Tag Archives: volunteers

Volunteering Isn’t About the Recognition, It’s About This…

I’m sure there are some people who feel like volunteering is a waste of time; you don’t get paid and, for the most part, you don’t get any awards or recognition. So why would I volunteer when I am busy with so many other things?

Volunteer banner NMFA

Two things became incredibly important to me when I was young: giving back to others, and our military. My family had always been very involved in our local church and because of that, I learned the importance of serving the community. The military portion came because most of my family was either currently serving, or had served in the military when I was young. This was incredibly influential for me. It made such an impact in my young life to hear the stories of what my great grandfather did in World War II, and how, even after all those years, he couldn’t stand mice because of some horrors he’d faced in combat. I talked with my grandfather, who served in the Air Force, and heard all the things he’d done, and how those things led him to a career at NASA after he retired. My Dad served as a Blackhawk pilot, and I remember the things he’d do that made me realize some people really were heroes; some people had honor and lived differently, and had a different code than other people. I would watch him with awe, even when I was too young to understand–like when he would stop the car as they lowered the flag on post and he’d get out and stand and salute the flag. But I knew these things meant something, and that my dad was special, even when he left rather quickly on a deployment to Somalia, immediately after the battle of Mogadishu happened.

All these things made such an impact on my life, but what made the biggest impact was probably when my brother decided to enlist in the Army, the day after September 11, 2001. Later on, when he was in Iraq and I was in college, I decided I needed to do something to give back. I knew I wasn’t able to serve in the military myself, but I knew what family members go through–I wanted to do something to give back to service members and their families. That desire started my path and my passion for volunteering, and I started my first volunteer group for the military. It changed my life so much I decided I wanted to make it a career, and planned to go full time into working with a military non-profit.

But life doesn’t ever work out the way you think it will. I met my husband in college, and after we graduated, he enlisted in the Army, and I became a full-time wife and mom. It was when we were stationed in Fort Riley, Kansas that a friend told me about the National Military Family Association (NMFA) and all they did to represent our service members and their families. I knew, immediately, I wanted to get involved and do everything I could to volunteer again.


Once upon a time, I had dreamed of going into the non-profit field to work full time for a military support organization, and maybe one day I could support my military husband by taking care of our small kids by staying home. Volunteering with NMFA means I get to live my passion. I enjoy be able to give a tiny bit back to those who do so much for us. Volunteering means I get to keep making a difference.

There isn’t anyone who needs more support, or who has done more to deserve it, than our service members and their families. So I will continue volunteering as long as I possibly can. The rewards may not come in a paycheck or in a certificate you can hang on your wall, but knowing you are making a difference in the lives of those who are putting everything on the line for us is reward enough. That’s better than any paycheck or certificate I’ve ever received.

Do you have any connection to the military and have a desire to give back to them? Consider joining our Volunteer Corps!

Posted by Mandi Verlander, National Military Family Association Volunteer and military spouse

Military Spouse Finds Fulfillment Through Volunteering With NMFA!

We’d just moved cross-country…again, and I was looking to keep myself busy. There was a posting on a social media site that a local organization was going to be hosting a resource fair, so I thought I’d check it out. Since we had gotten to our new duty station, I hadn’t really found where all the community services were, and I knew this would be a great start to finding what was out there.

As I was moving through the tables on the day of the fair, I saw the National Military Family Association table. I applied for their scholarship once, but vaguely remembered about it, since it had been so long ago. One of the regional coordinators greeted me and spoke about the Association with so much passion. And they needed volunteers.

I could take some time and do this, why not?

Volunteer banner NMFA

I hadn’t found a job yet, and the prospects were meager. So I took the brochures, looked through them, and saw all the great things NMFA does for military families. They had me at Operation Purple Camps! I hadn’t known much, back then, about the Association, other than scholarships, but once I found out about all the great things they do, I jumped on the opportunity to help.

Since joining the NMFA Volunteer Corps, I have hosted NMFA tables a few resource fairs–spreading the word about the Association is a great thing! I am also on social media, sharing posts from NMFA. When we lived in the Washington D.C. area, I was so fortunate to be able to take part in Association-sponsored events and related opportunities, events hosted at NMFA headquarters, and I even attended White House events, too! Those are a once-in-a-lifetime opportunities!

What I enjoy about volunteering is telling people all about what the Association does for military families. They are surprised at the amount of advocating we do on Capitol Hill. I also enjoy hearing they have sent their children to an Operation Purple Camp, or that they went to one of the retreats and thoroughly enjoyed it. Recently, one of our NMFA scholarship recipients came up to the table I was hosting, and told me she was a scholarship winner; to me, those are the things that make me happy and proud to be a Volunteer. It’s awesome to hear all of the great, first-hand stories of all the ways NMFA helps military families!

Now that we’ve crossed the country (again!), we are at a duty station where not many have heard about the Association. This is the perfect opportunity to share such an awesome resources with the military families in my new area. Volunteering has been a great experience from the beginning, and I will continue to do so every chance I get!

