5 tips for preparing kids for your next PCS - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

5 tips for preparing kids for your next PCS

Getting ready for a move can be rough at any age. But dealing with kids, especially those who are old enough to understand what changing duty station means, can be the roughest of all.


As adults within the military community, we are hardened by the experience of frequent moves — even if only as an idea. But kids are sensitive. They’re overwhelmed about leaving all they know and starting new, and understanding and catering to that mindset can help the experience be better for all involved.

5 tips for preparing kids for your next PCS

Put yourself in their shoes

Start by putting yourself in the kids’ situation. They are facing leaving their friends, their room, their school and teachers and their entire town. Depending on their age and how many times you’ve moved over the years, this may or may not be new. But either way, they are likely to be upset. Remember that just because they’ve done it before doesn’t mean it’s easier!

If you grew up in the military, you know first-hand how PCSing young feels. If you weren’t associated with frequent moving until later in life, you might have to try a little harder to understand kids’ priorities and why, to them, moving feels like the end of the world.

Tell them like it is

Kids are smarter than they often get credit for. Don’t beat around the bush or avoid a tough conversation. PCSing is part of the military lifestyle, and accepting that as a fact rather than trying to soften the blow can go a long way.

Once orders come in — or are about to — be honest. Tell your kids where you’re going, when, where the possibilities of new locations might be and more. Attacking this info head-on can give them the tools to better deal with a move.

5 tips for preparing kids for your next PCS

Use available resources

Each branch will have its own resources for helping kids through big changes. Use them. Search at schools, MWR offices and more. Ask other moms what they do or use your online community for the best tips. When first moving, attend newcomers’ briefs so you can get acquainted with what’s on post, and what you have access to. Then use it! Child and Youth Services, or your branch’s equivalent, can help provide you with better data for tough conversations.

Get excited with them!

Moving is an exciting event for the whole family, so be sure to talk about all the fun that’s ahead! New activities, restaurants and outside events and more can all be taken in. Discuss future family adventures, traveling or even who you might stop and see along the way. What are the nearest vacation hotspots? What foods will everyone get to try? Are you getting closer to the beach? What about winter snow skiing where you can spend the weekends? Whatever excitement lies ahead, play them up so kids can be pumped about a location change.

Kids are extremely adaptable, and when given the opportunity to excite vs. stress over a situation, they can better cope through the moving and planning-to-move process.

5 tips for preparing kids for your next PCS

Hide your parental stress

Even the most straightforward PCS to date comes with a level of stress. However, the better you hold it together for the kids, the less they will feel the need to stress on their own. Keep anxiety-ridden conversations between adults. While it’s important to be honest, there are also things that kids simply shouldn’t worry about. Do your best to shelter them from knowledge that is beyond their control to help with mental health through your next move.

Moving with kids can be a big change for all, but as a military family, it’s something that will take place often. Use these steps to the best of your ability for smoother moves in years to come.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

One year and one week later: where military families stand following the housing crisis

As military spouses, we are all too familiar with the phrase “hurry up and wait.” When it comes to the health and safety of our families in our homes, enough is enough.


When we heard from our network that families were struggling with the safety and deterioration of their military homes, we mobilized the Military Family Advisory Network’s research process so that we could learn more. Our goal was simple: understand what is happening through scientific data. Good data can be powerful and hard to ignore.

5 tips for preparing kids for your next PCS

We created a survey that allowed us to take a deep dive into the issue, and we shared what we learned with the Department of Defense, Congress, and the general public. We made sure our data was actionable, because our priority is shortening the time between the identification of an issue and the deployment of a solution.

Sadly, it has been one year and one week since we released findings from our Privatized Military Housing Survey, and families are still struggling. It should not have taken a survey with nearly 17,000 military families sharing their experiences with us – many of which were severe – to drive change. The entire country heard about what was happening in military housing in the nightly news, in the paper, and on social media. Despite the overwhelming number of heartbreaking stories, the brave testimonies from military spouses, the news coverage, and the compelling data, families are still struggling.

Based on what we hear, we believe that those who are entrusted with fixing this issue are on the right path, but we also know that there is a long way to go. We understand that for the military families who have spent months in temporary housing or hotels, who have thrown away thousands of dollars’ worth of furniture due to water damage, have lived with pests, and worst of all, who are struggled with the health-implications that can be associated with mold or lead, actions speak louder than words. We understand that the trust between military families and housing offices (and those charged with oversight) continues to erode as families wait for a Tenant Bill of Rights and increased accountability.

We commit to keeping the pressure up and continuing to learn from families who share their experiences with us, and we commit to doing so in collaboration with everyone who has a vested interest in supporting our community. That is why MFAN created the Military Housing Roundtable. During our first meeting, we took a step back to answer a few key questions: What is happening that is causing families to choose to live in military housing? Do military families have other safe and affordable options? Or, do they feel stuck? Based on these questions, here’s what we know:

We need to bring together public and private agencies to ensure that military families have a central hub where they can get the information they need.

We need to explore what is happening in housing and rental markets near installations.

We need to educate families on the Service Member Civil Relief act, so they know their rights when they are signing a lease or need to move.

We need to teach families the dangers of mold and lead, show them where to look, how to safely navigate these hazards, and where to turn for help if they discover them in their homes.

5 tips for preparing kids for your next PCS

Most importantly, we need to elevate the voices of military families, because as the last year has shown us, their experiences matter. MFAN is proud to have provided the microphone for these families through our research. We are honored to be able to create collaborative solutions with Roundtable attendees – which included nonprofits, military and veteran service organizations, subject matter experts on environmental risks, the Department of Defense, the military services, and businesses with a mission of supporting military families.

We are committed to rallying together to fix this because we all know one thing for certain: military families deserve a safe place to live, raise their families, and call home.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

How to talk to aging parents about them moving in with you

The costs of coronavirus won’t be fully known for months, if not years. Loss of income is already clear. People over 55 years old have been especially hit. Their unemployment rate was 13.6 percent in April, a 10 percent jump from March. While the conversations might have likely taken place regardless, their situation increases the chance that grandparents will have to move in with their adult children.

