Social Media and Military Family Support

Thanks to modern technology and the rise of social media, it is now really easy for military families to stay connected, be informed, and find support.  The trick is finding the best sites for you, ones that you most connect to.  There are government ran family support sites to big Facebook support groups to something smaller, like my blog.  Each of these social media sites provide support and help military families stay connected.  Staying connected is very important as a military spouse or military family.

First Lady Obama and Dr. Jill Biden created a program and site, Joining Forces, which calls out to Americans to help support military and their families.  Joining Forces is committed to raising awareness about the service, sacrifice and needs of military families.  They prioritize three things: employment, education and wellness.  They have a Twitter and a Facebook, making Joining Forces easy to follow.  This is a great support system and social medium to follow because Joining Forces is dedicated to family military support and raising awareness.  This is a wonderful site for anyone, military or not, to follow and be a part of.

Another government regulated site that provides great military family support is Blog Brigade, sponsored by Military One Source and all blogs are written by U.S. military spouses.  These blogs come from all over the world, where ever they are currently stationed.  It is a great recourse for military families and spouses to stay connected with others and to see what is going on in the military family world.  Blog Brigade posters share their twists, turns, and tips through a series of entertaining posts that are bound to leave you energized and ready to meet the challenges of military lifestyle.”  I find this blog inspirational because of all the spouses that contribute to it.  I find myself relating to some posts or thinking that I might be in their situation in a few years. 

There are so many social media sites geared specifically for military spouses.  I found an article that listed many different family support Facebook groups, “15 Military Spouse Facebook Groups You Have to Join.” Some of these are really specific to the area a family is stationed.  However, some of them were really good and inspired me to make my own list if social media support blogs.  These are all blogs are visit frequently.

  • The Deployment Diatribes
    • This blog is run by an Army wife, Erin, and mother of four boys. They recently relocated to Asia.
  • While You Were Away
    • This blog posts daily tips along with products, resources and services for military family support.
  • Army Wife 101
    • This blog is run by an Army wife, Krystel, and mother of two. She does lots of military family support work.  Her blog focuses on the ins and outs of being a military wife.
  • Life Lessons of a Military Wife
    • This fun blog is written by a military wife. She posts about everything on being a military wife.  If you’re interested in what life is like are want someone to relate to, this is a great blog to follow.
  • Singing through the Rain
    • This is a blog written by an Air Force wife. She writes about military, family and marriage.  I personally follow this blog and love it.

Social media can give military families the support that is so desperately needed, especially if they are stationed away from family.  I use social media to find other military spouses and to find support for the daily military family life.  It is a great tool to utilize.

Military Spouse Education

Education can be very difficult for a military spouse.  Getting a degree can be practically impossible with all that happens in military life.  There is so much moving around, money can be tight, and Lord help you if you have kids.  Thankfully, the DoD (Department of Defense) understands this and has programs specifically for military spouse education.

There are two main programs the DoD provides for military spouses: Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts (MyCAA) and transferring the GI Bill.  In addition to these two programs, there are other programs offered through specific military branches, private loans and grants, and Spouse and Dependents Education Assistance Program.

MyCAA is unofficially called the Spouse Tuition Assistance.  This program can provide up to $4000 in financial aid.  There are some restrictions though: it’s only available to spouses of active duty members in the pay grade of E1-E5, W1-W2, and O1-O2, the military spouse is required to finish their program within three years, and it is limited to associate degrees.  This can be a huge help when money is tight and a degree seems impossible.

Another major help is the GI Bill.  This is allowed to be transferred over to a military spouse.  If used right, this could cover most, if not all, of the education for a military spouse.

This is a lot of information to get and understand.  It’s helpful to know how this all works and pays for a military spouse’s education.  “How Military Spouses Pay for College” is very helpful.  This article breaks down the military programs used to help pay for tuition.

  • First, look for military benefits.
  • Use MyCAA benefits if the qualifications are met.
  • Use the GI Bill benefits.
  • Look for additional scholarships to the college you are interested in.

Many colleges offer online classes where a degree can be completed.  A university created specifically for military and military spouses is American Military University, or AMU.  There are a few restrictions though.  The main one is: “This program is available to spouses of active duty service members in pay grades E1-E5, W1-W2, and O1-O2, including the spouses of activated Guard and Reserve members within those ranks. Spouses of Guard and Reserve members must be able to start and complete their courses while their sponsor is on Title 10 orders.”

Getting a degree is not impossible while being a military spouse.  It is important to remember that there are military assistance programs available to help further military spouse’s education.  It just takes a little looking.

For the Military Child

Month of the Military Child

A military child waiting.

Military families are more than just the spouse or mother of those who served.  “Many kinds of military families make up the military community, and they are located at installations and communities all around the world. Today’s military family includes all of the loved ones of those who serve, have served or died while on active duty – spouses, children, parents, partners and others. They are part of military installations and civilian communities.”  It is important to recognize military children and respect what they go through as part of a military family.

