Tag Archives: military spouses

An Army Wife’s Pursuit of Education OCONUS

Amanda-oakley2In November 2009, my husband and I set off for the adventure of a lifetime after he received orders to PCS to Baumholder, Germany! I was 23-years-old, a recent college graduate, and a newlywed. I was both excited and terrified. I had never lived outside of my home state of North Carolina, and other than moving to Raleigh, NC to complete my undergraduate studies at N.C. State University, I had never lived away from home. Baumholder was also my husband’s first permanent duty station.

It was easy for me to get lost in the excitement of moving to Germany and having the opportunity to travel Europe, however, when all of the excitement wore off, I realized that moving to Germany would mean limited career and educational opportunities for me. Unfortunately, it is common for military spouses to put their educational and career goals on the back burner while they support their spouse’s military career. I refused to let this be the case for me.

Upon arrival to Germany, I learned quickly that if I wanted to accomplish anything I had to be proactive and try to figure out my questions on my own. OCONUS (Outside the Continental United States) duty stations are a different world from stateside duty stations, especially if you have little knowledge about how the Army operates. Prior to moving to Germany, I knew I wanted to attend graduate school. When I found out that I would be moving overseas, I figured I would have to put going to graduate school on hold or live apart from my husband while completing a graduate program stateside.

Thanks to a fellow Army spouse, I learned about the education center on base. The representatives at the education center were so helpful and friendly, and just what I needed after ending up at so many dead ends with my school search. After receiving a wealth of information about educational opportunities for spouses in Germany and giving it a lot of thought, I applied to a program that would allow me to complete my Master’s while living in Europe. I was filled with excitement when I received an acceptance letter to the program, and beginning in January 2010, I was on my way to a Master’s degree!

While I was completing my graduate degree, I also held three part-time jobs. I worked as a childcare provider for two different military families in the area and as an Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) tutor for one military family that had a child with Autism. I felt it was important to provide some financial support to our family and do something that helped further my career. So much of my life revolved around my husband’s career, I needed something to call my own and to help me find my own identity without getting lost in his.

amanda-oakley

I reached my last year of graduate school in 2011, which brought new and exciting challenges for me. I was extremely sad and worried, but I did what any military spouse would do: I wiped off the tears and toughened up! In February, my husband left for his first deployment to Afghanistan. I decided to move back to NC during the deployment, to surround myself with family and work while continuing my education. I think staying busy with work and school was the best distraction I could have had. Before I knew it, the deployment was over and I was on my way back to Germany to welcome my husband home.

The next month, I began my internship at Baumholder Middle-High School. I was in the home stretch! I worked hard as a school counseling intern and in my final graduate school class. I enjoyed assisting the military students and it felt good to be back “home” with the military community. I learned a lot during my internship and received many opportunities to practice my counseling skills.

In May 2012, I received my graduate degree and walked across the stage during graduation in Heidelberg, Germany along with fellow military spouses, military personnel, and civilians. I had completed a Master’s degree, all while getting accustomed to the military lifestyle, living in Germany, and surviving my husband’s first deployment. What an awesome feeling!

Currently, I am working on a post-graduate certificate in behavior analysis. I have decided to become a certified behavior therapist and pursue a career as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). Someone once told me that military spouses will never be able to have a career due to the frequent moves and limited opportunities at many military bases. By being proactive and making strides to continue my education and begin my career, I have been able overcome the obstacles and be a strong military spouse at the same time!

amanda-oakley-headshotBy Amanda Oakley, Joanne Holbrook Patton Scholarship Recipient

TRICARE Standard: Is it right for you?

flag-stethoscopeAs a new spouse, or even a seasoned spouse, the difference between TRICARE Standard and TRICARE Prime can be somewhat confusing. I remember how overwhelming it felt when I was faced with the decision on whether I wanted “Prime” or “Standard”. After reading through the literature available, as well as on TRICARE’s website, I decided TRICARE Standard was the best for me. If you are considering TRICARE Standard for your family, here are some points to consider:

TRICARE Standard is an option which allows you to choose your own doctor. You are able to see any type of doctor, from a specialist to a primary care physician. To search for the type of doctor you need, go to TRICARE’s “Find a Doctor” feature. If you choose a network provider, you end up paying less of a cost share . The cost share depends on what care you get at that particular appointment, whether or not you use a network or non-network doctor, or whether you are an active duty family member, retiree, or retiree family member.

