Tag Archives: military families

Suicide Prevention Month: Listen, Respect, Share

marine-ceremony-flagRecently, I enjoyed a weekend getaway with my husband. We wandered in and out of beach front shops, miles away from a military base. It was nice to have a chance to be together and enjoy the beach scenery.

My husband and I were surprised when a local shop owner shared a very personal story with us. After exchanging pleasantries, she asked if my husband was in the military (his haircut gives it away). She also inquired where he was stationed and how long we had been assigned to this location. Her daughter’s family recently moved away from this particular location.

She shared with us that her son-in-law, an Army veteran, committed suicide. He was being treated for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). She was trying to grapple with her new feelings and offer support to her grieving daughter and grandchild.

After sharing our condolences, my husband and I both wanted to offer resources to help this anguished family. Before I rattled off a list of resources, I realized I need to step back and listen to the person speaking to me, respect what she was sharing with me, and share resources if she was agreeable to accepting information.

If you find yourself in a situation similar to mine, here are some suggestions:

Listen: Really listen. Try to understand what the person is communicating. Try not to think of a solution or offer a resource right away.

Respect: Respect that the person feels safe enough to share this information with you. Understand your boundaries and your comfort level.

Share: Is the person able to receive information? Do you have resources available? If not, and you are comfortable, exchange contact information and ask a professional for help.

I am not a counselor. I am not a medical expert. But, I am an involved military spouse. I was thankful I had read recent articles about the Military Crisis Line and Veterans Crisis Line.  Additionally, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24/7 support to those in crisis across the nation.

If you or someone you know has contemplated suicide, seek the support you need. The military and your local community provide a wide array of available programs for preventive care and support.

KatiePosted by Katie Savant, Government Relations Information Manager

On the Hill: Calling on Congress to end sequestration

Morning-Brief1Last week, on September 12, the National Military Family Association was joined by more than fifty staff, Board members, Volunteers and dedicated partners in our fight to #EndSequestration.

The #EndSequestration Team met at our headquarters in Alexandria, VA where they received matching t-shirts, a bag containing our freshly printed books, and receive a brief on the day’s events. Donning bright blue t-shirts with the words “#EndSequestration” on the back, the team boarded a bus and headed to Capitol Hill.

Following in the footsteps of our founding mothers, we divided into teams and headed to meet with all 535 Members of Congress to hand deliver our #EndSequestration book. We met with several Members of Congress, military and defense legislative assistants, and other staffers along the way.

Rep-Bill-Keating

The message was clear – the short-term impact of sequestration hurts military families, yet the long term consequences will be catastrophic.

Our #EndSequestration team reflected on their experiences of the day and shared the following:

Chairman of the Board Mary Scott, an Army spouse and mother of six children, who have all served in the military, stated , “I am very proud of [our] efforts in organizing this event. If we are who we say we are – strong advocates for military families – we must be willing to present their needs and challenges directly to those who can make a difference. This effort, on behalf of those we serve, delivered a powerful message in a personal way. I was very proud to introduce myself as a military family member and a representative of the National Military Family Association.”

Association volunteer Alicia McAfee said her first-hand experience advocating for military families left her optimistic that the unraveling yellow ribbon of support can be restored to its full potential.

rep-boehner-office-2

“Every office we visited was very welcoming. I definitely believe our voices were heard. I’m optimistic that the unraveling yellow ribbon of support can be restored to its full potential. It was encouraging to have other people on the Hill comment on our t-shirts and thank us for our efforts to end sequestration,” McAfee said after arriving back at our headquarters on Thursday.

After three dedicated hours of storming the Hill, we headed back to the bus to return to our headquarters. Some felt empowered; others hoped they did enough to get our message across. But all were appreciative to have this direct experience with the legislative process. This is the very foundation on which our government operates – by the people, for the people. And change doesn’t happen unless the people make their voices heard.

Delivering the albums to Congress is the beginning of the battle. We know we raised awareness about the concerns military families have about the long-term impact of sequestration. We will continue to demand that Congress keep their promises to our service members and their families by working to #EndSequestration.

Together we’re stronger.

