Category Archives: Guest Posts

Be “On-Point” for Gold Star Families This Memorial Day

May 30th—Memorial Day—marks a unique opportunity for every American to remember and honor those who lost their lives in service to this country for the freedoms we enjoy.

Memorial Day is designated as the last Monday in May each year to honor U. S. military service men and women who died while serving their country. The day is especially poignant for Gold Star Families, those family members who have lost a loved one serving in the military.

Memorial Day is different from Veterans Day, which is always celebrated on November 11, and honors all military veterans. The tradition of Memorial Day in America started during the Civil War, first called Declaration Day. After World War I, Declaration Day became a unifying event for the country, officially celebrated on May 30th. In 1968, Congress established Memorial Day as the last Monday in May, and declared it as a federal holiday.

The National Moment of Remembrance Resolution, passed in 2000, set a moment of remembrance to be held at 3 p.m., local time, on Memorial Day.

In 1936, the United States government designated the last Sunday in September as Gold Star Mother’s Day. And Gold Star Wives was founded during WWII. Today, the federal government recognizes Gold Star Family Members—mothers, fathers, spouse, children and siblings of those who died in military service.

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Memorial Day was always a special day when I was on active duty. Celebrating the holiday with friends and families of our unit served to strengthen the bond between all of us that endures to this very day.

My family’s fondest memories of Memorial Day were during our six years in the 82nd Airborne Division, stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The Division began the Memorial Day celebration the Monday before with a week of sports competitions, memorial services, and alumni events. On Memorial Day, Fort Bragg celebrated with a concert and a spectacular fireworks display.

Serving almost three decades in the military, including command during two deployments to Iraq and one to Afghanistan, I was separated from my family frequently and for extended periods of time. So now, our family celebrates Memorial Day together. We share a meal and share memories of our time in service with some of the most remarkable and selfless people we have ever known. We thank God for blessing us with the opportunity to experience life to its fullest, with a mission that was larger than ourselves. We reflect on the unthinkable sacrifice so many endure through the loss of their fallen warrior, and we pray for those Gold Star Family Members.

Now, as a veteran, I have the privilege of serving as director of Point 27. Point 27 partners with military units and other nonprofit organizations to strengthen and encourage members of the Armed Forces, veterans, military families, first responders, athletes, and chronically ill people. Our primary means of encouragement is through jewelry engraved with scripture called Shields of Strength. Shields of Strength serve as a physical reminder of God’s Word, His promises and His unconditional love.

This Memorial Day, Point 27 is teaming with the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), another nonprofit, to give more than 2,000 Gold Star Family Members a specially-designed necklace. Each pendant is a replica of a folded American flag like those presented during military funerals and engraved with the words from John 15:13.

The Folded Flag Necklace is a lifetime keepsake, an acknowledgement of the families’ enduring sacrifice, and an assurance that we have not forgotten their loved one.

On Memorial Day, military members, veterans and their families can take significant roles in educating civilians about the sacrifices of military service. Volunteer to speak or help coordinate an honor guard for Memorial Day celebrations and community gatherings. Make a special effort to locate and reach out to Gold Star Family Members, and engage your community in honoring them and supporting nonprofit organizations that focus on Gold Star Families.

We can all be on-point this Memorial Day to make sure America honors and never forgets the fallen and their families.

Posted by Retired Army Colonel David Dodd, Director of Point 27 Ministries, a nonprofit founded by Shields of Strength.

What is a Life Coach? And Do I Need One?

No one knows how to roll with the unexpected better than a military family. Whether it’s a sudden change of duty station, or a last-minute deployment, steady upheaval is just a given. The trouble is, some military spouses get so good at coping with change and supporting the family that they lose sight of caring for themselves.

That’s where life coaching can be helpful. Maybe you long to start your own business, or you’re demoralized by a stubborn weight problem. Perhaps you want to improve your relationship with your spouse, but can’t quite break old habits, or are recently divorced and baffled by the prospect of dating again. There are life coaches who specialize in these areas and more. And just like an athletic coach, they help you see where you’re stuck and find the resources and behaviors to help you move forward. And, even though your official status may be “dependent,” you can’t count on anyone but yourself to make your dreams come true.