Do you volunteer in your community? Tell us what you love about it!

sylvia-salas-brownPosted by Sylvia Salas-Brown, National Military Family Association Volunteer, Army Spouse, Fort Hood, TX

Change the Lives of Military Families by Volunteering with NMFA

When I moved to the Washington, DC area, I met up with an old friend of mine from Guam, whose husband was also stationed at the Pentagon. It had been years since I had seen her, but we re-connected quickly as she shared tips, tricks and advice on living in Alexandria.

After I had settled in, she suggested I join her in volunteering with an organization nearby that helped military families. She was a regular volunteer who worked in the office when her kids were in school. So I applied to volunteer at NMFA, went in for an interview, and was taken on as a volunteer.

Facebook Volunteer Banner 2015

While I waited for the school year to start (I don’t have kids, but was about to start grad school), I came in and answered the front desk phone at the Association when some employees were out on vacation. I scanned archived copies of the Association’s newsletters so they would be digitized. I packed boxes of supplies being sent out to Operation Purple Camp. I stuffed envelopes. I organized digital photos taken at the camps. I wrote for the newsletter. I staffed the information table at various events around town. I did whatever I could to help out.

But there is one task I volunteered for that stands out as having a really profound effect on me. Last year, I helped read, sort and rate entries for a spouse scholarship. It was the FINRA Investor Education Foundation’s Military Spouse Fellowship, which provides recipients with the education and training needed to earn the Accredited Financial Counselor designation. There was a large applicant field, and I was one of several judges who read a total of nearly 7,000 entries. For my part, I read maybe 200 – 300 applications, which included long and short essay questions.

volunteer-with-nmfaIn reading those essays, I learned so much about a wide range of spouses in the military community — their struggles and triumphs, as well as the hardships and benefits of being part of this nation’s military. Those personal essays gave me a glimpse of what is going on in the hearts and minds of our military spouses.

I learned that no matter how diverse the military spouse population is, there are some threads that bind. Everyone was proud to be doing his or her part in service to our country; patriotism ran high! Also, every one of those applicants was looking to better themselves to help their families, and saw education as the key.

I was grateful for the opportunity to tap the pulse of our nation’s military spouses. It has strengthened my resolve to work with military families in whatever capacity I can. I encourage you to think about volunteering with NMFA, or volunteering within your military community. Whether you’re answering phones, stuffing envelopes, or advocating for other military families, your time makes a difference!

Do you have questions about volunteering with NMFA? Leave us a comment, or email VSRAdmin@MilitaryFamily.org!

Posted by Lalaine Estella, National Military Family Association Volunteer

Finding Military Family Support Around the World!

baumholder-germanyI have an amazing job and I travel frequently. During my stateside travels, I get to see the incredible community support provided to military families and veterans. These communities fill gaps where others can’t and it makes me feel good to know my neighbors care. But when traveling overseas, what does ‘community support’ look like? Do other countries care about American military families?

I wasn’t sure that support for American military families living overseas would be as generous.

I was wrong.

A few weeks ago, I traveled through Germany and Italy for two weeks while attending the annual Americans Working Around the Globe conference, and I hoped to get a chance to really see communities overseas embrace our nation’s military families. You see, community support and involvement overseas is scrutinized through the use of different policies on installation access, as well as Status of Forces Agreements. The threat protection level is higher and there is security awareness outside the gates. Host nations have their own policies, too. The take away? It’s not easy to be a business or host nation organization and support military families.

But they find a way.

The best community support I saw was in Baumholder, Germany. It’s a small installation compared to those around it, but that’s what makes it special. The community struggled for several years through a huge downsizing on the military base, and some businesses didn’t make it. But those business who made it through, care about our American military families.

And they show it.

Businesses still post support signs to show they care about American military families. The people of Baumholder truly care about military families and want to make them feel welcome. They may not walk in our shoes, but they understand. I saw a huge outreach to get American families involved in events and celebrations because they want to give us a ‘home away from home,’ and make sure we know we’re welcomed and respected.

Support from communities overseas might be harder to find, but it’s there.  And I think it makes a world of difference!

Are you a military family living overseas? Have you noticed how your community reaches out to support you? Tell us about your experiences!

christinaPosted by Christina L. Jumper, Volunteer Services Director

Do White Coats Make You Nervous?

doctors_black and white photo-550Do white coats make you nervous?! Because they sure make me anxious! I’ll be honest with you: just the prospect of going to the doctor’s office makes me sweat. And don’t even get me started on the dentist. No, I am not scared of shots. But I am scared that whatever help I need, I won’t get. And that is a very real fear!

As military dependents, we don’t have the luxury of picking medical providers. Under the best conditions, we can ask other military dependents who they recommend, and under the worst, we are flying blind. So, the question becomes: How do you get the care you deserve and need with a practitioner you don’t know? The answer is: advocate for yourself and partner with your healthcare provider!

Here are some things you can do to help get your medical needs met!

