May…springtime is in full swing…we celebrate and thank our teacher, nurses, mothers and honor our nation’s fallen heroes…but did you know it is also the time of Military Spouse Appreciation Day? Military Spouse Appreciation Day is a holiday set aside to tell military spouses why they matter — and why they are needed. Each year Military Spouse Appreciation Day is celebrated the Friday before Mother’s Day at US military bases and within military families around the globe.
In our digital age blogs of all kinds provide unique perspectives, share knowledge and provide a sense of community for those walking a similar path in their own lives. There are no shortage of blogs on all aspects of military life. In honor of Military Spouse Appreciation Day here are some links to some creative and relevant blogs written by and for military spouses.
Jo, My Gosh: We recommend you start reading this blog for the same reason Jo started writing it- the care packages. Jo offers great content on creating that special something. But don’t stop there! Stick around for more DIY tips and tales of military life.
Cosmopolitan Cornbread by Constance Smith: Army Wife of 25+ years and veteran blogger. Anywhere Constance goes, she chronicles her journey with her readers – from creating family-friendly recipes and hiking in the wilderness of Alaska to photographic journeys and exploring the culture and food scene around her.
Somewhere Over the Camo: Amanda is here for other military spouses. Her blog details her family life and also has a lot to offer to others.
A Day in the Life of an Officer’s Wife: Shannon’s experience as a wife to a Naval Officer, a mother to a little girl, and their day-to-day life as a military family makes for a beautiful blog.
The Meat and Potatoes of Life: Weekly blogs/columns offer an honest, often humorous, look at military family life — from the daily minutia to the poignant moments, and every dust bunny, sassy teenager, and burnt pancake in between.
Macho Spouse: For male military spouses by male military spouses – an online resource and information hub for male military spouses.Macho Spouse helps male military spouses successfully navigate current military life through videos, online networking and communication.
We, at Military Connection,thank you for your contribution to our nation’s military. You are the silent heroes of the homefront and we appreciate your service. Happy Military Spouse Appreciation Day to each and every one of you.
By Guest Contributor Renee Nickell
For 17 years, I had been a stay at home mom and military spouse. My days consisted of homeschooling my kids, chauffeuring, meal-planning, budgeting, making sure life was stable during TDY’s and deployments, and supporting my husband through three college degrees. While these things gave me great fulfillment and I loved my role in the family, I had always had dreams of my own. Our family made a lot of sacrifices for me to stay at home with my children. Society says you can’t survive on one income and we proved them wrong.
About two years ago, my husband and I really started talking about leaving the corporate world. He was now a reservist and disabled veteran and he wanted to support me in accomplishing my hopes and dreams. We haven’t gotten to the point of him leaving his job yet, but we are working towards it. I went full steam ahead and began writing my first non-fiction memoir. It was published in July 2018 and it was certainly a dream come true. Since that time, I’ve had to teach myself how to market, grow my tribe, advertise, and everything else that goes along with being a new entrepreneur.
Just two months before I decided to start writing my book, my husband was suddenly told that he would no longer be “fit for duty” until he underwent a medical review board. This meant our monthly military pay was gone with zero notice! This was a huge blow for him as a commander and 17-year veteran. We had to make things work with a sudden drop in income. This was a huge risk. It’s been 18 months and still no medical review board, but we are still making it without his military pay.
If you are a military spouse who may be considering starting a new business on a limited budget, I want to give you a list of eight do’s and don’ts that will help you make that decision:
1. Don’t rely on the bank account for you to start your business.
Now some may say, “Renee, this is NOT wisdom. Every business needs cash!” Well, no they don’t. How many dreams have been born around a kitchen table? How many bakeries have started with mixing the flour and sugar in a small home kitchen? Many businesses now are started on one-income families with small investments. Start small, but dream BIG!
2. Don’t expect to get rich quick.
With the social media, coaching craze happening right now, all it takes is one look at your timeline to believe you can become an overnight sensation on YouTube and make 6-figures in two months. It may happen for some, but for most of us, that isn’t realistic. What is realistic, if that is your goal, is to grow in what you know. What you don’t know, learn. Long-term success takes time, energy, knowledge, and patience. Remember that turtle that was slow and steady?
