A military spouse owned business has big news this week with an impressive $1.5 million raise. Instant Teams is a remote workforce supplier and management business. It was founded in 2017 by two military spouses, CEO Liza Rodewald and COO Erica McMannes. Rodewald was a software developer for multimillion-dollar government contracts, and McMannes is experienced in building small teams for businesses. Together, they combined their skills and passion to create Instant Teams.
They created the company for the sole purpose of creating more employment opportunities for the untapped and underemployed military spouse community. A 2018 report from the White House found that 40% of military spouses held a degree, compared to only 29.7% of the civilian population. That same report showed that military spouses that were able to work – were underpaid compared to their civilian counterparts.
McMannes shared that they just knew that the market for military spouse employment was something that needed strong advocates.
When asked what sparked the creation of Instant Teams, McMannes laughed. She said that she and Rodewald had originally met in 2014 when they were both stationed in Virginia, but she never dreamed they would develop and create a business together. They had an idea, and one day after talking about the concept, they were all in. An idea borne out of passion to help military spouses has now grown 125% in size each year.
The need for more employment options for military spouses has been proven and is a current hot topic in the news and current legislation. A 2018 Blue Star Families survey found that 70% of Millennial military families reported needing two incomes to support their families. Frequent moves put the military spouse at a great disadvantage for maintaining gainful employment to support their families. A 2017 Department of Defense report showed that nearly 25% of military spouses were unemployed — something Rodewald and McMannes sought to change.
On Feb. 11, Instant Teams put out a press release announcing a id=”listicle-2645127874″.5M investment partnership with Squadra Ventures.
“I always say, it takes a village and I am just lucky that my village is the military spouse community,” said McMannes. She continued, “We knew military spouses needed it. We wanted to develop this concrete and sound business model that allowed companies to see the value immediately and where spouses knew they could come directly for remote work. Now three years later, it’s happening, and it’s an amazing feeling. So much work and time has been put into it and that’s only going to amplify now with this investment.”
What it means, according to McMannes, is that there will be more opportunities for the spouse community, more growth for their internal team which then allows Instant Teams to be able to hire even more military spouses. McMannes shared that conversations with Squadra Ventures began over the summer and continued into the fall with the deal solidified in January.
McMannes said that she believes this is just the beginning. “There is a whole movement in advocacy in the federal, state, and international space on what the future of work looks like. Remote work is right on the leading edge of that,” she said.
When asked how it felt to get the news that it was a signed and done deal, she shared that it was even more meaningful because they were together when they got the word. McMannes is currently located in California, and Rodewald’s husband is stationed in Hawaii. As luck would have it, they happened to be together on the East Coast when the news came in – and they celebrated with cupcakes.
McMannes said that military spouses were the original “digital nomads,” meaning you could essentially travel the globe and bring your job with you. “Spouses were forced to be digital nomads, but the actual job component was always the struggle. To be a part of the future of work, we are really excited about,” said McMannes. She shared a story of a spouse that was recently able to keep her job because of Instant Teams through a PCS from North Carolina to Guam. McMannes said it’s stories like those that keep her and Rodewald fueled to continue working hard and committing to doing more. Thanks to the recent id=”listicle-2645127874″.5M investment of Squadra Ventures – they are well on their way.
After 21 years in an Army, mostly as a recruiter, Curtez Riggs promised himself one thing. Once he left the military, he would not accept a job that felt too much like work, left him uninspired or unfulfilled.
Riggs founded the Military Influencer Conference, which links veterans, active-duty service members and their spouses with entrepreneurs, industry leaders and other creative minds. Now Riggs’ company is taking the next step with Honor2Lead, an inaugural event that will originate in Atlanta and be livestreamed on leaderpass.com from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 10.
“I want [the military] to learn how to lead, thrive and grow in these crazy times that we’re all experiencing,” Riggs said. “We understand how our country currently is politically. You see the impact that COVID is having on nonprofits and also businesses. This should be an event that people come to, and they’re rejuvenated. They’re understanding how to pivot what they’re doing in order to grow and thrive.”
WWE star Lacey Evans served in the Marine Corps. Courtesy photo.
The speakers lined up for Honor2Lead, which will occur one day before Veterans Day and on the anniversary of the founding of the Marine Corps in 1775, all have military ties. Daymond John of ABC’s “Shark Tank” and WWE wrestler Lacey Evans are scheduled to participate, as are actor Alexander Ludwig, Fox News host Harris Faulkner and VFW Commander-in-Chief Hal Roesch II. The list of 24 speakers also includes Phyllis Newhouse, the Veteran Entrepreneur of the Year; Elena Cardona, an investor and author; and Jake Wood, the CEO of Team Rubicon.
Riggs expects Honor2Lead to attract at least 10,000 registrants. Early-bird pricing is available for tickets now, at . To register, go to Honor2Lead’s website.
“What excites me most is the number of people that we have the potential to reach,” said Riggs, who retired as a first sergeant. “Our desire [is] to reach as many people as we possibly can to educate them and to help them change what they currently see in front of them.”
After the livestream, Riggs said Honor2Lead will be available through On Demand. This event continues his company’s vision of creating content to empower the military community. It began with the Military Influencer Conference, and debuting in 2021, Riggs’ company plans to announce a venture with the Pentagon Federal Credit Union to help military women access financial resources to start their own businesses.
