Tag Archives: military kids

Military Life is Not a Trial to be Endured, but an Adventure to be Lived!

laura marin“Think outside the box, take real risks and work together to make big bold commitments.” I’m 11 and this is my family way of life, this is our military life.

My Dad has military orders to go to Minnesota. “Cheese and sprinkles” is a Minnesota saying. That was the first thing that came to my mind when my parents told me about our new assignment; well, my family serves too. The only thing I could relate to Minnesota was the movie “Rio.” Winters are cold, very cold. Our previous assignment places have all been warm. From the hot Texas summers to the Caribbean breezes of Puerto Rico.

I don’t have everything figured out yet, but I feel incredibly lucky that I get to experience the world in a way that so many people only dream about. I have air in my lungs, a mighty God that loves me, the most wonderful family, two legs, and a bed to sleep in. I want to view my life as an adventure and my childhood as an asset.

Never having a hometown inspires me to be a citizen of the world. Being separated from my Dad makes me realize that time together as a family is to be valued. Being a military child makes me aware of choices and options available for me in the future.

I have been a military child all my life. We have been through so much. My military life has taught me how strong we could be as a family and how much love we have to give. It has taught us that laughing is less painful than crying, that a smile is worth more than gold. That this military life is not a trial to be endured, but an adventure to be lived. We are not an ordinary family with ordinary worries — we are something extraordinary.

I’m ready to make new friends and to fit in the land of the ten thousand lakes, maybe go for a dog sled ride one day, and of course I will need to hug my family a little tighter during winters now on. We will stand tall and face it all together.

Guest Post by Laura C. Marin, age 11, military child


Editor’s note: At the time of this posting, Laura’s family’s orders were changed from Minnesota to New York. Laura’s mom says: “Flexibility, what a great strength. Enough said!”

Photo courtesy of the Marin family

The Power of Volunteering

The power of volunteeringApril 21-27 is designated as National Volunteer Week and this year’s theme is “Celebrate Service.” The National Military Family Association is celebrating our volunteers, both past and present, who have made a profound contribution to the Association and the military families we serve. Today’s post is written by a volunteer about a volunteer, and is just one highlight of the great work all our volunteers do!

“Never be afraid to ask what you can do, because even if something seems really small, it can still help,” says Susan Reynolds, a military spouse and volunteer for the National Military Family Association. This philosophy, an unshakable optimism, and a genuine desire to contribute to her community keeps Susan fighting hard for military kids and families. She is committed to making sure that military kids, especially those with special needs, get the quality medical care they need and deserve.

Susan’s initiative started when her son was diagnosed with plagiocephaly, a condition defined by an asymmetrical distortion, or flattening, of one side of the skull. Her son needed a reshaping helmet, which she was told was not covered by TRICARE. The helmets can cost up to $5,000. Luckily, she and her husband were able to pay for it out of their savings account. However, she realized that not every military family could afford to do the same. “I don’t care what your rank is, that is a lot of money to come up with right away,” Susan says.

Even worse than the cost of the treatment was the uncertainty and delay Susan faced in getting her son properly diagnosed. “I was really given the runaround from the military treatment facility about TRICARE and what his course of treatment was,” Susan explains. Her experience convinced her that TRICARE and DoD can and must do better to ensure that military kids, especially those with special needs, are getting the care they need.

Susan soon became a tireless advocate for military kids and families. She worked closely with our Association’s Government Relations Department to understand TRICARE policy and how it should be changed. She founded support groups for military families with special needs children and met with Congressional staff members and other officials to share those families’ stories. During this time, while her husband deployed to Afghanistan, Susan’s home was hit by a tornado, but she never allowed herself to be distracted from her objective: to fight for military children.

Thanks in part to Susan’s efforts, Congress included a provision in the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act directing the Department of Defense to study TRICARE and its policies regarding care for kids. The provision, known as TRICARE for Kids, aims to develop and encourage health care practices addressing the specific needs of military children. “It was just so exciting to know that something I had worked on with the Association was passed,” Susan says. For her, knowing the President signed the bill that includes this provision is among her most rewarding and exciting achievements. She continues to work hard, however, to make sure that the results of the study reflect the real needs of military children and families.