3. Do plan on working long hours with no pay.
Startup businesses do not start making revenue right away. Like I mentioned before, I’m 18 months into “the dream”. I haven’t made any profit thus far, but that doesn’t keep me from moving forward. Your desire to turn “the dream” into a reality MUST be stronger than the desire to get rich quick. What this has taught me, is that I am showing my children delayed gratification. They know mom works A LOT, but I am always teaching them that it’s perseverance and hard work that will eventually pay off, not giving up when you see little results (this can go for weight loss or building up savings).
4. Do expect to make sacrifices.
Have you heard those stories of incredibly successful entrepreneurs that have sold everything they own to make their dream a reality? Yes, I can relate. When I was publishing my book, my husband would come home from work and wonder where our furniture went. I’d tell him I had to pay the editor. This went on for months until we finally put in for a job transfer and sold our home…providing us with funds to market the book. You will learn to do what you can to make it work.
5. Don’t expect everyone to understand or be supportive.
Let’s face it…no one will be as excited as you about your new venture. Friends may think you’re crazy or possibly be upset with your new time constraints. Naysayers may be jealous and Facebookers may get annoyed. So, what? Only ONE person needs to believe in your dream…YOU! You WILL grow your tribe…don’t try to appease everyone (and most of the people on your social media won’t be your tribe, that takes time to grow). Those that do support you – keep them close.
6. Don’t give up.
Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will your small business. If you are dedicated to doing what you believe in and you’re aware that building a business takes time, you WILL eventually see results. I promise. Hang in there and know that you will have good days and bad days, but the good days make the bad days worth it.
7. Do take the risk.
Maybe it’s because of my life experiences, but life is too short to not take the risk. I mean, I’m not talking about bungee jumping here. Sometimes the greatest results happen because of the greatest risks. Six months after I published my book I wrote my favorite author and asked for an endorsement. Guess what, she said yes. I was so scared to ask, but my husband always tells me, “if you don’t ask, your answer will definitely be no, but if you do ask, you may get a yes.” He would remind me this after all the “no’s” I have gotten. I still take the risk and it’s really been incredible to see what doors have opened.
8. Do have the time of your life!
Always remember your “why” and enjoy the journey. It’s truly the journey that you have to learn to appreciate, because that journey never ends. Make small goals and celebrate when you meet those goals.
I hope this insight will help the new entrepreneur. If you are a military spouse venturing into new territory, know that you can do this. Remember that incredibly painful deployment when the kids were puking and the roof was leaking and the car broke down and it was still 10 days until payday? Well, if you can get through that…you can do this. The military spouse is resilient and strong. Be encouraged and go out and make your dreams happen!
Renee Nickell is a military spouse, Gold Star sibling, and author of “Always My Hero: The Road to Hope & Healing Following My Brother’s Death in Afghanistan.” Renee has been featured on FOX & Friends, The Brian Kilmeade Show, and SOFREP Radio; her mission is to increase awareness of the difficulties that military families face, to better help them endure, recover, and heal. For more about Renee, go to www.reneenickell.com.
Contributed by Alan Rohlfing
(This is one of a series of posts relating to the job search. Check back weekly for observations on a variety of employment assistance topics.)
Career fairs, hiring events, job fairs, career expos…whatever you might call them, if you’ve looked for a job anytime recently, you’ve probably been to one. And love ‘em or hate ‘em, many of us consider them a necessary evil, one of those aspects of the search for employment that would be hard to replace.
Job fairs come in all shapes and sizes, from the “one employer at the local career center” variety to the 150-employer extravaganza that was advertised at the regional or national level. Since many of you will find yourself at that registration table sooner or later, we’ve put together a list of things to be sure and do and things to avoid at YOUR next hiring event.
Do your homework. Pre-register for the event and try to get a listing of those companies attending in advance. If you have the opportunity, do a little detective work…research them & get a feel for their open positions. You’ll be able to talk intelligently about the company with the recruiter and you’ll give a great first impression. And don’t rule out companies just because they’re recruiting for positions outside your career field. Remember, this is a networking event. And while you’re at it, network with fellow job seekers & other professionals in the vicinity. Remember, many times it’s who you know…
Dress professionally. For more information on that topic, see last Friday’s post on Dressing for Success. I’ll place an emphasis on comfortable shoes, and call them a necessity for a day like this.
Accessorize with a portfolio. Have a clean pad of paper with a list of questions. Take good notes for follow-up after the fair…but remove the page from the top of the tablet when you’ve completed the interview with each recruiter. Yes, the interview. Think of a job fair as a series of mini-interviews…lots of chances to make great first impressions.