April is the Month of the Military Child.  Raising your child in a military environment can be challenging with all the changes, moving, and distance between the child and the military parent(s).  It is important, as a military family, to know there are many programs for your child provided through the military and DoD.

If your family is moving to a new instillation, there are several programs and services for your child.  There’s a Youth Sponsorship Program which helps your child connect to another child in the location they are moving too.  Through this program, your child can make a new friend, ask all the quests they have about the new move, and learn about their new school and instillation all before they even move.

Another great service is this military instillation page, ran by the DoD.  This allows you to search any military instillation and then it loads a list of services and links they provide for families and children.  The links provided are very helpful, especially if you are moving or new to an instillation.

One more helpful service is the child advocacy page.  This page has so many great links on advocating for your military child.  The list and links range from helping your child find a mentor to building self-esteem to preventing/noticing child abuse.  When raising a family away from friends and loved ones, often the parent can feel really alone on parenting and advice.  This page can really help in that area.

Parenting in the military can be quite difficult and challenging.  But children are a blessing and it’s our job to do the best parenting we can.  There are so many military parents out there with the same struggles and challenges.  I found this Air Force Times article about hints on parenting that I really liked. It’s great to hear advice from other parents with “achieving kids” and maybe even use some of it.

I want to give a big, heartfelt shout out to all the military children.  It’s not always easy and it’s not always fun.  But they are a part of the military family, a part of the military support backbone.  They deserve our thanks and praise.

When You Say Something Wrong

General Dempsey

On Thursday April 16th, Army General Dempsey accidentally offended many military families and personnel.  In a press conference he gave about the problem in the Middle East and focusing airstrikes to protect the Benji refinery, General Dempsey called the city of Ramadi “not symbolic in any way” because basically it’s not about Ramadi but about defeating ISIL.  He went on to say “it’s [Ramadi] not been declared of the caliphate on one hand or central to the future of Iraq.”

This offended many people, especially one mom, Debbie Lee…the mother of a fallen U.S. Navy Seal.  Her son, Marc Lee, was a Navy Seal who gave his life for our country in August 2006.  He died in Ramadi.  He, and many other U.S. military members, gave their lives, limbs, and who they were to the city of Ramadi.  For these reasons and more, Debbie Lee was deeply offended.  She wrote an open letter to General Dempsey and demanded an apology.

General Dempsey replied immediately.  He was very remorseful for what he said and how it came across.  He wrote an apology and this is an excerpt from it.

“I’ve read your letter, and I do apologize if I’ve added to your grief.  Marc and so many others died fighting to provide a better future for Iraq.  He and those with whom he served did all that their nation asked.  They won their fight, and nothing will ever diminish their accomplishments not the honor in which we hold their service.  We are in a different fight now, with a different enemy, and with a different relationship with the Government of Iraq.  They must determine the path and pace of this fight.  That’s what I intended to convey.”

I think we all can learn a lesson from this.  We can say things, by complete accident, that come across really disrespectful to military and military families.  It is important to apologize for any disrespect we caused.  General Dempsey did a very good job of apologizing and trying to fix the hurt he caused.

Sometimes, supporting military families means being empathetic to the pain, fear, and difficulties they go through.

An Interview with a Lieutenant Pilot

kc135

It’s easier to support our military and our military families when we better understand what they are going through.  I interviewed an Airman to get better perspective.

  1. What is your job and what does it entail?

“I’m an Air Force pilot- KC 135.  My job is to provide in-flight aerial refueling to receiver aircraft.”

  1. How long are your work days?

“It depends on how long the flight is.  Days are typically long, anywhere between 7 to 24 hours.  That’s not all time spent in the air though; it includes our mission planning, pre-flight, and post-flight duties.”

  1. What’s the hardest part of your job?

“Being away from home so much really starts to wear on you. I miss my family and friends back home when I’m gone for so long. Don’t get me wrong, one of the reasons I wanted to fly in the first place was to travel and see the world, but the ops tempo right now is keeping many of us away from home up to six months out of the year.”

  1. What’s the best part of your job?

“The flying!…easy.” (Said with enthusiasm)

  1. What’s the scariest part of your job?

“I don’t mean to sound like a tough guy but I don’t really get scared.  The most nerve racking parts of the job are the 30 seconds during takeoff, 30 seconds during landing, aerial refueling, and dealing with in-flight emergencies.  In flying these are called “critical phases of flight.”  These are the most crucial moments during the flight where swift, good decision making is absolutely essential to safety.”

  1. Do you feel like you are treated well in the military?

“Oh god…this is a hard interview.  Sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t.  The civilians treat me fine though.”

  1. How do people react and treat you when they find out you’re military?

“With some people, it’s with pride and gratitude toward me as a military member and they say ‘thank you.’  If they have relatives in the military or if they served, they like to share that information.  But there will be other people that just say “oh,” and give a puzzled look because they can’t relate.  Vary rarely have I ever heard anyone say anything disparaging or insulting to my face about my serving.”

