Category Archives: Military Families

Give Thanks for Open Doors and Open Arms

In towns that surround military communities across the country live local citizens who may have never experienced the life of a service member firsthand. However, the sight of a moving truck is a regular occurrence in their neighborhoods, and they may even be able to hear bugle calls from their home while sipping their morning coffee. The people in these communities may rarely set foot on the military base nearby, but their lives are interwoven with the military families who live among them.

They are the business owners who welcome the sight of uniformed personnel in their establishments. They are the community leaders who plan events and parades to honor local veterans every single year. They are the preachers who call spouses of deployed service members, just to check in. They are the school administrators who ensure that the military children in their schools are receiving enriching, supportive educational experiences.

They know that when their own children befriend the new kid at school, a military child, they are taking a bit of an emotional risk. Military children don’t often stay more than a couple of years in their town. They know that even though their own children are not military children, they will likely feel the sting of painful goodbyes.

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These school board members, city council members, teachers, physicians, business owners, ministers, postal workers, neighbors, and friends are all too familiar with the ebb and flow of new military families that arrive to their communities every year while the ones they’ve known for a couple of years pack up and move away.

But they welcome us anyway. They greet us with open doors and open arms. They learn our names, and they befriend us. They care for us.

To the local families who live among military communities: thank you. Thank you for the countless jobs you do to make these towns great places for military families to live. Thank you for supporting and including your military-connected neighbors. Thank you for giving us a place to belong, a home, even if for only a short season.

Have you ever lived in an awesome community? What would you tell the civilian supporters around you? 

teresa-bannerPosted by Teresa Banner, military spouse and NMFA Volunteer

Could You Be the Victim of Domestic Violence and Not Even Know It?

Domestic violence.

Abuse.

We’re well aware of these terms…or so we think. Do you really know what domestic violence looks like? You may be in an abusive relationship RIGHT NOW and not even know it.

The common idea of abuse is that it involves being hit, shoved, called names, and degraded; we think physical abuse, rape, or threats. These are easily identifiable.

The truth is, abuse can be downright subtle.

It doesn’t have to be in-your-face to be abuse. It can be insidious, and sneak up on you. Often, it does. You meet an amazing person, they sweep you off your feet. Then suddenly, you start feeling self-doubt. You feel off kilter. You dismiss it as subtle signs of weakness on your part or just a bad mood.

Sure, it could be a bad mood. But it also could be a sign that you are in a domestically violent relationship. Sadly, this could go on for years without even recognizing it.

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If you’ve ever questioned whether you’re in an abusive relationship, here are some signs to look for:

  1. You are constantly second-guessing yourself and can feel like you’re walking on egg shells.
  2. Your self-esteem is inexplicably at an all-time low.
  3. You worry what you say and do will impact your partner negatively, so you start avoiding people and situations that may have that effect on your partner.
  4. You find yourself withholding information from friends and family so you don’t have to explain or make excuses.
  5. You feel responsible for everything that goes wrong in your relationship or in your partner’s life.
  6. Your constantly saying “I’m sorry” even when it isn’t warranted.
  7. You doubt your self-worth, your sanity, your intelligence.
  8. You ask yourself, “Am I too sensitive?” a dozen times a day.
  9. You often feel confused and even crazy at work and in other areas of your life outside of your relationship.
  10. Your relationship becomes the primary focus of your mental space, even when your attention is needed elsewhere.
  11. You stop doing things you enjoy because they don’t.
  12. You can’t understand why, with so many apparently good things in your life, you aren’t happier.
  13. You frequently make excuses for your partner’s behavior to friends and family and withhold information from friends and family so you don’t have to explain their behavior.
  14. You know something is terribly wrong, but you can never quite express what it is, even to yourself.
  15. You start lying to avoid the put downs and stress that your partner throws your way.
  16. You have trouble making simple decisions.
  17. You have the sense that you used to be a very different person – more confident, more fun-loving, and more relaxed.
  18. You feel as though you can’t do anything right.
  19. You wonder if you are a “good enough” girlfriend/ wife/employee/ friend; daughter.
  20. You lose your sense of self.

Do any of those apply to you? Sure, you have good times, your partner may even treat you amazingly well during those good times. But like a flash, things can go inexplicably wrong and you are left confused and anxious wanting everything to feel alright again. Hope becomes your best friend. Hope that your partner will be “themselves” again. Hope that this is the last time they make you feel this way. Hope that you won’t do something to anger them again.

