Category Archives: Military spouses

When You #OptOutside, You Change on the Inside

Recently, I left my home on the sunny beaches of Florida, and headed for the Pennsylvania mountains for a few days. I wouldn’t necessarily call myself “outdoorsy,” but maybe I could change? This trip to the mountains was unlike any other I’ve experienced. And there were 30 people meeting me there who’d change my perspective in a matter of hours.

You see, I was headed to NMFA’s Operation Purple Healing Adventures® retreat, a free three-day experience for wounded, ill, injured, medically separated, or medically retired military families. At Healing Adventures, families use outdoor exploration, like hiking and canoeing, to encourage each family member’s growth on their new journey post-injury.

I met and chatted with some of the families as they arrived to the Pocono Environmental Education Center—where we’d be camping for the next few days. Some of us connected over our outdoor skills (or lack thereof), and we shared an excitement for the days ahead.

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I went hiking with a Navy veteran, who injured his back during a deployment training exercise, and listened to his family’s story of resiliency. He shared how it felt helpless to rely on his wife to do things for him, and how devastating it was to tell his crying daughter that he couldn’t pick her up to console her because his back couldn’t support them both. Talking to them, I found out it wasn’t just the service member who had to recover after an injury—the family also has to find a ‘new normal.’ After a few more miles, we made it to the summit of the mountain, and I snapped a photo of them to celebrate the moment. They’d been the through peaks and valleys of military life, but when they stood by each other, no obstacle was unconquerable.

The next day, I watched an Army National Guard veteran with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder share a loving moment with his two adolescent sons as they worked together to coax an ember into a burning fire. When the flame took, the sons high-fived, and like a phoenix rising from the ashes, the father looked transformed with pride as he glanced at his wife, who stood next to me, watching. She was nearly in tears when she shared that her family rarely did anything outdoors together because of her husband’s injury. I watched as she encouraged her boys to gently flame the fire, and celebrated with them when it grew in size. Something told me they’d be an outdoorsy family now.

As I shared Thanksgiving dinner with my own family yesterday, I thought about the millions of people who’d be hitting the pavement to take part in the Black Friday hustle and bustle. Waiting in lines and braving the crowds for stuff wasn’t for me. I wanted to #OptOutside.

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Today, REI, parks, nonprofits, companies and communities are all coming together to get more people outdoors on Black Friday instead of standing in line. And we want you to go outside with us! Whether your family takes a walk together to a playground nearby, go for a bike ride, or rock climb on the Appalachian Trial, we know being outside does something good for the soul.

I decided to take my dog on a long walk in the bright Florida sunshine, because being inside on a 75 degree day seemed unjust. While walking, I remembered those two military families from Healing Adventures camp. Being “outdoorsy” together brought them closer, without distraction, without crowds, and without the need for ‘stuff.’

That trip to Healing Adventures, and meeting those families, was the perfect reminder that despite my lack of outdoorsy-ness, when you decided to #OptOutside, you change on the inside.

Join in the #OptOutside movement by simply walking out your front door! When you do, share it with the world using the #OptOutside hashtag!

shannonPosted by Shannon Prentice, Content Development Manager

Dear President-Elect Trump,

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On November 8, 2016, Americans took to the polls to cast their votes in what many call as historic Presidential election. As results trickled in Tuesday evening, candidates Donald J. Trump and Hillary Rodham Clinton were neck in neck for the White House.

After a long, sometimes catty and upsetting year watching the campaigns unfold, Americans have chosen Donald Trump to be the 45th President-Elect of the United States of America.

Now that the votes are in, military families have some things they want President-Elect Trump to know.

See what they’re concerned about, and read the letter to President-Elect Trump.

When Waiting Gets Old

It’s no secret that military family life involves a whole lot of hurry-up-and-wait. Quickly: pack up, prepare, make decisions, fill out paperwork, unpack…then, wait.

Oh, how many things there are to wait for!

Maybe you’re waiting on orders; it’s so easy to wonder why receiving PCS orders can take so long. We think, “If we could just get that Request For Orders, then I can start researching housing and schools and preschool ballet classes and whether the PX is any good.” Until then, you can only wonder, “Are we going overseas or staying in the US? Should I stock up on warm winter clothes for the kids because we might go to Alaska, or should I invest in lots of shorts because we’re moving to Florida?”

Or maybe you are so very tired of waiting for the delivery of your household goods in the middle of a move. Paper plates and creative adaptations of take-out are just not cutting it anymore. It’s been weeks since you slept in your own bed. You need some flatware, picture frames, and the calm of knowing every important box made it to the next location.

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Even after you’ve settled into a new community, you might still be living life in limbo, waiting for a return to normalcy. Maybe you are tired of waiting for that perfect job to come available near your new home. Or, perhaps you find yourself waiting to make the group of friends that you’ve hoped for. You’ve hung up that “Welcome Home” sign, but it just doesn’t feel like home yet. So you wait.

