Tag Archives: military spouses

PTSD can be quiet

ptsd-soldierPrior to my husband’s last deployment, I had no direct contact with anyone who came home with PTSD. At least no one who was open about it, or even acted how I thought someone with PTSD would act.

That’s one of the troubles with PTSD. It’s not how someone acts in public or controlled situations; it’s how they act when no one else is around.

I had known from telephone and email conversations that something wasn’t right with my own husband. He would call and make wild, angry statements because I forgot to close the garage door. When he actually returned home from deployment, the problems became worse. He began not sleeping at all, and then slept for days. The anger, outbursts, and sullen behavior all reached epic levels. It nearly toppled our marriage over into a hole that it could never crawl out of.

You see, my husband denied he had PTSD, as many do. Because I was largely uneducated, with the exception of knowing PTSD wasn’t what the media portrayed, I didn’t really know what to do. I couldn’t fully see the tell-tale signs in my husband until it was almost too late.

He doesn’t have flashbacks in the “traditional” sense. Instead, his PTSD is quiet, it’s withdrawn, and it’s mean.

I wish I had known all of the ways PTSD can manifest itself. I wish I had known PTSD isn’t always yelling, fighting, and violent. I wish I had known that many of the things we often associate with PTSD are just a very small sampling of what can really be happening in your home.

My husband is withdrawn. He can go months without really speaking to me about anything. This started immediately after he returned, but being his wife, I became a great excuse maker. We never want to think PTSD has touched our life and our spouse. So I made excuse after excuse.

“He’s withdrawn because he’s adjusting.”
“He’s not sleeping because of the time difference.”
“He’s sleeping all the time because of the stress.”

But what it all added up to was a giant elephant in the room, one that he refused to talk about. An elephant that I was scared to bring up.

Sometimes, his posture changes, and I can tell that he is not in the moment with me anymore, but somewhere else entirely. Those times can be followed by silence, or an escalation of anger, but I know it’s not me he is angry at.

When he does have angry outbursts, it’s often at times when I least expect it. He once became angry with me when I asked him to bring me ketchup from the kitchen.

We are shown, and told, that PTSD is loud; that it is crazy, emotional, and intense. There can be violence, drinking, and wild behavior, but that isn’t always the case, and I truly wish I had known that. Maybe we wouldn’t have gotten to the brink of divorce.

I would tell any spouse, any family member or friend: Watch.

Simply watch your loved one. Has their sleep pattern changed? Are they sullen or withdrawn? Have they refused to see friends since their return? Are they having memory issues? All of those things, simple as they sound, can be warning signs.

PTSD can be the silent secret that you aren’t even sure is really there. It can be a quiet ordeal your spouse may be living with every day, but not saying anything about. It can be new behaviors you’ve never seen before, or old behaviors that you haven’t seen in a while.

If you suspect anything might be wrong, talk to them. Don’t ask what they did or saw, just talk to them about your concerns. Don’t let it become the elephant in the room and the secret you keep because they don’t want to talk about it. Angry or not, it’s so important that you urge them to seek help. I was lucky that I managed to get my husband into treatment, but others are not as lucky.

Because PTSD can be quiet.

Guest Post by Annie Mously, military spouse blogger

**October 10 is National Depression Screening Day. Take this opportunity to learn about your risk for depression, anxiety or PTSD by completing a simple self-assessment online at www.MilitaryMentalHealth.org.

Sinking to Soaring: 7 steps to position yourself for success

successHitting the books has always come easy for me. In fact, I love school. I could easily become a perpetual student if given the chance. I already have an undergraduate and a graduate degree under my belt, and I’m currently pursuing a certification that will open many doors in my current profession.

And of course, there’s plenty of additional training in my future. I recognize the tremendous value of education. Education is the key that has unlocked many opportunities for me.

So why do I continue to struggle to reach my educational goals?