This is an emotional realization for the whole family. Having grandma or grandpa move in isn’t a simple transition for all parties. It involves issues of space, money, privacy, freedom, and ego. There’s resentment with, “I didn’t ask for this,” and all opinions would be living under the same roof. And parents who want to start the discussion are in the middle, their folks on one side; their spouses on the other.


“It’s a tricky position, especially if there’s tension and conflict,” says Megan Dolbin-MacNab, associate professor of human development and family science at Virginia Tech University.

It certainly is. Before you start feeling disloyal to anyone, remember that this isn’t an inevitable event. It’s just a possibility, one that requires assessing and playing the scenarios. Before you start reconfiguring the house, it starts with a conversation about having your parents move in. Well, two actually.

Talking to Your Spouse About Having Aging Parents Move In

When deciding whether or not grandparents should move into your home, the first conversation should be at home, with your partner. This needs mutual buy-in, regardless of how dire the situation might seem.

“It’s got to be a choice. There is a choice,” says Roberta Satow, psychoanalyst, professor emeritus at Brooklyn College and the City University of New York, and author of Doing the Right Thing: Taking Care of Your Elderly Parents Even if They Didn’t Take Care of You.

When you start exploring the alternatives, you’ll see where moving in ranks and that can help make a decision. As you proceed, the main thing is to ask your spouse questions and listen — truly listen — to the answers, keeping in mind the essential fact that you’re making a big request, Satow says. Ask two fundamental questions. “How do you think this would work?” and “What would we expect from them?” This will get you thinking about everything from space allocations to sharing of bills to things you didn’t even consider.

You can’t nail down every detail, but you’ll get an outline and more comfort with the idea. You also want to ask your spouse, “What are your concerns?” Listen again without quickly reacting. You want your partner to be able to express reservations, even anger, and do so early in the process, because things won’t magically work out without intention.

“If you don’t talk about stuff, it festers and then it explodes,” Dolbin-MacNab says.

It’s important to also ask: “What can we do for us if this happens?” Kids already changed your relationship. Grandparents moving in will do it again, Satow says. You might not have any couple time now, but giving the two of you focus amid this discussion will again help with the consideration.

But don’t focus solely on concerns, by also examining, “What’s the upside?” There’s the potential for help with chores and childcare, maybe you two get a night out regularly, and there’s the chance for your folks and kids to deepen their relationship. Considering the positives gives a fuller picture.

Talking to Aging Parents About Moving Into Your Home

This issue may have never been broached before with your parents. If so, it’s not an easy topic to raise. If there’s the slightest opening, some show of worry, use it to start a conversation when you’re not all rushed and the kids are engaged with something else. Acknowledge the awkwardness, Dolbin-MacNab says, and approach it, like with your spouse, as not a done deal. This is not the time for foot-stamping declarations of “You’re moving in.”

Ask your parents, “What are you feeling and what do you want?” It’s their decision as well. As the conversation moves forward, you want to be clear with concerns and expectations, and that honesty might be a new dynamic for all of you, and just setting that standard might be the biggest component, Dolbin-MacNab says.

Ask them, “What do you expect?” as it relates to childcare, bills, household chores and time together. Let them give a sense of how it would look, then give them the picture of your day and your approach to parenting – awake by 6 a.m., no snacks after 5 p.m., we try not to compare the kids to others – and ask, “Do you think you could fit into that?”

Remember: If you’re asking them for something, you need to offer them room to make it their own, and that requires prioritizing what really matters and not caring so much about the rest, Dolbin-MacNab says.

But there’s no need to address every potential conflict. They’ll happen and are best handled in the moment. You’ve set the overall framework and the precedent of talking. Let them know that will continue where everyone can share how it’s working and what needs addressing, Dolbin-MacNab says.

And ask them, “What do you see as the benefits?” It’s a hard time for them. This may be a loss of everything from social networks to furniture and they may feel embarrassed, but getting them to consider the upsides might reduce the sadness and bring in the idea that something different is also something new.

Even when it’s just a potential, it’s easy for you and your spouse to see it as a burden and undue stress. But it’s not what anyone drew up. As much as it’s possible, try to approach it like a team by finding consensus, looking for solutions, and where.

As Dolbin-MacNab says, “We’re all working toward the same goal and we could make our lives easier.”

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY FIT

Looking for community? 5 reasons to try CrossFit

“The military community just gets me. It’s like no other. Military spouses have a special bond. You don’t get it unless you’re a part of it.” I’m sure we’ve all heard these statements before, and some of us may have even said them. Yes, the military community is special, but there are other communities out there who do understand us, who do get us, who do have a similar sister/brotherhood.

One of those communities is CrossFit. Yes, please keep reading, I promise this is not all about the workout of the day and how much we can lift. CrossFit has a community; it’s one of the things people like most about it. The CrossFit community and the military community have so much in common that you find a lot of the same people in both. Here are some of the ways they’re the same.


5 tips for preparing kids for your next PCS

(DVIDS)

1. They’re immediately welcoming.

When you show up to a new duty station as a military spouse, you start making friends before the boxes are unpacked. Within the first week, you have a hairdresser, a babysitter, at least one invitation for Thanksgiving, and some emergency contacts. When you walk into a CrossFit gym, you receive a similar welcome. You’ll meet new people immediately, they’ll start asking you questions, figure out what else you have in common, what mutual friends you have and you’ll be part of the group before the workout starts.

2. They show up for each other.

In the military community, we show up for each other day in and day out. Your neighbor will snag your kids off the bus if you’re not home or show up with dinner that night you are going to lose it. CrossFit friends are the same. One CrossFit friend, who works as a labor and delivery nurse, showed up to deliver her fellow athlete’s baby because of the bond they created at the gym. Sounds a lot like that military spouse who drove you to the hospital and held the camera so your spouse could watch the delivery downrange, right?

