Military Families Month and the ASYMCA

Military Families Month and the ASYMCA

Contributed by Kris Baydalla-Galasso

The name says it all – Family Military Month, observed throughout the month of November, is a time for us to remember, honor and applaud Military families. The observation was set in motion in 1996 by the Armed Services YMCA and has become a tradition, complete with a signed Presidential Proclamation, ever since.

Common sense helps us to understand the sacrifices that our soldiers made when they joined the armed forces or make military a career. These sacrifices don’t end with the completion of a mission or tour. Many men and women hug their families goodbye and set off to live a whole life apart from the people they treasure most. While these men and women protect and defend our country, many of the people they love are left at home to maintain “home business as usual.” Additionally, there are many families who move from state to state and even country to country to support their loved one who is active duty.

The sacrifices of the active duty military servicemen and women go far beyond the Soldier. There are spouses who keep a household running. Parents missing their child. Children missing a parent. There are countless events missed completely or captured in videos and pictures to be watched and enjoyed during a brief stay at home. The impact on the families of military should never be overlooked or ignored.

Children, particularly ages 6 to 12, often feel a good deal of stress regarding their military parent. Moving can be incredibly stressful to adults. Children have this same stress, but in a different way. They also are burdened with the realities of deployment and, unfortunately, trauma should their parent be lost or wounded as a result of that deployment. These kids are just part of the reason why military families need and deserve a month’s worth of recognition.

In an effort to show these military families how appreciated they are, several groups, service centers, public affairs offices and the ASYMCA have all combined efforts to celebrate and honor the military family. In addition, these groups are all looking to increase awareness of both the need for celebration as well as any events throughout the month.

Military families benefit daily from the ASYMCA, the Armed Services YMCA, an organization that has been providing support and services to the military and their families since 1861. The first recorded call to military assistance was performed by over 5,000 YMCA volunteers during the Civil War. These volunteers, who did not have significant military training, stood by the soldiers in the field to provide support as needed. As a result, President Abraham Lincoln commended the organization. The Civil War set a standard for the ASYMCA – they have been present to support our soldiers in military conflict since.

ASYMCA is part of the global YMCA, but the focus is specifically on providing support for military and military families. Volunteers and the ASYMCA organization invest a good amount of time, energy and resources in supporting the men and women on the front lines. The ASYMCA provides these services without requiring membership fees or dues. All of the services provided are offered at no- or low-cost at all 80+ branches and affiliates and over 200 program centers.

The ASYMCA relies on volunteers to make all of these services available. Over 10,000 volunteers dedicate more than 112,000 hours of their time every year to a variety of programs. With only 500 employees, the ASYMCA staff is resourceful at establishing relationships with other nonprofits like Operation Homefront, USO and, of course, the YMCA. These relationships, as well as working with locations who are willing to donate space and other materials, help to keep costs low. Minimizing overhead and staffing costs allow the ASYMCA to save nearly over $2 million in fixed expenditures each year so that the majority of funds raised by the organization can go directly to the troops and their families.

The ASYMCA works diligently to close the gaps in programs and services available to enlisted men and women and their families. There are many services, like family support for wounded soldiers, wounded warrior support and hospital assistance and care, that are more obvious to the non-military family. However, the ASYMCA uses their staff, knowledge and resources to address the lesser-recognized needs of the military. Childcare, for example, is just one of the many gaps that the ASYMCA fills. Food services for those in need, spouse and deployment support, emergency needs and bringing holiday joy are just a few examples of programming available at the local level to those in need. The ASYMCA also has programming in place for recently discharged Soldiers or those on medical leave. Health and wellness services, counseling, computer training classes and more all help a soldier to acclimate to civilian life and live with the many physical and mental wounds that war can bring.

So many children would be lost without the benefit of the ASYMCA. Military kids so often end up with “less” than their traditional family counterparts. For starters, these children don’t have access to a parent for long periods of time. Operation Hero is just one of the programs that is tailored to helping these military kids. This after school program is designed to assist military kids in grades 2-8 and the unique and sometimes significant struggles they face every day. This 10-week course allows each child to work with a trained professional and openly discuss and solve problems faced at school and home. The goal of the professional, facilitator and all of the volunteers is to help a child that is identified as being “in need” by their parents or school by providing counselling, homework assistance and guidance on how to manage conflict. Through Operation Hero, which is at no-cost to the family, children will get the resources to learn how to get back on track – and stay on that track!