Over the years, I have found that my educational pursuits often take a back seat, because finding the time, energy, and money to spend on my schooling is a problem when life is so busy. Like many other military spouses, I struggle to carve out the time it takes to tackle my educational goals with so many other demands on my plate.

Between the endless chores necessary to keep our household afloat, and keeping all my other plates spinning, I sometimes feel as if I’m struggling to keep my head above the water and a smile on my face. With all that, how can I plug in something extra?! I think we all find ourselves in this spot at one time or another.

I would love to tell you how great it is to invest in yourself through training and education, but if we’re in a place where we’re already overwhelmed, that sort of advice is about as useful as an oar without a rowboat.

The key is to position ourselves in a more comfortable place where we can do more than just survive. We need to get ourselves to a place where we can make choices without something else forcing us to make a decision, a place where we can put in extra effort for the things that truly matter, which make a real impact on the quality of our life in the long run. We need to reach a point where we can engage in our life instead of trudging through it and feeling depleted and at a standstill at the end of each day.

Even though I have successfully completed a number of educational goals, I still occasionally find myself in sinking mode. Recognizing that life never seems to be completely in control, I have come to rely on a few steps to get myself back in a ready position when I feel like I am thrashing.

Try these steps the next time you find yourself struggling to stay afloat:

  1. Recognize. Awareness is vital to change. I first need to recognize that I am sinking.
  2. Decide. Action starts with the decision to act. I must decide that I want to stop sinking. If I never make the decision to change my situation, the likelihood that it will naturally work itself out is pretty slim. So, instead of just crossing my fingers, I will make a deliberate decision to change.
  3. Plan. The most difficult part is to figure out how to get out of it. Once I wrap my head around my current situation and identify my goals, then I can start connecting the dots. I will write down my game plan and list out the actions necessary to get from point A to point B.
  4. Rally. The journey is often exhausting and defeating without proper support. I will pick out sources of support so that I know where to go, or who to talk to, if I run into problems or want to give up on my plan.
  5. Act. Plans are worthless if not acted upon. I will make the sacrifices necessary and put in the hard work required to act on my plan. I will do what it takes to reach my goal.
  6. Rebound. Bumps, setbacks, and turns are inevitable, but the result depends on the response. I know that the road will be difficult, and when I get knocked down, I will get back up and continue towards my goals. If I need to reevaluate my plan, then I commit to making the changes necessary to ultimately reach my goal, even if it is redefined.
  7. Recognize. Just as awareness is important to start the process, recognition is important to complete the process. Once I find myself no longer sinking, I will stop and give myself a pat on the back. I will recognize my small successes along the way, and I will be sure to thank those who helped me in my journey.

These seven steps can help you change anything, from daily tasks to increase efficiency, to making a major career change to feel more fulfilled by the work you do.

However you choose to apply these steps is up to you, but make sure that they are taking you to a better place. The goal is to eventually seek out that oar and take larger, more impactful steps toward improving your life through education.

The goal is to soar.

maikman-headshotGuest Post by Michelle Aikman, 2012 recipient of the National Military Family Association Joanne Holbrook Patton Military Spouse Scholarship

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

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

Rock the Interview: 5 tips for military spouse employment success

jobfairYou’ve graduated, enjoyed a taste of summer, probably PCS’ed across the country recently and now it’s time to hit the ground running and secure your dream job. Not quite sure how to build your resume to showcase your volunteer experience? Worried that you won’t know how to answer the questions the employers may ask you?

Before you hit the career fairs or begin interviewing, here are five tried and tested tips to help you get hired!

1. Research. Make sure you understand the industry you want to be a part of. Research companies that are hiring and keep an eye out for companies that are military spouse friendly. Research career fairs in your area. Use the Military Spouse Employment Portal to help you in your research and don’t miss the career counselors at Military OneSource.

