October 17, 2017

{Guest Post} Navigating Post-Military Benefits Like USAA

Thank you to Jennifer Grant for writing two very interesting guests posts for A Military Story. Jennifer has a background in American History and she is a military spouse. She is found often blogging about the great US of A and our service members here: http://blog.americanflags.com/

Navigating Post-Military Benefits Like USAA
Those who have served in the military know that service is not easy, even without tours in combat. Service members are limited in their ability to control their own lives, and their families must follow along with orders as much as the service member.
After finishing your time in the military, your service will follow you throughout life. You will find you have an array of benefits and programs available to you, over and above the programs available through the Veteran’s Administration, VFW posts and GI Bill.

The GI Bill
Some changes were recently made to the GI Bill which may require some navigation, although the changes do not affect the core benefits of the bill.
First, for servicemembers discharged on or after January 1, 2013, the 15-year time limit on using the GI Bill’s benefits is eliminated. Also, reservists mobilized after August 1, 2009 for disasters, emergencies or assisting combatant commands are now eligible. All Purple Heart recipients are now eligible automatically. Veterans who attend schools which close after January 1, 2015 could recover GI Bill funding if no credit was received.
Veterans enrolled in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) program will provide funding over the amount of the GI Bill base benefit. The new bill reduces the housing allowance available for those who start receiving GI Bill benefits after January 1, 2018.
The United Services Automobile Association (USAA) is the largest provider of veteran’s benefits outside the Federal government. The USAA, founded in 1922, is available to all current and honorably discharged service members, their spouses and children.
The USAA currently has over 11 million members and started as an auto-insurance association. It offers a full line of financial services products.
While USAA has four in-person service centers (near the three service Academies and their San Antonio headquarters), it primarily provides financial services over the phone or online. The USAA’s website is full of information on the products they offer, as well as advice about a wide range of life-affecting concerns.
USAA provides a full range of insurance coverage, from automobile to homeowner’s and renter’s insurance to annuities. In addition, USAA is a full-service bank, offering everything your neighborhood bank branch can provide. It also provides investment and retirement planning, as well as investment management. Health insurance, mortgages and selected shopping discounts also are available.

Navy Federal Credit Union
The Navy Federal Credit Union (NFCU) offers services similar to those of the USAA. With 7 million members, the NFCU operates several branches around the country. The branches are concentrated around San Diego, Hampton Roads/Norfolk, Washington, D.C. and Jacksonville. Other branches are also open around the country.
NFCU owns a number of ATM machines around the country and has made arrangements with CO-OP network ATMs. Using VISA Plus ATMs may provide you a rebate of ATM fees, depending on the type of account you have with the NFCU.
Other business with the credit union is largely conducted online or by phone. If you are looking to obtain a mortgage, for example, you would go to their website and search for loan officers by state.
NFCU also provides solutions for small businesses, including payment and payroll services. They offer help setting up retirement plans for you and your employees as well.
First Command Financial Services
First Command was founded by an Air Force Colonel concerned about financial planning for service members and their families. Their clients include current and retired military personnel.
One service First Command offers is a complimentary financial plan for active-duty personnel at or over grade E-5. They also focus on coaching service members in insurance, savings and banking.
First Command’s operations are largely online, but they provide access to over 20,000 ATM for debit card use. First Command does not charge a fee for the first 10 monthly transactions and rebates the first $15 per month in ATM fees charged by ATM owners.
The Walt Disney properties have long honored the service by military personnel. Their Armed Services Salute program offers theme park tickets at over half off, and 30% - 40% discounts on rooms at Disney resorts.
The Disney discounts are available to current and retired military members or their spouses. Plus, 100% disabled service members are also eligible. However, children are ineligible.
A participating service member may purchase up to six tickets during an Armed Forces Salute period. Each ticket lasts for 4 or 5 days, and the service member (or spouse) must be one of the ticket holders during each visit.
Each Armed Forces Salute period covers most of a year; there are some blackout periods. The Salute tickets are usually not available around Christmas, and in some years, they are not available around Spring Break. In 2018, the blackout dates are March 25 through April 5, and December 20 through December 31.
Disney also is connected with “Shades of Green,” an Armed Forces Recreation Center located near the rest of the Disney properties in Orlando, FL. Shades of Green is the only AFRC in the continental U.S., and like all AFRCs, it is designed to support military personnel and their families.
Each day one of the Disney theme parks has extended hours, either in the morning or at night, allowing guests at Shades of Green to have extra time at the parks. Shuttles between Shades of Green and the park are available.
U.S. Chamber of Commerce
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce “Hiring Our Heroes” program focuses on veterans and spouses, and works with employers to connect with servicemembers. Veterans can use the program’s Resume Engine to craft a top-notch resume, as well as get expert career advice.
The program also has a corporate fellowship program and provides many other resources. Spouses may be able to take part in their hiring events and fellowship program as well. 