Operation Hero is a prime example of the work that the ASYMCA does to change the lives of military children, families and servicemen and women. Clearly, the ASYMCA is working throughout the year to improve the lives of so many Americans. It is during this month of awareness of the military family that we can do our own part to support their efforts. If you are looking for a way to assist someone in the military or a military family, there are many ways to help. If you are interesting in donating to this cause or volunteering your time, please visit https://www.asymca.org/donate or https://www.asymca.org/volunteer.

An excerpt from the ASYMCA’s website (https://www.asymca.org/who-we-are) tells us more about the organization:

Mission.  The Armed Services YMCA enhances the lives of military members and their families in spirit, mind and body through programs relevant to the unique challenges of military life.

Guiding Principles. The Armed Services YMCA will:

  1. Be guided by Christian principles with a holistic approach to develop and promote healthy spirit, mind and body;
  2. Be inclusive and treat everyone with compassion and respect;
  3. Collaborate with military commands and community organizations;
  4. Honor the service members’ and their families’ commitment to defend our Nation; and
  5. Strive for excellence in all we do.

Mission Focus.  Priority shall be given to providing needed programs and services for junior enlisted personnel, both single and married, and their family members.  The focus of work shall be in three areas – youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. Services may be provided to military personnel other than junior enlisted where resources are available. Programs and services shall be designed to complement and supplement those provided by the Armed Forces, either on or off military installations as appropriate.

Finally, here is the text from this year’s ‘Presidential Proclamation on National Veterans and Military Families Month, 2018, issued on October 31 and found in full at https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/presidential-proclamation-national-veterans-military-families-month-2018/

During National Veterans and Military Families Month, we salute the brave and dedicated patriots who have worn the uniform of the United States, and we celebrate the extraordinary military families whose selfless service and sacrifice make our military the finest in the world.

Our Nation’s veterans represent the best of America.  Generation after generation, men and women have answered the call to defend our country and our freedom, facing danger and uncertainty with uncommon courage.  They make tremendous sacrifices by leaving their families to serve throughout the homeland and in combat, contingency, and humanitarian operations worldwide.

Our heroes have always relied on their families for strength and support.  Serving alongside our men and women in uniform are spouses, siblings, parents, and children who personify the ideals of patriotism, pride, resilience, service above self, and honor.  They endure the hardships and uncertainty of multiple relocations, extended trainings, and deployments because of their admirable devotion to our country and a loved one in uniform.

President Ronald Reagan said, “America’s debt to those who would fight for her defense doesn’t end the day the uniform comes off.”  Our Nation’s veterans fulfilled their duty to this country with brave and loyal service; it is our moral and solemn obligation to demonstrate to them our continuing gratitude, unwavering support, and meaningful encouragement.

I am steadfastly committed to ensuring our veterans and their families receive the care and support they deserve.  I was pleased to sign into law the landmark VA MISSION Act of 2018, which revolutionizes the way veterans receive healthcare and other services vital to their lives.  The Department of Veterans Affairs is continuing to raise its standard of service, including through the establishment of the first national center of excellence for veteran and caregiver research, which will improve services and outcomes for patients and their families.  I have also mandated greater collaboration across the Government to support veterans transitioning to civilian life. Additionally, Second Lady Karen Pence and I have collaborated on ways to elevate the career and educational opportunities for military spouses and children in partnership with State, local, and tribal officials.

It is most appropriate that in this season of gratitude we stop to recognize veterans, military families, and those who gave their lives in service to this great Nation.  We are indebted to these heroes for the freedoms we enjoy every day. I ask all Americans to join me in offering our sincere thanks to our veterans and the families who love and support them.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim November 2018 as National Veterans and Military Families Month.  I encourage all communities, all sectors of society, and all Americans to acknowledge and honor the service, sacrifices, and contributions of veterans and military families for what they have done and for what they do every day to support our great Nation.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirty-first day of October, in the year of our Lord two thousand eighteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-third.

DONALD J. TRUMP

Military Memoirs: Navy wife & Mom

Military Memoirs Navy wife  Mom

Military Memoirs: Navy wife & Mom

Contributed by Leslie Roberts

I was a Navy Brat.  I learned from my mom how to be a Military Spouse.  My biggest reward came several years after my husband retired.  Our daughter also went into the Navy, so when her marriage broke up (her husband knew nothing about Navy life) and she was stationed on a ship and getting ready to go on deployment, we became the caregivers to her children.  I was working full time and the retired Navy man became Mr. Mom.