The “in network” doctors file the TRICARE claims for you so you do not have to deal with the paperwork of filing the claim yourself. Using a network doctor is called TRICARE Extra . Also, there is no pre-authorization required when you need lab work or testing done. Each fiscal year you have an annual deductible to meet, which varies based on your service member’s status. As an active duty spouse, I pay only 20% of any allowable charges after I have paid my deductible for the year. There is also a $1000 “catastrophic cap” for active duty families. This means your out of pocket expense will not exceed that cap.

TRICARE patients have the option to choose which pharmacy they would like to use. Using TRICARE retail pharmacies are especially convenient for patients using TRICARE Standard, but are the most expensive option. Major drug store chains such as RiteAid, CVS, Target, and Walmart are in-network pharmacies. By using an in-network pharmacy, you are responsible for a $5.00 copay for generic medications and a $17.00 copay for brand name medications. You can save money if you use the TRICARE Pharmacy Home Delivery to have your prescriptions mailed right to your home.

A common misconception of TRICARE Standard is the idea that patients are not able to use the military pharmacy because they are not seeing a doctor at a Military Treatment Facility (MTF). As a TRICARE Standard user, you have the option to use the MTF pharmacies, which may be the best value if the MTF stock your drugs. Personally, I have never used a MTF Pharmacy because they were not as convenient for me because I did not live on the Army Post. However, if you want to save money, using the MTF pharmacy is a great option because both generic and formulary drugs have no copay!

TRICARE Standard has been the best choice for me because I enjoy choosing my provider instead of being assigned one. I also enjoy the flexibility of changing providers if I am not happy with my current doctor. Unlike TRICARE Prime, TRICARE Standard does not require a referral to see a specialist. Because of these choices, I don’t mind paying to see a doctor when I am ill and can’t survive another day without an appointment! I feel I am in control of my healthcare experience with TRICARE Standard. I encourage you to read about the other differences between Prime and Standard in order to make the best decision for your family. I hope that by shedding some light on the sometimes confusing and often-misunderstood TRICARE Standard, your decision may come a little easier.

Stephanie-OSullivanBy Stephanie O’Sullivan, National Military Family Association Volunteer, Fort Bragg, NC

PCS: Panic, Cry, Scream

ShannnonSeb1In the military community, summertime is notoriously known to be “PCS Season” – the most popular time for service members to receive new orders, or their “Permanent Change of Station.” In my world, I like to think of it as “Panic, Cry, Scream,” because that is usually how I feel shortly after we get the news of our new orders. Panic sets in when I realize all the things already on my To-Do list, followed by a good cry because, once again, it’s time to pick up and find a new home. Screaming happens frequently as the time to move gets closer. To-Do lists are left undone, there are no more tears to cry, and whether I like it or not, change is coming.

That’s the funny thing about this lifestyle – being a military family. Change is inevitable. I remember the turning point when I realized life was going to change drastically. This moment left me with no other choice but to embrace change.

I left my small hometown in Florida in 2009, where I lived for all 23 years of my life, and moved with my now-husband all the way to Oklahoma. He and I had been dating for a while and being left behind while he got new orders to Oklahoma was not an option. I was going with him whether we were married or not! I packed all my things from the bedroom I’d grown up in, took the furniture from my room which still showed 10 years of pencil marks my mom made to track how much I’d grown, and began dreaming of a new life in the Midwest.

The morning came when we packed the car, said goodbye to my mom and dad, and set off for our new installation. I took in the moment like it was the last breath I’d ever take. The smell of pine trees mixed with the humid Florida air while my parents stood at the end of the driveway, waving as their only child drove away. I was fresh out of college, unmarried, and leaving my Southern bubble behind.

Then it hit me. Thoughts scrambled through my head as all the familiar things I knew and loved passed by the car window. My mind raced and all I could do was embrace the change that was happening. I had to be brave and fearless, kind and understanding. It was time to be determined and ferocious to take on the military “lifestyle” and be the best supporter I could be for my service member. This was the moment life changed for me.

I married my husband seven months later.

ShannonSeb2

I never dreamed of a life as a military spouse. In fact, I never dreamed of a life outside of my small, Southern town. Call me naïve, but I did not think life existed in a world where there was no sweet tea, or beach access. Choosing to pull out of the driveway that humid morning in 2009 has been the best decision I have ever made.