So, what is this ‘life coaching’ thing?

Let’s start with what life coaching isn’t. Coaching is not counseling, therapy, nor psychoanalysis. There is absolutely a place and time for these critical services, but not in coaching. In very simplified and broad terms, therapy tends to look into your past for causes of certain behavior and reactions; then helps you process, so issues from your past don’t hold you back.

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Coaching is focused on helping you create the future you want. Coaching will help you articulate your goals and dreams, create a plan for attaining those goals, and finally, support your steps to achieve them.

Your coach will help you move past all the “Yeah, but…” circumstances. It’s difficult to build a career when you move every three years, or to build up a social life in the revolving door of a military post. It’s tough to make significant health changes when you spend much of your time as a (more or less) single parent.

But just as your coach will be familiar with those challenges, they’ll also help you better tap into the rich, deep assets your military connections provide, from available tuition benefits to internships. And they’ll help you discover more about the possibilities waiting for you in the transition back to civilian life, from creating a feeling of community in a new long-term home, finally being able to launch the business you’re dreamed of, to helping your kids get settled.

You might be thinking, Why should I hire a coach to help me figure this stuff out? Shouldn’t adults be able to work things out on their own, to do their own thinking and problem-solving? Why can’t I just talk to my spouse, partner, or friend?

The problem is we often are so close to our situation, we can’t see what’s in our way—that’s how ‘blind spots’ got their name. Our friends, partners, and spouses are often all too willing to tell us what they think we should do. Sometimes, this advice is colored by what they want, not what’s best for us.

A coach will listen to you without judgement–as a sounding board. They won’t tell you what to do, but rather will help you discover for yourself the choices that best align to you and your dreams. When you make decisions that are aligned to your purpose and your goals, you are more apt to attain your goals and build new, lasting habits.

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Sound interesting? Let me tell you how to find a coach that fits you. There are many good industry organizations, such as the International Coach Federation (ICF), or the National Career Development Association (NCDA) that govern, guide, and credential the professional competency, proficiency, and ethical practices of coaches. When choosing a coach, you should look for reputable credentials so you know you are working with a dedicated professional.

Within our coaching program at Life Reimagined, we vet all of our coaches and only accept credentialed coaches with five or more years of experience. Today, we have 19 coaches with a broad range of experience and specialties, including working with the challenges facing military spouses and families. Coaching with the support of a guided program, such as Life Reimagined, can be an affordable, approachable, and effective way to get connected to your purpose, goals, and dreams.

Once you choose a coach, the actual coaching “meetings” often take place over the phone or using a video connection, like Skype or Blue Jeans. This means you can work with your coach when and where it’s convenient for you. And you can work with a coach who is located anywhere there is a phone or computer connection.

Typically, you will have an initial meeting during which, you and your coach will get to know each other. You’ll set up a plan for your sessions and get clarity about what you want from coaching. After the first meeting, you’ll meet periodically to further explore your goals, and develop steps to achieve them.  Your coach will be your partner throughout the cycle of reflecting, clarifying, identifying, planning, and achieving the life you want. And when you’re ready, they will be your accountability partner to help remind you of the goals you’ve set for yourself.

The beauty of this is that you don’t need to have anything figured out before you connect with a coach. All you really need is the desire and willingness to share your story. Are you ready to gain clarity and live purposefully? Are you ready to be heard? If your answer is yes…then you’re ready for a coach.

Check out Life Reimagined and explore the coaching options available to you!

colin callahanPosted by Colin Callahan, Director of Coaching Services for Life Reimagined, where he is responsible for strategy, operations, and quality for coach offerings, including one-on-one coaching, group coaching, and live group workshops. Reach out to Colin through coaching@lifereimagined.org.

Survive and Thrive: Camp Lejeune, North Carolina

Dearest sweet North Carolina,
As I reflect back on your glistening winters cuddled up by a crackling fireplace, spring seasons filled with fragrant blooms of jasmine, vibrant falls watching the leaves change from green to warm oranges and reds, and hot, southern summers complete with fireflies and cold sweet tea, it occurred to me: this is home. This is where I belong. I long to see fields of cotton and tobacco; sit on the front porch and talk for hours about the weather. Cheerwine. Bojangles. Tar Heels…a few of my favorite things. You are the sweet to my tea. Forever up and gone to Carolina in my mind. Until we meet again.