3. They cheer you on, even when they’re suffering.

There is nothing as heartwarming as watching a military spouse who just sent their spouse off on deployment excitedly holding the hand of their friend who is welcoming their spouse home. Being happy for our friends is what makes friendships rock-solid. In CrossFit, we can do the same. We cheer on new personal bests while we beat ourselves up for not going harder. We celebrate wins as a team, always.

5 tips for preparing kids for your next PCS

(DVIDS)

4. They hold you accountable.

Everyone needs that friend who tells you when you have spinach dip in your teeth, and you’ll find that friend in a CrossFit gym and the military spouse community. The one who texts you at 4:45 a.m. and says they’re picking you up on the way to the gym. It may even be the same one who comes over and sits you down on the couch with your six-month-old while they fold your laundry, so you finally rest. They know what you need, and they make sure you do it.

5. They are truly a family.

From coffee groups to impromptu backyard barbeques, military spouses cling to each other when they live far from family. They put up with the good, the bad, and the screaming toddler while you’re trying to finish book club. CrossFit friends do the same thing. They hold your toddler so you can finish the workout, they tell you when to take a break and rest, they support you in every part of your life. Family comes first, and if you are a military spouse who CrossFits, you have two awesome families.

We see this in CrossFit affiliates and among the top athletes. Just like we see military spouses rally around the brand-new spouse while simultaneously showing up for the seasoned spouse. In the past few weeks, we’ve seen athletes cross goals off their list while competing against each other on an international level. We’ve seen tears of joy and frustration. We’ve seen pranks and fun head-to-head matchups, even one that took place at the US Army Warrior Fitness Center at Fort Knox.

BLUF: Community is everything. Find your people. Hold on tight.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

The pros and cons of a separate bank account from your spouse

Mina and Jason Burbridge have been married for two years. She’s 47. He’s 48, and they’ve always maintained separate bank accounts. It gives the Boston couple some freedom to act unilaterally. As Mina says, “If he wants to buy something that’s dumb, he can do it. And so can I.”

They also set up a joint account early on in order to pay for big household expenses, although another motivation came right before their October 2015 wedding. Mina’s account was hacked into and had to be frozen for two weeks as the situation was rectified. The incident made them realize the benefit of two things: spreading their money around and having some always be mutually accessible, she says.


But the separate accounts have continued to show their worth. Mina is a psychologist and clinical trainer. Jason works from home, building a business buying and selling baseball cards. It’s all online, much of it on eBay, and having distinct accounts provides another layer of protection, as he could be doing 20 transactions a day, Jason says.

Mina and Jason’s arrangement is not as atypical as it may seem. A Bank of America study found that Millennial couples have separate bank accounts more than twice as much as Generation X and Baby Boomers. At first glance, it could be seen as affirming their independence and pushing back against the idea that marriage has changed much in their lives. But it’s more than that, says Dr. Robyn Landow, a psychologist in New York City.

5 tips for preparing kids for your next PCS

(Photo by Evan Forester)

Millennials are waiting to tie the knot. A Gallup poll showed that 27 percent of Millennials are married versus 36 percent of Gen Xers and 48 percent of Boomers at comparable ages. Couples often live together for longer and have separate accounts, and, when they do marry, they don’t change the setup. It’s part inertia, part lack of urgency, part, “If it ain’t broke,” Landow says.

Still, while said couples may not see a need, having a joint account carries symbolic and concrete weight. It’s an awareness that there’s now an “ours”, which one day might involve expenses for houses, children and extended family. There’s the above-mentioned minimizing risk and making money available for a worst case scenario. And on a more granular level, a check made out to both people – gift, joint tax return refund – is an easier deposit if both names are on the account, says Brian Haney, financial adviser in Silver Spring, Maryland.

But the type of account in and of itself doesn’t predict or guarantee marital success or failure. Trust, commitment, and love are still the must-haves, says Landow, adding “The truth is if someone wants to hide or withhold money, with enough planning, they could do it.”

Whatever the system, couples first need to understand each other’s financial type. It involves figuring out whether a person believes in enjoying life as it comes, or in being a hardcore saver, always wanting something in the bank in case of emergencies, which Haney says, are not theoretical occurrences but realities. When attitudes are talked about, decisions become less arbitrary. “It makes it easier to know where you’re coming from and easier to find common ground,” he says.

5 tips for preparing kids for your next PCS

(Flickr / reynermedia)

And if all that’s in place, responsible people can make individual accounts work – it just becomes a matter of assigning out the bills. But the setup loses the macro perspective of building something together. “You’re not roommates,” Haney says. In other words? Being married means sharing all parts of life – one house, one bed – and money is another component.

The joint account takes down barriers, because, especially when using a budgeting tool such as Mint, a couple can see all money coming in and going out. The information may be uncomfortable, but with everything out in the open, problems can be reconciled, plans can be tweaked, and spouses can make more informed decisions based on what they want.

“It reinforces stability in your relationship,” Haney says. “You’re a team, and when you keep things separate, it’s harder to be a team.”

That doesn’t mean individuals accounts don’t have a place, whether it’s for surprise gifts, the occasional indulgence, or something else. They just need to be another joint decision in what they’re going to look like and be used for. And to help get to the decision, Haney says to merely look at the monthly budget. The numbers will provide the answer to what’s needed for shared expenses, and then how much partners can donate to themselves. The approach is more detached, less emotional. “It takes the feelings out,” he says. The big thing is that it’s discussed and transparent to prevent suspicion, surprises and distrust.

“If you know it, you may not like it, but you can deal with it,” Haney says. “But if you don’t know, you automatically don’t like it. The unknown is always uncomfortable. It’s never comfortable.”

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Trump signs two new laws to combat veteran suicide; 988 to become National Crisis Line

Thanks to new legislation signed into law Saturday, anyone distressed with thoughts of suicide will be able by next fall to dial 988 to reach a national crisis line similar to 911 for mental health emergencies.

President Donald Trump on Saturday signed two bills into law to help prevent veterans suicide — the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act and the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act.