Shannon-SebastianPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Online Engagement Manager

Association Takes the #EndSequestration Case to Congress

Storm-Capitol-HillToday, September 12, more than fifty National Military Family Association staff, Board members, Volunteers, and friends head to Capitol Hill to let our elected leaders know how sequestration is hurting our Nation’s military families. Last month, we asked families to send us photos and stories highlighting the difficulties they’ve faced as they’ve experienced sequestration in their communities.

Military families from all over the world showed us sequestration means more difficulty in getting care for their sick child, delays in arranging moves or in processing changes in pay, and reduced training time for the service member. As they encountered these hardships, military families also shared how much their service members’ ability to protect our Nation is now at risk.

We compiled families’ sequestration photos and stories into a photo album that we’re delivering to every Member of Congress today.

Our message is simple: The arbitrary, across-the-board cuts caused by sequestration are hurting military families, their communities, and service members’ readiness to perform their mission. Congress must end sequestration!

Military families are taxpayers, too. They understand the Department of Defense must share in efforts to cut government spending. BUT, those cuts must be made in a balanced way that does not impose a disproportionate burden on our military and the people who serve.

Remember, sequestration was intentionally designed to be so devastating to our defense that it would never be allowed to happen.

But it did happen.

Our purpose today is to show our Nation’s leaders the faces devastated by the aftermath of sequestration’s destruction–our military families. We present our photo album as evidence that sequestration is not a painless way to reduce the deficit. The devastation for our military families will be worse every year sequestration continues. It must stop. NOW.

The National Military Family Association thanks the families who shared their sequestration stories and photos. We thank our partners in this effort—Macho Spouse.com, Military Partners and Families Coalition, Military OneClick, Military Spouse Magazine, and Spouse Buzz—for their outreach to military families and for joining us on Capitol Hill today. We appreciate the work of our friends in The Military Coalition to seek an end to sequestration.

Sequestration is unraveling the yellow ribbon of military family support. If our Nation’s leaders allow sequestration to continue, the yellow ribbon will continue to fray. Please keep our military families strong. #EndSequestration!

Together we’re stronger!

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

Twelve Years Later: Remembering September 11, 2001

september-11-soldier-at-memorialThink about the love inside the strength of heart.
Think about the heroes saving life in the dark.
Climbing higher through the fire, time was running out,
Never knowing you weren’t going to be coming down alive.

Twelve years ago, I was in 10th grade French class. Before I knew it, televisions throughout the school filled with images of a plane crash. A burning building. Fear.

It didn’t register to me. Why would it? My innocence could never fathom such a reality.

Then another plane crash.

Silence fell over my school. Teachers tried as best they could to make sense of the senseless, but no one really understood what the clouded, smoke-filled pictures on the television meant.

Third period History class. An ironic place to be on that day and at that time. The towers fell. The Pentagon.  Flight 93.

We all remember where we were. How we found out. We remember the silence as we watched it all unfold. Each of us are bonded forever by a historic tragedy.

I am grateful for every person who left their fingerprint on the 9/11 story. I am humbled by the firefighters, police officers, first responders, paramedics, volunteers, and those who didn’t have to help, but did.

Today, I am married to a man who was born on September 11th, and who selflessly serves this great Nation. As a military spouse, some days are filled with emotion and unanswered questions. Why are we fighting this long war? Why did my husband have to spend his birthday in Iraq?

But on other days, the picture is clear. Twelve years later, the picture is still crystal clear.

Thank you to the men and women serving and protecting my freedom. For fighting overseas, under seas, in the air, and on the land. Your sacrifices, as well as your family’s, have not gone in vain.

2,977 lost on that day. We will never forget.

9/11/01.

Think about the chance I never had to say, “Thank you for giving up your life that day.”
–“Believe” by Yellowcard

Shannon-SebastianPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Online Engagement Manager

Our Military Family Adoption Story

lori-brown-guest-post2Adoption within a military family is often confusing, and can leave you feeling alone on an island. How do I start? How much will it cost? Is this right for my family?

For 19 years, my husband has been active duty with the Marine Corps. We have 2 typical kids, ages 18 and 16, and we also have an exceptional family member, Hunter, who is 13 years old with special medical needs.

In September 2011, we met Hunter’s school nurse, who was in the process of adopting a special needs little girl. She introduced us to the world of foster and adoption. After quite a bit of talking to each other, and to our kids, my husband and I realized we had room in our heart, and in our home, for another child. This was the beginning of our adoption journey.