Today, I am a strong-minded, gritty military spouse with a few years of deployments and PCS’s under my belt. I am resilient and determined to make the best of any situation. I have learned how to rely on like-minded people for support. I have figured out it is okay to attend military balls wearing the same dress each year because, chances are, no one would remember. I learned how to be a banker, chef, tailor, and nurse!

Change is inevitable, especially in the military culture. It’s important to remember that each PCS is a chance to see the sunrise from a new place, meet new friends, and find new adventures. Maybe it’s not “Panic, Cry, Scream,” but instead, “Perfect Change of Scenery.” I’ll tell you firsthand, our first PCS was a pivotal moment in my life, and it has shaped who I am today! Embrace it and see what kind of person it makes you.

Shannon-SebastianBy Shannon Sebastian, Online Engagement Manager

An Outsider Looking In: Military life perspective from an AmeriCorp member and civilian

volunteer-with-flagAs I wrap up my first month here at the National Military Family Association , I wanted to share my perspective as a civilian working for a nonprofit that advocates for military families. For the next year, I’ll be a member of the Government Relations team through the AmeriCorps Call 2 Service Corps

Honestly, when I initially decided to apply for positions through AmeriCorps, I anticipated something along the lines of “feed the hungry!” or “clean up this polluted stream!” Those are both issues that pull at my heartstrings, and are typically what one thinks of when “AmeriCorps” comes to mind.

However, when I came across the Association’s job posting, I liked what I read about the kind of work I would be doing (think: research, reading, and writing), while working alongside these great experts in the Government Relations department. I thought to myself, “Well, I’m not sure about the whole ‘military thing’, but they’re working for the betterment of families, so let’s do it!”

I haven’t regretted the decision to accept my position for one second. Learning how different the lives are of military families, in comparison to civilians, has astounded me. I had so many preconceived notions about military life, many of which greatly underestimated the realities of the hardships the families face, and many more of which were completely off base and entirely inaccurate. For instance, I assumed “military brats” moved to 2 or 3 different places by the time they finally graduate high school. In reality, many of them move every 2-3 YEARS!

I can’t begin to imagine trying to navigate the confusions of childhood and adolescence all while having to make new friends and adjusting to a new location on a regular basis. I knew that deployments were often long and not easy for military families, but I didn’t quite grasp just how hard they were. To get a better idea, check out these videos. My coworker (and military spouse), Karen, showed these videos to me to help me grasp the realities military families face every day – the same realities SHE faces every day – while husbands and wives, siblings and children, are deployed.

I am looking forward to my year of service to the Association. I am excited to continue learning about military families, and the issues that matter to them. I am excited to further develop my skills as an ally and resource. I am excited to see, firsthand, the efforts our Staff and Volunteers make to ensure military families receive the benefits and help they deserve. I am excited to be a part of the National Military Family Association.

What tips do you have for those wanting to learn more about military families and the military community?

nateBy Nate Parsons, Government Relations and Volunteer Services AmeriCorp Member

Military Student Loan Forgiveness: What to do with your student loans?

Soldier-StudentMilitary families may rely on a variety of financial aid packages to help afford a higher education; including scholarships, grants, and loans. If your service member has federal loans, he or she will want explore the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program.

The PSLF is a program for federal student loan borrowers who work in a range of public service jobs, including military service. The program forgives remaining debt after 10 years of eligible employment and qualifying loan payments.  In most cases eligibility is based on whether you work for an eligible employer. Your job is eligible if you:

• are employed by any nonprofit, tax-exempt 501(c)(3)organization
• are employed by the federal government, a state government, local government, or tribal government (this includes the military and public schools and colleges); or
• serve in a full-time AmeriCorps or Peace Corps position.

PSLF applies to federal Stafford, Grad Plus, or consolidation loans as long as they are in the Direct Loan Program.  Borrowers with Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP) loans must switch to the Direct Loan program to participate in this benefit.

In order to qualify for loan forgiveness the borrower must make 10 years (or 120 monthly payments) after October 1, 2007. Qualifying payments are made through the Direct Loan program. To count, the payments must be made while working full-time in an eligible job. “Full-time” means 30 hours per week or the standard for full-time used by the employer, whichever is greater. If your service member meets all of the eligibility criteria the earliest the remaining debt could be forgiven under the program is October 2017.