The latter establishes a new Department of Veterans Affairs grant program to promote collaboration with outside entities and enhance suicide prevention services for veterans and their families. It establishes new data requirements to better track potential causes of suicide and new hiring rules to bolster the VA’s mental health workforce.

The VA estimates that more than 20 veterans die by suicide every day, and of those 20, 14 have received no treatment or care from the VA, according to a statement by Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jerry Moran, R-Kan. Moran and ranking member Jon Tester, D-Mont., sponsored the Improvement Act, which they say will improve outreach to veterans and their mental health care options in six major ways:

  • Bolstering VA’s mental health workforce to serve more veterans by offering scholarships to mental health professionals to work at Vet Centers and placing at least one suicide prevention coordinator in every VA hospital.
  • Improving rural veterans’ access to mental health care by increasing the number of locations at which veterans can access VA telehealth services.
  • Implementing a pilot program to provide veterans access to complementary and integrative health programs through animal therapy, agritherapy, sports and recreation therapy, art therapy, and post-traumatic growth.
  • Establishing a grant program that requires VA to better collaborate with community organizations across the country already serving veterans. This collaboration will result in earlier identification of veterans who are at risk of suicide and will provide the ability to intervene with preventative services.
  • Studying the impact of living at high altitude on veterans’ suicide risk and diagnostic biomarker research to identify depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and other conditions.
  • Holding the VA accountable for its mental health care and suicide prevention efforts by examining how the department manages its suicide prevention resources.
5 tips for preparing kids for your next PCS

Introduction ceremony for the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act. Photo from US Sen. Jon Tester’s official website.

“People in distress and in need of timely care should face the fewest obstacles possible to get help,” VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said after the bill was signed. “The bill President Trump signed today will soon make it easier for those at risk to be quickly connected to a trained responder and will help save lives.”

The legislation is named for Navy SEAL Commander John Scott Hannon, who retired to Montana after 23 years of service and worked to help veterans find their own paths to recovery before he died by suicide Feb. 25, 2018.

“This is a very proud moment for my brother and our entire family,” said Kim Parrott, Hannon’s sister, on behalf of the Hannon family. “This law will provide veterans greater and earlier access to the mental health care they need by requiring the DOD and VA to work together to bridge the transition between military service and civilian life and conduct research in evidence-based treatments.”

Tester said the new law “combines the best ideas from veterans, veterans service organizations, the VA, and mental health care advocates to deliver innovative solutions that’ll help heal invisible wounds of war through increased access to care, alternate therapies and local treatment options.”

Senators also agreed to try and fast-track a package of nine House bills also related to veterans suicide. That package — dubbed the COMPACT Act — features a measure by House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Mark Takano, D-Calif., to make VA mental health care services available to all veterans, regardless of their discharge status, according to Military Times. It also seeks to bolster support networks for at-risk veterans and requires VA officials to reach out to veterans every few years to ensure they are aware of benefits and health care options.

“It’s been a remarkable journey to get to this point, and I look forward to seeing the critical efforts laid out in this legislation to help our nation’s heroes get the right care at the right time for their mental health conditions,” said Matt Kuntz, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Montana, in a statement.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.


MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

5 kid-friendly ways to get involved in politics

With the 2020 Presidential Election in full swing, politics is front of mind for a lot of us. There are plenty of opportunities for military spouses to be politically active, whether that’s campaigning for a candidate or promoting a cause you care about.

You may face some hurdles on the way to becoming politically active this campaign year. Luckily, having a child in tow doesn’t have to be one of them! As a parent, your time is precious and limited – your only option may be to include your kiddos in your activism. Not only is this totally doable, but it’s also a great opportunity to inspire your kids from a young age to be civically engaged.

Here are five beginner political activities that you can do with your kids:


Vote!

Making your voice heard at the voting booth is an incredibly empowering experience, which makes it an important occasion to share with little eyes. Bring your kid to your polling place, explain the process as you vote and let them wear your “I Voted” sticker. If you vote absentee, take them with you when you drop your ballot off at the post office. These little moments can inspire them to be lifelong voters someday.

5 tips for preparing kids for your next PCS

Address postcards

Postcard campaigns are a great option for dipping your toe into activism. You get to write postcards on your own time, in your own words and there’s no risk of an uncomfortable confrontation.

If you’re plugged in with a candidate or cause, typically a campaign will send you a list of voters’ addresses where they want you to send a note. One of the more tedious parts of participating in a postcard-writing campaign is writing those addresses on the postcards. Ask your child who’s learning to read and write to help address the postcards for you. They take an annoying task off your plate and practice penmanship. That’s a win-win!

Attend a town hall

Candidates and elected officials schedule town hall meetings to hear directly from their constituents. Bring your kiddo along to witness democracy in action! Candidates have been known to meet one-on-one with parents who bring their kids and you can sometimes get front-row seats for better access.

5 tips for preparing kids for your next PCS

communityvisionca.org

Canvass with kids

Canvassing — knocking on doors to have a casual chat with voters about why you care about your cause or candidate — is an easy political activity to include kids. Stroller-bound kiddos can ride along and older kids can get some energy out by walking around the neighborhood. Get them ready for Girl Scout cookie-selling! Bonus: kids are a great ice-breaker, and their presence may turn a grumpy homesteader into a cheerful, chatty neighbor.

Be a naptivist

In our digital world, you don’t even need to leave your home to participate in political advocacy. There are plenty of candidates and cause opportunities to volunteer for from home while kids are at school, napping, or tucked into bed. From phone-banking to texting to writing a Letter to the Editor, there is literally something for everyone.

Feeling inspired by these ideas? Join the Secure Families Initiative, a community of military spouses and family members getting more involved in voting and advocacy. We have resources on our website about registering to vote, learning about current events, and making your voice heard on important issues. We also offer training on how to be your best advocate self, which is especially useful for folks who might be new to all this politics stuff.

And we have kids, so we know what you’re going through!

