Tag Archives: volunteers

Adjusting to an Unexpected Role: Caregiver

IMG_23000037656571-1Today, many military spouses are taking on a new role besides wife and mom. That new unexpected role is called caregiver. Never in a million years did I think I would become a caregiver at 34. Who knew? Hundreds of military spouses, like me, have taken on the caregiver role more frequently than people can ever imagine due to combat injuries or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

I don’t think many of us prepared for, or even anticipated, the added job title. Millions of unanswered questions and concerns are now a part of our life. But it doesn’t have to be a confusing and frustrating life. With the right resources, referrals, and people to help, what may seem like an unknown territory becomes manageable by getting information through social networks, and from wonderful organizations such as the National Military Family Association.

At first, I had to dig through a lot of information and learn not to be afraid of asking questions, even if it led me back to square one. Here is some of what I learned:

  • Be sure to attend all or most appointments with your spouse. It is important because you are becoming the advocate, the voice for your service member.
  • If you have a job and can’t get time-off, have someone there that your spouse agrees on. Someone who will relate everything back to you and the doctor if need be.
  • Make sure you have power of attorney for your spouse’s medical records. Medical information will not be released to you if you do not have one due to The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) of 1996. It doesn’t matter if you’re married or the parent of the service member.
  • Always ask questions if unclear: no question is a stupid question. If you are not getting answers or feel like your service member’s quality care if not up to standard, ask for someone else. It is always your right to obtain the best medical treatment for your loved one.
  • Take time out for yourself, even if it’s a hot bath and reading a magazine. You are no good as a caregiver physically or mentally if you are not well.

Being a caregiver is a continuous responsibility and I believe women, in particular, tend to think they can handle everything themselves. Most may not be as comfortable asking for help, especially when caring for an “invincible” service member. Not asking for help is a mistake—it’s important to get help when you need it and have your own support system in place.

As a caregiver, you can never really ‘get away’—you’re always there. But if you can find time for something else and get away from your daily routine, even for a short while, it can be great for your mind and health.

The best advice I would give to new caregivers is to be patient and be in it for the long haul. No one can tell you how long it will last, or if your spouse will get better. Don’t hesitate to get as much information as possible and know that people are there to support you, to lend a helping hand. You and your loved one are in it together, so just take it one day at a time.

And remember, love takes many forms and whenever you help each other, that form of love binds you closer than you can ever imagine.

Melissa-NovoaPosted by Melissa Novoa, Volunteer, Camp Pendleton, CA

Bonded Through Volunteerism: Holly and Cynthia’s Story

cynthia-and-hollyHolly Franklin and Cynthia Giesecke started as strangers, both attending the National Military Family Association’s West Region Training Conference, held in San Diego, California. They both applied to become Volunteers with our Association as a way to better the lives of other military families. Little did they know that volunteering, and even just attending the conference, would change their lives so drastically.

Upon learning they’d be traveling to California for the conference, Holly and Cynthia had very different reactions.

Cynthia immediately answered with a “YES!”

Holly debated going at all – she had never visited California, or even traveled alone.

Once they arrived in San Diego, as fate would have it, they ended up being roommates.

It didn’t take long before the two discovered their awkward jokes and weird sense of humor was immediately embraced by the other. The first night, they stayed up talking for hours, telling stories about themselves, and their experiences as military spouses. Holly had grown up as a Marine brat, and was a new military spouse, while Cynthia lived in a Reservist’s house, and was a more seasoned military spouse.

When asked about Cynthia, Holly beamed with admiration for her new friend.

“Cynthia is an incredibly active person at her installation. I immediately admired her for how open she was to other people, and compassionate to everyone’s situation – however unique it may be. She gave me so much insight and advice to what works on certain installations. When I told her of my concerns and situations in my community, she told me about resources I could use to help. Being a new spouse, it was so wonderful to gain information and tips that would have taken me years to figure out if I hadn’t met her.”

