Tag Archives: military spouses

This One’s For You, Military Spouse!

milspouse-appreciation---this-ones-for-you

May 8th is Military Spouse Appreciation Day—a day to recognize and thank the person who ties up all the loose ends in our lives that we don’t always have time to deal with ourselves. In my nine years of active duty service in the Navy, my wife has been with me for eight of them. I couldn’t have accomplished as much as I have without her. Our spouses deserve to have the spotlight on them, not just on Military Spouse Appreciation Day…but every day we put on our uniforms and lace our boots.

Being a military spouse is sometimes harder than most people think. Let me tell you just a few reasons why my wife is awesome:

She keeps me motivated. She’s always encouraging when I miss rank advancement by only a couple of points. And when I don’t score as high as I want in my college classes, she’s there to push me harder in the next class.

Her skills in the kitchen. I’ll just say this: award-winning chicken salad. Literally.

She’s involved in my Command. I love that she cares about other military families, and serves voluntarily as our Ombudsman. (And it’s nice to see her during the work day, when she is doing things for our command Sailors, Marines, and their families)

Her unending support. Whether I’m shining my boots, ironing a uniform, or studying for an upcoming exam or an awards Board, she’s always there to help…even if we just talk to pass the time.

If you’re a service member, take my advice: on your break today, call your spouse, say “Thanks for doing what you do!”

And to my wife: don’t worry about dinner tonight…Chick-Fil-A, Franzia, and I have it covered.

Have an awesome spouse? What do you appreciate most about them? Send them an eCard to show your love!

matt-s-headshotPosted by Matt S., Logistics Specialist, United States Navy

Why Nationwide Marriage Equality Is Important To Military Families

military-marriage-equalityThere’s no doubt military spouses and families are a resilient bunch. We’ve learned to adapt and overcome in so many different types of situations, from moving across country over and over again, to changing from one job to another – all while supporting our service member who is often gone for months at a time. We also know how important the programs and benefits are that help make the demands of military life during and after service a little bit easier to cope with, including benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). But unfortunately for gay and lesbian veterans with same-sex spouses, we continue to be denied access to the same benefits as veterans with opposite-sex spouses. How can this be? I’m glad you asked.

Since the demise of the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the Windsor case, married same-sex couples finally have access to most of the same federal benefits as opposite-sex couples. For those of us who are military spouses, this has made an incredibly HUGE difference in our lives. We no longer have to worry about things that other military spouses often took for granted, like access to health care and on base housing. We can finally shop at the commissary and exchange and access base support programs. We no longer have to worry about being treated as a total stranger if something were to happen to our service member.

We finally have access to most of these important benefits. I say most, because we still aren’t completely there yet. You see, while most of the federal government looks to the place of marriage when determining whether or not a marriage is valid, one important department for military families still does not: the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Because of discriminatory language in the statute that governs the VA, it looks to the place of residence when determining whether or not a marriage is valid for many important benefits. That means a legally married same-sex couple stationed, or living, in a non-marriage equality state still cannot access all of the same benefits as opposite-sex couples from the VA. A military or veteran couple stationed or living in California is treated completely differently from a couple in Texas. From full access to government-backed VA home loans (which both active duty and veterans use), to equal compensation benefits for disabled veterans with dependents, same-sex couples in non-marriage equality states continue to be denied fair and equal access to their earned benefits.

That’s why nationwide marriage equality is so important to so many military families. No service member, gay or straight, should be denied access to the benefits they’ve earned putting their life on the line for our nation.

This summer, the highest court in the land will decide whether the US Constitution allows for states to discriminate against gay and lesbian couples by denying them the right to marry, determining whether or not we will have nationwide marriage equality. This decision will impact so many military families and their access to veterans benefits through the VA.

Let’s hope that fairness, equality, and justice will prevail.

Posted by Stephen Peters, Marine Corps Spouse, National Press Secretary for the Human Rights Campaign, and Founder and President Emeritus of The American Military Partners Association

Military Spouses Threatened Via Social Media: Where Do We Go From Here?

social-media-apps-on-phoneMany evenings I sit in my car in the parking lot of my kids’ school taking one last minute to myself before the chaos of our evening routine. I take one last glance at my social media accounts and see how others in my life are spending their day. Recently, that meant reading post after post on the latest round of military family “targeting” by those claiming to be ISIS supporters. A friend of mine shared a blog post, written by our friend Amy Bushatz at SpouseBuzz. Amy is one of five spouses quoted in a CNN article about their social media accounts being compromised.