To Susan, being a volunteer for the Association is her part time job. She enjoys reading, doing research, and keeping an eye on different issues happening in her local community and the greater military community. She never hesitates to talk about the Association and the people and organizations that she is involved with. She goes to key spouse meetings, to community blueprint meetings, talks to local nonprofits, and reports information associated with the military.

Susan will continue to work with the Association and to represent military families, as she wants to ensure people’s voices are being heard. She has received various awards and recognition  including one of the Air Force General’s coins. On more than one occasion, Susan was nominated as Air Force Spouse of the Year by different spouse magazines. Nevertheless, to her, knowing that she can make a difference and serve her community is the greatest reward.

Marlis Perez RiveraPosted by Marlis Perez Rivera, Volunteer with the National Military Family Association

Understanding deployment: books for military children

Understanding deployment: books for military childrenThere are many ways to help children deal with the stress they may be feeling due to the deployment of a parent. Suggestions such as keeping a journal, volunteering your time, or staying active with a sports team or hobby are fun ways to distract kids from what seems like a never-ending time in their life.

While staying busy does help school-aged children avoid dwelling on a parent being gone, how do you help younger children understand and cope with what they are feeling? Many families love reading fun books together; this time can also double as a great teaching moment to help young military kids.

Spring is here and it’s the perfect time to cozy up with your little one under a tree or in the park and enjoy one—or all—of our favorite deployment-related books geared towards children under the age of five.

The Kissing Hand, by Audrey Penn – This book helps children learn a coping skill when encountering a change or missing someone by connecting their love of family with a “token” – or kiss in the hand. This is one of several books in a series. The author wrote another book, A Kiss Goodbye, that helps young children process moving.

Over There, by Dorinda Williams – Written by Dorinda Williams at Zero To Three, this is a great book because families can download a version of the book, print it out, and then customize the story by using their own photographs. The activity book comes in a “daddy” version as well as a “mommy” version. Military families can order this book via Military OneSource.

The Invisible String, by Patrice Karst – Similar to The Kissing Hand, this book teaches kids how to deal with missing a parent by understanding that they are still connected to their parent via an “invisible string.” While not geared solely to military families, this touching book can help young children feel connected with deployed parents or other family members that are far away.

This is a short list of the many books military families have found helpful. What military-related children’s books do you recommend?

dustinPosted by Dustin Weiss, Youth Initiatives Deputy Director at the National Military Family Association

Moving in the Military From a Kid’s Point of View

Moving in the military from a kid's point of viewDo you enjoy moving? Some people might say no, but I love it!! Since I am a military child, I get the opportunity to live many different places, some of which people save all of their lives to get to.

I personally think that the best part of moving is getting to experience new cultures. I myself have lived in eight different places, in six different countries, and on three continents. Yes, it can be challenging to get adjusted, but I get used to it pretty easily. For example, in Africa, I had to get used to people eating with their hands, while sharing the same bowl. I know what you’re thinking, GROSS!!!! That’s what I thought too, but after some time I enjoyed doing it also. Here in Italy it was a bit easier to adjust because it is not a third world country. Trying to learn another language is still difficult though. Thankfully, the Italian people are helpful.

Being a military child gives me lots of opportunities. For example, last week I got to go on a field trip to Padova. We had the chance to go to Galileo’s Planetarium, the anatomical theater, and St. Anthony’s church. These are all places that people save up to go to, and by the time they have enough, they are walking with a cane. I am twelve, and I just got to go for the day. How cool is that?!?!?!?! In Mali, I got to go to Djenne, a big town in the north. There, we got to see the biggest mosque in Mali. For other people to get there, we’re talking fortunes!!! My family and I got to go there in our car for winter break.

Every time that I am about to leave a place to move to another I ask myself these questions. Will I make new friends, will I like my teacher, and will they have sports? When I get to the destination, I realize that I should not have been worried at all.

