Tag Archives: military spouses

Join the NMFA Volunteer Corps and Volunteer Virtually!

The National Military Family Association is fortunate to have Volunteers in communities worldwide. NMFA Volunteers participate in a variety of projects locally, and virtually, and their work has a lasting impact. And not all volunteering has to be in-person. Here are some of the ways our Volunteers are working to improve the lives of military families around the globe, in person and virtually:

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  • Conference Calls. NMFA Volunteers participate in all kinds of conference calls; from new Volunteer conference calls, to team conference calls, and even calls with our Government Relations department. Our conference calls help educate, connect, and further our advocacy efforts on behalf of military families.
  • Branching Out. Our Volunteers have added their voice and writing talents to this blog! They share stories about moving, saving money, PCSing with pets, and inspire other military families to share their stories and be informed.
  • Operation Purple® Camps. This year, nine Volunteers wrote letters to Senators and members of Congress inviting them to visit one of our Operation Purple Camps, and meet some of our youngest heroes! We also have Volunteers packing their backpacks and lacing up their hiking boots to visit an Operation Purple Camp for the day. Each of our Operation Purple Camp visitors visit a camp to observe our curriculum, meet with the camp staff, interact with the campers, and make sure campers are having a true Operation Purple Camp experience. They will probably taste s’mores, too!
  • Local Events. NMFA Volunteers are the face, voice, eyes, and ears of NMFA in their local communities! They are busy hosting information tables all over the globe, attending town hall meetings, Yellow Ribbon Events, and participating in patient advisory councils at local Military Treatment Facilities and clinics. Why is this local outreach so important? Because it helps military families better understand who NMFA is, and it helps us understand what military families are experiencing on a real-life, day-to-day level.
  • Advocacy. Our Volunteers are the heart of our advocacy efforts. Because of the information we receive from our Volunteers and our social media networks, we’ve been able to defeat the proposed ER Misuse fee, and tell Congress how important the Commissary benefit is to our nation’s military families. Currently, we are asking Congress to be thoughtful about TRICARE reforms.
  • Scholarships. This year, our NMFA Volunteers worked tirelessly supporting our Joanne H. Patton Military Spouse Scholarship program. Eighty Volunteers judged 4,726 scholarships! These Volunteers donated an equivalent of $65,000 to military spouse education!

So what do all of these projects have in common? Each of these projects happen in local communities, and in some cases the comfort of your own home. Our scholarship judging project is a virtual project. Volunteers choose the events and meetings they attend, and conference calls happen at differing times to accommodate multiple time zones and schedules. Do any of these opportunities sound like something you are interested in?

Do you want to help your own military family and the military families in your community? Then join our Volunteer Corps

Ann HPosted by Ann Hamilton, Volunteer & Community Outreach Manager

Passing the Post-9/11 GI Bill to a Military Spouse: Yes or No?

For me, making the decision to use my husband’s Post-9/11 GI Bill, rather than save it for our kids, or for my husband when he gets out of the military, was difficult. The decision wasn’t hard for my husband, though. He has told me time and again that he wants me to use it. But it’s been difficult for me.

I am not the one who raised her right hand, and swore an oath to our nation. I am not the one who works countless hours, and follows every order, even when that order means missing out on holidays and graduations and plans with the family. I am not the one who deployed, or is ready and waiting for the next time someone needs to put their life on the line for Uncle Sam.

Not me.

I’m just the spouse. I am his cheerleader. I am proud to support him and do what I need to do to keep our home happy and healthy so he can do his job. I am doing everything I can to pitch in for our family, and that includes working, and hustling, and yes, going back to college.

My degree program is expensive. Very expensive. And climbing a career ladder as a military spouse isn’t easy.

Sometimes I wonder if spending this benefit on me is a worthwhile investment. I am not sure we’ll be in this area long enough for me to finish this degree program, let alone use it to it’s fullest potential. I am not sure I am going to be able to reach MY fullest potential as long as my spouse is active duty.