October 16, 2017

{Guest Post} Veterans Who Made Headlines

Thank you to Jennifer Grant for writing two very interesting guests posts for A Military Story. Jennifer has a background in American History and she is a military spouse. She is found often blogging about the great US of A and our service members here: http://blog.americanflags.com/

Throughout their service, veterans learn how to sacrifice, work hard and put others before themselves. It’s no surprise that veterans are some of the hardest working and most productive members of our sports, business and philanthropic communities. Check out how these 15 veterans are continuing to serve our country today.
  1.  Rumi Spice Founders: Emily Miller, Kimberly Jung and Keith Alaniz
Rumi Spice, founded by three veterans, made waves on the popular TV series “Shark Tank.” They partner with 94 farmers in Afghanistan to import high-quality saffron into the U.S. This Chicago-based startup perfectly shows off the entrepreneurial spirit many veterans display.
  1. Marine Sgt. Michael Mendoza
Michael Mendoza, a highly decorated veteran, was injured in Iraq by a grenade in 2006. With serious injuries to his diaphragm, both lungs, stomach and small intestines, Mendoza faced an uphill battle with his physical and emotional recovery, but once he discovered the healing benefits of sports, he couldn’t be stopped. Now 38, Mendoza runs in about four Ironman challenges a month, hoping to soon break the Guinness World Record for finishing the most triathlons in a year.
  1. Kirstie Ennis
Veteran Marine Kirstie Ennis is making headlines and shattering body image standards with her outspoken personality. In 2012, Ennis was involved in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan. The injuries she sustained resulted in over 40 surgeries and the loss of one of her legs. This year, she made history by posing on the cover of the ESPN magazine’s Body Issue.
  1. Joe Cardona
Super Bowl winner Joe Cardona, long snapper for the New England Patriots, is one of only two active members of the U.S. Armed Forces to win this sporting achievement. An officer in the U.S. Navy, Cardona is a recent graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy.
  1. Clint Eastwood
Few people in Hollywood are veterans, but it will probably come as no surprise that outspoken patriot Clint Eastwood served his country in the armed forces. Drafted during the Korean War, Eastwood used the GI Bill to attend college in L.A., leading to his success in Hollywood. Nowadays, Eastwood still makes films that honor veterans while serving as an active philanthropist and animal rights activist in the community.
  1. Delphine Metcalf-Foster
With over 1.3 million members, Disabled American Veterans (DAV) is one of the largest non-profits assisting veterans across the U.S. In 2017, they elected a new national commander to lead their organization. Members voted Delphine Metcalf-Fester into the position.
A disabled veteran herself, Metcalf-Foster served her country in through Operation Desert Storm, leading to her injury in Saudi Arabia. Now Metcalf-Foster has the honor of serving veterans just like herself.
  1. Alejandro Villanueva
A former Army Ranger and Captain in the U.S. Army, Alejandro Villanueva received the Bronze Star for military valor. Villanueva served three terms in Afghanistan before signing with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Today, Villanueva doesn’t shy away from making his patriotism known. When his teammates chose not to leave the locker room for the National Anthem, amid the infamous Anthem protests, Villanueva stood alone for the National Anthem.
  1. Prince Harry of Wales
Many may not know the British prince is a veteran. Trained at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, Prince Harry served twice in Afghanistan, once ending his tour early when tabloids revealed his presence.
After his service, Prince Harry dedicated his philanthropic career to serving veterans across the world. In 2014, he founded the Invictus Games, an Olympic-like sports competition for wounded and disabled veterans. The Invictus Games share the healing power of sports and celebrate the sacrifices of veterans around the world.