  • List your concerns and the needs you want met. Make sure they are prioritized. This sets the stage for your exam, for both you and the provider. Don’t make them hunt down the reason for your visit; if you are there for a run of the mill check-up mention it, if you are there for specific reasons tell them.
  • Negotiate with the provider what issues can be addressed today, and if you will need another visit to address the rest. This way the two of you will have realistic expectations about what can be completed today. You don’t want to leave your appointment and feel like nothing was accomplished. Nor do you want to rush through! Be aware that different appointments are allocated different amounts of time. A first time visit to a new primary care provider may be a 45 min slot at one practice. While an appointment for a specific problem may be a 15 min slot.
  • Prompt your healthcare provider! Ask them what they think about your symptoms, what else it could be, and what tests they will run. This will pull your healthcare provider out of his or her tunnel vision. You want to inspire them to think outside the box. Just in case!
  • If they prescribe medication: What is the medicine for? What are the side effects? When should you take it? Will it interact with any of the medications you are presently on? And will it interfere with your daily life at all? The last thing you want is to go home with a medication that you don’t fully understand!
    If you aren’t happy, say so. Fill out a patient satisfaction survey. Let someone know. Nothing is going to change unless you say something!

Now, if you are reading this and you are saying to yourself, “I can’t be that assertive with my provider,” then bring a friend. Bring someone, anyone, who will advocate for you or just be there for you emotionally so that you can feel supported.

Recently, I heard a talk by August Fortin, an MD who specializes in patient centered care, and he acknowledged that “being a patient is amazingly disempowering.” We all know that feeling, especially when seeing a healthcare provider you don’t know about an issue you might be really nervous or uncomfortable about. But you can take that power back. You should get the care you deserve!

What experiences have you had with a new provider? What tips and tricks do you have to make it an easy transition?

katie-mccuskerPosted by Katie McCusker, NMFA Volunteer, US Coast Guard spouse, and ACNP student

Volunteering is More Than Just Showing Up! #OurVolunteersRock


At the National Military Family Association, we like to say #OurVolunteersRock and we really mean it!

Recently, I joined our Volunteer Services Director and West Region Coordinator for a volunteer training session – where we provided in-person training to volunteers in Tucson, Arizona.

I started with NMFA as a volunteer in 2005 shortly after my husband joined the Marine Corps. My first Association event was a volunteer training conference held in Denver, Colorado. I was hooked. I loved meeting volunteers from all seven Uniformed Services and proudly boasted that I had a new friend who was a Coast Guard spouse! Not only did I learn about the history of NMFA, I had a chance to meet with staff, Board Members, and other volunteers. I learned about the latest legislative action, how to network in my community, and how to share information with NMFA so they could advocate on behalf of military families across the globe.

The training in Arizona was no different; except this time I was the trainer. I shared information about sequestration, the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission recommendations, the 2016 Defense Budget, and how these elements connect with our 2015 Legislative Priorities.

Do you know what I learned from this training session?

Our Volunteers want MORE!

Our Volunteers are engaged in their communities and want to be more involved.

Here are some quick tips that I shared to help our Volunteers be their own best advocate:

  • Read our publications. From our monthly, Military Family News, to our website, and blog – we have great information for #milfams.
  • Follow us on social media. Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram…let us know you read our blog!
  • Stay engaged in your local community. Attend community events and report back to us about what is or is NOT happening to support military families.
  • Be an active volunteer. We provide exclusive volunteer-only training with webinars, conference calls, and in-person training sessions.

During Volunteer Appreciation Week, I would like to personally thank our past, present and future, yes, future, volunteers for continuing to be the “eyes and ears” in your local community and helping us advocate for you and your military family.

Wanna join us? Check out our volunteer opportunities!

katie2Posted by Katie Savant, Government Relations Information Manager

The Top 5 Reasons to Volunteer with Us! #OurVolunteersRock

Quantico-09.08April 12-18 celebrates Volunteer Appreciation Week, and we’ve got a lot to celebrate! For almost 46 years, our Association has built our legacy on the backs of our Volunteers, who have selflessly given their time, energy, and efforts to support military families.

No one knows military families better than military families. That’s why we need you! If you’ve considered applying to be part of our Volunteer Corps, but haven’t done it yet, here’s 5 reasons you should hit Send today!

Find lasting friendships.
Volunteering not only forms relationships with the community you’re working with, it also creates bonds with fellow military spouse Volunteers that last a lifetime.

Fabulous Training. Awesome Opportunities.
Volunteers receive ongoing mentoring from our Volunteer Services Department, instant access to training, and have access to our spouse scholarships, internships, even jobs within our Association!

Make a Difference. Change a Life.
Our Volunteers devote more than 14,000 hours each year educating, informing, and strengthening military families. We’re not just making a difference, we’re changing lives.

Amazing Programs for Amazing Families.
From Operation Purple® Camps to military spouse scholarships, our programs give military families the support and confidence they need. Together we’re stronger!

Military Families Rock!
“It’s rewarding to serve the communities we love. It’s an honor to be the voice for my military family community!” -NMFA Volunteer

Do you have a military connection and want to join our Volunteer Corps? Fill out your application today!

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Content Development Manager