world renowned Blue Angels, Pensacola is the perfect mix of everyone…and beautiful beaches to boot.

It’s true—we live where you vacation.

But when it comes to making the best of a PCS move and thriving in your new town, I think Pensacola has been a great place for me to spread my wings, meet new people, and even find a life outside of the military. Here are some tips should you find yourself on the Emerald Coast:

Consider community service.
Weeks after moving here, I knew I wanted to get involved in a community service organization. What better way to get to know a new city, make business connections, and find some great girlfriends who like wine as much as you? I joined the Junior League of Pensacola and haven’t looked back. Aside from giving back to a community that supports the military, I’m setting myself up for success when our next PCS comes. Most cities have community service organizations; the Junior League is no exception. Once I move, I’ll be able to transfer to a new League location and boom! Like-minded, service-oriented, and wine-loving friends await!

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Become a self-proclaimed Foodie!
Arriving in Pensacola, I quickly figured out this is a food-loving town. From food festivals to a $100 burger at a local Irish watering hole, Pensacola is the perfect place to make a foodie bucket list. And ALWAYS try the hole in the wall restaurant. Most times, they don’t disappoint! One of my favorite Pensacola-area treats is The Gulf, a beachside restaurant made entirely from old shipping containers and located just 20 minutes away in Orange Beach, Alabama. Al Fresco Airstream trailer ‘food trucks’ in downtown Pensacola are perfect for a quick, fun, and relaxing sunset dinner. And you have to try the East Hill Yard Wine and Taco Hospital. Yes. You read right…built in an old hospital from 1914, The Yard now hosts a relaxed atmosphere with lawn chairs and yard games. Rumor has it: the bathrooms are in the exact spot where the morgue used to be!

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Activities on base really aren’t that bad!
You won’t find many crafting parties, or Bunco nights here. But in one day, you can become qualified to drive a boat (then rent one the very same day), run a 5k, and climb 177 steps to the top of the working lighthouse on NAS Pensacola. Surrounding bases like NAS Whiting Field, Correy Station, and Saufley Field also have similar fun events! For me, I decided to get involved with my husband’s command by volunteering to be the new Ombudsman. I knew it would be a great way to meet other families in our command (which is very small), and also be able to find out all of the services our base has to offer. In my free time, I love taking advantage of the open gym nights on base. Tuesdays and Thursdays are for volleyball, which is my stress-reliever!

macy-on-base

We hear it every time we PCS, “Submerse yourself in your new community!” I hated hearing that because it always seemed so hard. But not in Pensacola; it’s a relatively small town, and there is so much to do and see! Take advantage of all the opportunities around you, and don’t be afraid to drive 30 minutes for good food…it’s always worth it!

And of course, on days when you don’t want to do anything, the white sand and emerald waters are only minutes away!

Have you ever been stationed in Pensacola, Florida? What were your must-do’s?

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Content Development Manager, Pensacola, FL

Military Families: Living the History of September 11th

September 11, 2001—the day our Nation stood still. The day that seemed as if it would never pass. The day that started the longest war in our country’s history. While families of the 2,996 lost that day grieved for their loved ones, families of those serving grieved for what they knew loomed around the corner.

More than 6,800 service members have paid the ultimate price in the 4,749 days since September 11, 2001.

What our Nation remembers as a day in history, military families continue to live every day.

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A Toast to Temporary: It’s Who We Are

rohe-famThe other day, I was at Dollar General picking up balloons for my kids’ “Boohoo Woohoo” tea, a yearly way of saying farewell summer, hello new school year, held on the first day of school. As I waited to have 8 blue stars and 8 white stars filled with helium, my heart started racing, I began to sweat, and I couldn’t catch my breath.

“I’m sick of temporary,” I thought.

I don’t know what school colors my children will have when they reach high school. I have no idea what their mascot will be. Will they ever even talk to anyone they had in their kindergarten class? I grew up in a small town where your school colors and mascot were the same from kindergarten all the way through your senior year. Our parents ordered a larger size for spirit wear because they wanted it to last a few years. Now, as a military family, I question even ordering spirit wear knowing it will only be worn for the next 6 weeks while my child is actually playing on that team.

Temporary. I don’t want to accept temporary anymore. I want to establish roots. I’m tired of looking around this house and accepting its flaws because it’s only temporary. I’m saddened when I think about my friends here – there’s only two options ahead: they’ll move first, or I’ll move away, leaving them behind. I don’t want my kids to have to try out for a new team next year. I don’t want to have to find a new running partner.

Then something crazy happened.