A healthy relationship does not work this way. It is important to remember is that it is absolutely not your fault. Abusers are expert manipulators they can convince you that you do not deserve better treatment, or that they are treating you this way to “help” you. Some abusers even act quite charming and nice in public so that others have a good impression of them. In private is a different story, which is often a source of stress and confusion.

A healthy, non-abusive relationship is built on support, respect, admiration, empathy, and personal responsibility. If your relationship feels more abusive than loving, seek help from a therapist. Recognizing abuse is confusing at best. But acknowledging that you deserve a healthy, loving relationship shouldn’t be.

Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

ingridPosted by Ingrid Herrera-Yee, PhD, Project Manager, Military Spouse Mental Health Professionals Pipeline 

 

Suicide Prevention Matters and Every Second Counts

“Are you thinking of killing yourself?”

How am I supposed to ask someone that? Can I even get the question out? Such a personal question…and what do I do if the person I ask says yes?

Several years ago, I participated in an ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training) program offered by the Chaplain’s office. I was nervous and a little uncomfortable at the start of the training because of the topic, but I left hopeful and more informed. Like mental health and domestic violence, the ‘hush-hush’ stigma surrounding suicide is one that we absolutely need to change the conversation about. Yes, it’s a difficult subject to discuss. But it MATTERS. It’s a disease, and it’s treatable. And you can help.

In the first quarter of 2016, 110 service members (Active and Reserve Components) died by suicide. And I’m sure you’ve heard the horrific statistic that 20 veterans complete suicide each day. How many received treatment and were helped?

What’s worse, we don’t have any idea how many military family members died by suicide–a whole group of people unaccounted for. But Congress directed the Department of Defense Suicide Prevention Office in the Fiscal Year 2015 NDAA to track and provide those numbers.

We’ve been waiting for that data…for over a year. Suicide happens in moments, and in desperate times, someone considering suicide could be helped in just a few seconds. NMFA will continue to urge the Department of Defense to release this information so that we can help every military family member who needs help RIGHT when they need it. Every second counts.

So what can you do to help someone who is thinking about suicide?

Ask them directly, “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” Then:

  • Care for them – listen to them and remove anything that could be used for self-injury.
  • Don’t leave them alone. Take them to the chaplain, a behavioral health professional, or if it’s a service member, remember you can take them to someone in their chain of command

As we come to the end of September and Suicide Prevention Month, it’s worth remembering that suicide prevention isn’t something that we should think about one month a year – it’s something we should always be aware of.

The Department of Defense Suicide Prevention Office has launched the “Be There” campaign as a way to encourage everyone to take responsibility to help prevent suicides—it’s not just the Department of Defense’s duty, its all of ours. The campaign asks us to be there for service members, be there for families, be there for the civilians who support them.

Look for suicide intervention programs at your installation Family Services office, Suicide Prevention office or Chaplain’s office. If they’re not offered ask for them.

Asking someone if they want to end their life is a difficult question, but for many service members and family members, it is a question they should become more comfortable asking. By simply asking, it may help someone. And if nothing else, it lets someone know they’ve been heard.

kelly-hPosted by Kelly Hruska, Government Relations Director

How to Not be Inconvenienced When Your Household Goods are Late

We finally arrived at our new duty station and received the dreaded phone call, “Ma’am, your household goods have not left Colorado, and they will not arrive for another week and a half.”

Wait…what? Where are we going to sleep? What are we going to cook with? What are we going to wear since we only brought enough clothes for the three-day drive?

Enter the inconvenience claim. It covers actual out-of-pocket expenses incurred by service members and their families as a result of not being able to use household goods due to a late shipment. Now, this doesn’t mean a new set of Cuisinart cookware, designer clothes, dinners out at fancy steakhouses, etc. The expenses claimed must be reasonable and related directly to relieving a hardship suffered by you and your family.

What Things Are Covered?