5 tips for preparing kids for your next PCS

Kate Marsh Lord is an Air Force spouse of 15 years and the Content Manager at Secure Families Initiative. A mother of 3, she is well-versed in “naptvism” and currently lives in northern Virginia.

Featured

This Memorial Day, honor through action. Here’s how.

There’s a reverence that surrounds Memorial Day in the military community. A day that’s typically associated with summer barbecues and mattress sales has a very different meaning to those of us who understand that “the fallen” we’re all asked to honor are our brothers and sisters in arms, husbands, wives, mommies, daddies, friends.

It’s a day that feels heavy, weighted with nostalgia and fraught, wanting to honor their sacrifice by living, but wanting the rest of the world to pause alongside us, to bear some of the burden of the grief and to mourn our collective, irreplaceable loss.

This year, we’re asking you not just to pause, but to act.


In 2018, USAA, in partnership with The American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, created the USAA Poppy Wall of Honor to ensure the sacrifice of our military men and women is always remembered, never forgotten. The wall contains more than 645,000 artificial poppies – one for each life lost in the line of duty since World War I. Red flowers fill one side while historic facts about U.S. conflicts cover the opposite.

The exhibit was installed on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., over the Memorial Day weekend in 2018 and again in 2019. This year, USAA is making it available to more people by presenting the educational panels of the wall digitally. We encourage you to take the time to look at the wall, to teach your children and grandchildren about service and sacrifice. But more than that, we’re asking you to dedicate a poppy.

5 tips for preparing kids for your next PCS

WATM had the opportunity to sit down with Wes Laird, Chief Marketing Officer at USAA, to talk about why this event matters, not just to the company, but to him.

“I tell people I grew up in a Ranger Battalion,” Laird said. “A long, long time ago in a land far, far away. Just eight and a half months after I enlisted, I was in combat on a tiny island called Grenada. I lost five people from my company, including a young man named Marlin Maynard, who was a PFC. When I got back, I was asked to eulogize PFC Maynard. I just turned 19 and I had to talk about the sacrifice he’d given. It was a very formative, impactful moment in my life.

5 tips for preparing kids for your next PCS

Wes Laird in his Army days. Photo courtesy of Wes Laird.

“Every Memorial Day since, every 4th of July, every time I hear the National Anthem, I think about PFC Marlin Maynard. I think about how I went to college with my veteran benefits. I think about how I went on to have a family, to raise two boys — one who is in the Air Force — how I had a career and a whole life, and how he, and 645,000 other soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen, Coast Guardsman, how they didn’t. But that’s why this – why Memorial Day, and what we’re doing at USAA – is so important. I want Marlin’s family to know that he is remembered and honored. That his sacrifice, all these years later, has never been forgotten.

5 tips for preparing kids for your next PCS

PFC Marlin Maynard, Grenada Company A, 1st Battalion (Ranger)

75th Infantry, kia October 25, 1983. Photo via Sua Sponte Foundation.

“This Memorial Day and every Memorial Day, I dedicate a poppy to him and the four others we lost in Grenada that day. What we’re doing at USAA with the USAA Poppy Wall is giving others an opportunity not just to honor, but to act. This year especially, with the COVID crisis, we are providing people the ability to come together, to unify around something we can all agree on — the importance of remembering the ultimate sacrifices of so many men and women.

“We are proud to partner with the incredible team at the Tragedy Assistance Survivors Program (TAPS) to provide meaningful opportunities for Gold Star families. You see these kids come in who have lost a parent, and the fact that we’re able to assist in their journey is so humbling. These kids need to know that their moms and dads are remembered and honored by all of us. Yes, it’s the right thing to do, but it’s also part of our DNA. We were formed by the military for the military. We say we know what it means to serve and we do know what it means to serve. It’s part of who we are, why we exist — to honor the great sacrifices of so many thousands of men and women who have served before us, alongside us and will continue to serve after us. Memorial Day is the most important day of the year for us. We hope you’ll join us this year by honoring through action.”

For more information about the USAA Poppy Wall, click here.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Army family raises $42,000 for children in honor of son

While many children dislike being the middle child, Bryce Caldwell saw it as the best of both worlds.

He loved the attention of being younger and once he was thrust into the role of big brother, it sort of became his calling.

Right from when the Caldwell family’s third son was brought home from the hospital, Bryce adored and protected him.


“Bryce was always hovering over him, kissing him, hugging him,” said Maj. Jeremy Caldwell, his father. “He was just so proud to be an older brother.”

Almost a year ago on Dec. 14, 2017, Bryce, a 6-year-old boy who not only loved his brothers but also football, died from a brain tumor called diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, or DIPG.

5 tips for preparing kids for your next PCS

A photo of the Caldwell family. Bryce Caldwell, lower left, had his wish come true when he visited the Denver Broncos headquarters in 2017.

Earlier that summer, through the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Bryce visited Denver Broncos players and had the chance to play on a real football field with his brothers.

Although his life was short-lived, Bryce’s smile and personality often drew people to him.

“He would have this incredible light about him,” Jeremy said in a phone interview. “He was so warm and caring even at such a young age.”

Shortly after their son’s death, Jeremy’s wife, Suzy, found information on a 14-week hiking and fundraising challenge sponsored by the nonprofit organization.

5 tips for preparing kids for your next PCS

Bryce Caldwell, left, takes a photograph with Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller during his wish trip to the Broncos headquarters in 2017.

(MakeAWish Foundation photo)

The culminating event was a 26.3-mile strenuous hike through the Talladega National Forest that is completed in one day.

With help from their friends, Will and Kate Searcy, the Caldwells were able to raise more than ,000 for the challenge — enough to grant five wishes from children with life-threatening illnesses.

For their efforts, the Caldwells were awarded the Lori Schultz-Betancourt Indomitable Spirit Award last at the nonprofit’s annual conference in Phoenix.

The Caldwells were left speechless when they found out they were considered for the award among the other nominees.

“We never expected when we went on this journey to get an award,” Jeremy said.

They also never expected to raise so much.

Dealing with the frustration and grief of losing a child, the Caldwells thought the challenge would help channel those emotions into something positive.