Cynthia shared in Holly’s excitement.

“Holly has a lot of passion and is motivated and willing to serve her community. Although she would say that we inspired her, she inspired us. As a seasoned spouse, we are often overwhelmed and ‘burnt out.’ But speaking to new spouses reminds us of our reasons for serving and gives us a renewed spirit. We also cannot forget where we started, and help others maneuver through this military spouse adventure. We can learn a lot from each other. It’s amazing how quickly Holly and I ‘clicked.’ I often told her we were kindred spirits. I cannot wait to see what the future holds for her, and the amazing things she’s going to accomplish in the communities she touches.”

Volunteering is a great way to help others, but something more unique about volunteering is the way it can bring individuals together who share a passion for the same cause. With like-minded people in one room, it’s no wonder two of our special Volunteers formed a connection, turned friendship, that will last a lifetime.

Have you ever made a connection through Volunteering that you didn’t expect? How did it turn out?

Posted by Shannon Sebastian, Online Engagement Manager, Holly Franklin and Cynthia Giesecke, National Military Family Association Volunteers

#OurVolunteersRock: Meet Jackie, our “OORAH” Historian!

Jackie-history-projectShe sat in the back of an undesirable office space with her eyes peering through a magnifying glass, garnering clues from an old photo. Minutes later, she ambled down the hall to let me know a water logged ceiling panel had just crashed to the floor, barely missing her head. She wasn’t worried about her safety; she wanted to protect the historical papers and pictures she was investigating! I immediately knew I wasn’t managing the average Volunteer.

Who is this special Volunteer? She is Colonel Marguerite J. Campbell, United States Marine Corps, Retired.

At the National Military Family Association, we call her Jackie!

She was commissioned in 1967 as a Second Lieutenant in the Marine Corps. Yes, a FEMALE officer in the Marine Corps in the 60’s! It wasn’t an unusual choice for her to make – she had grown up the daughter of a USMC Master Sergeant. Her father was the first to salute her at her commissioning! Jackie never makes a big deal about being a female in what was, and still is, a predominately male world, but she does note that she had to ask the permission of her superiors to become a mother.

Here are some of the highlights of her fascinating career:

Jackie was an Administrative Officer.
She commanded the Women Marines of D-2 in 1974 and 1975.
She spent many years as the Protocol Officer at the United States European Command (EUCOM).
Jackie served two Joint Tours at the Pentagon and was the J2J5 Joint Specialty Officer for Colin Powell.

When you pop into her cubicle in our new office space, she might share some stories of famous military leaders and presidents she has come in contact with during her stellar career.

But that’s not all! She’s also a professional chef! After her retirement from the Corps in 1993, Jackie pursued another passion, and graduated from Johnson and Wales University. She worked as a caterer and chef for 10 years, and last week, she made a glorious 15 pound poached salmon for a special church event!

And if the Marine and chef experiences aren’t fascinating enough, just ask her about her husband (also a retired Marine), her three daughters, six granddaughters, two great grandchildren and seven cats! She beams with pride when speaking about her family.

In 2011, she was asked to sort, organize, and label photos and documents of our Association’s history. Three years later, Jackie has created a filing system for all of our history, and she continues to add to it. Jackie has logged almost 300 volunteer hours with our Association so far this year!

In a time when volunteerism is dwindling, Jackie is a rare gem. She volunteers diligently to preserve the history of the National Military Family Association. She also volunteers for the Armed Forces Hostess Association at the Pentagon.

Oh how I wish we could clone her!

Lets give a big “OORAH” to our retired Colonel, friend, and Volunteer Historian, Jackie Campbell!

Does a Volunteer you know have a special story? Leave us a comment and tell us about it!

meredithPosted by Meredith Moore, Volunteer Services Coordinator, National Capital Region

Looking for a Few Good AmeriCorps Members!

americorps-logoAre you a military spouse or recent college graduate looking for a service opportunity in the National Capital Region? The National Military Family Association is looking for candidates to serve for a one-year term as an AmeriCorps member at our headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia.