  • Lodging
  • Meals
  • Laundry service
  • Furniture (within reason)
  • Appliance rental
  • Towels
  • Pots and pans
  • Paper plates and plastic ware
  • Clothes

How Do You File?
Inconvenience claims must be filed directly with the claim department of the moving company. It is essential to keep the traffic management office (TMO) at your destination, and the carrier’s delivery agent, aware of what is transpiring. Carriers are not required to settle or honor every inconvenience claim, but you are entitled to submit a claim and have assistance from the TMO. If the claim is denied, TMO can appeal the denied inconvenience claim to the carrier’s home office. If the appeal is unsuccessful, the case can be forwarded to the Surface Deployment and Distribution Command for review and final ruling. Two things that will disqualify you from submitting a claim are failing to have a delivery address for your shipment, or refusing delivery when you finally have a delivery address.

Key advice?
In our case, we were able to go out for dinner a few times, buy a saucepan and a frying pan, groceries, towels and toiletries, and one full outfit for each of us. While we could have stayed at a hotel, we had already signed for housing so we elected to buy two air mattresses. We had expense caps for each of the things that we purchased, and we had to save all of the receipts.

We learned how important it was to have everything in writing. My husband made sure to have all of our conversations with the moving company, TMO, and the carrier’s agent in emails. We used the post library to scan all of our receipts and to make copies to send to the appropriate channels. While we could have probably requested more, we decided to only take what we actually needed. In the end, we were fed, clothed, and taken care of.

Yes, it was an inconvenience for our family, but we made the experience an adventure. We learned we could never go off the grid and live minimally, so that item was crossed off of our bucket list! The check arrived quickly so we were able to go out and explore our new town and all that it offered. When our household goods were finally delivered, they were only minimally damaged. Score! And, since we had developed a good rapport with the carrier agent and TMO, the claim process for those damages went smoothly.

The bottom line is moving is tough on anyone, whether you have moved two or 22 times. Knowing you can file an inconvenience claim may provide a form of comfort during a stressful time.

Have you ever filed an inconvenience claim? What was the process like for you?

robyn_headshotPosted by Robyn Alama Mroszczyk, AFC, National Military Family Association Volunteer, Redstone Arsenal, AL

Need Bonding Time With Your Spouse and Kids? Operation Purple Healing Adventures Brings the Magic!

Not long ago, I worked at one of our many Operation Purple Healing Adventures®. This retreat is for wounded service members and their families to celebrate rediscovering family-fun and togetherness after an injury.

As I met and registered the families for the retreat, it was clear to me how some families seemed disconnected, while others seemed excited with anticipation. It reminded me of my own joys and pains of being left behind during deployments with a young child. I was worried about my service member, yet upset he was leaving me with all of the responsibilities that I didn’t create alone.

Once everyone was registered and settled into their rooms, dinner was served! The parents were quiet and tired from traveling, and I assumed they were also probably nervous about the weekend ahead of them. But the kids were enjoying meeting one another, playing with the therapy dogs, chatting about the nature hikes, climbing the indoor rock wall, riding the giant swing, flying over the water on the zip line tower, canoeing and kayaking, eating s’mores at the campfire, arts and crafts, watching movies, and the numerous carnival games to come.

I’d be looking forward to a good night’s sleep, too, if I were those parents!

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At breakfast the next morning, the parents looked rested, and the kids were ready for all the activities. I could see the parents watching, taking pictures and videos, and talking amongst one another while the kids took on the activities, and I hoped they’d eventually join in the fun together as a family.

Then the magic happened: one father challenged his child to a zip line race, and one mother bonded with her child by seeing who could scream the loudest on the giant swing. And the next thing I knew, parents were bonding with their children by participating in all the activities, no matter what their injury.

After working up an appetite and eating an awesome lunch, the parents took part in the Operation Purple FOCUS (Families OverComing Under Stress™) Parent Groups. This allowed time for them to work together, with support, to enhance their relationships through communication activities aimed at building connections and family closeness.

During the FOCUS Parent Groups, the kids did more activities outside supervised by an amazing camp staff. At first, the parents were quiet, listening to the Operation Purple and FOCUS staff do all the talking. But one woman spoke up, sharing a personal story that many others could relate to, and pretty soon, all joined in, sharing their own experiences.

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At dinner, parents were busy talking about what went on during the Parent Group, while the kids continued to tire themselves out with more activities. I could see a difference in the families from the previous day, where most seemed to be at Healing Adventures for their kids, rather than themselves. But the next day, the parents found themselves again as husband and wife through togetherness, smiles, and hand-holding.