I’ve been struggling with this icky, dirty, rotten feeling, and wondering if my family made the right decision to invest in me, and this degree, right now.

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I shared these concerns with a friend, and fellow military spouse, who reassured me that I am not alone. She reminded me that degrees do not have expiration dates; if now is the right time for me to be working towards a degree, then I should do it. Even if we have a PCS looming, or I am unsure of what the future holds. I can get that degree, and hang it on my wall, and stick it on my resume, and it will be there for me when I need it.

She reminded me that struggling with guilt is normal, especially for a woman who is also a mom, like me. We are used to giving our kids the last scoop of ice cream and putting our needs to the side to care for them. So using a benefit for myself that could be passed to them is tough for me.

But, I can still use my degree to help them. Getting this degree will raise my earning potential, and impact my family’s budget. By the time my kids are ready to go to college, I could be earning much more money, and have an easier time helping pay their tuition. Before they are ready to go to college, our family will have more money to invest in sports and activities and tutors, so my kids will be more competitive when it comes to earning a college scholarship.

I need to remember that my husband and I are a team. We are in this together, and he believes I am a worthwhile investment. I need to believe in myself, as well. The Post-9/11 GI Bill has the potential to make a real difference for my family NOW. He is a “lifer,” and won’t be out of the military for another 10-15 years (knock on wood). By then, he won’t need the benefit. But I need it now, and our family needs my employment income now.

Lastly, my friend reminded me that many military spouses are struggling with employment issues. Many have put themselves, their educations, and their careers on the back burner. They’ve given up…and I don’t blame them at all. It’s hard to be ready and willing to work, and have the education and experience you need, and STILL hit a brick wall. Getting this degree will help me become more employable. It will make me more competitive. I may still struggle to find a job, and military life may still present it’s own challenges, but it’s always better to make sure there are multiple doors (and windows!) open to me. This degree will unlock them all.

I have an opportunity that has been lovingly given to me by my husband. He earned the right to choose where that benefit was best spent. He has chosen to invest in my education, and our family’s future. The best thing I can do for all of us is to continue to work my tail off, keep my head up, and know I am doing my part to help my family in the long run.

Are you a military spouse using the Post-9/11 GI Bill? How did you decide it was right for your family?

HeatherPosted by Heather Aliano, Social Media Manager

Selling Yourself: Volunteer Experience on Your Resume Has Value

It’s PCS season for many military families, and you know what that means: it’s a great time to think about your resume.

Huh? What?

Yes, your resume. You may be starting over, once again, or you may decide to reinvent yourself. Maybe you’re jumping back into the workforce after a break. Whatever your situation, it’s a great time to jazz up your resume–especially figuring out the best way to leverage your volunteer experience.

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Military spouses volunteer A LOT. And those skills and experiences are part of your professional growth. Whether managing volunteers, building a house for a deserving family, or organizing the picnics and potlucks at your spouse’s unit, it all adds to your skill set.

And, it should be part of your resume.

So, are you saying the day I spent cleaning up trash in my community is the skill set of my next career path?

It could be. But not unless it’s important to you. As a volunteer director and hiring manager, I’ve seen a lot of resumes. When it comes to resume writing, your volunteerism takes a back seat, falls to the end of the page–and that’s if it makes it on your resume at all. As a military spouse, our resumes are a reflection of who we are, where we’ve been, and how much we make a difference. Not just for a community, but for an employer. Don’t sell yourself short by not including that time you volunteered in the community.

Because I have a secret for you: ALL experience matters.

So, this summer when you’re at the pool, take some time to think about your volunteer skills and experience. Jot them down. The next resume you send out shouldn’t be all about showing them the money. Show them who you are and why you’re the best candidate.

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For help in creating resume bullets from your volunteer experience, check out these military spouse resume resources:

What ideas or resources would you give to a military spouse updating their resume?

christinaPosted by Christina L. Jumper, Volunteer & Community Outreach Director

5 Things Your Service Member Needs From You

I met my husband when we were both active duty. Being a former Marine, I recognize that in most situations, I have it a little easier because I understand my spouse’s daily life.