Most military families aren’t aware that no matter where they are stationed, adoption through foster care is possible – even if you are stationed OCONUS. Out-of-pocket expenses are minimal, unlike foreign adoptions which can cost more than $20,000.

Military families are strong, adaptable, and resourceful, making them perfect candidates to be foster/adoption parents. There are many county, state and foster agencies that love to work with military families, so check around your area to find an agency that works best for your family. Don’t be discouraged if some don’t work out initially.

After a few ‘false starts,’ we found a great Foster Family Agency that appreciated our experience as special needs parents. They also understood that as a military family, we have a special ‘skill set’ that some might not have. My husband and I attended multiple classes specific to foster, adoption, special medical health needs, and CPR/first aide in order to become licensed as a foster home. At the end of that, we were able to become a licensed foster family. In our hearts, we knew that we wanted to foster and adopt special needs children.

lori-brown-guest-post1

We were blessed to be matched with our daughter, Destiny, who is now three years old, shortly after becoming licensed. In her young life, Destiny has faced multiple of medical procedures with no one by her side. She was born with several birth defects, including a heart with no left ventricle.

Destiny had been in the foster care system for 17 months with six failed potential adoption matches. On paper, Destiny’s medical history is scary. When we first learned about Destiny, we asked to meet with her doctors to get some of our questions answered. After only 2 hours, my husband and I knew we could meet Destiny’s medical needs, so we moved forward with having her placed in our home.

Since Destiny came to live with us on February 1, 2012, she has made great advances developmentally, emotionally, and medically. She had many sensory issues to work through due to her lack of exposure to everyday things in the real world. Prior to Destiny being placed in our home, she had never touched carpet, tile, grass or sand – things we see and touch nearly every day.

She had two open heart surgeries before coming home to us. In July 2013, Destiny had her third surgery with us by her side the entire time, and she pulled through it with flying colors! She has a lot of fear related to abandonment, but I think she has come to realize the promise we made to her was true: we would always be by her side, and she would never have to go through any medical procedures alone. Destiny is still delayed developmentally, but has made huge strides and is now only six months behind her typical peers.

Destiny is loved and adored by our three older kids. We are very thankful we learned about adoption and fostering. Our family will most likely adopt again, but for now we are doing foster and foster respite care.

I want to encourage other military families to look into becoming foster parents or foster/adopt parents. The children within the foster care system range from newborns to age 18. There are all races, some with special needs, but a lot more with no special needs.

Even though our homes may change every few years in a military family, yours could be the ‘forever home’ that a foster child is waiting for.

lori-brown-guest-postGuest Post by Lori Brown, Marine Corps Spouse

Got Baggage?

baggageOn any given day, I carry anywhere from 4-5 bags to work.

On my right shoulder, there’s my purse, which contains everything I hold dear—my phone, my money, a diaper, a small package of wipes, and my keys (if it’s a good day).

On my left shoulder, there’s my computer bag, which weighs an estimated 15 pounds. And no, I’m not exaggerating. Next to my computer bag strap, rests my workout bag. Yes, I bring my gym clothes to work. If I don’t strategically plan my exercise time to land between the time I leave work and the time I go home, I will never get to it.

Then there’s my lunch bag. This is not just any ordinary lunch bag; it has three compartments and an ice pack for my many small meals.

Sometimes, I go home with more bags than I came with. Bags full of clothes or toys for my kids from my generous co-workers. Or, bags with information and promotional items from conferences.

There are many moments where I feel like I’ll be buried alive by all of my “bags.” You know—the purse, which is really everyday life. The computer bag— the reality that work and family constantly overlap. The gym bag, making “me” time despite the insanity. My lunch bag, which I’d like to say contains only healthy and smart choices, but really is the fuel that keeps me going.

Not long ago, I had an additional bag—my school bag. I was one of those working adults, with a small child, who decided to go back to school to continue my higher education. This was not an easy or inexpensive decision, but it was the right decision for me and my family.

I am not a military spouse, but like many of them, I attended several colleges and universities before finally getting the chance to finish my degree. It took me a total of 3 schools and 9 years to have my diploma handed to me.  My school bag was the symbol of my future.