2. Prepare. Update or create your resume. There are great resume builder workshops and guides available to you. It’s important to customize your resume according the job description you are applying to. Not only perfect your resume but understand it. Be able to explain in detail every point you make on your resume. Be able to back your skills up with examples. If you have gaps in employment, be ready to explain why. Also prepare questions and answers. Have a great set of go-to questions to ask potential employers at the end of an interview or at a career fair.

3. Practice. Work on your interviewing techniques with your spouse or friend. Give them questions to ask you and practice reciting your answers. Remember and repeat your ‘elevator pitch’ that describes yourself and tells why you are a good hire in 30 seconds or less. Practice in front of the mirror to help perfect your delivery.

4. Polish. Put together a professional outfit and go in with a polished look. If you need a suit or new outfit visit retailers that offer military discounts or look for business attire at the nearest exchange store or installation thrift shop.

5. Present. Make eye contact and use a firm handshake to make a good first impression. Don’t sell yourself short; present your best qualities and skills. Have a positive attitude and have confidence!

These simple steps will guide you in your employment pursuits. Visit our website for more military spouse employment resources and if you are in the area don’t miss any of these upcoming career fairs for military spouses!

  • September 5, 2013 – Quantico, VA Military Spouse Hiring Fair
  • September 9, 2013 – West Point, NY Military Spouse Networking Event
  • September 12, 2013 – JBLM, WA Military Spouse Hiring Fair
  • October 24, 2013 – Fort Sam Houston, TX Military Spouse Hiring Fair
  • November 7, 2013 – Fort Bragg, NC – Military Spouse Hiring Fair

Find out more about the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation Hiring Our Heroes Military Spouse career fairs and initiatives here.

What tips do you have to help military spouses get hired?

alliePosted by Allie Jones, Military Spouse Scholarship Coordinator

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

They Can’t Hear You: Raise your Milspouse voice!

evaluationYou’ve been trying to get an appointment for your two year old’s ear infection with no luck.

The day camp and swim lessons that have been such an important piece of your summertime child care plan aren’t being offered this summer because of budget cuts.

With furloughs reducing your family income, you want to improve your budgeting skills. You have found a program offered in the Family Service center, but can’t enroll because hiring freezes have eliminated the availability of an instructor.

Where do you go to complain? Do you rant and moan to your next door neighbor or work mate? Do you share your frustration on your Facebook page? How do you let the higher-ups know that the programs you rely on aren’t meeting your needs or just plain aren’t there?

At a recent national conference, General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and his spouse, Deanie, said it was important for the audience members to let them know which programs are necessary and focus on those that would benefit everybody.

But what programs are best? What programs need to get the boot? What programs need a few tweaks to really meet the needs of military families?

There are ways you can raise your voice on your own installation.

Recently, General Dempsey talked about the Interactive Customer Evaluation (ICE) process, a web-based program that allows you to electronically provide feedback on services provided by on-base organizations. By completing a report through the ICE process, you let commanders know what programs may or may not be working on your installation.

What’s available in your local community? Is there an advisory committee for your hospital, commissary, exchange, child development center or youth center? Do you show up for meetings with a concern or do you figure someone else will do it?

What if your problem can’t be fixed locally? How do you push it up a notch? After a year’s hiatus, the Army is reintroducing the Army Family Action Plan (AFAP) for the virtual age. In its 30th anniversary year, AFAP will transition into a new three-tier process, continuing with local conferences, and streamlined virtual review procedures. We’ve seen some great changes come over the last 30 years because of AFAP!

Instead of just sharing your concerns on your own Facebook page, share it with the National Military Family Association Facebook page – we are dedicated to making your voices heard!

What have you done on your installation to make your voice heard? Let us know in the comments section!

kathyPosted by Kathleen Moakler, Government Relations Director

You Know You’re a Military Spouse When…

sunset-on-baseMilitary life is a funny thing. Nothing ever seems to stay the same, but somehow, we embrace change as our “normal.” Finding civilian friends who understand your “normal” is another funny, yet rare thing – much like a unicorn. We know they’re out there, and when we find one, it’s magical. While not all of our civilian friends understand military life, there’s always a military spouse out there who can relate to the exact place you’re at in your life.