These are some important things we all need to understand in order to support our spouses, and remove unnecessary stress from our marriages.

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Complain less, listen more
Even though they go to a job each day, the military is not a normal job. In most instances, your spouse will have several people to answer to and may not feel like they are heard or listened to at all. The hours are long with no set release time and planning around duty can be difficult.

What can you do about this? Just support them. Be there to listen, and don’t complain about a situation that they couldn’t change…believe me, there will be a lot of those. Adding stress to your spouse’s life by complaining does not help either of you.

Your spouse’s battles are not your battles
I have a hard time with this because I like to take action, but if someone disrespects my husband (and he tells me about it at home), that is not my battle to fight. Nor is it my business to bring it up to the spouse of the person with whom my husband is having a conflict. Helllooooo, drama!

There may be many times you want to give someone a piece of your mind, but that will only cause more conflict in the workplace for your spouse.

The better approach is to talk through the situation together, even if you can’t come to a solution. Sometimes getting your point of view and support will help your spouse navigate the personalities they come in contact with each day.

The more you know about your branch, the better
Your spouse could never explain everything to you about how things work in the military. The more you can educate yourself about the rank system and history of your branch, what your spouse went through in basic training, and how your spouse’s job fits into the big picture of their unit, the more relaxed you will be.

If your spouse talks about some kind of training or work event that you are unfamiliar with, ask them to explain. They will enjoy the chance to show what they know and like bringing you into the fold.

The day you remember something specific about their job, they will do a double take and be impressed because they probably feel like they are always talking at the wind!

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Decompression time
Otherwise known as alone time. If I could be stuck to my husband 24/7 I would, but he needs his own decompression time. I know spouses whose husbands get their alone time in at the gym, or tinkering in the garage, or playing video games.

Whatever the case, your spouse needs daily time to themselves to just be a person – not a military member, not a spouse – just a person.

Reassure them there is life outside the military
When my spouse works 12-14 hours a day all week, then we go to the commissary on the weekend, and just chill around the house in our downtime, to him there is nothing outside the military in this scenario. Work. Eat. Sleep. Repeat. 

Having been in the military myself, I know this is so important, especially in the beginning years of their career. Military life can be a bubble, but you need to break out of it for sanity’s sake.

It can be something simple like taking a daily walk to talk and relax. Or planning a trip together – even if this trip is to a public park in the next town over.

No one is going to tell you this life is easy, but the more you can try to understand what your spouse needs and feels due to the nature of his/her job, the less complicated and stressed your military family will be!

What tips would you give another military spouse? Share them in the comments!

RileyVheadshotPosted by Vera Riley, Marine Corps spouse and fitness and lifestyle blogger at The Noble Big Sister

Pursuing a Career in Mental Health? You’re Going to Want to Know About This…

Laura Merandi, like many other military spouses, has struggled to start a career. She has faced multiple PCS moves–4 so far in her 9½ year marriage–three deployments, and several separations due to trainings. When she met her husband, Paul, she had been accepted to a top-tier graduate school in New York to get her master’s degree in social work. Her plans were detoured as a result, but she was happy to join Paul as he navigated through his career in the military. “He is the love of my life,” she shared, “of course I put everything on hold for him, for our future family. To me, there was no question, no hesitation.”

The first few years of marriage brought twin girls into their lives. With the moving, and the demands of parenting young children, her dreams of becoming a social worker had to go on the back burner for a while.

“I was so caught up in the day-to-day of caring for my twin girls, and preparing for changes that military life would bring, I just stopped thinking about my own career,” Laura explained.

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Once her girls were school-aged, Laura decided to reignite her dream of becoming a social worker. But going to that ivy-league school she was once accepted to was no longer an option. Nothing but an online or hybrid program would work for her anymore. “When I was not married to the military, I could choose colleges that were brick-and-mortar. This was not the case now. I needed to rely on programs that were available online, or if needed, programs that had some limited time on campus, but with the bulk of my time spent doing my work remotely.”