For 3 years, our Association has reaped the benefits of hosting AmeriCorps members through the American Legion Auxiliary Call to Service Corps AmeriCorps Project. Our AmeriCorps members have helped boost our Association’s capacity to serve military families by working primarily with our Government Relations staff, while providing assistance to other departments, such as Volunteer Services, Youth Initiatives, and our Scholarship program.

We are pleased to announce we are accepting applications for AmeriCorps members for the coming year, beginning immediately.

As an AmeriCorps member with our Association, you can expect your work to be ever changing as needs arise. You may be researching changes to TRICARE in the morning, analyzing survey results at lunch, writing a blog about your help at one of our Operation Purple camps in the afternoon, and attending a gala for service members and their families in the evening.

We try to tailor our projects for our AmeriCorps members based upon their skills and interests, and our Association’s needs.

Due to AmeriCorps regulations, our AmeriCorps members can’t lobby the government in any way, so if you’re hoping to storm Capitol Hill to end sequestration, or convince Department of Defense officials to save the commissary, AmeriCorps might not be the position for you.

If you’ve got the tenacity and drive to storm Capitol Hill, and fight for military families, KUDOS! We love your spirit, and still want you to join us!

While not a purely volunteer position, the stipend is around $12,000 a year. The job is 40 hours a week, and considered full-time. Which means we’ll see your smiling face Monday through Friday in our offices in Alexandria, Virginia. There are healthcare and scholarship aspects to the position, too!

Still want to learn more? We’ve got AmeriCorps members who have served in our office previously, and would be happy to talk to you about their experiences. And just like we mentioned, they write blog posts for us, too! Read why Nate loves military families, and find out why he refused to say ‘good bye’ to us!

If you want to provide support to military families of the seven Uniformed Services in a welcoming office environment, while improving your professional expertise, apply today! You can reach us at Info@MilitaryFamily.org.

kathyPosted by Kathy Moakler, Government Relations Director

“525,600 minutes – How Do You Measure a Year?”

nateIt’s hard for me to come terms with the fact that my year of service as an AmeriCorps member with the National Military Family Association has come to a close. I’ve laughed and I’ve cried. I’ve grown and I’ve learned. I’ve gained even more respect for the men and women in the seven Uniformed Services (I learned there are seven, and not just five) and those who love them back home.

By far, my favorite part of working here has been interacting directly with our military families. I had the privilege to attend many prestigious events over the last year that I would not have otherwise. I have witnessed families reconnect and overcome injuries at the Operation Purple Healing Adventures. I helped guide military families to the resources and services available to them at numerous exhibitions and fairs.

I wept as gay and lesbian service members and their spouses and families were recognized at the American Military Partners Association Inaugural Gala. As a gay man, I was particularly inspired to see the LGBT military community finally able to come together in the open, and throw an event just for themselves. I know a few years ago, before the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, such an event would have been impossible without the fear of discharge. I was proud our Association was a Silver Sponsor of the gala, showing support for ALL military families and celebrating diversity.

Beyond my direct service, I’ve learned the National Military Family Association is just that— one big family. We’ve had potlucks galore, a party every possible chance, and a few office competitions to keep things interesting. I can’t say there’s a single person in our office who I won’t miss when I leave, especially the ladies (and Zac!) that make up the rest of the Government Relations Department.

