Category Archives: Events

Renowned World War II Photographer and Vet Honors Military Families

At the age of 94, when most are settled down, Michael A. “Tony” Vaccaro is out snapping pictures. And not just any pictures—photos that change the way we see the world around us. Growing up between Italy and New York, Tony recalled a trip to the New York World’s Fair in 1939 as “the most amazing and spectacular event” of his youth. Shortly after that, he was introduced to photography by a teacher at his high school.

In 1944, after joining the US Army a year prior, Tony was sent to England, and later went on to serve as a front line infantryman in World War II. During this time, he shot thousands of photographs of the war, from the mundane to the explosive, and everything in between, including a renowned photograph called “The Kiss of Liberation,” which President Eisenhower called his favorite.

“The Kiss of Liberation”

When asked about the story behind “The Kiss of Liberation,” Vaccaro explained, “I was at St. Briac when it was early morning on August 14, 1944. No one was at the middle of the town, but at some point people started yelling, ‘We are liberated!’ Women and children ran to the middle of the town to celebrate. They started dancing and singing. I think the G.I. kissing the little girl is the most precious photograph I have ever taken.”

Because of his diligence to portraying the perils of war through photographs, Vaccaro was hailed as the “greatest war photographer of all time” by the BBC.

“When I was not on a night mission, I processed my films in four Army helmets and hung the wet negatives from tree branches to dry,” Vaccaro recalled of his time in the military.

Since his time in the Army, Vaccaro continued his art, photographing a number of subjects like John Fitzgerald Kennedy, The Eisenhower Family, Enzo Ferrari, Greta Garbo, Pablo Picasso, Federico Fellini, Jackson Pollock, Georgia O’ Keeffe, Maria Callas, General George S. Patton, Sophia Loren and many other celebrities of the second half of the twentieth century.

But Vaccaro’s fondness for the military has remained strong through the decades–including his support of military families.

General Patton, as photographed by Tony Vaccaro in 1945.

Tony Vacarro Studio has committed to donating 25% of sale proceeds to military support organizations, including NMFA. Among the items for sale are signed prints Vaccaro took of General Patton in 1945 Nuremberg, Germany, seen above.

We are grateful for Mr. Vaccaro’s continued legacy, and his support of organizations, like NMFA that make an impact on our nation’s families.

If you’d like to purchase one of these amazing prints—go to and email with the code “Veterans Support Vaccaro.” The code applies until Thanksgiving.

shannonPosted by Shannon Prentice, Content Development Manager

My Date with Michelle Obama and the Star Trek Cast

Despite just having a few weeks under my belt at the National Military Family Association, I was lucky enough to receive an invitation of a lifetime this week.

My husband and I got to tag along with four coworkers for an early screening of Star Trek Beyond at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next to the White House.

The screening, hosted by none other than First Lady Michelle Obama and members of the cast, was part of Joining Forces, The First Lady’s initiative which helps connect service members, veterans and their families to employment, education and wellness resources. Joining Forces also host events (like this one) to show appreciation for service.

After going through some real deal security checks, we made it inside a building that houses a majority of offices for White House staff. We took our seats next to a mix of service members, veterans and their families, and waited (what seemed like forever) until Chris Pine, Simon Pegg and Karl Urban showed up. The trio explained how their involvement in the Star Trek series allowed them to better understand the military. Fun fact: The last installment was even dedicated to post-9/11 veterans and even featured four vets in one of the movie scenes.

I’ll be honest. Although I won’t ever turn down an opportunity to stand next to Chris Pine, my husband is the real Trekkie in the family. While he was pumped to see Kirk, Bones and Scotty, I’d been counting down until the First Lady graced us with her presence. After a sincere thank you, the actors introduced her and basically made my life.


There we all are in the third row!

Sadly, no #FLOTUS selfies came of our visit, but the First Lady talked about Joining Forces and the last seven and a half years she’s spent using her platform to promote appreciation for our military families. I especially loved her focus on military kids’ sacrifices and spouse employment. Afterwards, she introduced the movie we’d all been waiting for with a comical, “May the force be with you.”

FLOTUS has jokes, in case you didn’t know.

I’m not going to give away any spoilers, but if you like action movies it’s one to add to your list. After the screening, we got a chance to cheese it up before heading out.


My husband is partial to Next Generation, but still geeked out when introduced to Simon Pegg, Chris Pine and Karl Urban after the film. He never smiles for pictures, but there he is grinning like a kid in a candy store.

It was an amazing night and one I’ll be forever thankful for. I’m definitely going to take the First Lady’s advice and “lord this event over my friends.”