Feeling a Southern state of mind coming on? I know I sure am! When we were stationed at Camp Lejeune, I fell in love with North Carolina. Many of the Marine Corps’ best will eventually land at Lejeune, and I hope you love it as much as I did. Here are a few tips and tricks to surviving and thriving in Jacksonville, North Carolina:

1. Two words: Bug repellent
You’ll thank me later. Camp Lejeune is home to numerous swamp lands. You know what that means? Mosquitoes the size of small cats. I kid, I kid…but seriously, those critters are ruthless. Citronella alone cant handle those bad boys. Do yourself a favor and invest in some heavy duty insect repellent. Birds aren’t the only thing flying around.

2. Watch out for the Jacksonville Ninja
Seriously. Jacksonville has their very own ninja. You can see him on the side of Highway 17 practicing his mad karate skills. Although I’m unsure of his name, he has become a local favorite and a legend, if you will. You cant miss him. You’ll know him when you see him. And snap a pic when you do!

3. Bring your spirit of adventure
Up for a road trip? The Crystal Coast lines the shores of Eastern Carolina. Along these shores, you can find many of the East Coast’s best beaches: Kure Beach, Carolina Beach, Topsail Beach, Surfside Beach, and Emerald Isle, just to name a few. So pack your sunscreen and get some vitamin sea!

Not about that beach life? That’s okay. North Carolina has something for everyone! Wanna go into the mountains for a getaway? Head to the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC. You won’t be disappointed. Not into the finer things in life? Rather keep it simple? Western North Carolina is home to numerous Appalachian Mountain ranges and trails. Various camping sites are dotted throughout this mountainous region.

Other places to check out, if you’re looking for some family-friendly staycation ideas around the Camp Lejeune area Fort Macon State ParkFort Fisher Aquarium, and the USS North Carolina Battleship, Wilmington.

4. Try something new.
Cheerwine. Bojangles. Cookout. Hwy 55. All Carolina favorites. Try them, you’ll LOVE it!

 

5. Are you ready for some football? Or basketball? Or baseball?
Duke University. University of North Carolina. Eastern Carolina University. North Carolina State University. Nuff’ said. North Carolina is ACC Country. A sport for everyone, all year long.

6. Humidity.
Embrace it. It’s not goin’ anywhere.

7. “Pardon our noise, its the sound of freedom.”
With Marine Corps Air Station New River being only a few miles from main side Camp Lejeune, you’ll be sure to hear the maneuverings of aircraft daily. Embrace it. Learn to love it…it’s the sound of freedom!

8. Take it slow. Kick your feet up.
Welcome to the South, a place where the tea is sweet and the accents are sweeter. Time moves a little slower. Summer starts in April. Macaroni and Cheese is a staple. Front porches are wide, and words are long. Talk to your neighbors. Wave hello. ‘Y’all’ is the only proper noun. Chicken is fried. Biscuits are covered with gravy. It’s a grit-eatin’ world. Everything is “darlin’” and someone’s heart is always being blessed.

Enjoy your stay.

Have you been stationed at Camp Lejeune? What are the must-do’s?

Posted by Amanda Ward, Marine Corps spouse and blogger at With Love, Mandy Lou

Hey, MilSpouse: We Can Tackle This Mission Together

My husband has been absent for most of the last 4 years, particularly gone 10 straight months, and in the last 16 months, we were lucky to see each other two days in a row.

Sadly, when he did come home, I found his skin had paled in shades of blue and white, similar to the white walls in our house. His hair started to blend in, too. Wrinkles popped around his eyelids from the stress. He was tugging a big boulder over his shoulder. The boulder was his mission from the military: work ups, deployment, inspections. A vacation and breaks were given sparingly and almost always discouraged.

Every now and again we hear people thanking him for his service. I believe he did more than just wear a uniform and salute the flag. He gave up his own happiness, his family time, and himself for the sake of the mission. No one asked him. No one demanded. He chose this life and I accepted it–my family accepted. So did my friends and neighbors. Those who accepted his mission also accepted me and my girls to become their mission.