Suffice it to say, I have a lot of baggage, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I know there are people out there who would give anything to carry some of the bags I do. Our bags symbolize who we are and the many life paths we travel.

We need to remember that these same “bags” have been carried by many before us who have put resources in place for our benefit.  If you’re a military spouse and you’re looking for information to make your load a bit lighter, look no further.

Visit our Spouse Employment section for job tips and our Spouse Education site for steps to help you attain your education goals.


What about you? What bags do you carry every day?

hannahPosted by Hannah Pike, Communications Deputy Director, Online Engagement

Friends All Over the World: Hawaiian style

hawaii-1Moving in the military can be difficult, especially when you have to leave good friends behind. One of the benefits about being a military family is the likelihood that wherever you decide to visit or move to, a friend is nearby.

Recently, a friend of mine got married in Hawaii, and I made the trip there to attend. Because my friend lives in Oklahoma and my family is stationed in Virginia, I rarely get an opportunity to see him. This wedding was going to be the perfect opportunity to see some old friends from my hometown as well as some other special friends who I had not seen in quite some time.

Hawaii is an amazing place to host a wedding or enjoy a vacation, but it’s also the home state of an Army Infantry Brigade and two of my fellow military spouses and close friends are currently stationed there.

Hannah is a friend I made near Ft. Campbell, KY. Our husbands were both deployed and we leaned on each other for support and companionship. Our friendship was important to both of us, especially during some of the tougher days we faced while waiting for our husbands to return from war.

hawaii-2

Fortunately, I was able to spend some time with Hannah while I was in Hawaii. We
laughed and caught up on each other’s lives over some fruity drinks by the hotel pool. Because of her familiarity with the area, she took me to a quiet, local beach for the day. It was great to see her and her sons again!

Another military friend, Ronya, had only moved to Hawaii a couple weeks before I arrived. Her family had not received military housing yet, and was staying at the Hale Koa. It’s a military resort on the ocean and is absolutely beautiful! After finishing some shopping around the area, I stopped by Hale Koa and was able to re-connect with her.

On my final day in Hawaii, Ronya, myself, and friend from my hometown, went hiking at Manoa Falls. I never would have imagined when we met years prior, Ronya and I would someday be hiking in Hawaii!

Military life is always changing, and making friends can be difficult for some, knowing that you’ll eventually be separated again. Just remember that it’s not really “goodbye” but instead it’s “see you later,” and if you are lucky, that “later” just might be in Hawaii!

Amanda headshotPosted by Amanda Anderson, Content Manager, MyMilitaryLife

Build Your Resume: Volunteer with our Association!

group-of-volunteersSummer is winding down. The kids are headed back to school. Maybe you don’t have kids but you’re looking for a new way to gain experience and make a difference? The military has, once again, moved your family to a new location and hopefully, you’re settling in. Now what? Volunteering is a great way to meet people and learn more about your new community. Have you considered volunteering with the National Military Family Association?

Let me share a few reasons why you should volunteer with us:

  • Get out and meet new people! While volunteering, you will meet and talk to a variety of people all over the world and create lasting friendships.
  • Tap into your passion for military families! Where better than with an organization that is the voice of military families. Our Volunteers are out in the field letting us know what is happening within their military community.
  • Add to your professional resume! Volunteering not only benefits our Association, it’s also a great addition to your resume. Employers look favorably on volunteer experience. Volunteering allows you to work with professionals who will be valuable references in the future. It is a win-win situation!
  • Develop new skills! Our Association offers many different volunteer opportunities such as writing, editing, and researching. The best part is that many of our volunteer opportunities can be completed at home on your own schedule.

Be a part of something meaningful that will enhance the quality of life for military families. Being a volunteer with the National Military Family Association is a position that you can take wherever you move! Our volunteers are global, and we want you to be a part of our Volunteer Corps.

For more information about volunteering with the National Military Family Association, please contact Christina Jumper by email: CJumper@MilitaryFamily.org or apply today!

Do you have a great story about a volunteer experience? Share it with us!

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

Early Childhood Education: How important is it to you?

military-family-2-kidsAs a mom, I am in the habit of thinking that whatever age my kids happen to be is THE most critical stage in their development. This makes sense, of course – when they were little I worried about reading readiness, while nowadays I stay up nights fretting about SAT scores. And certainly, every age and stage is an important part of a child’s growth and development.