No shame. Now to work on that #FLOTUS selfie.

margaritaPosted by Margarita Cambest, Staff Writer

Wondering what to do tonight? Tune into A Capitol Fourth!

It’s July 4th and I’m very giddy. I got to interview celebrities for a behind the scenes preview of PBS’s A Capitol Fourth concert yesterday

Needless to say, I WAS FREAKING OUT. I am very thankful for the opportunity I had yesterday and for being able to live in this amazing country. I realize that we have been at war for 15 years, but I feel safe right here, right now, thanks to the many men, women and families that allow me that peace of mind.


Right before my first celebrety interview- do I look nervous?

I had the chance to catch-up with singers Gavin Degraw and Kenny Loggins, as well as actor Tom Bergeron and former Olympian Scott Hamilton. I really wanted to get their thoughts on the issues our service men, women and their families face every day. I also picked up some fun tips. And somehow I managed to keep it together long enough to get some solid info.


Me and Tom Bergeron

Tom Bergeron shared with me what he thought about the reality that military families serve too. He said, “I know it is customary for people to say to service men and women that we appreciate your service, but I think that same compliment should extend to military families because they serve in ways that are not overly appreciated, so thank you.” After speaking with him I let him in on the fact that he was my first official interview ever. Tom told me, he couldn’t tell and that I was a natural. Insert metaphorical pat on the back—nailed it.



For all of the Olympic sports fans out there, according to Scott Hamilton, “the only way to miss the Olympics is to [actually] go to it.” You know what that means, I will be tuning in from my living room to make sure I don’t miss a thing. Sorry Rio, maybe some other time. This is from the real deal, believe it.


After tapping along to Kenny Loggins’ classic “Footloose,” he shared some insight into his legendary song. Apparently, it didn’t used to be such a big deal. He said “there was a period of time when the tempo wasn’t cool. I would play it live and people wouldn’t get up and dance to it. Now, I can play a full a benefit concert and before people would be stuck to their chairs, but as soon as I hit “Footloose,” people are up and dancing.” According to Kenny, “the song is really about personal freedom and lyrically it is the perfect song to do on the 4th of July.” Later, when he performed it live for the dress rehearsal show, I really felt free and couldn’t keep my feet from moving.

When asked how we could do more to support our troops, Kenny said “keep them in your mind and your hearts and just know that they are out there and doing the best they can with the situation they are in. I’ve got a girlfriend and when I’m out on the road, at least I get to come home in a few weeks. I keep thinking about the guys and girls that are out there and away from home for so long and I marvel at the stress they are under, and the job they are doing. Like so many people, I really appreciate what they are doing out there. Especially in the new era of terrorism we are facing, it is getting hotter and we need their help.”

While the entire day was amazing and humbling, my favorite part was getting to meet Gavin Degraw. I truly felt like a starstruck teenager. I had the opportunity to meet Gavin a few years prior, but couldn’t put two words together then. After finding out I was there on behalf of military families, he gave me the most memorable high five and let me know we were doing much needed work. 


I was excited to find out how he writes such great music. For him, “sometimes a common story or theme in your life or friends life keeps coming up and you write a song about it.” I think many military families can definitely relate to that one. So now, according to Gavin, all that you have to do is “take things that people are feeling and make it rhyme.” Easy peasy. I’m going to dust off my old rhyming dictionary and get to it.

And to all the military spouses, Gavin had a special message for you (watch it here!). He “hopes your loved ones get home safe, sound and soon.” I’ll second that.

It was a long day in our great nation’s capital, but it was worth it. Happy 240th birthday America.


A Capitol Fourth will air live on PBS, Monday, July 4, 2016 from 8 to 9:30pm ET. You can follow or join in on all the excitement by using #July4thPBS

ivory-smithPosted by Ivory Smith, Graphic Designer

No Hum-Bugs Allowed! Everything You Need to Know About European Christmas Markets!

We live in a highly politically correct society. Growing up, Christmas parties were the norm in grade school. Today, you can barely get away with having a “Holiday Party” or a “Winter Social.”  On the other hand, most of America is upset about a red cup at Starbucks.

To be completely honest, I don’t get too bent up about what words to use (despite being a writer!), and I’m adult enough to respect other people’s ways of life.

However, since moving to Germany, Christmas has taken on a whole new life of it’s own for me!


Christmas Markets
If you are currently stationed in Europe, you’ve probably started hearing the buzz of the famous Christmas Markets…and for good reason!

Despite not even needing to be Christian to absolutely love and enjoy these delightful markets, the name still remains the same as it has for hundreds of years. Depending on where you are, it may vary, but it all means the same, “Christmas Markets.”