Last, but not least, whenever I move to a new place I get to try new foods. In France, it was the delicious escargot. In Mali it was definitely the moist sheep stuffed with couscous. Here in Italy it is a tie between the gelato and the pizza. You can find gelato in almost every town here. Here, the pizza is cooked in a stone oven. Yum!!!

Even now, I am getting ready to move to Senegal next year. I am very excited to go, and I can’t wait to find out what it is like. Africa, here I come!!!

Guest Post by Elizabeth Pepper, age 12, military child

Don’t break the bank: Financial resources for college-bound military kids

Don't break the bank: financial resources for college-bound military kidsSpring is the time of year high school seniors anticipate college acceptance letters and parents discuss how to pay the hefty tuition bill. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, for the 2010 – 2011 academic year the annual price for undergraduate tuition, room, and board were estimated as follows:

    • $13,000 at public colleges
  • $36,300 at private not-for-profit colleges
  • $23,5000 at private for-profit colleges

Yikes! That is quite a bit of money for one year of post-secondary education. Thankfully, military kids are eligible for unique funding opportunities:

In-State Tuition: Dependent children of service members on active duty for a period of more than 30 days are eligible to receive in-state tuition at public colleges and universities in the state where the service member is permanently stationed. This does not mean a military kid is eligible to receive in-state tuition rates in all 50 states, but rather the state where the family is stationed. Once the child is enrolled and paying in-state tuition rates, the child remains eligible for the in-state rate even if the service member receives orders and relocates out of state.

Post-9/11 Transferability: Active duty service members with 10 years of service may be eligible to transfer their Post-9/11 GI bill to a child.

Scholarships for Military Kids: Several organizations have scholarship opportunities for military kids. Below is a selection of opportunities. College-bound military kids are encouraged to review specific eligibility requirements and deadlines, especially as some deadlines are quickly approaching:

College-bound military kids are also eligible for the same federal financial aid opportunities as other students including:

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA): The FAFSA is the required application from the Department of Education to determine eligibility for any form of federal financial aid.

Federal Grants:

  • Federal Pell Grant: A Federal Pell Grant, unlike a loan, does not have to be repaid. Typically, Pell Grants are awarded only to undergraduate students who have not earned a bachelor’s or a professional degree.
  • Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) Program: The FSEOG Program provides need-based grants to help low-income undergraduate students finance the costs of postsecondary education. Priority is given to those who are also Federal Pell Grant recipients.

Federal Loans:

  • Direct Stafford Loans (Subsidized and Unsubsidized): Direct Stafford Loans are low-interest loans for eligible students to help cover the cost of higher education at a four-year college or university, community college, or trade, career, or technical school.
  • Direct PLUS Loans: Parents of dependent students may apply for a Direct PLUS Loan to help pay their child’s education expenses as long as certain eligibility requirements are met. Graduate and professional students may apply for PLUS Loans for their own expenses.
  • Federal Perkins Loans: A Federal Perkins Loan is a low-interest loan for both undergraduate and graduate students with exceptional financial need. This is a school-based loan program.

Federal Work-Study (FWS): The FWS allows students to earn money by working at a subsidized job, usually on the college campus.

Be sure to explore these resources to reduce your out-of-pocket costs. What other resources would you share with college-bound military kids?

katiePosted by Katie Savant, Government Relations Information Manager at the National Military Family Association

Military kids need support programs: an Operation Purple Camp testament

Military kids need support programs: an Operation Purple Camp testamentI was born into the military. My dad is a West Point graduate, and for most of my childhood I was the only one in my class who had immediate family serving in the military. Many of my peers did not know or understand what I was going through. It’s one of those things in life that unless you are living it, you can’t 100% understand it. I often felt alone and kept my feelings inside thinking nobody could relate.

But life changed as I knew it when my dad was deployed during Operation: Iraqi Freedom. That year I had turned the big 13, a significant time in every teenager’s life, and received a life changing opportunity – I attended the National Military Family Association’s Operation Purple® camp. The professional camp staff with the Tsuga Community Commission that week helped me address the negative feelings I had bottled up inside about my father’s service. It allowed me to be part of a community that I didn’t know existed and feel proud of my family instead of feeling embarrassed and alone. I was able to escape the hardships and struggles, focusing on being just a kid that week.