  1. Nick Taranto
Former U.S. Marine, Nick Taranto has a passion for healthy food. His company, Plated.com, has a mission to help more people get access to fresh, healthy foods. With Plated.com, you have everything you need to cook a delicious meal in under 30 minutes.
With over 700 employees, Taranto shows how one veteran can make a huge difference in the community. Taranto claims that his hard days of training in the military prepared him to run a business. 
    10. Arnold Palmer
Although golf pro Arnold Palmer passed away in 2016, his legacy as one of America’s greatest philanthropists continues to thrive. This fall marks the one-year anniversary of the death of this sports legend. Palmer served in the Coast Guard for three years and was vocal throughout his career about encouraging people to serve in the military.
Each year, Palmer’s legacy is commemorated through the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando, Florida. You can support Arnold Palmer’s charitable legacy, including his cutting-edge children’s hospital.
     11. Robb Anfinson and Andrew Cordova
Close friends Robb Anfinson and Andrew Cordova led the American Sitting Volleyball team to Bronze Metal victory at the 2017 Invictus Games in Toronto, Canada. A strong friendship developed between the two athletes when they discovered their shared experience of rehabilitation through sports.
     12. Donald Coolidge
Another veteran entrepreneur, Donald Coolidge is making profits and social change. Coolidge founded Elemental Path, a company that designs educational, Wi-Fi enabled toys for children. Too many kids are in front of a screen nowadays, so Elemental Path provides fun toys without the screen.
     13. Frederick Huston
PTSD, homelessness, addiction and injury can lead veterans into some dark places. It’s an unfortunate fact that far too many veterans end up in prisons. Frederick Huston of the U.S. Air Force decided to found a company that makes a life for those incarcerated easier.
Pigeonly is Huston’s brainchild. From your computer or tablet, you can easily locate and communicate with your loved one behind bars, cutting the price of communication by 80%. You can also send greeting cards and pictures. Huston claims that his military career helped him learn how to develop and reach both short and long-term goals, leading to business success.
  1. Ann Dunwoody
Ann Dunwoody, retired as of 2012, was the first ever female four-star general. Overseeing a $60 billion budget and 69,000 personnel, Dunwoody proves that women can make it in the military and business. Dunwoody wrote a book about her service in 2015 called “A Higher Standard.” Today, she is an icon for women in the military and travels the country speaking about leadership.
  1. Evan Hafer
Almost everyone loves a cup of good coffee. Army vet and former CIA contractor Evan Hafer is delighting customers by roasting outstanding coffee at Black Rifle Coffee Company, out of Salt Lake City. They pride themselves on being a hipster-free coffee shop. Join their coffee club to get unique coffee delivered to you every month.
Whether through creating jobs or helping other veterans, these servicemembers are enacting their values and making an impact in our society. For anyone who values commitment, sacrifice and persistence, these veterans should be an inspiration.

July 13, 2017

5 Stressful Things About Military Life (& How to Deal with Them)

5 Stressful Things About Military Life (& How to Deal with Them)
By SpouseLink.org Editor

Ever feel like life is moving around you in different directions… because it is? When you’re part of a military family that’s constantly in motion, it’s easy to get caught up in all the stresses of your daily life that are whirling around you. So how do you pull yourself together to go with the flow? How do you prepare for the next adventure ahead of you? Here are a few ideas for you to help make life a little easier during tough times.