Bring business cards. A professionally designed card, tailored to introduce you as a job seeker, is a must! Resumes are your second choice…ask the recruiter which they prefer. Bring different versions of your resumes if you’re searching for different types of jobs, and have them tucked in a separate folder inside your portfolio.
Minimize your chances of bad breath. Watch what you eat. This is especially true for those fairs in the afternoons, where it’s just too easy to have onions or garlic on what you eat for lunch. Be careful not to drink coffee or smoke right before the event, and you may want to use a strong mint right before entering the fair.
When you first arrive…smiling is required. A recent study indicated that smiling faces were easier to remember. Start with the gatekeepers and others in the queue waiting to enter the event. Obtain a floor plan of the event and locate your targeted employers. Walk the room first, if needed, to relax and get the feel of how the recruiters are working their stations.
Put the phone away. Unless you’re bumping phones to trade contact information with the recruiter, or showing an employer how well you create mobile-friendly apps, just put it away. Enough said.
Listen. Process what questions are being asked of the recruiter by other candidates while you stand in line, waiting. Try not to ask the same question others have asked…especially if the recruiter knows that you were within earshot and should have been paying attention. Listen to what the recruiters are asking the other candidates, for these same questions may be asked of you.
Meeting the recruiter. Don’t just walk up to a table and interrupt the current conversation; wait your turn and be polite. Some employers will have long lines, which will deter (and discourage) some jobseekers. The amount of time you will have with the recruiter can vary from mere seconds to minutes. Take notes if possible and offer your business card or resume.
Sell yourself. Prepare (and rehearse) your one-minute elevator pitch, highlighting your unique value proposition…what you can offer the employer. Be prepared to talk about your military history and work experiences, as well as your skills and abilities. Questions not to ask: Are you hiring? What kind of jobs do you have? What does it pay? All those indicate you haven’t done a lick of research about the company’s opportunities for employment.
Before you leave each table/recruiter/mini-interview, take the initiative and ask, “What’s the next step?” Don’t be offended if the recruiter tells you that they don’t need your resume and you’ll have to apply online for their open positions. If you have time, ask if there are any suggested tips for completing their online job application. Request the recruiter’s business card for future correspondence, shake hands, and thank them for their time. Move away and finalize your notes.
Follow up. Email each recruiter (with whom you had a meaningful conversation) a note about 2-3 days after the event, thanking them for their time and recapping your conversation (this is why your notes are so important). Attach a PDF version of your resume, so they’ll have it digitally.
Finally, here are some recruiters’ pet peeves: Too much cologne or perfume. Weak or sloppy handshake. Too many filler words (“like’, “you know”). Walking from booth to booth, picking up swag. Even worse – walking up to a recruiter with a bag full of stuff and then fumbling for your resume/business card, which happens to be stuck to the free pen you picked up from another recruiter.
One last note about career fairs…keep in mind that these events aren’t all about YOU and open jobs…these events are about networking with companies that you’d like to work for. If you get a referral for a job, consider it your lucky day. It means that you did everything right to warrant that recommendation…
Do you have any tidbits or success stories from your experiences at career fairs? Anything that might benefit others in the military community, facing the same challenges? If so, tell us your story and email [email protected]!
Lest we forget, during the holidays…
By Guest Contributor Renee Nickell
The holidays are approaching, so you know what that means…the black plague of shopping is upon us. No, I don’t really think this way. I love shopping during the holidays, albeit mostly online. Enter Thanksgiving-the day we feast with family, watch football, and discuss all those blessings we are so thankful for. Then, just when everyone is getting settled down for the night after gorging on pumpkin pie and spiced eggnog, the avid Black Friday shoppers are reading their flyers, marking their maps and strategizing as if they are preparing for combat, ready to trample anyone in their path that would prevent them from purchasing their child the latest, most popular, deeply discounted item…the must-have item that will be played with for about 10 minutes and placed on a shelf until next year.
Yes, it’s the holidays. It brings out the best or worst in all of us. I for one, have been the best and the worst to those around me at times I’m sure. Let me explain, Thanksgiving and Christmas have always been so special to our family, being that we don’t always get to see a lot of our family during the year. We are “the military family.” We see family when we can and in the past, that has always depended on where we were in the country and whether we could afford to travel long distances (raise your hand if you’re a military family on a tiny budget, yet are expected to travel to see everyone else during the holidays).