My husband planned a fancy dinner at home for our anniversary. He is an amazing cook and prepared a fabulous seafood feast. He put a bottle of wine in my hand and told me to read the description. The wine, called Gnarly Head, states, “Here’s to the vines, and to a life lived boldly. These heroic vines, produce intense fruit flavors and deeply concentrated wine-matched only by the passion of the people who drink them.”

And there it is! US! Living life boldly, with a passion for our country.

Temporary is who we are.

Do you ever feel overwhelmed with things feeling temporary? How do you see the bright side?

Lyndy-RohePosted by Lyndy Rohe, Communications Administrative Assistant

Lessons Learned Washing the Vietnam Memorial Wall

The first time I visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was in 1983 while on a family vacation to DC. There was something powerful about that memorial, even to a 6-year-old. I stared, moved by the people tracing the names of their loved ones on pieces of paper to take home with them. So when our Association had the opportunity to wash the wall, I was honored and proud to participate with my family.

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Here’s what I learned from the experience:

There’s a reason you wash the wall early in the morning. A 5:30 wakeup isn’t always appealing, but even without coffee, I felt energized watching the sun rise behind the Washington Monument while we washed the wall. Plus, it’s the only time of day the wall isn’t flooded with tourists.

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Kids are actually helpful. Washing the fingerprints and smears off the granite isn’t physically difficult, but it can be emotionally draining. In fact, the memorial was created to help the 3 million who served with the healing process. Seeing the kids, elbow deep in suds, scrubbing the bottom part of the wall brought levity and life to the experience.

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The wall was controversial, like the war. Everything about Vietnam was marred in controversy, even a memorial to those who served. The design was the result of a nationwide contest, and the entries were judged anonymously. 21-year-old Maya Lin, a student at Yale, came up with the winning design. Some said that only listing tens of thousands of names may as well be a tribute to anti-war activist Jane Fonda. Some even called it ‘a nihilistic slab of stone.’ The statue of three American soldiers was later added as a compromise.

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What some see as a chore, others see as an honor. My dad, originally from Kosovo, was perhaps the most energetic wall washer in our group. He stood alone with the hose, even when others had moved on, paying extra care to each name. He shared that, in communist countries, people are forced to clean war memorials, which are built to honor communist leaders and their ideology—not the people who fought; it’s not something you volunteer for. He went on to explain to the group why this particular experience meant so much to him. “America is seen as a beacon of hope for people around the world,” he said. “Each time America sent troops to parts of the former Yugoslavia, they saved thousands of lives. I can’t think of anything more important than honoring those soldiers.”

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One of the most beautiful parts of the wall washing was seeing the reflections of my fellow volunteers in the wall as they worked to clean it. As the park ranger so eloquently put it, “we are all a part of that wall.”

Have you ever been particularly moved by a service project? Tell us about it in the comments below.

Photos: By JMill Photography, 2014

Besa-PinchottiPosted by Besa Pinchotti, Communications Director

5 Tips to a Healthier Military Family Lifestyle!

fitmilfamsIt’s no secret that summer months lure families outside, and draw attention to health and fitness. This year, the Coca-Cola Foundation focused on health and wellness within military families, and provided our Association with a donation of $50,000 to award to military spouses seeking their degree or certification in a health and fitness-related field.

We asked our military spouse scholarship recipients to share a few helpful tips for families, like theirs, to get on the right track towards a healthier and active lifestyle. Here’s what they said:

  1. Get Physical! Get outside and play– make daily activity a ‘norm’ in your family’s life! Create fun activities so exercise isn’t a chore.
  2. Make Health Food Fun! Have kids help in the kitchen and give them options so they learn to make healthy decisions. Try making fruit and veggie smoothies! Cook meals as a family and enjoy the change in lifestyle together!
  3. Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail. Have fruits or veggies on hand and chopped up for an on-the-go snack. Pack lunches to avoid the unhealthy options from school. Take time on the weekend to meal plan and make a grocery list.
  4. Get your Zzz’s! Create regular practices to wind down at the end of the day. Make sleep something your family values. Stick to a routine when possible.
  5. Hydrate! Hydrate! Hydrate! Drink more water! Use a fun water bottle to encourage water consumption all day long. Add your favorite fruits or vegetables to infuse water with flavor. Yum!

Is your family staying active and leading a healthy lifestyle this summer? We want to see! Share a picture using hashtag #FitMilFams of your family getting fit and healthy with us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, and be entered to win a Coca-Cola Visa card worth $200, $100 or $50! Photo submissions will be accepted August 18-August 24, 2014.

Get out there and get fit!

Contributors:
Melinda Boyd, Air Force Spouse – Registered Dietitian working towards a doctorate in clinical nutrition
Laura Hand, Navy Spouse – Working towards becoming a registered yoga teacher
April Walker, Marine Corp spouse – Pursuing a certification in group fitness Instruction