This was the first of many hurdles for Laura.

First, she struggled to find an accredited school online. There were few options online for schools with counseling or social work. So Laura decided to enroll in an online school in counseling with the right accreditation… as far as she could tell.

Laura, like many other military spouses, took on her education with the help of loans, scholarships, and grants. She excelled in her coursework, earning a 4.0 GPA during her two year master’s degree program. “I was excited,” she recalled. “I loved my coursework and found that I could design the work around my schedule and anything the military threw our way.”

Her happiness was short-lived, however, when she couldn’t t find supervision in order to get licensed. She was moving again.

And that wasn’t all.

It turned out the school she attended was regionally accredited, but not accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs (CACREP), which was now a requirement to work with many insurance panels. Particularly those who work with military service members, veterans and their families.

I was devastated. I worked so hard, raising a family, supporting my husband, and getting through a demanding program. It felt like all the doors were slammed shut on me. I couldn’t find an internship and supervisor because we kept moving and my program didn’t have the right accreditation. I couldn’t even think of getting licensed under those circumstances. Then, even if I tried to take courses in an accredited program, it was cost-prohibitive. I wanted to give up. My dream of supporting the mental health needs of our military community pretty much went up in smoke.

Just when Laura was going to give up, she found the support and friendship of other military spouses in an informal network online.

“The Military Spouse Behavioral Health Clinicians (MHBHC) social media group supported me through it.” Laura said. “I received advice from other spouses who were going through similar circumstances and had come out on the other side.

Using this network, Laura found out she could use her husband’s Post-9/11 G.I. Bill and pay for courses to complete my studies in a CACREP accredited program. But she still struggled to find a supervisor. When she finally did, it was costly, and took her much longer to reach her goals than she hoped.

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Today, Laura is searching for jobs that don’t have an issue with the moves associated with being a military family. She’s also working on her second professional license.

“Military spouses should not have to jump through so many hoops to be able to help our own community,” she shared. “What is most frustrating is that we have a nationwide shortage of providers. Why is it so hard for us to get our careers going?”

This is a question echoed by many military spouses whose career choices require them to be licensed. They face unending barriers, in some cases, just to be able to work and support their families and their community.

If we really want to be able to effect change and mitigate the mental health crisis in our communities, we need to support those who are working hard to do just that. This is why the Military Spouse Mental Health Profession Network, a joint effort spearheaded by the National Military Family Association, in partnership with Give an Hour, is so timely and important.

With support through military spouses’ entire journey, from finding the right educational program, to helping with supervision and licensure, and assistance finding employment, spouses will be able to break existing barriers and complete a career that is meaningful to them. These careers are so helpful to our military community. It is our hope that with the right support, spouses, like Laura, will be able to join the mental health workforce and provide services to those who need it most.

If you are a military spouse pursuing an education or career in the mental health field, join the Military Spouse Mental Health Profession Network and set yourself up for success in reaching those goals.

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

6 Awesome Resources Job-Searching Military Spouses Need to Know About

A few short months before our wedding, my fiancé and I packed up and headed 1,236 miles from Kansas to Northern Virginia. As a Midwest girl, I was a fish out of water in the strong currents of the east coast. I quit my first real job and moved to a city with endless possibilities…or so I thought. Like so many others, I updated my resume and began job searching. Hitting the submit button on the online job application became my worst enemy; it was like I was sending my resume down a black hole… if only I knew then what I know now.

What do I know now, you ask? I know there are wonderful resources out there for military spouses pursuing careers, and not just careers, but portable careers. Before you start sending your resume out to the black hole of the internet, consider these available resources to help your job hunt.