I’d say being around those I love always brings out the best side of me. The side that loves to laugh and cook, play practical jokes, and watch Christmas movies. In recent years past, it’s been difficult celebrating Christmas when my brother Sam made his last phone call to us on Thanksgiving 2011, and then was killed in action just three weeks later on December 14th in Afghanistan. I am thankful for my husband and children who are so patient with me during those “bad days.” While most families were preparing their Christmas plans and wrapping gifts, we were planning a funeral. The reality is, if we hadn’t been planning a funeral, Sam would have still been in war, separated from his family like so many other deployed members are each and every year.
Many military families daydream of running through an airport with their balloons and signs, imagining their little toddlers stumbling over their own feet because they haven’t seen mommy or daddy in nine months. It becomes hard to fathom the scenario of holiday shopping madness of people pushing and shoving each other that has now begun on Thanksgiving Day in recent years, instead of waiting until Black Friday. How has our beloved Thanksgiving now become Black Thursday? Who agreed to this?
You get a whole new perspective when you’re sitting around a Christmas tree wondering what you’re to do, since there was no time for Christmas shopping because your brother of 36 years of age was recently killed. We had three young children at the time, and he had two young sons. That was the Christmas when Black Friday or any other shopping day didn’t really seem to matter anymore. We just wondered how we would survive each year without him.
Being a military spouse and a military family, we have an understanding that so many people do not. 0.4 percent of Americans are currently serving on active duty. The scope of understanding what military life is like is getting smaller and smaller for Americans as fewer people are serving. For the majority of my life I have lived or have been part of a military community. It is hard to fathom that so many American’s do not understand or cannot comprehend the magnitude of sacrifice our military men and woman face each day. “Since 2001, 2.77 million service members have served on 5.4 million deployments across the world with soldiers from the Army accounting for the bulk of them. Deployed personnel were under 30 years old on average, over half were married and about half had children” (McCarthy, 2018).
Understand this-In the past 17 years, there have been 5.4 MILLION deployments. This means that statically, every service member since 2001 have deployed twice. Now, we all know that there are some that never deployed and there are those that have deployed nine times. Let us not forget about Retired Navy Seal, Dan Crenshaw, who got blown up in Afghanistan in 2012, lost an eye, and signed up to be deployed two more times. Let that sink in during your hair pulling and Samsung TV trampling shopping event after telling cousin June how much you hate grandma’s lumpy gravy.
But I digress. You see, Christmas will never be the same for our family. As if it weren’t bad enough that military families have to miss anniversaries, birthdays, and births, some of us will forever have the empty chair at the table. Christmas of 2011 was our families first experience with the proverbial empty chair. Not only was there going to be an empty chair, but also an empty Christmas Tree on Christmas morning.
Cue the sad, melodic, music which begins to increase as the doorbell rings on Christmas morning. Just when you think life couldn’t get any sadder…it’s as if I could hear the sound of angels singing and thunder erupt from the heavens shouting “SEND IN THE MARINES!” And that was the day the Marines were sent in to save the day for our family. That Christmas, the one with all the small children, and not a present in sight, was the Christmas that restored my hope in well…everything good. You see, two young, sharply dressed Marines showed up with Christmas present after Christmas present for our families just five days after my brother’s memorial service. I don’t recall any child that morning wishing for something else or complaining they didn’t receive a new puppy or a $500 iPad. What I heard was grateful children, happy to have experienced a little joy that morning, long enough to get a short break from the tears.
For years, our families have been donors to Marine Toys for Tots. Did you ever wonder who was the recipient of those toys? I did. I wondered about the “less fortunate” children that would have Christmas from the Marines because people were generous enough to donate in stores and businesses across the United States. Christmas morning of 2011, I realized where those toys go. I never, in my wildest dreams, imagined our family would be the recipient of such an amazing organization. But that day, well, it brought us hope.
The following year, I made this observation: Christmas morning came, children awoke out of their beds, and not a single one asked about opening presents. There were presents under the tree, but it wasn’t the focus of the day. These children knew and understood, at such a young age, the level of sacrifice no family should have to endure. There were giggles and smiles, hugs and pancakes…and then we got to the presents.
It’s 2018, and there is still a war. There are many wars still happening that we never hear about in mainstream media. There are men and women still sacrificing their lives for our opportunity to shop until we drop. They do it willingly. They don’t begrudge our opportunities to bless our kids. They do it with willing hearts because they love America. I know they would much rather be with their families during the holidays, as they do not get to choose when they will go or when they will return home.