“It was a good way to focus all of that energy,” said Jeremy, who is currently a student at the Air Command and Staff College at Maxwell Air Force Base. He has also deployed to Iraq twice to fly UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters.

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From left to right, Maj. Jeremy Caldwell, his wife, Suzy, and their friends Kate and Will Searcy participate in a hiking challenge to raise more than ,000 for a non-profit foundation in memory of their son, who received a wish trip to visit the Denver Broncos headquarters in 2017.

Their initial goal was to raise ,500, the minimum pledge needed for one person to take part in the challenge.

But the outpouring of support they received from the local community and the military community across the world was much more.

“All I can say is that we are blessed we had so many good people behind us, lifting us up at such a difficult time in our lives,” Jeremy said.

After seeing their son’s joy during his wish trip to the Denver Broncos headquarters in June 2017, Jeremy and Suzy just wanted other families to have the same opportunity.

The trip provided some welcome relief from all the weight put on their shoulders at a time when they constantly worried about medications, doctor appointments and MRI scans.

5 tips for preparing kids for your next PCS

Maj. Jeremy Caldwell, right, accepts the Lori Schultz-Betancourt Indomitable Spirit Award in October at the Make-A-Wish Foundation’s annual conference in Phoenix.

(MakeAWish Foundation photo)

“You can just focus on your family and enjoy the moment and the happiness that you see in your kid’s face,” he said. “That’s the incredible, almost healing, factor of these wish trips and that was an inspirational part of why we kept pushing to raise the amount of money that we did.”

The Caldwells have also raised nearly ,000 for another nonprofit that supports research to cure pediatric brain cancer like DIPG.

There are even plans to tackle the hiking challenge for a second time.

“I don’t know if we’ll get to the 40-something thousand dollars again, but maybe we’ll just focus on getting to one wish,” Jeremy said. “That’s the initial goal and we’ll see where it goes.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

The US Marine Corps’ big plans to redesign its force means changes to what it stores in secret caves in Norway

A major Marine Corps force redesign is bringing big changes that could soon filter down to a secretive cave complex in Norway that the Corps has used since the Cold War.

Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger said last year that the Corps needed to get rid of “big, heavy things” and build a more mobile force for naval expeditionary warfare in contested areas — namely the Asia-Pacific.


The Corps plans to cut its overall force 7% by 2030, shedding infantry battalions, eliminating helicopter squadrons, and getting rid of all of its tanks.

Marines in California have already said goodbye to their tanks, and more could leave soon, including those in a cave complex in Norway’s Trondheim region, where the Corps has stored weapons and other equipment for decades.

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Entrances to the Bjugn Cave Facility in Norway with equipment outside to be taken to Estonia for a military exercise, June 30, 1997. US Defense Department

The Corps’ Force Design 2030 “is a worldwide program aimed to make our force posture around the globe even more strategic and effective. As such, it calls for a divestment of certain capabilities and increases in others,” Maj. Adrian Rankine-Galloway, a spokesman for Marine Corps forces in Europe and Africa, said in an email.

The Marine Corps Prepositioning Program in Norway “will continue to support US Marine Corps forces for bilateral and multi-lateral exercises” in European and Africa, Rankine-Galloway said.

“We expect that Marine Corps prepositioned equipment will be updated to meet our service’s needs, with excess equipment to be removed and newer equipment to be added to the prepositioned facilities,” Rankine-Galloway added.

Rankine-Galloway didn’t say what equipment that might be, but in the Force Design 2030, Berger said the Corps is “over-invested in” weapons like “heavily armored ground combat systems (tanks) [and] towed cannon artillery” and had “shortfalls” in rocket artillery, air-defense systems, and long-range unmanned aircraft.

Marine Corps leaders say savings from those cuts will pay for high-tech gear needed to counter China, Russia, and others.

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M1A1 Abrams tanks and other equipment during a modernization of equipment at Marine Corps Prepositioning Program-Norway, August 13, 2014. US Marine Corps/Master Sgt. Chad McMeen

A changing strategic game

The Marines’ underground storage in Norway’s Trondheim region dates to 1982, when the US and Norway agreed to preposition supplies and equipment in six climate-controlled caves there, allowing the Corps to store equipment closer than the US East Coast and “minimize the time necessary to form for combat.”

Much of the equipment there was withdrawn for the invasion of Iraq in 2003. A decade later, the Corps expanded its stocks, reportedly allowing tanks and other heavy vehicles to be stored there for the first time.

Since then, equipment has been taken out for exercises around Europe — in 2018 and 2019 the Corps shipped tanks from the caves to military exercises in Finland.

Changes to what the Marines store in Norway would come as the Corps alters its troop presence in the country.

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US Marine Corps High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle stored at Marine Corps Prepositioning Program-Norway, February 10, 2020. US Marine Corps/Cpl. Joseph Atiyeh

Hundreds of Marines have been stationed in Norway on six-month rotations since 2017, but Norway’s military said earlier this month that the US would reduce that force.

Rankine-Galloway told several outlets the Corps wasn’t drawing down but rather adopting shorter, “episodic” deployments aligned with exercises — sometimes bringing more troops to the country than are there now — that allow it to balance Arctic warfare training with larger-scale training “as a naval expeditionary force.”

“We expect US Marine Corps forces deployed to the Nordic region to train and be prepared to fight in accordance with the Commandant’s vision for the force and that this transformation will make both US Marine Corps, allied, and partner forces more lethal and capable together,” Rankine-Galloway told Insider.

The Marines’ year-round presence in Norway angered Russia, whose border with Norway is near sensitive sites on the Kola Peninsula belonging to the powerful Northern Fleet, which oversees Russia’s nuclear ballistic-missile subs.

Recent Northern Fleet activity, especially of its submarines, has concerned NATO. Norway and its neighbors have been especially wary of Russia’s tests of new missiles.

Russian missiles have changed “the strategic game” in the region, according to Thomas Nilsen, editor of Norway-based news outlet The Barents Observer.