My father deployed again to Afghanistan a few years later when I was a sophomore in high school and I was able to attend Operation Purple camp again, this time bringing my younger sister for the first time. Watching her flourish that week is something I’ll never forget. She gained confidence and a feeling of belonging that she had been lacking. Something I believe many military kids struggle with in silence.

It was the Tsuga staff that brought the Operation Purple program to Oregon who opened my eyes to see that even through there aren’t any active military installations in Oregon, a support system was actually out there for military children. It helped draw out my inner leader and inspired me to become a camp counselor at Operation Purple camp and join the Tsuga staff that helped me out so much.

After two summers of working with military children, I was able to identify that my passion lies in serving others and being part of something bigger than myself. Operation Purple camp holds a special place in my heart because of what it did, not only for me, but my family and many others like it. Without these nonprofit programs, our military’s youth would be without a resource that provides support and community for our dependents that need it the most.

We cannot forget that our Kids Serve Too.

Posted by Lauren Miner, Former Operation Purple Camp Attendee and Counselor 

The Best Thing About Being a Military Kid!

The best thing about being a military kidWhat’s the best thing about being a military kid? Some might say seeing new places, some might say making new friends, and some might even say learning new languages and cultures, but for me, the best thing about being a military kid is the person I have become along the way.

In September 2012, I joined a boys’ soccer team here in Italy, where we live now. At that time, I was the only girl and only American on the team. You might be thinking that this has nothing to do with being a military kid, but it does. In ten years, I have moved six times, attended five schools, been without my dad for months at a time and joined countless sports teams.

When I was younger, I was very shy and dreaded moving because it meant that everything was going to change. Each time, I gained a little more self-confidence. I joined sports teams and attended camps and activities to help me make friends at each new place. I actually started to look forward to moving without being scared.

I now try to take advantage of every opportunity that our new home offers. I have even run in a few 5K races here in Italy. Being a military kid has made me stronger and more outgoing. I look for challenges and I try to always be the best I can be.

I have played soccer for seven years and I am really appreciative to be playing on the boys’ team. Even though I get a little nervous sometimes, I would’ve never had the courage to go play on a team where I can’t speak or understand the language. I really love soccer and don’t know what I would do without it. Being a military kid has given me more courage, so that I could be brave enough to play.

My Army life has taught me to adapt to new situations, to be kind and understanding, to be brave, and to never give up when things get hard. I believe that all of the things I have been through as a military kid have made me strong and brave. I am proud to be a military kid and I look forward to the next opportunity the Army has for me and my family.

Guest Post by Delaney Edger, age 10, military child

April is the Month of the Military Child – Let’s Celebrate!

Happy Month of the Military Child!In 1986, when Secretary of Defense Caspar W. Weinberger designated each April as “The Month of the Military Child,” could he have imagined how relevant his vision would still be today? In 1986, many people assumed military kids were dealing with the same challenges, successes, and disappointments that any other kid might encounter. They were. But boy did we find out there was so much more to being a military kid!

Today we kick off the official celebration of our military kids – for their accomplishments and resilience. We recognize that some kids are dealing with struggles that neither Secretary Weinberger nor any of us could have imagined. The global conflicts since 9/11 have forever changed our lives. In the early days of conflict and in response to parents asking for help, the National Military Family Association launched our Operation Purple® summer camp program to help military kids cope with the stress they were experiencing. Stress from their dad or mom being in a war zone, stress from the ever-present media coverage of combat, stress related to the separation from a loved one, and stress from feeling alone.

This summer marks the tenth year of Operation Purple camp. Nearly 47,000 military children from around the world have had the chance to meet other kids at a place where they can just be kids, and celebrate being in a military family. At camp, military kids create a “Wall of Honor” to showcase the pride they feel toward their special family member who is serving. Kids raise their hands to share “top ten things” about being a military child or being at camp and have the chance to talk with each other about what bothers them and what makes them tick.