With advanced planning, the PSLF is another tool your family can use to help make higher education affordable. Since federal student loan interest rates reset each July , now is a good time to explore the PSLF program to see if it is right for you and your family.

KatieBy Katie Savant, Government Relations Information Manager

Joanne Holbrook Patton Military Spouse Scholarship recipients for 2013

shutterstock_1722702The checks are out the door and the classes are being scheduled! The military spouse scholarships recipients from 2013 are busy planning, prepping and furthering their education. In 2013, the National Military Family Association spouse scholarship program awarded $274,500 to 254 military spouses. Our scholarship recipients are all military spouses representing the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard. Some are spouses of wounded veterans, some are surviving spouses, and others are spouses of active duty service members, guardsmen, or reservists.

The Association is honored to recognize and award military spouses and assist in giving them an opportunity to reach their educational goals.  As one spouse puts it, “Military families face unique challenges regarding education, I personally moved from one city to another and began to piece together our lives in a new area, as well as put together educational plans for myself.”

Along with the general scholarships awarded to spouses seeking higher education, this year marks the first year we offered scholarships to students seeking a mental health career. To qualify for our Mental Health Career scholarship the applicants must have completed, at a minimum, a Master’s Degree in Psychology, Psychiatry, Counseling or Social Work, and need to be seeking clinical supervision hours as a requirement for their clinical licensure.

More than 70 applicants have applied for the Mental Health Career scholarship, which has remained open as we build our support efforts within the Mental Health field. Many of the spouses seeking a career in Mental Health have expressed intentions of paying it forward to the military community by using their education and experiences to counsel military families. “Without a doubt, this scholarship will play a key role in helping me reach my career goal of serving wounded warriors and their families as a licensed clinical psychologist.”

See what other spouses are saying about the benefit of these scholarships in their lives.

The National Military Family Association recognizes and thanks all the sponsors who help make the Joanne Holbrook Patton Military Spouse scholarships possible. Thank you to Fisher House Foundation, BNY Mellon, May & Stanley Smith Charitable Trust, Lockheed Martin, Fluor, Health Net Federal Services, US Family Health Plan, ASMBA Star, General Dynamics, Phillip & Gayle Staton, George Russell, and many more for the generous donations!

If you are interested in applying for or receiving notice of spouse scholarships and other education opportunities, visit our website and sign up for eNewsletters and eNotices!

We are proud to support all of our military spouse scholarship recipients and their educational and career aspirations. The recipients for 2013 are:

Abby Sims
Aislinn Deely
Alena Barosa
Alexann Masiko-Meyer
Alison Portis
Alita Baggett
Allison Hagan
Allison Burnett
Allison Murphy
Alyssa Stiles
Amanda Todd
Amanda Adams
Amanda Deal
Amanda Oakley
Amanda Walker (Jones)
Amber McCart
Ameye Carpenter
Amy Creason
Amy Dituri
Amy Fuhs
Amy Muir
Ana Karina Chavez
Angela Farr
Angelia Dittmeier
Angelina Plater
Angelina Suarez-Popplewell
Anna Eklund
April Abreu
Ashley Wallis
Ashley Fielder
Ashley Haynes
Ashley Louie
Astrid Santini
Barbara Blackford
Barbara Toscano
Beatriz Giraldo
Bianca Strzalkowski
Blanca Alejandra Svensson
Brenda Valdez
Brittany Curtis
Brittany Taylor
Brittany Thompson
Bukola Olatunji
Callista Tkacs
Carmelita Taylor
Carmen Johnson
Carmen Waga
Carolina Johnsen
Carolyn Blumenfeld
Carrie Scheib
Cassandra Flowers
Cassandra Turner
Catherine McGuire
Catherine Schopp
Cathy St. Julien
Celena Janton
Celia Nilson
Celine Texier-Rose
Charlotte Stewart
Chelsea Watkins
Cheryl Moore
Christin Hall
Christina Webb
Christina Wheeler
Christine Bessler
Corinne Blake
Courtney Harrison
Courtney Johnson
Cristina Vera
Csilla Lyerly
Cynthia McQuarrie
Dana Thompson
Danielle Allison
Danielle Hochrine
Dawn Hall
Deborah Ellis
Debra Milstein
Denise Gil-Perez
Diane Porter
Donnice Roberts
Elizabeth Bull
Elizabeth Jennings
Elizabeth Spatz
Elizabeth Walters
Emily Flaming
Erica Bryant
Erin Lamb
Erin Stock
Faith Hess
Frances Karnuth
Frances Sharp
Gerivonni Darden
Gina Xavier
Gordon Azeb
Guadalupe Gonzalez
Hanna Sauer
Heather Pahman
Heather Pell
Jacquelyn Barnes
Jamie Womble
Janee Zimmerman
Jayme McArthur
Jayme Bering
Jennefer Walden
Jennifer Kyte
Jennifer Mashburn
Jessica Olivarez
Jessica Byrd
Jessica Dunn
Jessica Fikes
Jessica Fountain-Bowlus
Jessica Yost
Jill Hendrickson
Johanna Gomez
Joyce Lindsey
Joyce Vang
Judy Stine
Julie DeLeon
Kaitlin Orcutt
Kamilia Seay
Karen Caverly Molineaux
Katherina Kirby
Katherine Anders
Katherine Cole
Katherine Phillips
Kathleen Whittle
Kathryn Curry
Kathryn McDevitt
Katie Hill
Katrina Zilberman
Kelley Jeans
Kelly Fennell
Kelly Gress
Kelvin Telesford
Khali Koetting
Kiley Spicocchi
Kimberley Marcopul
Kimberley Wildman
Kimberly Dong
Kourtney Johnson
Krista Nielson
Kristi Stauffer
Kristin Grimes
Kristin Tubbs
Laura Watson
Laurel Wood
Lauren Martin
Lauren Sims
Leah Coppo
Leah Eischen
Leah Roberts
Leofe Douglas
Lianna Bodine
Linda Maldonato
Lisa Lamar
Loubna Bouna
Luella Cook
Makeeka Harris
Mallory Galbreath
Margaret Trimble
Mariah Armenta
Marie Brown
Marion Hudson
Marleen Cook
MarQuita Banks
Mary Beth Ratzlaff
Mary Malone
Maureen Skinner
Megan Zimmerman
Megan Mayo
Meghan Fields
Megumi Fuda
Melanie Stone
Melinda Gabriel
Melissa Spurling
Melissa Wilkerson
Michael Crowley
Michael Moberley
Michelle Jackson
Michelle Krupa
Mina Petrosino
Nancy Barnes
Nanyail Smoke
Naomi Lorence
Natalie Purdy
Neah Velasquez
Nicholle McLochlin
Nicole Brackins
Nicole Parker
Nicole Berliner
Nikita Casanova
Nikki Brown
Patricia Burnette
Patricia Carreno
Patricia McCurdy
Phyllis Adams-Pickett
Rachel Jacobs
Rachel Selph
Rachelle Vaughn
Rebecca Letterman
Rebecca Royer
Rebecca Scott
Rebecca Tay
Reina Zuniga
Rhonda Lucas
Rhonda Maynard
Robert West
Robin Soifer
Rochelle Sosa
Sabita Walkup
Sally Windisch
Sandy Cullins
Sara Seemayer
Sarah Dryer
Sarah Goodman
Sarah Jackson
Sarah Milo
Sarah Staggs
Sefra Perkins
Shalee Torrence
Shari Williams
Shawna Dennison
Shelby Rose
Shenae Whitehead
Sherika Hite-Feast
Sherry Matis
Shirley Chitjian
Sofie Castacio
Sonja Harris
Stacey Helman
Staci Chiomento
Stephanie Dannan
Stephanie Foehl
Stephanie Lee
Stephanie Olson
Susan Hampton
Susan Hernandez
Tabitha Thompson
Talia Clate
Tamika Montgomery
Tammy Wilson
Tana Kornachuk
Taryn Allen
Tatyana Peterson
Tiffany Herndon
Tilma Cruz
Tina Anderson
Tina Johnson
Tonya Murray
Tracy LaBreck
Veronica Jones-Felton
Veronica Joseph
Wendy Linehan
Whitney Harrison

allieBy Allie Jones, Military Spouse Scholarship Program Coordinator

Turning 65: Another milestone known as Medicare

Turning 65: Another milestone known as MedicareRecently, I began the rite of passage for another milestone in my life: turning 65. (And thank you to all those muttering under your breath, “I didn’t think she was THAT old!”) Armed with advice from my high school classmates via our reunion Facebook page and our Association’s website, I sat down at my computer to enroll in Medicare.