And on the last day, guess what? The parents realized for all the fun, food, and lodging, all they spent was time.

If you are a military family with a service member who is wounded, ill, injured, medically separated, or medically retired, and want to join us on an Operation Purple Healing Adventures, check out our website to see if a camp will be near you.

We can’t wait to see you!

nataliePosted by Natalie Mizell, Youth Initiatives Program Coordinator

To the Military Spouse Unpacking Boxes…

This is likely not the first time you’ve packed up all of your earthly belongings and relocated across the country (or across the globe) to a new installation–one you’ve probably never been to before. You’ve painted walls and planted roots in so many homes in nearly as many years. You’re an expert at the art and science of PCSing.

Exciting opportunities await you and your service member at this new assignment, but getting there implies goodbyes, packing, traveling, and living out of a suitcase for a few weeks.

After long hours in the car with kids (and maybe a dog and a cat), you survived the journey along a path that connected your old home to your new home. And you kept track of all the kids’ school enrollment paperwork, teddy bears, and tablets. You navigated backseat sibling rivalry, and developed innovative answers to the age-old question, “Are we there yet?”

And now you’re here. Your new home. The unpacking begins.

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You’ve wondered to yourself, “How many more boxes?” and “When did we accumulate this much stuff?” and “I just need to unpack my right shoe. Where is my right shoe!?” And if you’re like me, you might have lost your cell phone among the jungle of cardboard that has swallowed your new home. Twice. A day.

You’re feeling a bit peeved because you still can’t find the box that has the hand-embroidered heirloom Christmas stockings. Of course you carefully checked for each numbered box when the movers unloaded, but this one seems to have somehow escaped roll call. But you have found the box where the movers packed your plunger. As in, your toilet plunger. WHY, movers, WHY?

You worry about the kids. How will the moving affect them? How soon can they make a new friend? The preschooler has asked a hundred times already when we can go back to the “old house.” You gently remind them that there’s a “new house” to be excited about. But in the pit of your stomach, you feel homesick, too. When it it’s time for your service member to go back to work with his or her new unit, and you stay home home unpacking the remainder of household goods alone, loneliness creeps in.

We know what you’re going through, dear military spouse. We see your strength. We see the way you carry on and just simply make it all work.

Dear friend, this is what we want you to know: You’re doing great. The kids will be okay. They will make friends. And you will, too. Take a deep breath. You might even find that pesky box of Christmas stockings hidden among other identical boxes in the garage. This season of unpacking opens the door to a new season of life in your new garden. Paint those walls and plant those roots. Grow and bloom, friend.

Do you have a friend who could use encouragement? Share this blog post with them!

teresa-bannerPosted by Teresa Banner, National Military Family Association Volunteer

Grab a Bite to Eat, and Help Military Families…At the SAME Time!

Summertime means BBQ, family time, and travel! And this summer, the National Military Family Association is excited to partner with TravelCenters of America for the fourth year in a row to honor active duty military, veterans, and their families.

From June 28 through August 5, Country Pride and Iron Skillet full-service restaurants will donate $1.00 to NMFA on select breakfast, lunch and dinner menu items sold each day for the duration of the campaign.

That’s right…donating to an awesome cause just got THAT much easier, and more delicious! Just by eating food, you’ll help NMFA continue to impact military families, like the Stack family, who attended our Operation Purple Family Retreat in Wyoming.

“We are so thankful for this opportunity to come here and be able to reconnect,” Jason Stack, active duty service member and father of two, shared. “We get to just be together as a family without the distraction of phones or internet, or anything. It’s really nice to just bond together as a family.”

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Does it get better than that?

Actually, it does.

On July 4th, select menu items will be available for free to all active military personnel and veterans at both TA and Petro full-service restaurants to honor the service and sacrifice of the men and women who’ve served our country—something the Stack family knows all too well.

“We try to support him,” wife Christina explained. “Especially when he’s away, I try to make sure everything’s taken care of at home so he doesn’t have to worry about it. He knows and trusts I can handle life at home while he’s gone, and that helps him focus on his job while he’s away.”

So, as you and your family travel around this summer, keep TravelCenters of America in mind to help give back and support military families, like the Stack’s.

Our nation’s military families sacrifice every day. Take a pit stop to show them their sacrifice isn’t unnoticed.

shannonPosted by Shannon Prentice, Content Development Manager