In honor of your “normal,” here are a few of the funnier ways you know you’re a military spouse:

  • You have enjoyed a beautiful sunset on your installation, complete with barbed wire fences in the view.
  • The majority of your laundry consists of camouflage, green shirts, and brown socks. If you’re Navy or Coast Guard, it’s blue shirts and black socks.
  • You can pack and unpack a house within a couple days, but you still have a few boxes that haven’t been unpacked from your move 2 years ago.
  • Your kids have a drawer full of soccer jerseys from playing on so many different teams over your years of moving around.
  • You use a military I.D. all the time and get frustrated when places ask for a “real I.D.”
  • You still find colorful little moving tags on various pieces of furniture even though it’s been a year since your last PCS. Bonus points if you’ve found multiple tags from multiple PCS’s on the same piece of furniture.
  • You don’t panic when your doctor walks in wearing ACU’s or BDU’s.
  • You know that a month-long separation is short, no matter what anyone says.
  • You read all of the homecoming banners on base and smile over each one. Then wonder, “What will my banner say?”
  • You save voicemails from your spouse, so you can listen to them anytime you think of him or her.
  • You have two anniversaries: your Justice of the Peace anniversary and your wedding anniversary.
  • You answer your spouse’s text messages with “Roger.”
  • You know there is no such thing as “planning in advance,” and you know you can’t make solid plans on where you will spend Christmas until the middle of December.
  • You have three jobs on your resume for the last two years.
  • You know your spouse’s social security number better than your own and often confuse the two when filling out documents about yourself.
  • When you go out on the town, you constantly have to point out that your date of birth is on the back of your military I.D.
  • You celebrate holidays based on duty schedules.
  • You have 20 different sized curtains to fit all the different windows of houses you’ve lived in.
  • You refer to your spouse’s friends by their last name. And no one holds it against you if you don’t know their first name.
  • You have found at least 10 different sets of orange foam earplugs in the washer or dryer.
  • You always have to explain to employers why you have had so many jobs by age 26. Then you hope they take you seriously knowing you may be leaving soon.
  • You have a Florida driver’s license, with an Oklahoma license plate, and you live in Virginia.
  • You are a pro at prepping a dress uniform.
  • You tear up when you hear “God Bless the USA,” even though you’ve heard it 50 times before.
  • When your spouse is deployed, you are married to your phone, email, and/or Skype.
  • You know to stay FAR away from the commissary near the 1st and 15th of every month, and if you absolutely have to go on those days, it’s a planned mission with emergency exit options.

Can you relate to any of these? If so, let us know and submit your own in the comments section below!

Shannon-SebastianPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Online Engagement Manager

Recent Good News Won’t Keep the Yellow Ribbon from Unraveling in 2014

yellow-ribbon-tree-blogOn August 6, military families got a little sequestration relief. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced that the DoD civilian employee furloughs would be capped at six days rather than the planned 11. These furloughs had closed commissaries an extra day, made it more difficult for families to get health care appointments, cut family center hours, and would have closed DoD schools for several days in September.

So, let’s celebrate a little because the 2013 DoD furloughs will end this week. But, make it only a small celebration please! Sequestration is a 10-year menace and none of the good news from last week will carry over into the new fiscal year that starts on October 1. DoD officials have shared a lot of numbers about the difficulties sequestration will cause in 2014.

According to DoD, this summer’s furloughs that caused so much disruption saved the Department $1 billion. In 2014, DoD will have to find savings of $52 billion.

How much pain and disruption for military families will come as DoD tries to find those savings?