I was surprised by how easy it was to enroll online. My application was approved by the end of the week (which I could check online by using my confirmation number) and my Medicare card arrived in the mail a week later. Along the way, I learned a thing or two:

  • Somehow the whole world has received notice that you are soon turning 65. Every insurance company you’ve heard of and those you haven’t will start sending you information and calling you about Medicare supplemental insurance plans. Military retirees, their spouses, and survivors shouldn’t need those policies because they qualify for Tricare for Life, which picks up the cost shares not paid by Medicare. But, remember—to be eligible for TRICARE for Life, you MUST sign up for Medicare Part B!
  • You want to sign up for Medicare before you turn 65. If you wait until afterwards, not only will you turn 65 anyway (it’s inevitable), but you may also need to pay a penalty. I signed up in May before my August birthday.
  • You will start using Medicare at the beginning of your birth month. So even though you are not yet technically 65, Medicare thinks you are for part of the month.
  • You will need to get a new military ID card. My ID card was expiring in June so I thought I could kill two birds with one stone. I took my new red, white, and blue Medicare card with me in June to renew my military ID card. But all they did at the ID card facility was laminate my Medicare card and renew my “old” military ID card. I have to go back in August when I’m officially on Medicare. Then I’ll get a military ID card that doesn’t expire (and hopefully has a better picture).
  • You will need to update DEERS too.
  • It took me a while to discover how I was supposed to pay for my new Medicare Part B. (You don’t pay a premium for Part A.) If you’re already receiving Social Security, they deduct it from your paycheck. Otherwise, they send you a bill.

So now I’m waiting for August. 65!!! Yikes!

What milestone have you recently experienced in your journey as a military spouse? What advice do you have to share?

Susan-EversBy Susan Evers, Volunteer Services Coordinator, West Region

How Are Military Families Doing? What Researchers Are Discovering.

How Are Military Families Doing? What Researchers Are Discovering.When the first Soldiers and Marines boarded the planes for Afghanistan in October 2001, no one was standing at the door asking them how they were doing. No one asked their families, either. Research on the well-being of service members and families affected by the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq was slow to appear. And, many military families had already experienced a deployment or two before researchers were able to begin their studies of family separations, mental health, the effects of service member’s injuries on family relationships, child well-being, and multiple deployments and returns.

I’m proud that the National Military Family Association was the first to launch a large-scale study of military children and deployment as we commissioned RAND to follow 1,500 children and their at-home caregivers for a year. RAND reported in our Views from the Homefront study, released in 2011, that most military children and their families were handling deployment stresses well. But, researchers found military children had more anxiety symptoms than civilian kids. Military families were more at risk the longer the service member was deployed. Children had a harder time if their at-home parent was having problems dealing with deployment or if there was poor family communication in the home.

Other research is now being released and more is underway that is adding to our understanding of how the past decade of multiple deployments is affecting families. It’s both heartening and disappointing that this research is validating some of the conclusions of our study.

Right now, I’m trying to figure out how to understand and how our Association can use the latest research on military families presented at two recent conferences: a symposium on National Guard and Reserve families held in April at the University of Michigan and the International Research Symposium for Military Families held last week by Purdue University’s Military Family Research Institute.

What are researchers reporting they’ve learned about military families? They find that most service members and families remain resilient, but:

  • More months of deployment are associated with more family challenges, more mental health services and medication use by military spouses and children, and more academic issues for children.
  • Spousal support has a strong impact on the ability of ill/injured service members to work towards getting better, but spouses need accurate information about illness, warning signs, and strategies for communicating concerns to health care providers.
  • Female service members and veterans identify several barriers to accessing support services, including gaps in information about the issues they face and a perceived lack of understanding of gender differences, especially concerning parenting.
  • Among deployed service members, family stress appears to be primarily related to service members’ actual or perceived inability to be a source of support for family members at home.

Getting more information about what’s happening to military families affected by war is important for many reasons. It can help guide the creation of better programs, policies, and laws. It can pose questions about what else we need to know about military families to support them. In this era of tight budgets, knowing what service members and families need must be the first step in creating new programs and deciding which existing programs need to be cut.