“Living on the Norwegian side of the border, we don’t see a scenario of a Russian military invasion trying to capture” northern Norway, Nilsen said at an Atlantic Council event in February.

Weapons like the Kinzhal hypersonic missile could be launched from Russian fighter jets and within minutes strike airbases in those Scandinavian countries, Nilsen said.

Aircraft at those bases, like Norway’s F-35s, are “what Russia is afraid of,” Nilsen added. “Those capabilities on the Scandinavian side that might … disturb their deploying of the ballistic-missile submarines.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Talented military child showcases her art in first exhibition

Victoria Reyes is a talented 11-year-old military child, who showcased her artful creations in her first exhibition, where she left people in attendance in such an awe that a few of them commissioned private artworks.


While walking through the exhibition room in Tampa, Florida, where artwork by Victoria Reyes was being showcased, attendees couldn’t help be drawn to the colorful representations of Japanese anime and the meticulous attention to details that had clearly gone into each piece. It didn’t take long for some of the people in attendance to commission the talented artist with private pieces, which she was happy to take on.

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Discovering talent

Many of the great painters that have made art history began showing promising talent at a young age — Picasso, for example, was only nine when he completed his first painting. But the key figure behind most of these talented artists was usually a parent who had been able to first notice their child’s unusual creative abilities. In Picasso’s case, it was his father who noticed his talent two years before the young painter completed his first work of art.

Maxine Reyes, Victoria’s mother, first noticed her daughter’s talent when Victoria was only three years old. “I noticed how well she could draw people,” Maxine said, “and I remember how I used to just draw straight lines to make the body of a person. The level of detail that Victoria added to her figures was out of the norm.”

A talented singer who entertained not only troops in the Middle East, but also NBA teams and even a U.S. President, Maxine is an artist in her own right and a retired military member who served for over 20 years in the Air Force and the Army. “She wasn’t doing the normal scribble scrabble,” Maxine said, “and that’s why I encouraged her to nurture her talent.”

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Art as a coping mechanism

Victoria, who is also a singer like her mother and a talented piano player, began finding comfort in drawing, especially during the challenging times military life inevitably brings. When her active duty Army father, stationed at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, had to leave home for work for an extended period of time, Victoria found art to be a coping mechanism.

Given how therapeutic she finds drawing to be for her, Victoria dedicates most of her spare time to making art. “I remember watching Japanese anime shows on TV,” Victoria said, “and I was surprised by how detailed those cartoons were.” Inspired by what she saw, the young artist would eventually place that same level of attention to details to her own art, which is what made her parents take notice and reflect on how they could support her.

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Supporting and encouraging young talent

“When I saw her drawings,” Maxine revealed, “they looked like something I would buy at an art show.” An art lover like her husband, Maxine was able to appreciate her daughter’s talent and support it from the very beginning. “My husband and I decided that we were going to encourage her and invest in her talent so that one day she will be able to live out her dream.”

That was the reason why Victoria’s parents planned a surprise birthday party for their talented daughter. “I printed her best artwork on canvas and turned her birthday party into her very first art show.”

Showcasing her artwork brought Victoria enormous success, and she was happy with the outcome, although she admits that, “I was a bit shy at first.” The talented military child is committed to pursuing her dream and working on her talents so that one day she can achieve her goal of becoming a professional artist.

If interested in purchasing Victoria Reyes’s artwork or getting in touch with her to commission a private piece, please visit www.victoriareyes.com or @iamvictoriareyes.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Ready for a new tattoo? The Air Force now has its own tattoo shop

No matter if you’ve been in for two months, two years or you are two generations removed from the military, everyone knows that tattoos and the service go hand in hand. Ever since the first tattoo shop opened its doors in America in 1846, ink has had a well-deserved place in the hearts and on the skin of service members.

Of course, tattooing didn’t get its start in America. Warriors from Maori tribes in New Zealand, to ancient Greeks, marked themselves to show strength, courage and confidence. Viking raiders tapped magical symbols into their skin using the ink made from sacrificial animals.


Even service members in the Revolutionary War were getting new ink to reflect their units and identities (not to mention to prevent being illegally conscripted by the British).

During the Civil War, pioneer tattooist Martin Hildebrant traveled to battlefields and inked various patriotic designs into service members’ skin. Records show that by 1925, as much as 90 percent of all US service members were tattooed; the Navy made up the bulk of those decorated. Apparently, sailors used new tattoos to showcase where they’d been, as a sort of secondary service record, and to showcase their achievements.

For example, a shellback turtle meant they’d crossed the equator, a golden dragon meant they crossed the International Date Line, and a golden shellback turtle meant they’d crossed both at the same spot.

But for as much as there’s always been ink in the military, there have also been regulations. It seems like every few years, some leadership gets it in mind that a new tattoo policy is in order. For years, there was a limit to the number of tattoos soldiers could have on their arms, but that’s no longer the case. However, the Army still doesn’t allow face, neck or hand tattoos, though a small ring tattoo can exist on each hand. As with all branches, there are always a few waivers that are granted by recruiters each year if it seems like a tattoo isn’t too distracting.

Just like the Army, the Air Force is revisiting some of its strict tattoo policies and lessening the regulations a bit. Before 2017, Airmen weren’t allowed to have tattoos on the chest, back, arms and legs that were larger than 25 percent of the exposed body part. Now, they’re allowed to have full sleeves or large back pieces, which is a big deal for anyone who’s been stuck halfway through getting a tattoo only to have to stop because of regulations.

So it goes without saying that getting a tattoo is as much a rite of passage in the military as is getting that first haircut in basic training. Of course, barbershops have been embedded at installations worldwide for decades, but for new ink, service members have always had to go off base. That’s led plenty of people to wonder why there isn’t a place to get new ink and a fresh fade all at the same place. Now, that’s no longer the case.

Nellis Air Force Base, located just outside Las Vegas, now has its own tattoo shop, making it that much easier to get a new tattoo. Senior leadership at Nellis said in a press release that they’re always looking for ways to improve the quality of life for Airmen and to lead from the front. So naturally, an on-base tattoo shop makes sense.