Watching the clock tick day after day is almost never as annoying and stressful as when waiting for a deployed spouse to come home. Homecoming feels so far away sometimes. During deployment we find ourselves waiting for the chance to relax again, breathe again, sleep well at night again, and feel whole again…which only happens when they finally make it home.

It’s easy to be discouraged when waiting gets old. It’s exhausting and frustrating. So much of our lives as military spouses are outside our own control.

It is the waiting that often connects the seasons of our lives, drawing bridges between what was, what is now, and what will be. One thing I know for sure: though waiting is uncomfortable, it somehow has the capacity to make us stronger, and more resilient. It can be irritating, but it can also be challenging. And waiting can help fuel anticipation for new chapters of our lives.

To the military spouses who are waiting for something, know this: waiting is itself a season, and seasons change. Hang in there. That RFO, your household goods, great new friends, and the day that you call a new place, “home,” are just around the corner!

How do you get through the waiting seasons? Leave a comment and share your thoughts!

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

Military Mom’s Gym Bag: 4 Excuse-Busting Ways to Get Your Workout Done

As a military wife and stay at home mom, I’ve had to get creative with my workouts over the past few years. With the help of amazing resources on our post, I have been able to get my workouts in and not make excuses. Before parenthood, I would go to the gym whenever I wanted, but now it is a little harder. I have a deep appreciation and love for exercise, because I feel absolutely amazing after a workout. Are you in the same boat? Here are some resources which might be available to help you get your workout in!

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Strollers and Mommy: This is an exercise class where moms come together with their kids in their stroller. I have not personally done this; however, the one on post is taught by a personal trainer. In my location, the first class is free. What a great opportunity to see if it can work for you and your baby! Check out what options are available in your area, and if there aren’t any, consider starting a group!

Community Center Gym: Do you live on post? Well, if you do, you might be able to take advantage of the housing office community center gym. I have used the gyms in my housing community on Fort Hood and Fort Leavenworth. The housing office offers a small gym which has a play area for the kids (though all might not). It’s been a true blessing for this mommy, for sure! I can exercise and watch my kid Monday-Sunday from 5am-10pm. If I want to go when the housing office is closed, I have a key card which allows me to enter. Remember, this is usually a smaller gym, but it should be equipped with cardio and weight training. Thanks to this resource, I am not paying for a gym membership, daycare, and/or extra fees.

MWR Gym:  At this point in my life, I don’t use the MWR gyms as much as I did in the past. However, I do get over there from time to time when my husband can watch my little one, or if she is in preschool. These gyms are much bigger and offer many more machines and activities. Free weights, cardio, weight machines, classes, basketball, and much more all under one roof. Another great reason I use this gym is the sauna and shower. I can work out, use the sauna, shower, dress, and go home. This is a great option, so I can get home and spend more time with the family.

Child Development Centers (CDC) Hourly Care: Once you have been through registration at the CDC, you can reserve spots for your child in hourly care. For a few dollars an hour, your child is looked after. I have used hourly care on several occasions for my three-year-old, and it is a true blessing. There are days when I want to go running or not stop every five minutes with weight training. CDC hourly care is another great option. Plus, it is usually a few streets away from the gym.

Working out takes dedication, even for those without children, but with a little extra effort and resourcefulness, you won’t miss out!

What tips do you have for other military spouses trying to balance parenting and exercise? Share it with us!

Posted by Jessica Richardson, National Military Family Association Volunteer, Fort Leavenworth, KS

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

The Do’s and Don’ts of Launching A Business As A Military Spouse

I launched Military Quality of Life Consulting, LLC (MQOLC, LLC) in the Fall of 2015 as I turned in a resignation letter to my last employer due to a Permanent Change of Station (PCS) move. I wasn’t sure where to start, where this business would go, or the potential of what it could be, but I knew that I wanted to continue to serve the military community by creating solutions to the complex challenges the military lifestyle presents. MQOLC, LLC provides consulting services in Strategic Communication, Business Development and Community Outreach and Engagement to military service nonprofit organizations, higher education institutions, private and public companies.

To give you a little bit about my background, I have an undergraduate and graduate degree in Communications and my professional experience spans across several industries. As an experienced professor and academic advisor, a prior military family advocate on Capitol Hill (with NMFA!), a previous event program coordinator serving our military spouses at the fourth largest military service organization in the country, I have had the opportunity to work with and be a resource for the White House’s Joining Forces Initiative, Department of Defense, Military Community & Family Policy, Military Spouse Employment Partnership, Members of Congress, universities, national non-profit organizations, employers and key decision makers.

After MQOLC, LLC launched, and during our family’s latest transition to Colorado from Washington D.C., I also landed a full-time remote employment opportunity with an incredible IT company where I continue to contribute to military spouse employment and education opportunities. After living at four different military installations around the country, and working in five different positions post graduate school, I finally feel stable, excited and honored to serve the military community through two separate professional endeavors on a daily basis.

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As a military spouse, I feel as if our community is embedded with an entrepreneurial spirit. For many, entrepreneurship is a great option due to portability, flexibility and as an outlet where you can share your specific skill set with the world in your own way. As a new(er) business owner, and one that is constantly learning everyday, I would like to offer a few Do’s and Do Not’s for those who have a great business idea, who are thinking about launching a business or for those who already have established businesses.

