Posts Tagged military families
Posted by in Family Matters on November 18, 2011
Guest blogger Karen Nowowieski is the founder of “MizWorkit!” — a home business that provides free style makeovers to service members transitioning out of the military. This former soldier and current Defense Department civilian has offered to share her fashion know-how with Family Matters readers through a series of guest blogs. In the coming months, she’ll cover everything from appropriate interview and work attire to what to wear on a date or girls’ night out.
By Karen Nowowieski
Nov. 18, 2011
When I married my husband, he was just retiring from the Air Force. He spent 22 years living and traveling through Europe — and throwing away nothing! When I walked into his apartment for the first time, I had to ask how he got everything in there — a jar of Vaseline and a shoehorn?
I’d been out of the service for a while and had downsized all my stuff into a small storage pod, so now it was my turn to help another. I’m a giver that way. Where did I start? His T-shirts.
Does this sound like someone you know? Is it you? The journey to a T-shirt hoarder’s recovery starts by admitting you have a problem and must be taken one T-shirt at a time. I’m not sure why we military members are so attached to so many T-shirts. My only explanation is that perhaps they act as pictures to remind us of fun times. OK, I put pictures on the wall, not my body (but, then again, I’m the least sentimental person I know).
Posted by in Family Matters on November 3, 2011
As evidenced by the host of Christmas decorations springing up in stores across the nation, the holiday season is nearly at hand. While a time of celebration and festivity, it’s also an opportunity to honor service members and their families serving far from home.
The American Red Cross is offering a simple way to show your appreciation for these troops and their families during the holiday season.
For the fifth year, the Red Cross has partnered with Pitney Bowes, a mail-stream technology company, to collect and distribute holiday cards to service members, veterans and their families around the world. This program offers a great way to show your appreciation for their sacrifices and to deliver some holiday cheer.
To participate in the Holiday Mail for Heroes program, simply mail your cards to:
Holiday Mail For Heroes
P.O. Box 5456
Capitol Heights, MD 20791-5456
Posted by in Family Matters on November 1, 2011
By Elaine Sanchez
Nov. 1, 2011
Today marks the first day of Military Family Appreciation Month. In honor of the occasion, I created a Top 10 list of the qualities I most appreciate about military families.
Ten qualities hardly seem enough to encompass the amazing service and sacrifice of our nation’s military families, but I figured it’s a start.
What I most appreciate about military families:
10. Their sense of humor. I think this is a prerequisite for military families — kind of an “If you don’t laugh, you cry,” complex, particularly when it comes to deployments. For instance, my friend Vivian wrote a blog post for Family Matters last year about a piece of pizza. Her Navy husband had just deployed, and the pizza was the only remnant of the family’s last meal together before he left. “So there it sits, mocking me while growing another skin in our fridge,” she wrote of that pizza, “a smelly, and somewhat odd, reminder that the man of the house, an integral piece of our family, is gone again.” Funny … and sad.
Posted by in Family Matters on September 30, 2011
By Elaine Sanchez
Sept. 30, 2011
I’ve heard Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and his wife, Deborah, speak at a variety of events, and can’t remember a time when the topic didn’t turn at some point to military families.
Even today, with the admiral’s retirement at hand, military families’ service and sacrifice remain front and center for this 40-plus year military couple.
In his farewell message to the armed forces today, Mullen said serving troops and their families has been the greatest privilege of his life.
“Everywhere Deborah and I went to see you and your families we walked away humbled by the magnitude of the responsibility you have volunteered to carry and strengthened by the willingness and dignity with which you carry it,” he wrote.
“Not a day goes by that I don’t think about the burdens placed on you and your families,” he added. “Your sacrifices will be forever fixed in my heart, and I am eternally grateful for your service.”
During their four-year tenure, the Mullens have worked to bring light to the sacrifices made each day by troops and their families, and to improve the support offered to them.
This past summer, I attended the launch of the Military Spouse Employment Partnership, a DOD program aimed at expanding job opportunities for military spouses. The Mullens were there to help kick off the program along with Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, another staunch military family advocate.
In her remarks, Mrs. Mullen acknowledged the difficulties military spouses face in finding jobs, not due to their qualifications or training, but due to their frequent moves.
Most of those job seekers are women, she noted at the time, “educated, resilient, serious women who possess strong values and even stronger work ethic.”
Spouse employment is just one of the many family issues the Mullens have addressed. To name just a few, they’ve spotlighted the importance of seeking mental health care, worked to improve care for wounded warriors, and reached out to the families of those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Through his “Conversation With the Country” initiative, the chairman has encouraged local communities to understand the value of veterans and their families.
With his own farewell message sent, Mullen read his wife’s farewell to families during his retirement ceremony today.