A key part of the discussion at these recent research conferences focused on what else we need to know. We need to know more about the experiences and needs of female service members and veterans—and their children. We need to know more about the long term effects of the past decade of war on military children, not just while their parent is on active duty, but after the service member becomes a veteran. How are military families making the transition to veteran status? What help did they receive from the Department of Defense? What do they need after leaving the military and settling into their new civilian community? What kind of support are families seeking in their communities and is it helping? What are the long term effects of a service member’s serious injury on the family, including the parents and siblings of single service members? What new issues will emerge for families as they face new military missions?

What questions do you wish researchers would ask about the military family experience? What do your think our Nation needs to know about service members, veterans, and their families in order to support them in the future? Tell us!

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

Tribute and Memorial Gifts

Tribute and Memorial GiftsCharitable giving can be a meaningful way to honor someone special. Tribute gifts given in honor of family and friends for retirements, birthdays, Father’s Day, or other holidays—or memorial gifts given in memory of someone special— are significant and lasting ways to show someone you care, and help military families, too.

We recently received an outpouring of love and support in memory of a very special Army spouse. Karen Chandler Clark passed away unexpectedly on May 10, 2013, her 64th birthday. The San Antonio native graduated from Texas Tech University, and while there she met her future husband, Robert T. Clark, also of San Antonio. They were married more than 40 years. Karen was a gifted educator, and taught at every level from preschool to college. She enjoyed teaching English to foreign-born wives of Soldiers, so that they could write letters to their husbands who were deployed during Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm. As her husband rose through the Army ranks from Second Lieutenant to Lieutenant General, Karen served at his side with grace. She greatly enjoyed “the sisterhood”—the camaraderie of her fellow Army wives.

Retirement from the military didn’t end her service. She participated in the Military Civilian Club, a ladies’ community organization. Her life affected so many others, including all the students she taught and the countless Army wives she loved and supported. Her family asked that in lieu of flowers, family and friends make a donation in support of military families. Through the generosity of her many family and friends, Karen will continue to make an impact on military families.

Giving gifts that truly benefit the needs of others can be a wonderful way to honor the special people in your life. These gifts also allow you to emphasize important values and support the causes that are personally meaningful to you.

If you make a tribute or memorial donation to the National Military Family Association, the recipient or family will receive a letter sharing that you made a gift in his or her honor, including a special message from you, and will state how the contribution will improve the lives of military families. It’s the perfect gift for someone special!

annieBy Annie Morgan, Development and Membership Deputy Director

Becoming a Military Spouse: Words of advice

Becoming a military spouse: words of adviceIt’s finally wedding season (hurray for warmer weather!) and we thought it’d be nice to focus on one of the most pivotal moments for military families – the wedding day. For military spouses and service members alike, this is the beginning of a grand adventure. We’ve asked our staff members for words of advice to celebrate this occasion, along with a few fun pics to share.

Michelle-wedding-outsideChange is constant. Always have a back-up plan and be OK with the fact that you will probably have to use it.—Navy spouse

Get involved. Get to know the other spouses. Who knows, you might just meet your next best friend! –Army Spouse

cc-wedding-cut-cakeMarriage is, like a box of chocolates—a super deluxe, king size, assortment.—Army spouse

Bring a sense of humor to your military adventure. You never know where the journey will take you.—Marine Corps spouse

Remember, it’s not where you are, but who you’re with. Your next assignment Becoming a military spouse: words of advicecould be a hole in the wall, but if you make the best of the situation with those around you, it could be the best assignment you’ve ever had. Attitude is everything!—Air Force spouse

Try not to get overwhelmed by the new lingo full of acronyms and such. You have the rest of your military life to learn it all!—Army Spouse

Being married in to the military is such an Becoming a military spouse: words of adviceadventure. Get involved and take advantage of every opportunity you get!—Army spouse

Treat your friends like family. You may be thousands of miles from your closest relatives – but your friends and neighbors – they are your family, too. Embrace them.—Air Force spouse

It’s an honor to be a part of such a special community; focus on the positives and count your blessings.—Army spouse

If you’re newly married or soon-to-be married into the military, be sure to download our MyMilitaryLife App for more information on what to expect.

What do you wish you knew when you married into the military?

hannahBy Hannah Pike, Communications Deputy Director, Online Engagement