Tag Archives: military kids

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.”


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

Cost-Saving Summer Activities for Military Families!

Summer is here, and for those who aren’t moving, the days and weeks can seem daunting. Pinterest is full of lists and ideas for things to do with your kids, and I think we all start out with an overzealous schedule and then, by week 2, we’re overwhelmed. I’ve put together some free, or low-cost ideas, that are easy, quick, and can be done with friends or without.


Kids Bowl Free – One of the best summer programs for those located near an AMF Bowling Alley. The specifics on ages, hours, and prices on shoe rentals vary by location but each registered child can play 2 games per day, every day, all summer long. The goal of the program is to provide a safe and secure way for children to enjoy the summer. The air conditioning, exercise, and price make it perfect for parents. Register your kiddos here!

Park Passport – If your town has a bunch of playgrounds, parks, and splash pads, you can easily find a way to visit all of them, and make it fun. Depending on your creativity level, you could make a checklist for the kids, a passport with stickers, or even a scavenger hunt to spread out the excitement of a new place. Pick a day of the week that is Passport Day, and spend a few hours at the park, with friends and a snack, and make a new summer tradition.

Summer Reading Programs – Not all kids find reading fun or the library exciting, but summer reading programs can help with that. Most local libraries have a summer program, with rewards for reading books, weekly programs for kids of all ages, and help for parents who are hoping their kids discover the joy of reading. Along with libraries, book stores are also participating in summer programs. Check out the Summer Reading Program at Barnes & Noble or Books A Million’s Summer Quest Reading Adventure.

Find a Family Hobby – Sure, crafts are messy and can be expensive, but kids really just want to spend time with their parents. Maybe you have a budding photographer who wants to take a photo-a-day, or an artist who wants to create things from dirt and leaves. Encourage your kids by joining in on their hobbies or helping them to find one on their own. Spending time together being creative will give both you and them lots of satisfaction.

$1 Movies – Most movie theaters show free, or very cheap, movies during the day, during the week. These are not first run movies, but they are usually pretty recent and often include discounted snacks. Regal Cinemas’ Summer Movie Express has movies for $1 on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Theaters on military installations often follow this pattern during school breaks, to include the summer. Free movies, free air conditioning, and two hours of relative quiet – or at least minimal “Mom, Dad, can I….” questions.

So, now that school’s out, take some time to relax, decompress, and figure out what is going to work best for your family this summer. And, if you come across some other free or low-cost activities, let us know!

rebecca-alwinePosted by Rebecca Alwine,  a military spouse of over 8 years. She enjoys traveling the world, learning about herself, running, lifting weights, is a voracious reader, and actually enjoys most of the menial tasks of motherhood. Follow her on Twitter.

Health Care for Transgender Military Kids: Where’s the Equal Access?

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month is a time of celebration–and the members of today’s Armed Forces and their families represent the most diverse military population in history. But even with the Department of Defense (DoD) joining the celebration of this month, we are reminded that under the current DoD regulations, transgender service members are unable to serve openly, a damaging reality that hurts the entire family unit. Thankfully, that’s all about to change soon. The DoD is in the process of updating these outdated regulations. But unfortunately, the DoD also has specific healthcare guidelines that prohibit certain medical care for transgender military dependents.

With so much anti-LGBT legislation out there now, much of which targets transgender people, service members are often stuck in the proverbial closet protecting their transgender children. To make matters worse, when they are home, they are continuously fighting the battle to have their children cared for. Service members have the heavy burden of protecting our country and should not also have to worry about whether or not their family members are getting the care they need.


The Brewer family is one of these military families. Amanda and her husband Josh, a soldier who has served for 14 years, have a transgender teenage daughter who has continuously struggled to receive adequate support and assistance navigating military channels and healthcare.

Their family has experienced substantial struggles navigating TRICARE–even simply receiving adequate healthcare for their daughter, Jenn, has been harder than necessary. And thanks to the DoD’s transgender exclusion policy in the military healthcare system, it doesn’t get any easier.

TRICARE’s exclusion policy restricts transgender dependents to only receiving care at military installations. Any off base referrals for specific mental health professionals or medical appointments are denied.

For the Brewers, this means their daughter has had to forgo critical and needed care because services are not always available. When TRICARE deems transgender as suffering from “gender dysphoria,” any medical care or hospitalizations outside of a military installation has to be paid out of pocket, which places profound financial stress on these military families.