“Nothing can be more trying at times than life in the military — the deployments, the stress, the uncertainty and the fear,” the admiral read. “But then, nothing born from ease and comfort can ever foster the pride and the resilience that military families exude every day.
“It has been my honor — my deep honor — to be a military spouse and a Navy wife, and to know so many others who wait and worry and work so hard.
“Thank you for your quiet sacrifice and for empowering me to represent your concerns. It has been the greatest privilege. I will miss the life and I will miss all of you.”
The Mullens may be headed off to what the admiral previously has called “a long winter’s nap,” but they leave behind a legacy of military family support that will last for decades to come.
Posted by in Family Matters on September 25, 2011
By Elaine Sanchez
Sept. 25, 2011
Gold Star mothers and families exemplify the selflessness and patriotism that’s inherent in our nation’s military, President Barack Obama said.
The president proclaimed today Gold Star Mother’s and Family’s Day in honor of those who have lost a son or daughter serving in the military. This day is marked each year on the last Sunday of September.
“Gold Star mothers and families know the immeasurable cost of fighting for the ideals we believe in, and they know the pride that comes with exemplary service to America,” the president wrote in his proclamation. “On this day, and every day, we offer them our deep gratitude and respect, and we are inspired by their strength and determination.”
Gold Star families support each other, serve others and offer comfort to troops and their families – all in the face of heartbreaking loss, Obama said.
The nation honors their sacrifice, the president continued, and stands by its service members, their families, and Gold Star families as they have stood by us.
“Today, we reaffirm our promise to care for those left behind, to uphold the ideals for which the fallen gave their lives, and to carry with us their legacy as we work toward a better future,” he said.
Obama called on government officials to display the U.S. flag over government buildings today, and encouraged Americans to display it and hold appropriate ceremonies “as a public expression of our nation’s sympathy and respect for our Gold Star mothers and families.”
Posted by in Family Matters on September 22, 2011
By Elaine Sanchez
Sept. 21, 2011
Officials hope to hear from troops and their families on a variety of issues — from the quality of education within Defense Department schools to USO support programs and services.
First, DOD officials are inviting military and community members to share their thoughts on the quality and continuity of education in the department’s schools and their suggestions for improvements.
This feedback will be used in the development of a new Department of Defense Education Activity Community Strategic Plan, a document that will help to shape the activity’s way ahead — including mission, vision, guiding principles, goals and initiatives — through 2016. The current plan expires at the end of this year.
Officials would like to hear from parents, students, principals, staff members, teachers, military leaders, students and any community member who interacts with the school system, such as child care or health care providers. Topics of interest include consistency of communication from schools, strategies to improve support for students and families through transitions, and feedback on curriculum, instruction and assessment in DOD schools.
People can provide feedback online at http://cspfeedback.dodea.edu/.
Meanwhile, USO officials are seeking feedback from service members and their families to help them determine which areas of USO support are most valuable to them.
They’re asking troops and their families to take part in the annual Tell USO survey, which is available online at http://www.TellUSO.org through Oct. 5, a USO news release said. The survey takes about 10 minutes to complete, and participants who complete the survey will be entered in a drawing to receive a $500 Visa gift card.
Survey results will offer valuable data on how the USO can continue to meet the needs of military families, the release said. Information from previous surveys has helped the USO improve connectivity in Southwest Asia, develop a Deployment Care Package and establish a Mobile United Through Reading kit for troops in areas away from a USO center.
Posted by in Family Matters on September 15, 2011
By Elaine Sanchez
Sept. 15, 2011
Several months ago, the producers of ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” asked me to spread the news about their search for people involved in the military to feature on the show’s upcoming season.
They got a huge response and selected an exceptional Navy veteran for a home makeover. A few months ago, I traveled to Fayetteville, N.C., to watch hundreds of volunteers build Barbara Marshall a new 5,000-square-foot home. The three-story home, dubbed the Jubilee House, serves as a shelter and resource center for homeless female veterans.
This episode — which also features a special visit by First Lady Michelle Obama -– will kick off the show’s ninth season Sept. 25.
With that episode ready to air, the show’s producers once again are seeking people involved with the military to feature in upcoming episodes.
The producers are looking for people with “amazing strength of character and who put their own needs aside to help others,” they said in a news release. “Whether it’s a soldier, a mom, a teacher or a fireman, we think deserving families are families who inspire those around them.”
Additionally, the show’s producers are seeking families whose houses need major alterations or repair – “homes that present serious problems for the family and affect the family’s quality of life.”
To be eligible, families must own their single-family home and be able to demonstrate how a makeover will make a difference in their lives.