  1. Moving into a new home. You just got your home looking exactly the way you have been wanting it to look… and now you’ve got to pack it up and go through the process all over again somewhere else.

    Solution: Remember, life is an adventure and home is where the heart is. Think of your PCS moves as a chance to start over, or simply to try something new. Go modern. Go shabby chic. This is your chance to experiment. Choose new colors. Rearrange the furniture. Get excited about it, rather than thinking it’s a drag. Use the move as a chance to get rid of things you no longer need, want or like. Connect with your inner child and dream up all the possibilities of the new place you’re going to. Look ahead, not backward.
  2. Getting to know a new community. You love that little restaurant by the water. And your favorite shop is not a chain you can find anywhere else. Now you’re heading to a place you’ve never been before, and you may be wondering how you’ll manage a language barrier… or just the climate.

    Solution: Don’t worry about the unknown. Instead, think of the move as an opportunity to get first-hand insights into unfamiliar customs and locations. Consider yourself simply a long-term traveler, a tourist who is just passing through and enjoying the scenery. Sure, you’ll have to set down some roots while you’re there, but if you don’t like the location, you’ll do it knowing it’s not forever. And if you do like the location… you can always come back to it later, should you move away again. Plus, you’ll know all about it by then, and you’ll be able to share your experiences with others who, just like you, aren’t familiar with the area. Yet.
  3. Finding new friends and keeping old ones. Have a friend you liked to hang out with every weekend… and now don’t get to see them anymore? Meanwhile, you’re living in a new location with people who don’t seem to accept you, or who you can’t find a way to make a connection.

    Solution: Don’t keep your thoughts to yourself. Make sure your dear old bestie knows how much they mean to you and keep them close through emails or txts, or through the SpouseLink App (created specifically for the military community). Bring up the topic of making/keeping friends with new acquaintances who have likely gone through what you’re going through themselves. Ask them about the challenges they faced and how they got past them. Discussing the topic of making and leaving friends behind with others is an easy way to make and keep friendships. You’re never alone.
  4. Dealing with deployments. Your loved one is leaving. Or is already gone. Again.

    Solution: Stay positive. Count down the days on your calendar, but… don’t dwell there. Instead, spend the time doing things you enjoy. Focus on your health and well-being. Focus on your kids’ activities. Spend time with people who make you feel good. Don’t think depressing thoughts like, “I always have to do this all by myself.” Or, “I wish [Loved One] was here to share this moment.” Flip the switch and think: “I’m so proud of myself for being able to do this on my own.” And, “I can’t wait to tell [Loved One] about this!” By keeping self-defeating thoughts at bay you will stay in good physical and mental health so that when your loved one returns, they will be coming home to someone who is happy and has been as active and engaged in daily life activities as they have.
  5. Switching your kids’ school. Feeling bad about making your kids leave their school activities and friends behind? Worried that putting them into a new school system won’t give them the same learning opportunities as their current school?  

    Solution: Two things to remember: 1) kids are resilient, and 2) school systems have experienced many, many student transitions. They know what to do… even if they don’t fully comprehend what it’s like for your kids or your family. There is help for you if you need it. Be sure to contact the school in your new community as far in advance of your move as you can. Talk to the staff about your concerns. Fill out registration forms early. Collect any other necessary data in one file (immunization details, etc.), so it’s ready to go. Join the PTA so you will meet other parents who know the ins and outs of the school. Encourage your kids to take part in after-school activities, sports and anything else they’re interested in. In short: Keep life normal for them.
Still stressed?!
It’s okay to let out a good strong primal scream every once in a while. Probably not in the presence of other people who you’d have to explain yourself to. But… When you get your mind worked up about things, your body will feel it and you may soon find yourself with aches and pains and sleepless nights from keeping things pent up.
When that happens, take a cue from Elsa and just let it go. A scream (or aerobic exercise, or a good cry, or writing out all of your feelings, or taking a daytrip to some place that isn’t on your normal travel path…) can help you work the negativity out of your body so that you are feeling better, thinking more clearly and moving forward.
Other ways to de-stress:
  • Take a walk.
  • Have lunch with a friend who makes you laugh.
  • Treat yourself to a massage.
  • Order takeout for dinner.
  • Take a long bubble bath.
  • Go see a movie.
  • Put on music and dance around the house.
  • Read a book.
  • Snuggle with your pet, or visit a pet store.
  • Sit on a park bench and watch the people who go by.
  • Head to your favorite store and splurge on a purchase.