  • Katie, despite the physical distance between us, you’ve been integral in teaching me how the Association works, and I’ll always appreciate the help you’ve given me throughout the year.
  • Eileen, you always put a smile on my grumpy morning face with your cheerful kindness, and you always made me feel so welcome here.
  • Karen, for the rest of my life, thanks to you, I’ll think about the research that goes into every product, especially car trunks, and remember all the zany stories you have to share about your family.
  • Brooke, you’ve been a great mentor and advisor, giving me realness when I needed it. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
  • Zac, I’ve enjoyed having our high-level intellectual chats, and thanks for bringing some much-needed extra testosterone into the department!
  • Natalie, there’s a million things I could say about the friendship I’ve developed with you, but I don’t know where to start, so I’ll just say I’ll miss you.
  • Finally, Kathy, thanks for taking a chance on a small-town Midwestern boy who had dreams of working in the nation’s capital. I’ve learned so much from you over the last year that I will carry on during the rest of my professional lifetime, as well as my personal one. I don’t know if I’ll ever find a more caring and understanding supervisor. Thank you for making me a part of your family.

To my entire family here at the National Military Family Association, I’d like to say thanks for all the love you’ve given me, and “See ya later!” because goodbye is far too permanent.

natePosted by Nate Parsons, Americorps Member

#OurVolunteersRock: 2014 Award Recipients!

In 1969, our Association was founded by a handful of military spouses who wanted to make sure their widowed friends were taken care of. Gathered around a kitchen table, these amazing Volunteers were the trailblazers of their time, and continue to be the foundation on which our Association stands.

Even today, our Association relies on Volunteers and the commitments they make to support the military families in their own communities. We appreciate the work our Volunteers do on behalf of our Association’s mission, and as a result, each year, we recognize and award some of our outstanding Volunteers.

This year, our award winners are:

David-FeeDavid Fee, Treasurer, Board of Governors is the recipient of the Margaret Vinson Hallgren Award. David’s background in financial management and superior performance has given our Board of Governors great confidence in the financial stability of our Association. His experience as a Chief Operating Officer served us well, as he has Co-Chaired the Governance Committee in the formidable task of revising Association policy documents. He contributed significantly in the search to finding a new home office for our Association.

 

Amy-ChaffinAmy Chaffin, Fort Carson, Colorado is the recipient of the Novella Gibson Whitehead Award. Amy raises awareness of numerous issues, such as the Army’s change in background checks, requiring those volunteering to work with children to agree to have their medical and dental records reviewed. She attends and reports on the Kansas Public Engagement “Living in the New Normal” on our Association’s behalf. Amy advocates for military families to be familiar with the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children to ensure their children’s schools are following the intent of the agreement.

 

Laura-YatesLaura Yates, Fort Campbell, Kentucky is the recipient of the Volunteer Corps Service Award. Laura is actively engaged in the Fort Campbell community through her network with the Fort Campbell Enlisted Spouses Club, where she works to promote our Association’s programs and services. She works with our Government Relations team on key local issues important to families. Laura is a dedicated member of our Association’s Fort Campbell Volunteer Team and has displays leadership skills within the team and in her community.

 

These are just a few of our outstanding Volunteers who have made an impact on our Association. Looking to join our Volunteer Corps? Apply here and get involved now!

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

45 Ways You Can Support Military Families!

Julia-Yeary-at-Rep,-Mark-Pocans-office“How can I help?”

If you are a volunteer, I’m certain you have probably asked yourself this question before! It seems to be one that is woven into the kind-hearted souls of those who strive to give back.

April is National Volunteer Month–a time to reflect upon the good deeds and generosity of a Nation of givers.

Did you know Volunteers are woven into the fabric of the National Military Family Association? Our Association was established 45 years ago by a group of Volunteers wanting to improve the lives of military families. We celebrate and recognize those who have helped pave the way to the Association during Volunteer Appreciation Week, which occurs during the second week of April.