Currently, the DoD only has two bases that provide care to transgender dependents. If policies were to change, dependents would likely be categorized under the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP). With the limited locations of medical care for transgender dependents, many service members’ careers would be jeopardized. Without a critical reconsideration of this policy, many transgender children and dependents remain untreated and excluded.


One current military provider, who has been treating transgender military dependent children and adolescents for the last several years told me:

The main problem that families encounter when seeking treatment for their transgender child is that there is a lack of TRICARE policy supporting medical treatment of transgender dependents. For the families that are able to find military providers who are willing to provide necessary treatment at a military facility, transferring to a new duty station may mean losing access to their care.”

She also said, “Several of the largest military training facilities have tried to establish multidisciplinary treatment teams that would treat transgender children and adolescents. This approach follows World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) practice guidelines. We also had several military providers in different pediatric sub-specialties who have received training to treat transgender children and adolescents. However, as medical providers, we find ourselves unable to provide standard of care to this population in great need of services, due to a lack of policy supporting the treatment of transgender dependents.”

This LGBT Pride Month, we are reminded of the tremendous progress we’ve made, but also of all that we have yet to accomplish. We look forward to working together to continue that progress and ensure that all service members and their families, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, are getting the care and support they need and deserve.

Posted by Jennifer Dane, Diversity & Inclusion Policy Analyst, The American Military Partner Association, the nation’s largest resource and support network for the partners, spouses, families, and allies of America’s LGBT service members and veterans

“After War:” Military Kid Produces Film About Father’s PTSD

“He went from this stud, athlete, awesome dad to barely human because he was so whacked out of his mind.”

Bailey Francisco is very matter-of-fact as he talks about his dad’s battle with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and how it ripped their family apart.

“It didn’t even feel like I had a dad during those years. He was just so out of it all the time.”

Bailey recounts his experience in a short documentary, which he produced through the Colorado Youth Film Institute. The film is called “After War” and chronicles his dad’s four deployments in a short time frame. Bailey’s dad turned violent and paranoid, eventually abusing pain medication and alcohol and turning into someone Bailey no longer knew.


Unfortunately, Bailey’s story is all too familiar for military families. The film begins with this statistic:

80,000 veterans in Colorado suffer from PTSD.

“It’s incredibly common,” Bailey said when he stopped by to talk to the National Military Family Association about his film. “Colorado Springs is a big military town. Friends I’ve had since 4th grade came up to me and said they had the same story. They’d say ‘hey, my dad was an alcoholic because of PTSD, too.’”

39% of those who live with a veteran struggling with PTSD will develop Secondary PTSD (also known as STS, or Secondary Traumatic Stress).

Bailey doesn’t specifically go into STS in his documentary, but the stress clearly took over his childhood.

“90% of my thoughts were about my dad.”

When the domestic violence escalated, the path to divorce began for Bailey’s parents.

“I feel like it made my mom and I closer because we talked about everything going on. She’s very strong,” he said.

Bailey remembers attending NMFA’s Operation Purple Camp in 2006 and 2007—two weeks of fun with other military kids like him during a dark time in his military family life.

“Kids are protecting parents and parents are protecting kids. And they don’t always realize that about each other,” NMFA Executive Director, Joyce Raezer, explained. “It takes longer for military kids to get into the swing of things. They’re more homesick than others because they’re worried about mom at home.”


That was definitely the case for Bailey. “Once my parents got a divorce, we had no money. No support from the military or anybody. Mom working a part time job. She hadn’t worked since they’d gotten married. Mom started by volunteering, and we were below the poverty line.”

NMFA hears stories like this far too often, although even once is too many. That’s why we believe it is so important to provide the best possible services to our service members and their families. Adolescence is trying in even the best circumstances; Bailey showed us that adding PTSD to the mix makes it even harder. That’s part of why NMFA has redoubled our efforts on mental health support.

Hearing Bailey speak, it is obvious that he is a survivor. Bailey just finished his freshman year of college and has all the confidence and swag of a military kid who has survived—and thrived. For more on Bailey’s relationship with his dad today, you might want to watch the 10-minute documentary. Don’t forget the Kleenex.