Here in Germany, locals, service members, and tourists, alike, all go nuts for the annual Weinacht or KristKindles Markt. You could be a direct descendant of Scrooge himself, yet somehow, attending any market will surely put you in a jolly mood!

Have you ever walked into a room and just felt an electricity in the air? This is what Christmas Markets are like! The smell of pine in the air, the most beautifully handcrafted items, food so delicious and, of course, Glühwein, the seasonal mulled wine, all create this magical feeling. It’s as if there is a “No Hum-Bugs Allowed” rule in the market vicinity!

Whether you are stationed in Germany, Italy, England, or elsewhere in Europe, your country is sure to have their own versions of Christmas Markets, with the same, general theme of putting anyone in a good mood and serving up delicious food and drinks–all with an enchanting Christmas theme.

Do you dread Christmas shopping? While many markets may have similar items, each market often has some unique and amazing items for sale. This makes holiday shopping a blast! Plus, who doesn’t love drinking warm wine while window shopping and looking at beautifully crafted items!? Your friends and family back home will love receiving thoughtful gifts from the foreign country you are living in, instead of the typical gifts we often receive that don’t have a unique touch.


The Christmas markets are also perfect opportunities to learn more about your local culture as well. Each country has their own versions of Santa, and the kids are sure to have a great time seeing the beautiful costumes and learning about the legends and traditions.

So, whether this is your first year stationed in Europe, or your fifth, like us, you’ll never get tired and bored of these magical markets. Go find a local one, or even make a trip of it and explore some of the world’s largest and oldest (Dresden, Nurnberg, Strasbourg) and most enchanting Christmas markets this year.

Some popular markets to attend are:
Germany: Dresden, Nurnberg and Koln
France: Strasbourg, Colmar and Lille
Italy: Verona, Balzano and Trento
UK: Winchester Cathedral, Caerphilly and Liverpool

Planning on going to a Market in Germany?  See what other tips and places the EconomicalExcursionists suggest while in Deutschaland!

Have you ever been to a Christmas Market in Europe? Which was your favorite?

LeAnna Brown currently doesn’t know what she wants to be when she grows up, so to delay major life decisions, her and her husband, Andy, have decided to move to Europe and travel the world via Travel Hacking. After almost 40 countries down in four years and only a few thousand dollars spent a year on travel, they have learned to penny-pinch their way to a bare minimalist lifestyle to help them see and appreciate the world. Read more about their close-to-free travel adventures at, or join in with the EE community on the Facebook page.

I’m Scared for What’s Next: A Military Spouse’s Thoughts on the Paris Attacks

There are some things in life that, no matter how hard you try, just don’t make sense. No amount of contemplation, insight, or prayer can bring sense to the evil of this world. September 11, 2001 shaped the way I grew up, and the way I view things around me. It took away my ability to see good and heroic things happening, and replaced it with fear and uncertainty.


As a military spouse, fear can become a daily emotion. When tragedy strikes, our worlds seem to close in on us as we run the gamut of possible outcomes for our loved one; will they deploy, and where? When will training start? What holidays will he miss? How dangerous will it be?

President Obama recently said that he would keep troops in Afghanistan through 2017. This decision, sadly, didn’t seem to take any of us by surprise despite earlier pledges to withdraw them. My gut is twisted thinking of the other military families who won’t have their loved ones home for the holidays. My heart aches for the families who received news that their service members are being sent to relieve those left in Afghanistan or to protect our nation in other remote parts of the globe.

It’s been 14 years of war, and the state of the world isn’t getting any better. I’m not ready for an endless war, where places we thought were safe can become the frontlines of new types of battle. Places like Paris–beautiful, beloved Paris–a place where dozens of my friends have visited, even lived. Why would any evil target Paris?

As I was processing the death tolls, the injuries, and the eventual claim of who was responsible, I was overcome with emotion. I’m scared for what’s next.

There are military families in France and other countries in Europe; I’m scared for them. Stateside military families are wondering, no doubt, if their service member might deploy as a result of these attacks. I’m scared for them, too. I’m scared for the service members who are still enlisting in our all-volunteer military—they’ll be the next wave of support to join our nation’s longest war.

I don’t know what to expect except fear and uncertainty.


Paris could have been anywhere—a military base, New York City, a theme park, an NFL football game. And I could have been there. My family could have fallen victim. And that scares me. Evil is out there, lurking, planning, targeting. And we’re only doing the best we can to protect ourselves.

Paris’ Night of Horror was unbelievably senseless and evil, and there’s no way to process why other humans would commit such an act of terror. As a military spouse, my heart hurts for the families of the victims. And I’m scared for what’s next for my own family.