Volunteering can come in all shapes and colors, especially when it comes to helping military families. No good deed is too big or too small. So, in honor of our Association’s 45th anniversary, we’ve made a list of 45 ways you can volunteer to help our service members and their supportive families:

  1. Become part of our Association. Join Today!
  2. Stay current on issues that affect military families.
  3. Send letters of support or sign petitions to Congressional members regarding military matters.
  4. Help fill the void left by deployed service members in the community. Be a youth sports coach or scout leader, etc.
  5. Volunteer with military support organizations like the USO.
  6. Donate monetarily to organizations that support the military and their families.
  7. Spread the word about what’s going on with military families in your state.
  8. Act as an adopted grandparent/aunt/uncle to a military child since they rarely live near their own families.
  9. Send holiday cards to deployed services members.
  10. Mentor a military teen.
  11. Donate to military thrift stores.
  12. Send care packages prepared for service members overseas.
  13. Become a reading buddy for a military child with a deployed parent.
  14. Participate in community ceremonies that honor the military.
  15. Babysit for a military family.
  16. Volunteer at military hospitals.
  17. Donate financially to the education of the children of fallen service members.
  18. Assist or hire a service member who is transitioning out of the military.
  19. Hire a military spouse in your place of business.
  20. Attend important doctor appointments in lieu of the service member so the spouse does not have to be alone.
  21. Donate, time, toys or educational materials to military daycare facilities.
  22. Give a service member your place in line.
  23. House-sit or watch a pet for a service member on temporary duty assignment.
  24. Volunteer to help clean military facilities or grounds.
  25. Tell a uniformed service member how much you appreciate him/ her.
  26. Perform spring cleanup in a service member’s yard; especially if they are deployed.
  27. Shovel snow from the driveway of a service member.
  28. Help military kids make gifts/cards for their parent on Mother’s Day or Father’s Day.
  29. Cheer loudly and stand tall when the military marches in a community parade.
  30. Put wreathes on graves of the fallen at holidays with Wreaths Across America.
  31. Have a pizza delivered to a military family when their member is deployed and you know they are tired.
  32. Give a military family a gift card to a movie theater.
  33. Offer to help a military spouse with car maintenance when the service member is deployed.
  34. Donate to organizations that support families of wounded service members.
  35. Set up a car pool during deployments to help shuttle busy military kids to activities.
  36. Act as an occasional caregiver for families of a wounded service member so the full time caregiver can take a break.
  37. Surprise a military spouse with a bouquet of flowers and a note that says “Thank you for serving too”!
  38. Let military families that are moving into or out of your community borrow household items or tools.
  39. Pet sit for free.
  40. Drive military families to the airport when they travel to visit their families.
  41. Host a tea/coffee for a group of spouses in your community center/church.
  42. Host a parent’s night out at your church for a military group.
  43. Donate blood.
  44. Follow social networking groups that are associated with military support organizations and repost on your personal pages.
  45. Hang the American flag in front of your home.

Do you have an idea of how you might volunteer to support military families in your community? If so, tell us about it!

Posted by Meredith Moore, Volunteer Services Coordinator, National Capital Region

Our Volunteers Rock!

This week, we’re celebrating Volunteer Appreciation Week, and what a huge impact our Volunteers have had our both our Association, and the military community!

If you’re looking to find a place where you can give your time and make a difference, consider joining our amazing corps of Volunteers!

So, what do our Volunteers do?

  • Provide local military community information to the Association to support our advocacy efforts on behalf of military families
  • Write for the Association
  • Attend local meetings on behalf of the Association
  • Supply content for MyMilitaryLife, our Association App
  • Host Association information tables in local communities
  • Review, rate, and evaluate applications for Association programs such as our Military Spouse Scholarships


Whether or not you’re affiliated with the military, our Association – along with thousands of military families around the world – could use your voice to advocate for them! Interested? Apply now!

Our Volunteers are a critical part of our Association’s mission and we couldn’t do it without them! Our Volunteers Rock!

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Online Engagement Manager

Volunteer With Us! Change the Rules of the Game!

photo-1-(3)Being a volunteer means doing what you love and fighting for issues you are passionate about. As a military spouse, you might be inclined to think you don’t make much of a difference in the Uniformed Service. Don’t be fooled! All it takes is your strong voice and persistence to change the lives of military families everywhere.