Rather than apply through the normal channels, interested military families or people who wish to nominate a military family can email a short description of the family’s story directly to Jackie Topacio, casting producer, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Jackie told me she wants to make sure she personally reads every story submitted.
Please don’t wait to apply; the deadline for nominations is Sept. 29.
The email should include the names and ages of household members, a description of the family’s challenges, an explanation of why the family is deserving of a makeover or is a positive role model in the community, photos of the family and their home, and contact numbers.
For more information on the application process, visit http://abc.go.com/primetime/xtremehome/index?pn=apply.
Please pass this information on to deserving military families. I hope to see a few on “Extreme Makeover” this season.
Disclaimer: The appearance of hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the Department of Defense of this website or the information, products or services contained therein. For other than authorized activities such as military exchanges and Morale, Welfare and Recreation sites, the Department of Defense does not exercise any editorial control over the information you may find at these locations. Such links are provided consistent with the stated purpose of this DOD website.
Posted by in Family Matters on August 16, 2011
By Elaine Sanchez
Aug. 15, 2011
Civilian spouses of Reserve and National Guard members often must rely on the flexibility and support of their employers, particularly during deployments.
While most employers will grant a time-off request and, in some cases, a shift change for their spouse employees, others go above and beyond in their support. They may arrange for the family’s lawn care during a deployment, send care packages overseas, or create telework agreements so parents can be at home more with their kids.
In the past, a thank-you note or email would have to suffice. But now, a Defense Department program is offering spouses a more visible way to express their gratitude.
The Spouse Patriot Award, established by the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve agency, honors extraordinarily supportive employers of reserve spouses. Initially open only to employers of National Guard and Reserve members, the Patriot Award program expanded earlier this year to include their spouses.
“We had so many spouses asking us to expand the program, so we did last year,” said Beth Sherman, ESGR spokeswoman. “Little attention was being paid to the employers of their spouses, who also were doing their part.”
For more on this program and employers’ contributions, read my American Forces Press Service article, “Patriot Award Honors Outstanding Spouse Employers.” Do you have an exceptionally supportive employer? If so, I’d love to hear about it.
Posted by in Family Matters on July 6, 2011
Vivian, a Navy veteran and spouse, regularly guest blogs for Family Matters and shares her experiences as a wife of a sailor and a mother of two. Her husband, a Navy lieutenant, recently returned from a deployment, and she has two boys who, she says, “enjoy peanut butter, trucks and air shows.”
July 6, 2011
Family Matters Blog
Last week I attended the Military Spouse Employment Partnership launch at the Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C. The MSEP is an amazing program, spearheaded by the Defense Department’s office of military community and family policy, that’s designed to connect military spouses to careers by creating a gateway for military spouses and corporate and nonprofit organizations to interact.
Military spouses can search for job opportunities on the MSEP website, which hosts a database drawn from the partnering employers. One sure sign of the strength of the initiative is that there are already over 70 employers who have joined the partnership, including heavy hitters such as Microsoft, Johns Hopkins Medical, Amazon.com, Bank of America and Booz Allen Hamilton.
To become a partner, these companies have to be vetted, which includes signing a statement of support that includes tangible metrics such as committing to post job openings on the MSEP web portal; offering transferable, portable career opportunities to relocating military spouses; and, perhaps most effectively, documenting and providing employment data on military spouses actually hired.
The care and thought that went into creating this partnership is evident when you look at military spouse employment statistics. According to the Defense Manpower Data Center, 85 percent of military spouses want or need to work, but military spouses have an unemployment rate of 26 percent – the national average is around 9 percent. And, the military spouses who are employed earn 25 percent less than their civilian counterparts.
These numbers aren’t surprising to military spouses, who often find themselves unemployed, underemployed, or crunching the numbers to decide whether it is worth attempting to find a job in a new location, taking into account deployments, a permanent change of station, and affordable, quality child care options. The numbers also support findings from last year’s Blue Star Families survey, where 49 percent of spouses felt that being a military spouse had a negative impact on their ability to pursue a career. Additionally, of spouses who felt their careers had been negatively impacted by their military affiliation, 13 percent felt they had experienced some type of discrimination because of their status as a military spouse.
It is because of these disheartening statistics that one of the best aspects, perhaps THE best aspect of the MSEP, is the shifting paradigm of the worth and conception of military spouses in the professional field. Too often, as the statistics highlight, being a military spouse is seen as a disadvantage, as something to hide, or considered a liability during the hiring process.
Deborah Mullen, wife of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, speaking at the launch, said more than one spouse had told her, “All I wanted was to get in the door to be able to be judged on my merits, my qualifications, and strengths.”