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Putting the mission first means we sometimes become sensitive and distant. Sometimes we don’t always see the helpers. In spite of that, I want to take the time to say thank you.

Thank you to those who found it in their hearts to welcome us, even though we are temporary neighbors. I want to thank community members, particularly my daughters’ teachers, my fitness coaches, and different mommy organizations. They all welcomed us. They all acknowledged our troubles. They laughed with our joys, and allowed us to make mistakes, but also forgave us.

Thank you for loving us by taking the time from your life and responsibilities to include us in yours. You will never know the impact you’ve made, and we will never forget. Your simple hugs, invitation, and love gave me the strength to to wake up in the next morning, even though I knew I’d have to take on the day without my husband, the father of my children, and my friend.

As we embark on a new town, a new job, and new duty station, we promise to pay-it-forward. With so many how-to’s and ‘not-to’s‘ written out there, I want you, other military spouse, to know we welcome your friendship and you can ask us any questions. We’re ready to tackle this mission with you.

Do you have a tribe in your life who helps make the military mission a little easier on you? 

Posted by Fari B., National Military Family Association Volunteer

Just Passing Through: Military Kids Kick Things Up a Notch

My daughter decided to play soccer this spring and is one of only a few 10 year olds on her Under-12 soccer team. It’s not an installation-sponsored, select, or travel team, but simply part of our county’s recreational league. It’s a six week long season, with practice several nights a week, standard issue jerseys, and local teenagers refereeing the games. Her team has practiced regularly and intensely. My girl has worked hard; she listens, follows coaches’ directives, and has conditioned her little heart out.

Despite her efforts, at her first match she sat the bench for nearly all of the first and second halves. After the game ended in a tie, the team huddled while the parents waited at the other end of the field. My daughter walked toward us dejectedly, fighting back tears and a quiver in her lips. I knew it would be best to wait until we were back to our vehicle to ask her about the game.

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When the dam broke, I learned she was not only very disappointed about her minimal playing time, she was also upset because her coach had yelled at the team about their lack-luster performance. She took his critical remarks to heart and personalized his punitive declarations. Clearly, her spirit was crushed.

I’ll admit, I was angry that a rec-league soccer coach had allowed his own competitive nature to take over and that he used this crude approach with a group of pre-teen girls. It also made me mad that he hadn’t given my daughter an opportunity to showcase her potential, despite her skill and hard work.

Half a dozen players on our team have been playing soccer together for five years. The coaches have their favorites, and haven’t been overly open to outsiders, newcomers, or my daughter who, as of now, is only known by her jersey number. Our team feels already solidified among the friendships of the players, with the coaches’ impressions of talent and skill, and among the parents who socialize outside of soccer. As the military family, we are often the outliers.

This team doesn’t yet know of my daughter’s fierce competitive nature, her outstanding work ethic, her kindness and ability to make others around her feel special, or her passion for whatever her hands (or feet, in this case) may touch. How could the team know this? We aren’t permanent residents of this state or community; we don’t have much history or a future here; we are just passing through. My anger after the soccer game seemed justified because I felt somehow, indirectly, my daughter was sitting the bench because of our Army service. Our patriotism was perpetuating her penalty.

I didn’t do a good job of hiding my frustration. I was in mama-bear mode and I wanted to protect my daughter’s heart and shield her from this pain she was experiencing. However, as she grows and matures, I’m doing my best to let her fight her own battles when appropriate. I asked her how she thought she should proceed and handle this dilemma. I was half-expecting her to say she was finished with soccer or hear her ask us to speak to the coach. Nope!

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My 10 year old showed up to her next soccer practice and stood right in front of the huddle ready to listen. She maintained the front spot and led her team on the one mile warm-up run when practice began. She asked the coach to let her scrimmage as an offensive forward instead of the fullback position where she’s been stuck for the past few weeks. She scored a goal using her less-dominant foot.

I observed all of this and I beamed with pride. You see, this supple fire inside of her isn’t something that we, as her parents can take credit for. It’s just part of who she is and how she is choosing to handle the adversity of being the new kid (again) on her team-du-jour. Our frequent relocations are giving her copious experiences to fine-tune this character trait; spring soccer is just another opportunity.