**This is the first blog post in our 5 part series on PTSD and military families in honor of PTSD Awareness Month. We’ll publish a new post each Friday. Next we’ll we’ll tackle PTSD and domestic abuse. Do military spouses give their service members a pass to mistreat them because they have PTSD? To make sure you don’t miss this and other posts, sign up for our blog emails.**

besa_2016Posted by Besa Pinchotti, Communications Director

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.

milkid soccer

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!

milkid soccer 2

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

Want to Win a Free Photo Session for Your MilFam?

May is Military Appreciation Month, and at NMFA, we believe that includes military families, too! You sacrifice daily to support and stand behind the uniform–something many others couldn’t do.


To thank you and honor you during Military Appreciation Month, NMFA is bringing back our popular Military Family Photography Contest! Enter to win your family a free photo session with a talented, hand-picked military spouse photographer in an area near you. We’ve got photographers near and far, and entering is as easy as a few clicks!

Military life moves quickly, and sometimes the perfect moment for a family photographer is hard to get. We think your family deserves photos to cherish, and we found some amazing military spouse photographers who are volunteering to share their time and talents to capture a special moment in time.

Enter to win a free photo session!

shannonPosted by Shannon Prentice, Content Development Manager

Where are You From? Hometown: EVERYWHERE!

Growing up as a military kid, I sometimes puzzled over the question “Where are you from?” I never struggled to answer, but maybe that’s because I had a lot of possible answers. And yet, I never envied the kids that had just one answer. I still don’t envy those kids…and here’s why:

My father was a career soldier–first as an Army aviator, and then later with the Corps of Engineers. It was a path that took him, and our family, to places as far and wide as Germany, Virginia, Japan, Iowa, South Korea, Kansas, South Dakota, and Maryland. Along the way, we vacationed in Savannah, Georgia–my parents’ hometown. My folks later explained that they figured that we needed a hometown, too.


Growing up, South Dakota was the place that we called home the longest. My father taught ROTC at South Dakota Tech, in the small Black Hills town of Rapid City, for three years. I’m sure my siblings would agree that we found ourselves more at home in Rapid City than at any other place, including Savannah. There were awesome winter sports, the place was obsessed with baseball (just like I was), there was a strong sense of community, and the city was genuinely welcoming to outsiders.

Of course, it was all temporary, and our next move was to be to South Korea, a place that I’d never even heard of (hey, I was only seven). My folks sold me on the move, as military parents often do, this time by telling me that bicycles were very cheap in Korea.

My older brother and sister were teenagers, so they weren’t as excited about bikes, and they weren’t excited about leaving their friends, either. As we drove through Wyoming on the way to drop off our car for shipment to Korea, there was no shortage of tears. But things got brighter as we made our way further west, and there was building optimism and excitement as we reached the coast.

We arrived in Seoul in the middle of summer, before school started, so it took a little while to get connected. Our household goods (and my toys) seemed to take a long time to arrive, but I guess time is on a different measure when you are a kid. We all managed to find new friends at our new post, as we always had. And sure enough, I was tooling around Yongsan on my new bike in no time (never mind that we got it at the PX for probably the same price that we would have paid in the states).


Occasionally, I’m asked if growing up as a military brat was hard, if I missed having a true hometown. I respond that “hard” isn’t the word I would choose. Looking back, it was an incredible opportunity, and I experienced things that have changed me forever, and for the better. In just a single two-year slice of time in Korea, I became familiar enough with a new language to pick a soccer team with kids that spoke no English (kids just like me, I learned, except from a different country), I bargained with local shopkeepers over important things like chewing gum and yo-yos, I took field trips to 1,500-year-old temples, and I watched hundreds of local children sneak onto post for the promise of free Halloween candy (security was a little bit different in those days).

It wasn’t perfect, of course, and moving was never what us kids wanted at the time. But we tried to make the most of each assignment, learning to ice skate in South Dakota, touring castles in Europe, even speaking a little Japanese along the way (ok, very little, maybe just a skoshi). And we made new friends at each stop, some of which we are still in touch with (and without the benefit of social media back in the day).

My dad’s next assignment after Korea was Fort Meade, Maryland. On the way, we set it up so that we could pass back through our former hometown of Rapid City. During our visit, I asked my parents “Why are my old friends all still here? Shouldn’t they have been sent to live somewhere else like we were?” When they explained that not everybody has to move every few years, I thought, “Wow, they are missing out.”

Are you a military kid? What do you remember most fondly about growing up?

courtPosted by Court Ogilvie, Chief Operating Officer