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America’s Career Force

  • It’s mission: Assist career minded military spouses with portable remote careers that will follow them wherever the military takes them.
  • Does it work? As a connection between companies and the global military spouse network, America’s Career Force recently worked with a Fortune 500 company and placed a military spouse with them. The company was so excited to have her on their team and didn’t realize the struggles military spouses face, they’ve since started a military spouse hiring initiative to support military spouses further.
  • What else: CEO and Founder Leigh Searl explains, “I recently moved to Germany and the second military spouse I met said to me, ‘I have a master’s degree and there just aren’t jobs for me here. I don’t want to work as a clerk somewhere, I want to be able to use my education.’ This is exactly why I started America’s Career Force – to help professional military spouses find meaningful employment alongside their active duty service member. Remote careers are the solution to bridging the spouse unemployment gap.”

Flex Jobs

  • It’s mission: FlexJobs provides an innovative, professional job service to help you find the best flexible jobs available, safely and easily. Every job is hand-screened and legitimate. Guaranteed.
  • Does it work? Military spouse, Angie Dahlstrom, was looking for part-time employment while stationed in Korea with her family and found the perfect fit with Flex Jobs. Angie says, “I find the FlexJobs site user-friendly. I appreciated the email alerts, resume and interview support, as well as the awesome job hunter resource options available. The fact that FlexJobs offers global, remote positions was a huge plus for me!”
  • What else: FlexJobs is a partner of NMFA and offers military spouse’s subscriptions at a discounted rate. Register with NMFA for more details on this offer.

Hiring Our Heroes Military Spouse Program

  • It’s mission: A nationwide initiative to help veterans, transitioning service members, and military spouses find meaningful employment opportunities.
  • Does it work? To date, more than 28,000 veterans and military spouses have obtained jobs through Hiring Our Heroes events. More than 2,000 companies of all sizes have committed to hire 710,000 veterans and military spouses as part of the Hiring 500,000 Heroes campaign. Of those commitments, there have been more than 505,000 confirmed hires.
  • What else: Digital resources include distinct resume builders for veterans and transitioning service members, as well as military spouses; a jobs portal that allows veterans and service members to search for employment opportunities in America’s fastest growing job markets and industries; a 24/7 virtual career fair platform; an interactive employer best practices site; and a virtual mentorship program that connects veteran and spouse protégés with experienced mentors.

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Military Spouse Corporate Career Network (MSCCN)

  • It’s mission: MSCCN works with spouses, caregivers, and dependents to get them employment-ready, and help them find and secure employment opportunities aligned with their experiences and goals.
  • Does it work?  In 2015, Corporate America Supports You (CASY) & MSCCN reported 7,045 (including 2,919 National Guard) hires; in 2016, CASY & MSCCN have reported 1,798 (including 786 National Guard) hires to date.
  • What else: MSCCN employment specialists, in concert with a training department, provide resume, personal branding, and interview assistance, assist applicants with the job search, and mentor applicants throughout the employment process.

Military Spouse Employment Partnership (MSEP)

  • It’s mission: The Military Spouse Employment Partnership is a career partnership connecting military spouses with more than 300 employers who have committed to recruit, hire, promote and retain military spouses. MSEP is part of the Department of Defense Spouse Education and Career Opportunities program that offers comprehensive information, tools and resources to support military spouse career exploration, education, training and licensing, employment readiness and career connections.
  • Does it work? More than 300 MSEP employers have hired more than 90,000 military spouses.
  • What else? MSEP is a solution to assist spouses in finding and maintaining employment to achieve their career goals, despite the challenges of frequent relocation. Military spouses can find jobs and career opportunities by logging in to the Military Spouse Employment Partnership Career Portal.

ServingTalent

  • It’s mission: ServingTalent actively finds employment for professional military spouses.
  • Does it work? It’s built strong relationships with a number of Fortune 500 and smaller firms who are really excited about working with them, and who have been simply speechless at the level of experience and education the candidates possess.
  • What else: ServingTalent President Maggie Varona, explains, “Our ultimate goal is to end the staggeringly high levels of military spouse unemployment and underemployment by building relationships with employers who understand the value we can bring to their organizations. Thanks to 21st century technology and changing employer attitudes, we can now envision an economy in which military spouses no longer have to give up on their professional ambitions simply because they fell in love with someone in the military.”