As her mother, there’s a lesson for me in how my 10 year old is rising above her situation; springing back into shape; recovering from her difficulties.

Here are three ways this soccer season serves as a metaphor in the life of a military child:

1. They show up eager to listen and learn.

Our kids are often the “new kid” on the block, at school, or in sports. They know there’s power in just showing up, sticking to the commitment, and having a teachable spirit. Life is one long learning experience. And our attitude can often determine our aptitude.

2. They take the lead when appropriate.

Because of their varied life experiences, many military children are natural leaders. They understand the importance of honesty, empathy, respect, and communication; these qualities are all part and parcel of adapting to frequent relocations, dealing with prolonged absences of family service members, and expressing often heavy emotions. Our kids, whether they realize it or not, are developing a vast toolbox of personal, real-world readiness.

3. They speak up for the change they’d like to see.

Our military kids have a voice. They are witnessing first hand in their parents, people who advocate for the good of our nation; they’ve given their lives to it. Military kids have a unique and powerful perspective they can offer in their spheres of influence. They aren’t afraid to ask for change. It’s natural for a military child to understand a world where things can be modified, reformed, transformed, and turned around. If anyone knows anything about adaptation, it’s a military kid.

Our soccer season has just begun. And while it has gotten off to a bit of a rocky start, I have no doubt it will be a winning season for my big girl! She has the tools in place to kick her own self-esteem into high gear. I’m not worried about her all.

How have you seen your military kids overcome a difficult situation? I’d love to hear from you!

claire-woodPosted by Claire Wood, Army spouse and blogger at Elizabethclairewood.com. She has recently released her faith-based book for military spouses, Mission Ready Marriage, and is stationed at Fort Gordon in Augusta, GA

Miss Northern Idaho Brings Attention to Military Kids

Lucy Maud Montgomery had the right perception when she wrote about military families in her novel, Rilla of Ingleside: “Our sacrifice is greater than his…our boys give only themselves. We give them.”

America has done a significant job in promoting our servicemen and women, with national holidays like Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day. However, how many people would know what month is the Month of the Military Child (it’s this month!)? How many people take the time to consider the accomplishments and struggles of military children?

Unfortunately, many Americans do not realize the sacrifices of military “brats” are insurmountable compared to the daily lives of their peers.

My purpose in my platform within the Miss Northern Idaho, Miss Idaho, and the Miss America organizations is to raise awareness of the challenges and blessings that come from being a military child.

Because of my platform, military children will know that they are valued, not only for their sacrifice, but also for who they are as a person. Growing up a military brat myself, I am aware of what it feels like to have a parent deployed, to move a number of times, and to feel alone and abnormal because no one understands what it’s like to have the experience of being a military child. I am also aware of the advantage of knowing people in every corner of the globe, to be diverse, to be adaptable, and to be independent.

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I have had much involvement with Operation Homefront, which assists military families financially, because of their Military Child of the Year award. I also have involvement with the National Military Family Association because my family was the Coast Guard Family of the Year in 2010. Both of these organizations salute military children, and using my involvement with these programs, Miss North Idaho will be able to educate the public about the many sacrifices and accomplishments of local military children.

Military children are by no means ‘normal;’ oftentimes they are more mature than their peers – stronger emotionally, and better at acclimating.

I think the main issue in not appreciating military children is simply ignorance. People just don’t think about the homefront as much as they do about those on the front lines. My purpose is not to take away from our amazing soldiers, but to show the civilians what goes on behind the scenes in the military lifestyle. Everyone has seen videos of emotional reunions of soldiers and their families, but it is much less common to see a video of a family packing up their home to move for the fifth time in 3 years, or to see a child kissing a picture good night because their parent is overseas.

With the title of Miss Northern Idaho, I’d like to highlight our military brats for their sacrifices, but much more so for their accomplishments. Even though I changed schools so many times, I was always able to keep excellent grades and I know many others who were able to do the same. That’s not an easy feat, especially when different schools and states have differing curriculum.

“Experts say that military children are well-rounded, culturally aware, tolerant, and extremely resilient. Military children have learned from an early age that home is where their hearts are, that a good friend can be found in every corner of the world, and that education doesn’t only come from school. They live history. They learn that to survive means to adapt, that the door that closes one chapter of their life opens up to a new and exciting adventure full of new friends and new experiences.”