There aren’t many historic events in my lifetime that give me hope that good still exists. But seeing the sacrifice our men and women in uniform, and their families, make to protect our nation gives me that hope. Tragedy isn’t avoidable, but I know that someone’s loved one—including my own—vowed to protect us from it as best they could.

I’m scared for what’s next because I know our service members are at stake. I know some military families will have to bear the burden of another deployment, another holiday alone, even another tragedy. And some of those families are my friends.

I’m asking you to rally behind the military families you know. Just as we all are finding ways to stand by the people of Paris, don’t forget to stand by our service members in harm’s way. Support the cause and display your pride in all ways. The war isn’t over. Military families need to know their country has their back.

Seeing our country stand behind the military and their families is the good that drives out the fear and uncertainty bred by tragedy.

shannonPosted by Shannon Prentice, Content Development Manager

Do You Support Military Families? Prince Harry Does!

Yesterday, I, and several other NMFA employees and volunteers had the wonderful opportunity to attend the Invictus Games event at Fort Belvior, where the First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, along with His Royal Highness Prince Harry spoke about the importance of the games.

During the event, sixteen service members demonstrated their talents in a thrilling wheelchair basketball game. I had never seen a game like this before, and I spent the entire time just enthralled with the incredible grit, athletic ability and spirt of the players on the court. I couldn’t help but get excited about watching the games live when they come to the US in May of 2016.

The Invictus Games are a big deal, because they are about so much more than just playing sports and competing with other countries. These games are a driving force behind recovery and rehabilitation for wounded, injured and sick service members.


Prince Harry founded the Invictus games in the UK back in 2014, while serving in the military there. Reflecting on his two combat deployments in Afghanistan, he said “”There is very little that can truly prepare you for the reality of war. The experiences can be stark and long lasting.” This experience left him with a feeling of “responsibility to all veterans, who had made huge personal sacrifices for their countries, to lead healthy and dignified lives after service.”

The Invictus Games do just that. They bring recovering service members, and their families, together to focus on a goal, and work towards a better future together.


Here at NMFA, we also understand the importance of bringing families together to help them adjust to a new normal after a service connected illness or injury. At our Operation Purple Healing Adventures® camp, service members and their families connect with others on a similar healing journey. They share the feelings, struggles, and obstacles they have overcome with other families who just ‘get it.’ All while enjoying active, nature centered activities.

For the caretakers and children of these wounded service members, seeing their loved one participating in sport and physical activities can be as equally cathartic. A huge part of the military culture is grounded in physical activity and competition, and you can see the joy and admiration in the faces of the families as they watch their loved ones enjoying the activities they played before their injury.


Some of our service members show visible wounds–missing limbs and bodies marked by war–while others are battling invisible injuries. As many as 1 in 4 service members left Iraq and Afghanistan with brain injuries, PTSD, depression and anxiety. We are thrilled to see Invictus welcoming service members suffering from the invisible wounds of war, as well.

At Operation Purple, we often hear how difficult it can be for service members and their families to work through these invisible injuries. While the physical injuries take a toll on the body, the invisible wounded, like PTSD and anxiety, wreak havoc on the mind and soul. We’ve heard stories from families battling these ‘quiet’ injuries, that recovery isn’t always easy. But all families agreed: taking the first step and asking for help was the most important choice.

At the event, we were reminded only 1% of the country puts on a uniform and takes an oath to not leave a fallen comrade behind. We, as a country, take the same oath. We cannot leave them behind. We cannot leave their families behind.


Supporting programs, like Invictus and Operation Purple, is an easy way to give back to these families and let them know that they are not forgotten and we will not leave them behind.

Do you know any service members hoping to compete at the Invictis games next year? Will you be watching?

HeatherPosted by Heather Aliano, Social Media Manager

Golfers Gathered to Help Stamp Out Stigma for Military Families


stamp out stigma nmfa collage

It’s not every day a compassionate group of 130 golfers get together in a 105 degree heat index to support military families.

Beacon Health Options, the nation’s premier behavioral health management company, is in their 3rd year of hosting the Stamp Out Stigma Golf Outing. This year, the National Military Family Association was honored to be chosen as the recipient of the funds raised to help Stamp Out Stigma.

These golfers were not only wonderful to meet, but they were all passionate about making sure that service members and their families know it’s okay to talk about their mental health.

We are so incredibly thankful to have been a part of such a special day. Thank you to our amazing friends at Beacon Health Options, WellPoint Military Care, UBS, AEGIS. Net, Inc. and all the sponsors who helped make the day such a huge success.

Jordan-BarrishPosted by Jordan Barrish, Public Relations Manager