Increasingly, though, research is demonstrating the importance of the early years. In fact, according to the Early Care and Education Consortium (ECEC), 80 percent of a child’s brain development occurs before age five.

Knowing this, it makes sense that quality child care and early education programs can have a huge impact on our kids’ development – and conversely, a lack of good early childhood education can threaten a child’s long-term academic success.

Busy parents – especially in military families – need the peace of mind that comes with knowing that their children are in a safe, nurturing environment while they are at work. Some military families are able to enroll their children in their installation Child Development Center. Other families find care outside the installation through the Services’ fee assistance program administered by Child Care Aware .

Still, we know that the demand for quality child care is far greater than the supply. And for many families, the cost of quality child care or preschool is far out of reach. For this reason, our Association was pleased by President Obama’s recent proposal to expand access to pre-kindergarten and early childhood education programs. We want to make sure all of our military kids have access to the quality early child care and education they and their parents need and deserve.

The ECEC wants to let our government leaders know how important early childhood education is, and they need your help! They have launched a campaign, Strong Start for Children to show Congress how much early child education means to children and families.

Do you have a great story about your child’s experience in child care or preschool? Email info@ececonsortium.org and your story may be included in the campaign. Find out more at the ECEC’s Strong Start for Children page for parents. Every day, policymakers make decisions that impact you, your children, and your ability to access high-quality and reliable early care and education to meet your family’s needs. Make sure your voice is heard!

eileenPosted by Eileen Huck, Government Relations Deputy Director

FAQ Series: How the Interstate Compact affects school aged kids

kidsclassroomYou have questions, we have answers!

This week we respond to your frequently asked questions about the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children, more commonly known as the Interstate Compact.

Q: What is the Interstate Compact?

A: The Interstate Compact is an agreement among states that allows for the uniform treatment of military children transferring between school districts and states. As of August, 2013 it has been adopted by 46 states and the District of Columbia. It addresses issues that may affect military children as they move to a new school district, including enrollment, placement, and graduation requirements.

Q: Who is covered by the Interstate Compact?

A: The Interstate Compact covers children of active duty service members enrolled in grades K-12 in public school. Children of National Guard and Reservists are covered when the service member is in active duty status. Children of retirees are covered for one year following the service member’s retirement. Note that the Compact only applies to public schools. The Compact does not apply to private schools and does not address home schooling.

Q: My child is old enough to start kindergarten in our old location, but the new state has a different cut-off date. What can I do?

A: Under the Compact, if your child has enrolled in and attended kindergarten in your previous state, he should be allowed to continue kindergarten in your new state. However, this only applies if your child actually attended kindergarten. If your child was old enough for kindergarten in your previous location but you moved prior to the beginning of the school year, the new district is not required to allow him to start kindergarten.

Q: My child was receiving special education services at our old school. Will he continue to receive them at our new school?

A: The new school should provide comparable services based on your child’s current Individual Education Plan (IEP). This is required both by the Compact and by the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The new school is permitted to evaluate the student later to ensure appropriate placement.

Q: We had to move midway through my child’s senior year. Will he graduate on time?

A: An important goal of the Compact is to ensure that students graduate on time, even when they have to move during their senior year. For this reason, the Compact states that districts should waive specific course requirements for seniors as long as similar course work has been completed. If a waiver is denied and there is no way to complete the required course work on time, arrangements should be made for the student to receive a diploma from the previous school district.

Q: I don’t feel as though my school is following the Interstate Compact. What can I do?

A: It’s not uncommon for teachers and administrators to be unfamiliar with the Interstate Compact. Your installation’s School Liaison Officer can help you work with the school to resolve any questions about how the Compact should be implemented. Each state also has a Compact Commissioner responsible for helping ensure that the Compact is adhered to.

Q: Where can I go for more information?

A: The Military Interstate Children’s Compact Commission website includes FAQ’s and other resources, including printable and downloadable brochures for parents, teachers, and school administrators.

What is your family’s experience with the Interstate Compact? Share your story in the comments below!

eileenPosted by Eileen Huck, Government Relations Deputy Director