This is the first tattoo shop to be inside any Air Force or Army installation, making it incredibly unique. Now, we can’t speak to the quality of work you might receive there, but it’s still pretty cool that leadership is finally recognizing that there’s a very real, inky culture within the military and are taking steps to provide that service.

Maybe the decision to open the tattoo shop on base is a signal that leadership hopes artists and the Airmen can better handle the Air Force guidance on tattoo size and placement. Of course, that’s not to say whether or not the tattoos will be any good, but at least they’ll be within regs.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Marine artist Maximilian Uriarte publishes compelling new graphic novel

Maximilian Uriarte is the renowned creator of the popular Terminal Lance comics and New York Times Best Seller The White Donkey. Uriarte’s new graphic novel, Battle Born: Lapis Lazuli, lends a raw and compelling, modern voice to the combat veteran experience. But before he did all of that, he was a Marine.

Artistry and the Marine Corps aren’t words that you typically see put in the same sentence, but Uriarte himself defies any Marine stereotype. “I’ve been an artist my whole life. I was always the kid in school drawing in the back,” he said with a smile. “I joined the Marine Corps infantry to become a better artist. I viewed it as a soul enriching experience.” He’s well aware that most people don’t use those words as a reason to join what is thought of as the toughest branch of service.


When Uriarte joined the Corps in 2006, he was adamant about becoming an infantryman – even though his high ASVAB scores allowed him to pick almost any MOS. But he shared that he wanted to do something that would shape him as a person, making him better. So, with his recruiter shaking his head in bafflement in the background, Uriarte signed on at 19 years old to become a 0351 Assaultman.

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It was a decision that took his family by complete surprise, especially with the Iraq war in full swing. Raised in Oregon, Uriarte hadn’t been around the military but always knew he wanted to do something to challenge himself — something he was confident the Marine Corps would do. The year after he joined, Uriarte was deployed to the Al Zaidan region of Iraq with the 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines from 2007 to 2008.

Uriarte deployed to Iraq once again in 2009 and this time, had the chance to be a part of Combat Camera. It was here that he really started examining his experiences as a Marine and he began developing the now infamous Terminal Lance comic strip. He launched it in 2010, five months before his enlistment with the Corps was up.

“When I put it out [Terminal Lance] I really thought I was going to get into trouble,” Uriarte said with a laugh. What sparked its creation was being surrounded by positive Marine stories, told in what he describes as an ever-present “oorah” tone. “To me, it seemed not authentic to the experience I had as a Marine Corps infantryman going to Iraq twice. Everyone hated being in Iraq, no one wanted to go there.”

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The Marines loved Terminal Lance. It wasn’t long before it became a cultural phenomenon throughout the military as a whole and Uriarte became known as a hero among young Marines.

Uriarte shared that he had always wanted to do a web comic and the Marine Corps was definitely an interesting subject matter for him to dissect. “In a way, it was cathartic. The experience isn’t something most humans go through. Doing it helped me move on in a healthy way,” he said. While authoring the comic strip, he earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with a major in Animation through the California College of the Fine Arts.

In 2013, Uriarte self-published The White Donkey after a successful kickstarter, which raised 0,000 for the book. A few months after its release, it was so successful it was picked up by traditional publishing and went on to become a New York Times Best Seller. The gripping graphic novel pulls back the curtain to expose the raw cost of war, especially for Marines serving in combat.

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Uriarte knew he wanted to keep going and this time, wanted to take his storytelling a bit further. It was his hope that he could create something focused on the importance of human connection. Through all of this, he created Battle Born.

“It’s a story of a platoon of Marines going to Afghanistan, to fight the Taliban over the gemstone economy…. But it’s really about Sergeant King and his emotional journey,” Uriarte explained. He shared that he really wanted the character to reflect a modern day Conan The Barbarian, who he feels would definitely be a Marine.

“It’s really a meditation on the history of Afghanistan in the shadow of western imperialism, colonialism and looking at the tragic history of Afghanistan,” Uriarte said. “What does it mean to be civilized, is really the central theme of the book.”

Uriarte’s main passion is creating good stories that he himself wanted to see. He had never seen anything like Battle Born before – a Marine infantryman story that was very human grounded. “I truly believe that representation matters. It’s a lens I don’t think we’ve seen a war movie through before – the eyes of a black main character,” he explained.

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Hollywood agrees: The book is currently in film development to become a live action film.

The biggest piece of advice he hopes to impart on service members getting out of the military is to use their GI Bill and go to school when their enlistment is up. “Just go and figure yourself out. It is a very safe place to decompress,” he explained. “The Marine Corps is very good at making Marines, but it’s bad at unmaking them. It’s a hard thing come back to the world and not be a Marine or in the military anymore.”

The 2018 annual suicide report found that soldiers and Marines took their own lives at a significantly higher rate than the other branches.

Uriarte struggled himself when he got out, but he found that school and writing was therapeutic for him. “When you get out, the thing Marines struggle with the most is, ‘Who am I?’ We always say, ‘Once a Marine always a Marine,’ but I think that is unhealthy,” he said. “People wonder why we have such high veteran suicides and it’s because we turn them into something they aren’t going to be for the rest of their lives.”

When asked what he wants readers to take from his work, Uriarte was quick to answer. “These are really stories of human experiences; passion, love and loss. It’s just showing that people are human and that Marines, especially, are human,” he explained. Uriarte also feels that his latest full-color graphic novel will appeal not just to those who enjoy comics, but to a wide spectrum of readers through a beautiful visual journey.

Uriarte uniquely tackles the difficulty of being a Marine and serving in the military with raw honesty and creativity through all of his work. His newest book, Battle Born: Lapis Lazuli is a deeply compelling compilation of the human experiences that affect us all.

You can purchase Battle Born Lapis: Lazuli and his other work at your local Walmart, Target or online through Amazon by clicking here.