These are just a few examples of how special military children are. Many military brats are also exceptional volunteers, outstanding citizens, and are passionate for their country. They make their families and nation proud, and deserve to be recognized!

Do you know and awesome military kid? Tell us about them by leaving a comment!

Posted by Olivia Kennedy, military child and Miss Northern Idaho

Military Brat: A True Term of Endearment!

Merriam Webster defines the word ‘brat’ as:

brat
noun | \’brat;\
1 a: CHILD; specifically: an ill-mannered annoying child <a spoiled brat>

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The word brat, alone, is not considered a compliment in general speech, but put the word military in front of it, and you get the most loving term of endearment that I, myself, would ever want to be called.

I grew up an Army brat. My dad served 30 years from 1972-2002. I spent 22 of those years experiencing military life and watching him serve his country.  Through his service, I grew into a world traveler with a love for adventure. I developed a proud admiration for my country and anyone in a military uniform, and I developed a sense of adaptability and a go-with-the-flow nature that has kept me sane throughout my adult years.

As proud as I am of my experiences, I know a military childhood is not without its downsides. Moving every couple of years is hard work for a kid. I blame my ever-present restlessness as an adult on the military moves from my childhood. Yet, some of my fondest memories take place among a house full of brown moving boxes, with moving men and their moving trucks as background scenery. I remember very clearly the year my brother made me pee my pants from laughing so hard at the escapades he created with my super hero cabbage patch doll and the towering box buildings she couldn’t quite leap with a single bound.  Not really Comedy Central material, but, man, it was the everything to a seven year old who was about to have her world turned upside down, again. I imagine, though, that the memory remains so vivid to this day because of the ruckus that followed once my mom realized what happened. Now a parent myself, I can understand how unexpected soiled clothing from a seven year old during a move could damper the mood.

I have four Army brats of my own, and I can see through their little eyes, now more than ever, how much our military kids serve our country, too. Mine are still young, and the few moves we’ve experienced probably won’t affect them much in the long run. The stability we’ve been able to experience, however, has been offset by their dad’s military travel. Our oldest–who will be nine this year–has been through two deployments and countless TDYs. When he was younger, it didn’t occur to me how much he was processing from military life. But when he was five, I began to notice his anxiety around airports. He was always with me when we dropped dad off, or picked him up, and one day as we headed to the San Antonio airport for a drop off, I could see him start to tear up in the back seat before we even turned in for departures. He never did cry, just got a little watery-eyed as he sat very somberly in the back seat. We didn’t make a big production of dad’s comings and goings, as to not let on that he would be away for a while, but it was obvious how unsuccessful we were in our attempts to shield him from his dad’s absence. He was very capable of putting two-and-two together, and at five, he could already recognize an airport from a distance.  Later that year, as we traveled to the airport to pick someone up, he very eagerly asked who was coming. I don’t remember now who exactly it was, but I will always remember the disappointment on his face when the answer wasn’t dad.

Despite the absences and missed moments that pepper our memories, I don’t see my kids’ lives as scarred or sad. I don’t pity them or wish for different circumstances. Instead, I admire them for their strength and unconditional love for their soldier and own personal hero: their dad.

I love that they know when dad is gone it means he is working hard to take care of them and others around them. It also means when he comes home, they will spend days riding bikes, playing together in the front yard, watching movies, and taking rides in his truck just for the fun of it. That’s what they look forward to and what keeps them going. But in the meantime, while he’s away and the kids have questions and want to know what dad is doing, I love to sit down with them and put on the movie The Avengers, and say “That’s what daddy’s doing!”

I know his job isn’t nearly that glamorous or heroic, but to our kids, he is nothing less than a super hero, so that’s the best way I can imagine explaining it to them.  I’ll make sure they will forever be our proud military brats.

If you asked me, I’d define brat this way:

military brat
Noun | \ ‘military brat’
1 a: CHILD; specifically: a child serving our country with strength, dignity an love as his or her parent(s) fight for our nation’s security domestically and abroad.

What do you love about your military brat?

Posted by Jenni Miller, Army spouse, photographer and blogger at Jenn Elisabeth Photography