One day after work I drove into the garage and my husband comes outside looking so overwhelmed I frantically asked “what’s wrong?”  He just said to me “How did you do it all those years?” I cannot explain the feelings I had at that moment. Our Navy daughter is now a Chief going into her 19th year and re-upped for another 3 yrs.  I am the proudest Navy wife and mom. I could not have a better life than the one I have.

 

New Campaign Aims to Support Military Spouses

New Campaign by the Second Lady Aims to Support Military Spouses

New Campaign by the Second Lady Aims to Support Military Spouses

By Debbie Gregory

The Second Lady of the United States, Karen Pence, is using her new cachet to call around on behalf of military spouses, looking to help them overcome the challenges that come with being wed to active-duty service members.

The vice president’s wife has announced a new campaign that allows military spouses be reimbursed by the federal government for licensing or certification renewal costs. She sees these spousal challenges as key to military readiness. Unhappy spouses lead to unhappy service members who eventually will quit. Mrs. Pence wants to elevate, encourage and thank military spouses.

“In the Trump administration, we feel it is imperative we support our military spouses and children,” said Mrs. Pence. “Spouses do so much and ask for so little.” She referred to them as the “backbone” of their families.

Mrs. Pence, who has a son in Marine flight school and a daughter-in-law in graduate school, said she wants to be a voice for military spouses.

The effort seems to be a follow-up to Joining Forces, Michelle Obama’s and Jill Biden’s initiative to care for military families. Mrs. Pence wants to apply her influence to try to make a difference.

“Nobody elected me, nobody voted for me,” Mrs. Pence said. “They don’t want me writing policy, and I don’t intend to. But what I do know I could do is I can speak to as many spouses as possible and encourage them and uplift them and connect them.”

Mrs. Pence has participated in numerous round table discussions with spouses from all branches of the U.S. military in the nearly two years since she assumed her new role, both around the U.S. and in other parts of the world. She and the vice president have lived in 14 homes during their 33-year marriage, so she gets it.

Mrs. Pence also highlighted another issue Thursday: helping kids cope with having a deployed parent.

She was handing out “comfort kits” to children that include an animated video, a guided journal and a teddy bear. She and the spouses of nearly 30 members of Congress assembled 500 of the kits last week.

2018 Military Spouse of the Year

2018 Military Spouse of the Year

 

2018 Military Spouse of the Year

By Debbie Gregory

 

The Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year for 2018 was revealed during the USO of Metropolitan Washington-Baltimore’s 36th Annual Awards Gala in Washington, D.C.

Army Spouse of the Year Krista Simpson Anderson, the wife of Green Beret Master Sgt. Gus Anderson, was named the overall Military Spouse of the Year.

The role of the military spouse is one of selflessness and courage.

In 2013, Krista’s first husband, Staff Sgt. Michael Simpson was killed in Afghanistan. She went on to co-found The Unquiet Professional, a registered 501(c)3 charitable organization committed to recognizing and honoring our nation’s Gold Star Families and veterans by providing rewarding and purposeful opportunities.

Krista also works as a speaker to raise money for Folds of Honor, a nonprofit that provides scholarships to families of fallen and wounded service members, among her many activities.

“As Army Spouse of the Year, I am honored to have the opportunity to not only represent Special Forces spouses but all Army spouses,” said Krista of the honor she was awarded. “It’s very humbling being considered for overall Military Spouse of the Year. This journey has been humbling. As I read many of the profiles, I felt so honored to be a part of such selfless servants.”

Referring to all the spouses who were nominated, she said, “We are stronger together. We all should be standing up here right now.”

Of military spouses, Gen. Mark A. Milley, the Army chief of staff, said “These are the women, these are the men, these are the kids who sacrifice and volunteer and who keep us in the fight.”

The Andersons are based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.

Military Spouse of the Year award was founded by Military Spouse magazine in 2008 to honor military spouses from all branches of service.

 

Touro University Worldwide- Educating Those Who Serve

 touro updated logo 2018

The GI Bill is one of the most amazing benefits offered to those who serve. By using this benefit, veterans can earn a degree or vocational certificate, get paid while in school, and jump-start their post-military lives.

Touro University Worldwide (TUW) understands the importance of educating our country’s active military students and veterans who are preparing to enter the civilian workforce. To that end, in addition to government funding options, TUW offers discounts to to those who serve, past and present, as well as extending the benefit to their families.

Many Touro academic staff members are also veterans, and since they have walked the walk, they can provide support and guidance through the military aligned students’ academic journeys.