As military spouses, so many of us use our social media accounts to stay connected to our friends and family around the world. Sometimes life is lonely, and I use social media to remind myself that I’m part of a much larger community.

So, what do we do when our connection to our community might be the very thing that puts us at risk?

Shut down? Crawl in a hole? No, we do what our spouses are trained to do – mitigate the risk! How many times has my husband stayed late before a training exercise to work on another risk assessment report?

Here’s how I manage the online risks for my family:

  1. Lock up the privacy settings on my accounts. I don’t want to stop sharing pictures of my kids or husband, but my settings are locked up tight so people I don’t know can’t access my stuff. And I have to check those settings often, because Facebook is always making changes.
  2. Know which other applications have your social log-in information. A lot of websites and applications let you log in with your social media account (Pinterest, for example), but I always make sure to check the application’s privacy settings and only sharing the information I want to have available.
  3. Don’t accept friend requests or followers from people I don’t know. This may sound simple, but I make sure that the people on my friends and followers list are actually people I trust. And think about the channel. I don’t post things on Twitter that can be linked back to my family or the military because I don’t feel like I have enough control over who can see it (plus, I prefer to tweet about The Bachelor).
  4. Don’t reference specific locations in my general profile. This may be a good time to take where you work off your Facebook description and “proud Army wife” off your Twitter bio. I don’t make it easy for people to find me or know my connection to the military through a general search.
  5. Watch out for each other. We’ve all heard “See Something, Say Something,” right? If you see something strange on a friend’s social media, let them know. If you notice someone using “looser” privacy tactics, give them suggestions.

In times like these, our gut reaction might make us want to hide in our house, lock our doors, and tell our spouse it’s time to leave the military. But, we need to remember that people who target us really don’t know what they are dealing with. We are the strong, we are the resilient, and we have a community like no other. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from our military journey, it’s that we take care of each other.

So, tonight, I’ll seize that last minute of sanity in the parking lot. And when I tuck in the kids, I’ll know they’re safe. Because as Amy said in her post “Being afraid doesn’t mean the terrorists won — it’s the living in fear that gives them the victory. I’m not giving them the victory.”

What are your risk assessment tips? Share them with us in the comments!

mandy-culverPosted by Mandy Culver, Executive Administrative Assistant

Lima Oscar Victor Echo: Valentine’s Letters from a MilSpouse

marine-valentines-dayRoses are red,
violets are blue.
I have a few love letters I’d like to read to you.

If you’ve been married to the military for any amount of time, you know there are things you come to love, and many other things you grow to….not love. In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, here are a few love notes I’m sending this year:

Dear Commissary,
I love the way you make me use those tiny little carts that have no leg room so when I walk, my shins kick the wheel axel and I say bad words loudly in the parking lot. Shopping with you is always a good experience, except around the 1st and the 15th, when all your other lovers come around. You have such friendly employees. I really feel the love when they squint at me after I tell them I can take my own groceries to my car. Most of all, I’m just glad to have you in my life. You’re not perfect all the time, but I appreciate the things you offer me…like accepting all manufacturers’ coupons.

Dear television in the MTF,
I get so happy when you play kids’ shows while I wait for my appointment. You’ve consistently come through for moms everywhere who just need a few more minutes to occupy a mischievous child while waiting for their own appointment or prescription. And you’ve also helped the childless keep a few more minutes of our patience, since said children are occupied and not screaming. Your existence is crucial, and I’m glad you’re here.

Dear awesome female service member,
I’m not sure you’re told this often, but you are so rad. Though you’re often labeled before you can speak for yourself, just know that you have a ton of us supporting you. Riddled by a man-dominated workplace, you still kick butt and take names. And I know you don’t always feel welcomed or appreciated by your coworkers’ spouses, but believe me, just give us a chance, we really like you. Answering the call to serve is extremely honorable, and I’m so grateful for your sacrifice. Girls rule, boys drool.

Dear parking spot reserved for basically anyone but me,
I know its Valentine’s Day, and I should be loving, but really, I don’t like you. I enjoy a brisk walk just as much as the next person, but rarely do I feel endorphins from the ‘exercise’ when having to park half a mile away just to swing by the commissary to get milk. Instead, I feel like a double-crossed lover – filled with bitterness. You’re never filled with a car. Don’t you feel lonely? If others could park their cars there, we’d be so in love with you. But we can’t. So until then, I’m only going to roll my eyes whenever I see you in public.