There are military families all over this country who will be separated from their hero, either by ocean or by death, that are not focused on the “buy now” or the “add to cart” button. They just desire their family together. Don’t get me wrong. Shopping is not evil. Black Friday or Thursday or any other day to spend time shopping for your family is not evil. Get all your girlfriends together and have a great time doing it, while the men are at home watching football (or sleeping). I love shopping and I love shopping especially for my children and family. We now try to do extra special things at Christmas to make new memories, which usually entails a special trip, and less presents.
I always believe the best way to combat the materialism at Christmas is to give-and give generously. While you’re out shopping or enjoying your feasts with your families, let me suggest that you take the time to remember those that are deployed. Pick up an extra gift and donate it to Toys for Tots. There are donation boxes everywhere. You can also go online and donate money. Say a prayer for our deployed and their families. You never know when they’ll receive the dreaded knock on the door. You know that military family down the street in their twenties with two young children? Perhaps give them a card with some cash in it to help pay for their travels home to see grandma and grandpa. The ones they haven’t seen since before the last two deployments.
In addition to Toys for Tots, an organization that provides a beautifully wrapped gift for Gold Star children is Believe With Me. It’s a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization who helps support Gold Star families throughout the year. At Christmastime, this group of selfless volunteers prepares months in advance to purchase, wrap, and ship gifts to hundreds of Gold Star children. They call it an American Gold Star Christmas and it’s spectacular! It is a wonderful gift to be remembered at such a difficult time of year and I know these families are grateful that their heroes sacrifice have not been forgotten, nor have their children. Believe With Me allows donors to purchase the gifts themselves or provide cash or gift cards and the organization will shop for the sponsored children.
Believe With Me currently has 300 Gold Star children signed up for gifts. They are expecting over 1000 children this year. The non-profit continues to grow each year in its provision for fatherless or motherless children. Sadly, this means that there are thousands of children who are missing a parent, not only at Christmas, but forever. Believe With Me depends solely on the donations of others and they depend on the volunteers who help package and ship these beautiful gifts. I spoke with the Founder of Believe With Me, Lyette Reback, about the upcoming American Gold Star Christmas. She explains,
An American Gold Star Christmas is your opportunity to give back to the families of our fallen soldiers. Your donation will allow high school and university students the opportunity to shop for Gold Star kids’ wish lists and the students will be impacted by the up close and personal cost of their freedoms. This year, Believe With Me will have more than 1000 children to serve and the cost of the project will total more than $150,000. FedEx has graciously stepped in to underwrite the shipping costs, but our needs for gifts are still at an all-time high.”
Being a Gold Star family member myself and understanding firsthand the cost of freedom, our family is incredibly grateful for families like the Rebacks’ and organizations who honor our fallen and the families left behind, year after year. You can never replace what is lost, but love sure does go a long way. Christmas is the time of year when people all over the world express their love in the form of gifts and giving. I hope you will show your gratitude this Christmas and support Toys for Tots and Believe With Me.
If you are a Gold Star family, you can go to www.BelieveWithMe.com/sponsor to register your child. Organizations like these need your help to make a difference in the lives of these children who have already sacrificed so much.
Renee Nickell is the Author of “Always My Hero: The Road to Hope & Healing Following My Brother’s Death in Afghanistan” For more about Renee, go to www.reneenickell.com.
“At Least Ten” Reasons to Hire Veterans
Contributed by Alan Rohlfing
Top ten lists…it seems like they’re everywhere, and about everything. For many of us, it’s a method of focusing and organizing so we can prioritize our time and energy on what we’ve deemed the ‘most important’. For others, it’s just a catchy way to encourage a reader or a viewer to linger a few more minutes.
Whether you cut your teeth on the humor of David Letterman’s regular ‘Top Ten List’ segment or you find such lists a really valuable use of your time, it should come as no surprise that examples abound on the top ten reasons employers should hire Veterans.
A quick Google search will pull up results from the U.S. Department of Labor (“Top 10 Reasons to Hire a Veteran”), BusinessInsider.com (“10 Reasons Companies Should Hire Military Veterans”), Military.com (“10 Reasons to Hire Vets”), MakePositive.com (“5 Good Reasons to Hire a Veteran”), and Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (“Top Ten Reasons to Hire Members of the Guard and Reserve”). Some of those lists were compiled with the help of military veterans, some were put together by employers, and some were assembled by federal, state, and local agency personnel who have a stake in the employment assistance space. And the shocker is, all of them are correct, to some degree…it’s just a matter of perspective.