DO your research on national military spouse specific resources: The U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Veterans Business Development empowers military spouse entrepreneurs by providing the same counseling, training and access to capital that are provided to service members and veterans. The Department of Defense’s Spouse Education and Career Opportunities (SECO) joined forces with the Small Business Administration to provide military spouses with monthly webinars focusing on starting a business. Watch these or download the lecture notes if they have already taken place. In addition, if you call a certified SECO Career Counselor (1-800-342-9647), you can request to take Entrepreneur EDGE™ assessment to see if this path is right for you!

DO contact your State’s Secretary of State Department after a PCS. The active duty military community moves every 1-3 years. With this transient lifestyle, it is important to conduct research on what paperwork, licenses or tax permits are needed to transfer your business to your new location. As my business launched while we were stationed on the east coast, I am considered a foreign entity now that we are stationed in Colorado. I also made the mistake of purchasing a license when I didn’t need it. I should have done more research!

DO apply to attend Syracuse University Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) VWISE Conference. The program is open to all female veterans, active duty female service members and female partners/spouses of active duty service members and veterans who share the goal of launching and growing a sustainable business venture. Also, check out the additional Entrepreneurship resources available through IVMF!

DO list your business on the Rosie Network’s Rosie’s List and join a MilSpo Project Chapter. For those living abroad, check out Milspousepreneur.

DO NOT forget to tap into your network. Use your network to seek out advice and guidance. I am constantly networking through LinkedIn, Facebook, community events (I recently joined my local InGear Career chapter), and national conferences such as Inc. Military Entrepreneurs . I am also looking forward to attending VWISE in a few weeks in San Antonio, Texas.

DO NOT think you are making too little to launch your business! It takes time to build your business from the ground up. Don’t let this notion stop you from changing your aspirations. Start small and grow big overtime.

DO NOT be shy to reach out! I invite you to like the MQOLC, LLC Facebook page, stop by the MQOLC, LLC website and connect with me on LinkedIn.

Have you started a business? I would love to know if you have other DO’s and DO NOT’s that you have learned through your entrepreneurship exploration and execution!  

ccPosted by C.C. Gallagher is a Senior Analyst for Military Spouse Programs with BAM Technologies and the founder of Military Quality of Life Consulting, LLC. She is the spouse of an active-duty soldier and mother to a military child.

End the Stigma—One Military Spouse’s Honest Account of How She Came Back from Attempted Suicide

“I remember waking up, gagging on the activated charcoal they used after I overdosed on the very medications that were meant to save me. My first thought was, why didn’t it work? I failed again.” Sara, whose name has been changed to protect her privacy, shares the painful memory of her suicide attempt.

Sara has been a soldier’s spouse for nearly 12 years. She and her husband met in grad school. She was studying for her MBA. He was in medical school. When he joined the military, Sara wholeheartedly embraced the life.

“I was that wife. The one that helped out with his unit, led the FRG and mentored newer spouses. I was the go-getter; the career, the family and the military protocols, ceremonies and traditions were all a part of that equation. I loved all of it.”

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But 4 deployments and just as many PCS moves—all while parenting three young girls—started to take its toll on her mental health. On the outside, Sara seemed happy. She continued to volunteer and help others. No one noticed she was suffering.

“I didn’t want to get up in the morning. When he was deployed or away for training, I felt overwhelmed and lonely. I isolated myself.” Sara found it hard to cope with day to day activities. “I started thinking about how I was nothing but a burden to my girls and to my husband. To the whole world, actually.”

Sara lost weight; she was sleeping less; she would cry easily and jokingly tell friends the world would be better off without her. Yet no one picked up on the pain she was experiencing and the dreadful thoughts that kept her up at night.

“I felt like there was a black cloud following me around. I was convinced that the only way for everyone else to be happy was to end my life.”

It all came to a head one October night in 2014. Sara sent her girls on a sleepover and picked a time she knew her husband wouldn’t be home yet. She counted out the antidepressants she secretly had her doctor prescribe but never actually used, took a swig of her favorite alcoholic drink and waited.

“I thought if I was gone, that my daughters and my husband would be better off.”

Sara didn’t realize that her father was going to drop by with some tools for her husband. He was the one that found her. “To this day, he is haunted by what he saw. My dad had to call 9-1-1 and perform CPR. He was shattered.”

Sara now realizes the devastating effect this has had on her family, friends and loved ones. “I realize now that by not seeking help, I was putting not only myself at risk, but it was greatly affecting my family and friends and their well-being.”

She’s now in treatment for depression, including medications that are monitored closely by her physician (and her husband), in a support group and in individual therapy. She talks openly about her experience in the hopes that it will help someone else.

“I know I’m at risk, but now I also know how to ask for and get help. Life is still hard, but now I have the tools to help me through the struggles.”

Could your loved one be at risk? Read more on the warning signs and keep the Military Crisis number handy: Call 800-273-8255; then press 1.

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