These kinds of simple techniques can help you get into the right frame of mind so you can handle the stressful situations in healthy ways that will truly help you feel better. Nothing stressful about that!

AAFMAA is the longest-standing not-for-profit association that empowers current and former military with affordable financial solutions including, life insurance, investment management, and survivor assistance. AAFMAA is also the creator of SpouseLink, a free website for Military Spouses that was created to support, inform and inspire users with a variety of content–anything from pop culture to important Military information.

Cathleen Karlsson is the daughter of a retired Navy Captain. Growing up, she lived with her family in five Midwestern and East Coast states before earning her B.A. in fiction at the University of Pittsburgh. She is an experienced, award-winning marketing writer who has worked in several advertising and online media roles, including her current role as the SpouseLink.org Editor. In her “spare time,” Cathleen volunteers with a homeless animal shelter and serves as the vice president of the board for a ballet company. She also enjoys dancing, sewing and crafting, and spending time with her young daughter.

June 13, 2017

{Real Wedding} Savannah & Drew

Well it's been a looooooong time since I shared a wedding on A Military Story since I've been teaching full-time and have a 2 year old toddler. BUT DO IT HAVE A TREAT FOR YOU! This beautiful wedding is full of DIY charm. Enjoy and if you want to see more click here

From the bride, "I wanted to share with you a little about our 05.28.2017 wedding in Greenville, SC. My now husband, Drew and I are both active duty Air Force officers. I am a public affairs officer and he is training to be an AC-130 pilot. He went to Clemson Univ. and I went to the Univ. of South Carolina (One of the biggest rivalries in history). We both did AFROTC at our respective universities, but never met until we went to the Arnold Air Society National Conclave in Chicago, IL. This is a national ROTC convention and we met at the Natural Museum of History in Chicago, right in front of the giant TRex! 

After meeting, we instantly felt a connection. He was a year ahead of me in school, so he graduated and moved to Columbus Air Force Base, Miss. About 8 months later, I decided to put CAFB as my #1 job location so that I could follow him and woo hoo I got it! We were stationed together at CAFB from Sept '16-Jan '17 and then he left for training in Texas, and now in Little Rock, AR. Following Little Rock, he will go to Hurlburt Field. We do not know if we have a join spouse assignment or not yet... so yay for continuing to be long distance.

We got engaged in Washington DC at Mount Vernon (George Washington's Home) on Veterans Day. Nov 11, 2016. It was a total surprise as he flew up and surprised me while I was attending tech school.

We kept with the American traditional military holidays and got married Memorial Day weekend. We had a very traditional military wedding - saber arch, cut the cake with the sword, and my husband wore his formal mess dress. I even included a small C-130 pin on my shoes. He kept the tradition of having a "party shirt" with his mess dress - Clemson sleeves and all. We also used the military alphabet as our table numbers. We did a sparkler exit at the end, and we used an AC-130 105mm bullet casing to hold the sparklers in!"

Thank you Savannah for sharing your love story and wedding with us!
Vendors: Venue: Larkins on the River // Photographer: Brittney Naylor // Flowers: The Faux Bouquets on Etsy // Videographer: Daniel Taylor // Catering: Larkins on the River // Invitations: DIY // Programs: DIY // Wedding Gown: Allure Bridals // Wedding Gown Store: The Castle Prom and Bridal Spartanburg, SC // Bridesmaids Dresses: Azazie // Shoes: Davids Bridal // Makeup and Hair: Cotton Rouge // Mens Suits: Jos. A Bank // Decorations: DIY