I put my first of such lists together in 2010, when I started working with the Show-Me Heroes Program, a partnership between the Missouri Division of Workforce Development and the Missouri National Guard that sought to help our state’s Veterans find meaningful employment. My original list expanded and contracted as I spoke with more and more employers and reflected on my own years of experience in the U.S. Army.
I often shared my list with job seekers from the military community that I came across, for this list of reasons to hire Veterans is as much for Veterans themselves as it is for business owners and hiring managers. Once employers ‘get it’, there’s not usually a need to go on and on with them. For those looking for a job, however, it’s important that they know how those in the employment assistance arena are advocating for them. They need to know that we’ve ‘talked the talk’, so they can put things in place to ‘walk the walk’, so to speak.
Once job seekers read through my list or any other, they should take inventory of the things that might very well make them the best candidate for the job. They should incorporate those soft skill sets and experiences into their resume, their cover letter, and answers to potential interview questions. That’s how they can communicate what they bring to the table. That’s how they can communicate how they can make a positive and lasting impact to that civilian employer’s workforce.
From the front lines to the assembly lines, much of the training, the challenges, the adversity…those things do, indeed, translate. I’ve seen it, and I’ve heard from countless employers that hiring someone with military experience made a sudden and lasting impact on their workforce.
So, here’s my perspective. I was initially going to say, “this list is in no particular order,” but in fact there is an order to my list. It’s an order that I put together based on nearly a decade of meeting with employers to discuss the prospect of hiring Veterans for their workforce. My Top Ten list includes these elements…
When I first penned this list, I struggled with how short it was. I thought that there were many other attributes that were front and center in the people with whom I served…attributes and soft skills that could really make an impact. After taking some time to look through some old award narratives and evaluation reports, and touching base with some human resource managers that I knew, I felt that I could justify a few more.
But wait, there’s more. Some of us have more of these soft skills than others. Some of us have spent decades in uniform, others just a few years of an initial enlistment. Different Branches of Service have put emphasis on different areas in different times, and training that the Soldier received in the ‘70s is quite a bit different that what the Sailor received last year. So, I added a few more to the list…
I’m pretty sure I could keep going, but I’m going to stop right here. These are just a few reasons why employers value military experience in their workforce. If you’re a hiring manager, I’m sure you get my point. If you’re a job seeker from the military community, I encourage you to figure out which of the items in this ‘Top Twenty-Five’ list resonate most with you, at least in part because of the path you’ve followed. Be able to make the connection between items on this list and essential elements in the job description and do your best to communicate what you bring to the table…to the person that’s sitting across the table from you during your next job interview. Cheers!
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:
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
Petition Calls Out Moving Industry on PCS Issues
Contributed by Debbie Gregory
Every year thousands of military service members and their families pack up and move on military orders. All of their valuables and household goods are packed up by contracted strangers, loaded onto a truck and driven across country. In a perfect world, everything would arrive at its destination, in the same condition it was in when it left. But a Change.org petition to “Hold Military Moving Companies Accountable,” started by a frustrated military family member, has over 100,000 signatures, a good indication that this is far from reality.
The story behind the petition is easy enough to figure out. With $2.3 billion spent on moving services, the Department of Defense might just be the single largest moving services customer in the world.
Many military families on the move have experienced hardships because of unexpected delays in pickup or delivery of their household goods. In late July, U.S. Transportation Command officials said about 10 percent of military members who had moved at that point had experienced delivery delays. There have been complaints about the quality of work, too, which has resulted in loss and damage for some families.
“Military families are tired of how things with the current moving system are being handled,” wrote the military spouse who runs the Military Spouse Chronicles Facebook page, in initiating the petition
Moving is a stressful activity under the best of circumstances. Officials at U.S. Transportation Command have urged families to reach out to their household goods/transportation offices to learn about their options for assistance, including reimbursement for expenses caused by delays in delivery or pickup.
Among the suggested solutions from Military Spouse Chronicles is to have move coordinators and quality assurance inspectors properly trained in being a mediator between the military family and the moving company and its crews. Another solution, long proposed by a number of advocates in the military community, is to have less frequent moves.
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 by the Second Lady Aims to Support Military Spouses
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.