When you join the Association as a Volunteer, you are immediately welcomed to this extended military family. You meet and interact with fellow military spouses, whom you can relate to. The more involved you get, the more you see the difference you make. When I first heard about the Association, I was amazed at what a handful of military spouses were able to accomplish. I did not know much about the military, but I immediately knew I wanted to get involved and help military families. Having a background in journalism and communication, I decided to contribute my skills and write for the Association’s publications. This has been a very rewarding experience, because I could make the voices of military families heard.

What I love most about volunteering for the Association is knowing that what I do affects military families at a national level. Through monthly reporting to the Association, Volunteers give a voice to the issues impacting their community. That’s what it’s all about. You don’t need to wait for someone else to take a stand, you can make all the difference by sharing what you know today!

It all starts with the dedicated Volunteer who introduced you to the Association in the first place. From there it grows into a network of like-minded military spouses. By representing the Association at various events, you gain credibility and people begin paying attention to your message. The network you create will not only support you in your efforts and offer mentorship, but can also help you land your dream job. Connections and networks made through Volunteering with our Association go with you wherever you move!

The most exciting part of being a Volunteer is the connections I’ve made along the way. It has been a wonderful journey that opened the door to a lot of opportunities and ultimately lead to my current position with the Association, as a Content Specialist for MyMilitaryLife app.

Where will your volunteer efforts take you? Become a Volunteer today and find out! Together we are stronger!

Are you interested in volunteering with us? Let us know in the comment section, or apply here!

Marlis Perez RiveraPosted by Marlis Rivera, Content Specialist, MyMilitaryLife

Military Spouses Take Action: Volunteer with us!

The power of volunteeringHooray! 2014 is here! For some, a new year means taking things OFF of their busy plates. For others, the more they can pile on, the better! In either case, there’s never been a better time to  volunteer and do something that makes a difference. It might be helping out at the animal shelter, local food bank, or taking on the troop leader position. But I have one more that I’d like you to think about: volunteer with the National Military Family Association.

Just think about it. In 2013, your family was affected by sequestration, benefits cuts, and lower pay raises. Threats to programs, services, benefits, or opportunities for military families continue everyday. So, being an advocate for your military family is something you already do. But volunteering with the National Military Family Association allows you to  help all military families.

You can be the voice of your local military community. You can help create change. Here are five great reasons why you should choose us.

  • We offer you a mentor. From the first day you are appointed, you will have your own personal mentor, called a regional Coordinator. Your Coordinator is a trained volunteer manager and a military spouse! Together, you will create your personal volunteer experience. Have a talent or professional skill to share? We’ll find a way to help you utilize your knowledge.
  • We provide you with online training opportunities. Yes, we have a robust online training program for you. Numerous webinars, resources, supplies, publications, and a direct link to our subject matter experts.
  • We offer opportunities to network with other Volunteers. We have a closed LinkedIn group for all of our Volunteers to connect together. Ask questions, share ideas, or just find out what others think about their volunteer experience.
  • We offer opportunities for internal scholarships, internships, and jobs that are ONLY available to our Volunteers! We give a $1,000 scholarship to one Volunteer each year (Julia Abrams Scholarship). We offer a six-month internship with a small stipend (Sydney Talley Hickey Internship). Looking for a job? This is a great place to work! Some jobs require you to live local to the DC area; however we have several remote positions available too. We have employed people who lived in Italy, Hawaii, Texas, Alaska, North Carolina, Florida, California, and Illinois!
  • We have a 45 year history of successfully advocating on behalf of military families. Since 1969, we have been fighting for benefits to strengthen and protect military families. Beginning with the Survivor Benefit Plan, we know how to work with our Nation’s and Service leaders. We provide scholarships to speed the path to employment. For 10 years we have helped ease the pain of deployment and reintegration with families and kids. We have funded research to support what your needs are and what programs are valuable.

By volunteering, with the National Military Family Association you are part of a tradition of volunteers who knew they could make a difference!

Come join us in making a difference for your family, and other military families!

christinaPosted by Christina Jumper, Volunteer Services Director