Forget about furloughs–how many civilians will be laid off? How fast will a drawdown in the number of uniformed troops happen? How many airplanes will the Air Force be able to fly? What training will be cancelled? What family support facilities will close? What will the DoD and civilian schools educating military children have to cut? How long will we wait for health care appointments? Will schedules for Permanent Change of Station moves lengthen? What ships will be repaired? Already, the Navy has announced it will scrap, rather than repair, a nuclear submarine damaged by arson. Why? Navy officials blame a $4 billion shortfall in the shipbuilding account and other maintenance priorities deferred by sequestration.

Cuts totaling $52 billion in 2014 will hurt service members, families, and the communities where they live. Even though the 2013 furloughs will soon end, sequestration’s effects can still be seen in programs affected by hiring freezes, in reduced training for service members, and deferred maintenance of equipment and facilities. Those effects will get worse unless Congress acts to #EndSequestration.

The National Military Family Association and the other organizations that have joined with us in our campaign thank the families who have sent us pictures and stories about how sequestration is affecting their communities. Please continue to send pictures showing sequestration’s effects to social@militaryfamily.org. We’re creating a booklet of your photos and sequestration stories and will deliver it to every Member in early September.

Our Nation’s leaders must keep the yellow ribbon from unraveling. #EndSequestration.

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



**By submitting your photo, you agree that the National Military Family Association may use your submission, the language within, and any subsequent photos in any way including, but not limited to, publications, promotional brochures, promotions or showcase of programs on our website or social networks, showcase of activities in local and/or national newspapers or programming, and other similar lawful purposes.

2013 FINRA Investor Education Foundation’s Military Spouse Fellows

accountant-womanThe job market for military spouses can be intimidating, and employment can be daunting. Especially when you know you won’t be in one spot for long. Portable careers are the most coveted among military spouses. One career that fits the portable bill is financial counseling.

In 2012, Forbes reported positions for financial advisors were one of the fastest careers in desperate need of talent. The Forbes report states, “The demand for financial advice is increasing as Baby Boomers approach retirement and seek help getting there.” The world of financial advisors is expected to grow at a rate of 32% according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics; the average growth rate of all occupations is 14%.

This financial industry is an excellent option for military spouses. Thanks to Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education, military spouses have the chance to break into the industry by obtaining their accredited financial counseling certificate at no cost. In March of this year, the FINRA Investor Education Foundation’s Military Spouse Fellowship Program opened the application process, for the eighth straight year, for its class of 2013 military spouses. The FINRA Fellowship Program provides military spouse recipients with the education and training needed to earn the Accredited Financial Counselor® (AFC®) designation. Hundreds of military spouses applied for the program in 2013. Fifty military spouses throughout the U.S. and overseas have been awarded the FINRA Investor Education Foundation’s 2013 Military Spouse Fellowship.

Here are the 2013 FINRA Investor Education Foundation’s 2013 Military Spouse Fellows:

Karen Bond
TruVonda Boone
Ana Brown
Michelle Budzien
Lauren Chaplin
Tisha Curry
Katelynd Day
Kira Dentes
Kornkamol Diskul
Jessie Ellertson
Maria Firestone
Hyunhi Flot
Dawn Foster
Prece Fountain-Reid
Mari Fries
Patricia Geiger
Cynthia Giesecke
Adrianna Gonzalez
Sara Griffin
Olga Guy
Brynn Hanson
Julia Harris
Meredith Hathaway
Diana Hook
Katrina Horsley-Watts
Sabrina Johnson
Karin Knapp-Parham
Rebecca Lenard
Sarah Malufau
Michael Matheny
Emily McConnell
Sara Miller
Diana Mitsch
Meghan Northcutt
Uchenna Oranebo
Lucie Pak
Andrea Peck
Kia Plumber
April Postell
Angela Reyes-Hill
Angela Setering
Elaine Smith
Rebekah Strausheim
Sarah Tellefsen
Gideon Thomas
Whitney Thomas
Jennifer Trimble
Kelley VanDyke
Tuawana Williams-Jenkins
Valarie Young