While there are thousands of schools throughout the country that would like to be on the receiving end of the tuition funding that military and veterans bring via the GI Bill, TUW has a tradition of commitment to their military and veteran students.

Make this the year that you get started earning the degree that will give prepare you for an exciting career in business, psychology or health and human services.  Apply the skills and knowledge you acquired in the military to a bachelor’s or master’s degree with in-demand concentrations like: Cybersecurity Management, Global Management, Nonprofit Management, Human Resources Management and many more!

You’ve always risen to the challenge, make this the year that you pursue and complete your degree!

For more information, visit www.tuw.edu

Deportation Fears for More Military Families

dhs

By Debbie Gregory.

With a number of military spouses facing deportation, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said he would need to look into whether there may be additional protections for them.

While Mattis said he had reached an agreement with the Department of Homeland Security to ensure that active duty forces, Reserve, Guard and honorably discharged veterans who are under the government’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program would be protected from deportation (as long as they didn’t have any standing court orders or serious felony convictions) it is not known whether those protections would be extended to their spouses.

“I’ll have to check on that and get back to you,” Mattis said.

Numerous military families, both active duty and veteran, are concerned about their undocumented spouses or dependents facing possible deportation.

The last thing deployed service members need to be thinking about is the deportation of their spouses while they are away. To that end, spouses of active-duty troops or veterans have been eligible for “Parole in Place,” or PIP, a relief that allows spouses, children and parents of active duty, National Guard and Reserve troops and veterans who entered the U.S. illegally to remain in the country and pursue a green card.

The law was put in place in 2007 to come to the aid of Yaderlin Hiraldo, the wife of Army Sgt. Alex Jimenez. Hiraldo entered the U.S. illegally, and Jimenez was killed in Iraq before they could complete her green card request.

In 2006, the couple was granted a deferment of immigration proceedings until Spc. Jimenez returned from his second tour of duty in Iraq. However in June of that year, the government announced its intent to deport Hiraldo, despite the fact that her husband was declared missing along with two other soldiers. The case quickly received national attention and the involvement of influential U.S. Senators John Kerry and the late Ted Kennedy.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Proposed Tax Credits for Employers Who Hire Military Spouses

kaine

By Debbie Gregory.

Every military spouse knows that finding employment is difficult, but a new bill aims to incentivize employers to hire them.

On February 27, the bill to provide a work opportunity tax credit for military spouses and to provide for flexible spending arrangements for childcare services for military families was introduced by Sen. Timothy Kaine.

The Jobs and Childcare for Military Families Act of 2018 would also give military families pre-tax savings accounts for child care expenses.

“The Jobs and Childcare for Military Families Act encourages businesses to step up and play a bigger role in hiring military spouses who already sacrifice so much,” Kaine said in a recent press release.

The tax credit for employers would be up to $9,600, and is the same one that certain veterans get. The value of the credit depends on how many hours the veteran worked and whether the veteran has a disability rating from the Department of Veterans Affairs, among other factors.

The new bill would simply add “qualified military spouse” to the list of those for whom an employer could receive the credit. It defines “qualified military spouse” as the “spouse or domestic partner” of a member of the U.S. armed forces.

The numbers behind military spouse unemployment are staggering. According to  press release, “between 12 percent and 25 percent of military spouses are unemployed,” and Blue Star Families says that military spouse unemployment costs the U.S. economy almost $1 billion a year.

The press release went on to say the bill “…further addresses a real obstacle to professional success for many military families: access to quality, affordable child care. Addressing these issues will help military spouses advance in their careers despite frequent moves.”

The proposal would allow military families to have flexible spending accounts that they can add pre-tax money from their paychecks to pay for out-of-pocket childcare expenses.

“Again and again we hear from these spouses that the lack of childcare puts a big burden in their way in terms of finding employment. Childcare is so expensive that the childcare is going to cost more than your salary then you are not going to work, you’re not going to maintain your career, your profession during that time,” Kaine said.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Military Spouse Professional Network – A Great Resource for Mil Spouses

mspn

By Debbie Gregory.

Supported by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Military Spouse Professional Network (MSPN) is a program under the Hiring Our Heroes umbrella.  The program aims to have big impact in major military areas nationwide by funneling momentum for military spouse employment into action.

Military Spouse Economic Empowerment Zones will focus on cities that already have spouse programs, pulling them together to create a one-stop-shop for job opportunities.

“We’ve identified specific locations across the country that have a commitment to supporting our military families, and identified communities where we are able to leverage our Military Spouse Professional Networks,” said Elizabeth O’Brien, the Chamber foundation’s head of military spouse programs.