All of these activities are integrated into the well-known camp stuff like rock climbing, swimming, hiking, campfires, you name it. Operation Purple camp gives military children, who are unique yet the same, an opportunity to connect.

Ten years have passed and we never expected to be in this market for this long. Thanks to past generosity from Sears, Roebuck and Company, the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, TriWest Healthcare Alliance, the Sierra Club Foundation, Goldman Sachs Gives, and countless individual donors, we have been able to serve our military kids. And while we didn’t expect to host camps for as long as we have, we know now is not the time to leave. Our kids are too important to our future – for all of us.

As we celebrate our military children this April, our work continues. We want this month to not only acknowledge how strong military kids are, but to also focus on supporting them as they grow up in the military community. Thank you, Secretary Weinberger, for bringing this awareness through the proclamation so many years ago. Now it is up to all of us to make sure we keep our military kids safe, loved, and celebrated – not only in April but through the entire year!

We want to celebrate by featuring YOUR military kid! Throughout April on our Facebook page and website, we will post videos, photos, and quotes from military kids around the country. Submit yours today!

On behalf of the National Military Family Association, we thank you and your children for their service and sacrifice. Together we’re stronger.

theresaPosted by Theresa Buchanan, Youth Initiatives Director at the National Military Family Association

MyMilitaryLife app for military families – updates and a new look!

MyMilitaryLife app for military families - updates and a new look!Have you seen the new updates to MyMilitaryLife? We now offer four new Life Paths—Raising Kids, Having a Baby, Moving, and Reintegration. Remember to answer the new questions that pop up when you visit these Life Paths and be sure to regularly update your profile information in order to have customized content available to you and your family. The more you fill out your profile, the better MyMilitaryLife can tailor information to your life.

In addition to four new Life Paths, we’ve also been working on a new look for the App! The new design features a swipe action and larger images to make it easier to navigate and discover the answers you’ve been looking for. Just swipe your finger right to left to progress to the next Life Path. Once in a Life Path look to the top left of the screen for easy access to the menu that includes your profile, favorites, alerts, help, and a shortcut to other Life Paths.

To get the latest look and additional Life Paths be sure to update your MyMilitaryLife App today. Android users will see the app updates automatically, but iPhone users must manually update the MyMilitaryLife App.

If you loved the old design, don’t worry – in the upper right hand corner of the App is an option to go back to the previous look. Personally, I love the new look and how user friendly it is to swipe from one Life Path to the next.

If you haven’t downloaded MyMilitaryLife, do so today to receive personalized to-do lists to help you navigate the many adventures of military life. MyMilitaryLife is available for free on Android, iPhone, and an online portal at www.MyMilitaryLife.org.

What do you love most about the new upgrade?

simmoneBy Simmone Quesnell, Content Specialist for MyMilitaryLife at the National Military Family Association

Operation Purple camp for military kids: apply now!

Ten years ago, the National Military Family Association heard the same thing over and over from military parents: “How can we help our kids deal with deployment?” Our answer? A free, week-long camp experience for military kids to get to know each other, share common bonds, and have a blast!

Operation Purple® camp offers military kids a time to get away and be kids in a stress-free environment. Campers ride horses, climb towers, plummet down water slides – all in a “purple” environment. The very name of the game is to bring kids of all ranks and services, including reserve and guard components, together to enjoy a very special week of camp. This experience is unmatched by any other programs currently serving military kids.

These days, what we’re hearing from military parents is: “Thank you for Operation Purple camp!” Thousands of military children have experienced the joy of camp, and this year we are focusing on getting the word out to families who have never had the opportunity to share in the fun. If your child has attended Operation Purple in the past, tell a friend and encourage them to apply! The application is available beginning today.

Check out the video below for a little peek into an Operation Purple camp.

Has your child attended an Operation Purple camp in the past 10 years? If so, tell us the best part of their experience!

dustinPosted by Dustin Weiss, Youth Initiatives Deputy Director at the National Military Family Association