Dear military time,
I still don’t get you. You’ve stuck around for a long time, and I know you’re waiting for me to love you back, but I just can’t count fast enough to figure out what time it is in military time. 21:00? No clue. Wait. 21 minus 12 equals 9. Right? So it’s 9:00pm? I’m not going to lie to you, my love: I had to count on my fingers to figure that out. I’m not sure it’ll ever ‘click’ for this self-proclaimed math idiot, but because you’re so important, I’m going to keep trying. Will you still be mine?

Dear military support organizations,
Living this life without you would be impossible. You answer questions no one else seems to know. You’re there for me when I can’t figure out what to do next. I love the way you are determined to keep my military family strong, intact, and thriving, despite the obstacles. Knowing there is someone in my corner gives me the warm and fuzzies, and that makes you the best Valentine ever.

Who would you send a ‘love note’ to? Tell us in the comments!

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Content Development Manager

10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Becoming a Military Spouse

military-weddingMarrying into a big family is a challenge. Marrying into one with over 1 million other ‘family members,’ might have you feeling a tiny bit overwhelmed. Why didn’t anyone tell me about the ‘family drama’ before I took the plunge?

One of my favorite things about being a military spouse is meeting people who are dating service members. It reminds me of the time in my life where I didn’t know what TDY, Haz Pay, or PCS meant. I find inspiration in the gleaming eyes of those newly ‘dating the military’ and just for a moment, I remember why I loved dating (and marrying) a man in uniform.

But I really wish someone would have told me about the family drama.

Maybe if they had, I could have prepared myself. So, let me do you a favor; here are 10 things I wish I knew before becoming a military spouse:

  1. There’s no room for Type-A personalities. The military is the only Type-A allowed. Everyone else should just get used to a ‘go with the flow, hurry up and wait, organized chaos’ approach.
  2. The health care might be free, but it’s not always the best. I’m glad to have TRICARE, and I’m thankful for this form of compensation. But other days, I think I’m better off chewing on a piece of bark and popping some Advil.
  3. You’ll never understand why/how the military works. And for those of us who are Type-A, you’ll have to get over the idea of procedures and office policy making sense. It just doesn’t.
  4. Civilian job environments don’t translate to military ones. On those days when my husband vents about work, my natural inclination is to use a civilian workplace remedy. But it just isn’t as simple as ‘talk to his boss,’ or ‘why don’t you just let someone else do it?’
  5. The military doesn’t care about Christmas, anniversaries, or holidays. All the perks of a big happy family…with no presents.
  6. Some duty assignments are worth it all. Spending three to four years at a terrible duty station totally seems worth it when your next assignment is somewhere amazing.
  7. You’ll toy with the idea of staying in or getting out on a monthly basis. Because man, the grass seems so much greener on the other side. So scary and unpredictable, but probably greener. Right?
  8. Your spouse will give everything, and sometimes, they leave with nothing. Whether it’s proper care after being medically discharged, or separating from the military after serving 10 years, only to spend months searching for a job. Our service members deserve better.
  9. Therapy will help. Because PTSD, depression, anxiety, and anger aren’t just things service members deal with. Don’t be scared to get the help you need.
  10. Making friends can be tough, but no one will know what you’re going through like another military spouse. Embrace the chaos and keep on truckin’.

When it comes down to it, I married the person, not the job. So some days, it’s hard not to be resentful of the ‘family’ behind the job. Being a military spouse has given me more than I’ve given it, and I guess that makes the family drama a bit more bearable.

What do you wish you knew before becoming a military spouse? Is the ‘family drama’ worth it?

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Content Development Manager

Does Pinterest Help or Hurt When Trying to Get Healthy?

yogaI consider the whole month of January to be “Resolution Season.” I didn’t make any real resolutions this year, but I did sign-up to run my first half-marathon with some co-workers in a few months.

Signing up for the half marathon made me think about my exercise habits. And my eating habits. I’ve always loved exercise and eating healthy foods, but work and life get in the way sometimes, and I end up falling off the wagon.

So, to stay on track, I immediately thought of Pinterest. I’ve used it here and there over the years, mostly when I feel inspired to get fit. I use it for workout ideas, recipe ideas, and my new favorite, weekly meal planning. But, does Pinterest actually help? Here are my thoughts:

Help #1: FRESH IDEAS
My favorite thing about Pinterest is there’s always something new and exciting when it comes to cooking; ideas I would have never thought of, or quick and easy ways to make things. I use the search bar to list things I already have at home to see what fun new dish I can make for dinner.