Mrs. Mullen continued, highlighting an oft-heard sentiment in the military spouse community, “This isn’t about entitlement, it is about opportunity.”
Because military spouses DO have the qualifications, the drive, and the capability to be huge assets and resources to their employers, if only given a chance. Essential work force attributes like being responsible, mature, flexible, adaptive and resilient, team members, leaders, and the ability to work well under pressure are, coincidentally, essential life skills that military spouses develop through the military family experiences of moving, volunteering, deployments and reintegration, all while balancing family, work and community commitments. As Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, said in her remarks at the launch, “The fact is, if you’re looking for hard-working, highly skilled, educated and dedicated employees, our military spouses are precisely the employees you need.”
As a military spouse, to see the paradigm shifting to a place where military affiliation is seen as an asset, and employers, both private and nonprofit, are actively seeking out military spouses because they see the potential for successful employees, is extremely empowering. The military community has relied on the innovative and intrepid nature of military spouses since … well, since there has been a military. And, no one in the military sphere would argue that spouses and families are the foundation of a strong military community and a sustainable military force. However, it is nice to see a burgeoning recognition in the civilian sector of the worth and merits of a largely untapped national resource – our military spouses.
I see a real potential in the MSEP, and the larger discussion surrounding it. It is a tangible outcome of our leaders within the DOD taking stock of what military spouses have been saying about employment issues and taking the lead, as only they could, to bring the all the major players like corporate America, the Chamber of Commerce, and other federal agencies to the table, and then combining that with thoughtful analysis of military spouse employment issues, reflecting valuable military spouse input. To adapt a famous Humphrey Bogart quote, “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful partnership.”
Posted by in Family Matters on June 30, 2011
By Elaine Sanchez
June 30, 2011
Yesterday, I attended the launch of the Defense Department’s Military Spouse Employment Partnership at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C. Through this new program, officials hope to expand career opportunities for military spouses worldwide, and to recognize the numerous job skills and talents they bring to the table.
More than 70 employers already have signed on with the partnership, signifying their commitment to increase employment opportunities for military spouses, provide promotion opportunities to deserving spouse employees, ensure pay equity and spread the word about spousal support.
Partners also have pledged to post job opportunities on the Military Spouse Employment Partnership Web portal located on OurMilitary.mil.
After the ceremony, I spoke with several military spouses, who unanimously voiced their approval of this new program.
“We have very valuable skills to bring to the private sector, the public sector, the nonprofit sector,” said Navy spouse Vivian Greentree. “This employment partnership is just opening a door where there wasn’t one before, and the military spouses are going to rush through it.
“This is a very powerful message for military spouses who by and large feel mostly discriminated against because of their military spouse status,” she added.
Pamela Stokes-Eggleston, spouse of wounded warrior retired Army Staff Sgt. Charles Eggleston, recalled when her husband was recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. She was laid off at the time, and had a tough time finding a job with a wounded warrior husband, she said, and also was considered overqualified for most available jobs.
“There wasn’t this kind of support you see here today,” she said. “I’m excited as a spouse of a wounded warrior that MSEP is actually going. This is a good step in the right direction.”
Air Force spouse Sandy Cazares said she has changed careers several times during her husband’s 10-year military career. “It’s great to give military spouses the opportunity to actually be heard,” she said, “to be given the chance to be able to be recognized for our accomplishments, our education level, and also take into account the fact that it’s often out of our hands when we have to move.”
Her husband, she added, is preparing to deploy and she will have to pursue yet another career to provide a better work-life balance for their children.
“I think this is a great opportunity for all military spouses — a greatly underappreciated population in the military,” Cazares’ husband said. “Seeing that now, regardless of what base we move to around the world, she has opportunities is a great advancement for military spouses in general.”
Kristi Hamrick, an Air Force spouse who has moved 11 times in 17 years, agreed. “It will make our lives as military spouses so much easier, because right before you move, there’s that ramp up of getting that resume ready and all that on top of moving. If you can get a job where you have another job waiting on the other end … that would reduce so much stress.”
“I’m overwhelmed,” added Jennifer Pilcher, wife of Navy Cmdr. Eddie Pilcher. “I truly think it’s the first time in history that the military spouse has been recognized. To sit here and hear the program is for us is overwhelming and exciting.”
Barbara Thompson, director of the Pentagon’s office of family policy/children and youth, also lauded the new program. “We’ve had spouse employment programs over the years at family support centers, but this is the first organized program across the military services,” she said. “It’s leveraging all of the military services to get these corporations.
“This is just the opening for all America to step up to the plate to tap into this incredible work force.”
For more on this program, read my American Forces Press Service article, DOD Launches Military Spouse Employment Partnership, or visit ourmilitary.mil.