Are you a military spouse who’s had success with job searching? What job search resources have worked for you?

allie-jPosted by Allie Jones, Program Manager, Spouse Education + Professional Support

Thanks, but No Thanks: 5 Reasons Military Spouses Are Saying “No” to Volunteering

Think fast: what would you say to someone from your spouse’s unit asking you to volunteer with the Family Readiness Group (FRG)?

There was a time, being a young, wide-eyed, new military spouse, I’d say yes in a heartbeat. Having moved away from my hometown, volunteering in the military community seemed like a great way to meet other spouses, find new friends, and be plugged in to my husband’s world.

And it was, for a while. But then it got old.

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I served as the Ombudsman for one of my husband’s commands and hoped that, besides being a resource for the command families, I’d be a person others might gravitate to for friendship. Unfortunately, the friends didn’t come with the title. In fact, it felt like people RAN from me.

Once a new Ombudsman took my place, I knew I was done for a while.

I felt unsupported as a volunteer, but then felt guilty for not volunteering. Turns out, I’m not alone. Spouses are “over it” for a lot of reasons.

  1. Burn out.

“Volunteer positions aren’t always the best organized or most effectively communicated,” Kristen, a military spouse blogger told me. “I sometimes felt unappreciated or even taken advantage of. Plus it was hard to fit [volunteering] into my already-busy schedule.”

  1. Red tape.

Other spouses echoed Kristen’s thoughts about effective communication. Especially when procedures on installations tightened up and changed.

“I stopped volunteering on-post mainly because of all the red tape,” Karen, another military spouse, explained. “Oh my gosh, the regulations for fundraising, events, and other things were incredibly stifling to an FRG.”

  1. Childcare costs.

Heather, an Air Force Spouse, has always been a Key Spouse, but says she struggled to stay involved when her husband got new orders with frequent, unpredictable TDY’s.

“With four children, and limited access to affordable childcare,” she shared, “it was difficult to volunteer. As much as I wanted to serve, I couldn’t pay for a sitter to go work for free.”

  1. Family time.

But even with volunteer options that work around childcare, spouses, like Meg, say the commitment many volunteer positions require is a deal breaker.

“Most volunteer opportunities require a minimum number of hours–usually during the work day; And when it’s not during working hours, the time commitment expectation deeply cuts into the already precious time with my spouse and child,” Meg explained. “At the end of the day, the joy and satisfaction of volunteering for a good cause are outweighed by time and money.”

  1. Lack of support.

“I was Key Spouse for a year at our last base, and it was just awful,” said Kathryn, another Air Force spouse. “The squadron didn’t seem to care and just wanted to have someone [volunteer] so they could say they did. It was like pulling teeth to get information.”

Having an experience similar to Kathryn’s, I started wondering why commands even want these groups and volunteers at all when they don’t have the time to commit to helping them thrive.

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For service members to be 100% mission-focused, they need their home-life to be copacetic; kids are good, spouse is strong and supportive, life is stable. But military homes can’t find stability without support from the military.

That’s why Family Readiness Groups, Ombudsmans, and Key Spouses were created, right? But what if no one is supporting those volunteers?

In a recent blog post, military spouse, Rebecca, wrote about taking a break from volunteering, “I don’t think the military is doing a very good job of taking care of volunteers and families these days…So now, it’s up to me to take care of my family.”

It’s been 15 years of war for today’s military families, and there’s no end in sight. Many families are war-weary, leaving military service for the stability of civilian life, and licking the wounds from a battle-hardened, selfless job.

How will military families thrive without a strong, supportive, and understanding network of volunteers?

This community needs someone to say, “Me, too,” and “I’ve got your back,” and “Here’s some advice.” And it’s the military spouse volunteers who’ve been those fountains of knowledge and strength. We have to turn this train around. We do have each other’s backs, don’t we? At least in theory?

So, the question I want to know: would you volunteer with your unit’s FRG? Is it worth the headache? I’ll say yes if you will.

Have you taken a break from volunteering in the military community? What would it take for you to go back?

shannonPosted by Shannon Prentice, Content Development Manager