Hurt #1: FAR- FETCHED
The problem with Pinterest is all the elaborate ideas made to seem easy, but are actually ridiculous. There’s no way I could create that project, or recipe at home without breaking the bank.

SOLUTION: Find boards to follow that are realistic. I like to follow a friend of mine, who only pins things she has tried to make herself. It brings reality back to Pinterest and makes you feel better for not being able to make that fancy dessert. No #PinterestFail here.

Help #2: INSPIRATION
Sure, there are plenty of unrealistic pictures of models claiming they workout, but there are also a lot of real-life inspiration stories and workouts that you can find on Pinterest. Scrolling through those pins helps make me feel like I can reach my goals and feel better overall. There are workouts for busy moms, students, yoga in the workplace…you name it! Find the ones that are right for you.

Hurt #2: GUILT
The worst part of Pinterest is the feeling of guilt that washes over you when you don’t have time to cook that fabulous meal, or workout 15 hours a day to look like those unrealistic, Photoshopped models.

SOLUTION: Pick 1 or 2 pins you really want to achieve. Whether it’s a week-long ab challenge, or one nice meal you really want to tackle over the weekend. By avoiding the feeling that you must overdo it, Pinterest will become more of a friend rather than a foe.

Does Pinterest help you reach your health and wellness goals? If so, share your tips with me in the comments!

Jordan-BarrishPosted by Jordan Barrish, Public Relations Manager

Giving Up Control in 2015: My “Let It Go” List

woman-standing-in-the-snowEvery year in December, I lock myself in our bedroom, with a never ending pile of presents and a glass of wine, and overindulge in Hallmark Christmas movies. I stay in that room until every present is wrapped. Don’t ask me why I insist on doing it all at once; somehow, over the years, it’s become a tradition. While wrapping, I reflect on the previous year and look ahead to the upcoming year.

Normally, I’m excited about a new calendar, but this year was different. When I envisioned the year ahead, my chest was tight, I was sweating, and I even felt short of breath. Why? What on earth was happening this next year to stress me out? The answer is simple: I’m wasting energy on guilt, worry, mistakes, and perfection.

So, in the name of our Frozen, winter-loving Elsa, I’ve created a list of five things I’m saying “Let It Go” to in 2015:

GUILT. I have an incredibly powerful guilt complex. I feel guilty for everything. Not making it to one of my kids’ holiday parties, leaving the family at home to go have dinner with a friend, the list goes on and on. Starting a Master’s program, or at least figuring out my plan to get a Master’s, is on my 2015 to-do list—but all the guilt has been holding me back. Can I handle it all? Will I be able to make enough time for my husband and kids? Will my work suffer? Then there’s the immense guilt about putting so much time and effort into something that’s only for me. ALL of this may happen, but it’s a calculated risk my family and I are willing to take. I need to let it go, enjoy the journey, and not look back.

WORRY. I worry about everything – a problem made worse by my role as military spouse. Will my husband get orders to deploy? Will we end up PCSing sooner than expected? Will his year group meet the Reduction in Force board again? These are all things I have absolutely NO control over. So, instead of worrying – you guessed it – I just need to let it go! Make the most of where we are now and tackle each day, one at a time. And if any of these scenarios do happen, I’ll be flexible because we all know change is inevitable in our military life.

MISTAKES. Confession: I am going to make mistakes. The people around me are also going to make mistakes. We’ll forgive and move on. I’m registered for a half marathon, and have my training and diet plan in place. Will I miss a run or two? Will I enjoy dessert or a dinner out? ABSOLUTELY! And everything is going to be fine! Let it go! Life doesn’t have to be perfect.

EXPECTATIONS. Say no, and accept when others say no. It’s OKAY! It’s also okay to say it without a laundry list of reasons why you had to say no. When I say no to something, I won’t worry about others’ expectations. I will accept my decision, embrace it, and (of course) let it go!

ATTITUDES. I tend to allow others’ attitudes affect my own personal happiness, but do you know what? Only I can control my emotions. I shouldn’t let others have such power over my well-being. This year, I won’t over-analyze every decision, and I won’t internalize other people’s displeasure. There’s no reason to! None! Say it with me…I need to let it go.

Will you channel your inner Elsa in 2015 and just let it go? Tell us about it in the comments below.

Lyndy-RohePosted by Lyndy Rohe, Communications Assistant