Military families consistently identify spouse employment as a key concern. Programs like the MSPN help military spouses overcome some of the challenges of maintaining a career while also moving around with their military service member.

Formerly called In Gear Career, MSPN is a collection of locally based, in-person networking groups across the world that look to advance military spouse employment opportunities in their individual areas.

The volunteer-led chapters connect military spouses with other career-oriented military spouses, mentors, and employers. The Network currently has more than 40 local chapters throughout the U.S. and Europe.

If you need to build or update your resume, check out another Chamber of Commerce resource, Career Spark,  at https://mycareerspark.org.

If you’re job-seeking, or just trying to remain connected during a time when you’re not working, joining your local area Military Spouse Professional Network chapter can provide resources and the camaraderie of people in the same situation.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Legislation Aims to Help Working Military Spouses

milspouseemploy

By Debbie Gregory.

Military spouses who want to work suffer from an unemployment rate five times greater than the national average, and they are looking for help from the government to solve the problem.

To that end, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) has introduced legislation that would expand a federal military spouse hiring authority and broaden the Pentagon’s transition program to include spouses. The legislation would also order the Pentagon to develop a plan to allow military spouse small businesses to operate on military bases.

“This is not an issue that should be partisan at all,” said Sen. Kaine. “Having been on the Armed Services Committee for five years now, I know the issues where there tends to be partisan difference and I also know the issues where there’s not,” Kaine said.

Frequent moves and unpredictable military deployment and training schedules make it difficult for spouses to hold jobs long enough to establish long-term, successful careers. The bill could also lead to the expansion of the former My Career Advancement Accounts (MyCAA) program. The program was done away with in 2010, and a scaled-back version was brought back eight months later, but with a reduction in the benefit from $6,000 to $4,000.

Another issue Kaine would like to see addressed is license reciprocity. When spouses work in credentialed fields like therapy, teaching or real estate they often must get new licenses in the state they live in. Kaine and other members of Congress want to make it easier for military spouses to move to a new state without having to get a new license with different standards.

Kaine said he anticipates this bill will ultimately be rolled into the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

 

Take Advantage of No Cost Tax Assistance and Preparation

taxes

By Debbie Gregory.

The bad news is that the tax filing deadline will be here before we know it. But the good news is that you have until Tuesday, April 17, 2018, to file your 2017 returns and pay any taxes due. The filing tax deadline is later this year due to several factors.

The usual April 15 deadline falls on Sunday this year, which would normally give taxpayers until at least the following Monday. However, Emancipation Day, a Washington, D.C., holiday, is observed on Monday, April 16, giving taxpayers nationwide an additional day to file. By law, Washington holidays impact tax deadlines for everyone in the same way federal holidays do.

And here’s some more good news: there is free tax preparation assistance available to veterans, seniors, and low-income earners.

The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) grant program is an IRS initiative designed to support free tax preparation service for the underserved through various partner organizations. This service helps low- to moderate-income individuals, persons with disabilities, the elderly, and limited English speakers file their taxes each year.

In addition to VITA, the Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) program offers free tax help for all taxpayers, particularly those who are 60 years of age and older, specializing in questions about pensions and retirement-related issues unique to seniors.

Military OneSource provides free tax preparation and filing services and tax consultations. MilTax, Military OneSource’s free tax services, provides easy-to-use software that is designed specifically for the military community that can be used from mid-January to mid-October. MilTax consultants are also available to help military members and their families for free. You need to be an eligible Military OneSource user to be able to access the free e-filing software, and will need to log in to your Military OneSource account to get started.

Another free service is MyFreeTaxes, managed by the United Way. MyFreeTaxes operates the only free online tax preparation and filing assistance platform available in all 50 states and Washington D.C. The services are available to those who earned $66,000 or less in 2017, and allows qualified Veterans, active-duty military, their families and all other qualifying taxpayers to file both a federal and state tax return, absolutely free.

The IRS.gov/FreeFile allows taxpayers to choose from a variety of industry-leading tax software options in order to prepare and e-file their federal tax returns at no cost. If you earned $66,000 or less last year, you are eligible to choose from among 13 software products. If you earned more, you are still eligible for Free File Fillable Forms, the electronic version of IRS paper forms.

Important tips to remember for those who serve:

  • Identify the types of pay and allowances you receive that are not included as part of your gross income
  • You may receive a deduction for moving expenses when you have a permanent change of station
  • You may be able to deduct the cost of work-related education

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.