  1. How can your family best support you?

“Just by keeping the lines of communication open, communicating often, and making sure everything back home is taken care of.  Also, keeping me updated on happenings back home.  When I’m deployed I can feel so isolated from the outside world, so it’s nice to hear what’s changed since I left.  Anything from sports updates to family member news to what new restaurant just opened down the street, I like hearing about that kind of stuff.”

  1. How can your wife support you?

“Again, communication is the key.  I want my wife to fill me in and ask for my inputs and help with managing things back home while I’m on the road.  I want her to continue to love me and constantly remind me.  We have to continue to make time for each other and talk.”

  1. How can your country support you?

“I want people to stay informed.  Not just by watching the news, but by actually paying attention to U.S. veterans and what we are doing overseas.  I don’t think the average American understands what life is like for us military members.  It’s one thing to sing “God Bless America” during the seventh inning stretch or have an American flag magnet on the back of your car, but to actually talk to a veteran and genuinely care about them is something completely different.”

Joint Forge

How to Help a Military Spouse

I want to recognize all the military spouses, specifically wives, out there.  We love our military spouse and we support them like crazy.  But, sometimes (really all the time), we need support too.  It’s hard to be away from our spouse while we struggle at home with the stress of keeping everything up by ourselves.  I know that I don’t have kids yet and I’m a military fiancé and not yet a military spouse, but many times I can empathize and understand the frustrations of being a military spouse.

I stumbled upon a blog, Singing Through the Rain, about a week ago.  It’s an encouragement blog for motherhood, marriage, and military life written by an Air Force military wife.  I found this particular blog about what every military wife wants you to know very inspiring and very true.  After reading this, I wanted to make my own list similar to this.  Some of these I got from this blog and some of these I thought of myself.

What can you do, as a civilian, to support a military wife/significant other?

  • Really ask how she’s doing, not just a “hey how are ya?” in passing but really ask. If she’s like me, she doesn’t just want to pour out her heart and stress to people but really asking, listening, and taking interest helps.
  • Make sure you tell her that you are there for her and then make time to hang out with her.
  • Mow her lawn.
  • Put out her garbage cans.
  • Invite her to be with you on special holidays. Many times she is along and it’s just her or her and her kids and no family is around.
  • Bring her a meal. Raising a family alone when her husband is gone and maintaining the house is a lot and sometimes cooking a meal at the end of the day is just too much.
  • If she has kids, schedule play dates.
  • Have girl’s nights, drink some wine, and have fun.
  • Treat them how you would want to be treated…and then even nicer.military wives

Deployment

Annie
Annie

“He doesn’t have to be here for me to be strong.”

To me, deployments are one of the hardest parts of my fiancé being in the military.  I’m in a constant state of worry, that I try to hide, and things can get really tough while he is gone.  He’s actually deployed right now and I just started a new job, an internship, my last quarter at college, and am planning our wedding.  Deployment is hard on his end and mine.   I imagine that deployment with a significant other and kids at home is even more difficult.  Thankfully, there are many websites full of tips on how to deal with deployments.

One of my favorite sites on family support tips is Military One Source.  This is a government site so I know the information I get is, or should be, very accurate.  “Maintaining a Strong Relationship Through Deployments and Separation” is full of good advice for couples and families.  It is important to plan ahead before the deployment starts.  Talk about how often you expect to talk, ways to stay connected, and finances.  I have to give a big thank you to modern technology and social media!  This is how I stay connected to my fiancé when he is in the Middle East.  I use KIK to text him, SnapChat, Skype, and Facebook calling.  The two biggest things about being apart are trust and communication.  You HAVE to trust each other.  Love them unconditionally and remind them you are there for them.  Let them vent to you.  It can be hell over there and they need to talk to someone.

24 Tips for Staying in Touch During Deployment” gives good advice for families!  There’s a section for helping children communicate.  My two favorite ideas were to encourage your children to send artwork and letters to their deployed soldier and to give children their own stack of pre-addressed envelops and paper.  This way, they can write whenever they feel like it.  One thing my brother, the paratrooper, did for his kids was he did a voice recording book.  The kids loved it!  Something I like to do with my nephew and my fiancé is video messages.  My nephew adores my fiancé and they love to stay in touch.  With my brothers kids, I constantly tell them stories of their dad.  This makes the kids feel closer to him when he’s gone and they love it.

One really important tip:

stay active!  Keep busy.  Have activities you like to do.  Hang out with friends.  Work.  This will really help while they are away.

Honestly, the biggest thing I have learned is he doesn’t have to be here for me to be strong.  My uncle passed away during my fiancés current deployment.  I don’t live in the same state as any of my family, just like most military wives or significant others.  Life gives us struggles, whether our military member is here or not.  It’s our job to deal with them with courage and grace.  There is a network of people out there going through what you are.  You are not alone!