Military Influencer Magazine, which was inspired by the Military Influencer Conference, made its debut in September.
“Create your own results,” Riggs said. “We have a ton of skill sets that we’ve been taught that we can rely on to do some great things. A lot of us, we just don’t have faith in ourselves. The people that come to the event, they’re seeing people just like themselves. They’re seeing retirees. They’re seeing young service members that have separated, and they’ve started something and put them on a new trajectory to success.”
The Military Influencer Conference was postponed this year and rescheduled for May of 2021. In the meantime, Riggs is eager to see how Honor2Lead impacts the military community.
“When you leave the military, you don’t necessarily have to leave the military and get a job doing something that you’re not happy with,” Riggs said.
For anyone high school age or under, America has been at war since they took their first breath. Since the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in 2001, a conflict that is ongoing, it has been a nation at war. In this time span, American troops (and drones) have fought in Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Kenya, Libya, Uganda, and Yemen. To a kid, this is all very far away if they know about it at all. Such conflicts are only fleetingly headline news and barely make their way into pop culture (unless, of course, you count conflicts on galaxies far far away). But kids should know about war. Right? Is it a parent’s duty to tell them about the conflicts their country is engaged in? And if so, how much should we tell them?
It all depends on where a child is in their development. Parents of older children can engage in more complex conversations about the dangers and reasons for war, using their history lessons and entertainment as an entry point. But when it comes to a kid under the age of 7, things require a bit more finesse.
“The brain is rapidly evolving during growth and development, and it leads to very striking differences how kids understand these kinds of concepts” says Dr.Chris Ivany, a child and adolescent psychiatrist working in the Washington, DC area.
The conversation about what war even is needs to cater to a child’s understanding of the physical world while not resorting to metaphors that are either dangerously reductive – “it’s like when mommy and daddy fight” – or frightfully apocalyptic. It’s a conversation about life and death, politics, morality, and human nature. None of those topics taken alone are easy to convey to a child. Add them together and you’ve got a quagmire that needs to be explained in simple, non-terrifying terms.
That’s even tougher when parents seem to freak out about every new news item. The fact is, people have been freaking out about war’s representation in the media for generations. We’re only a few decades removed from Cold War anxieties that caused Boomers to duck and cover at the sound of an air-raid siren, and only about 30 years from the emergence of the current 24-hour news cycle, which came to prominence during the Gulf War. As we enter another period of escalation and deescalation with Iran, it’s on parents to try to calmly explain what’s happening in the world without leaving children shaking in their boots.
“Even more than the words that are spoken back and forth, the tone and way in which discussions like this happen between parents and kids are important,” says Ivany. “Kids pick up on worries and anxieties that parents may have. Parents (should) model the idea that there truly are hard and scary and bad things out in the world, but (also how) we get through them.”
Pop culture can help. Certain touchstones provide context, which is exactly what a child needs to understand the world around them.
“A 4-year-old seeing war presented in a Disney cartoon (like Mulan)… it probably doesn’t overwhelm him or her and then you can have a conversation about it. That same 4-year-old watching the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan is going to be overwhelmed and it’s not going to have the same effect,” says Ivany. “The exposure to the various points in pop culture or discussions in school, as long as it’s developmentally and age-appropriate it’s probably a good thing. Unfortunately, war is a reality and we need to understand it. If it leads to a productive discussion because it’s not an overwhelming topic, it opens the door for future discussions.
“As the brain grows and matures, you can have another discussion that’s more complex than when they were four. And they’ll do that because they feel like engaging you was helpful and not scary: You created a line of communication,” says Ivany.
That line of communication can lead to more productive discussions as a child ages and starts to understand the concept of war on a deeper level, touching on the reasons for war, the concept of morality and “just war”, and the ethical and moral aspects of conflict.
Still, war, even in abstract, is terrifying. That’s why it’s important to stress with children that they’re fortunate in that war isn’t immediately encroaching on them, ready to wipe them out.
“Kids tend to internalize and put themselves in the middle of things that logically doesn’t make sense, and that may result in fears that aren’t logical to adults: ‘If it’s on the TV screen, why wouldn’t it be at the door? If a missile can fly from Iran to Iraq, why can’t that missile fly to the suburb where they may live?'” says Ivany. “Especially in kids up to the age of 7, part of this conversation is a reassurance that they are safe, and this is not something that they need to be worried about on a day-to-day basis.”
As for kids with loved ones deployed, Ivany stresses that while conflict has its casualties, it’s essential that they understand, “the vast majority of soldiers come back just fine. Any time somebody is hurt it’s a tragedy, but most of the time people are safe.”
Simply having a conversation, to begin with, can be tough. But being open and honest is the key to helping assuage fears and anxieties about war. And, as with all things parenting, those conversations can evolve into larger lessons on life outside the battlefield.
“You can use conversations about serious things like this to help encourage growth and development in other areas,” says Ivany. “It can lead to a helpful discussion about compassion for other people, or it could become a launching point about speaking out about what’s wrong and to be able to take personal positions on things (like standing up to bullies). These conversations about war oftentimes provide an opportunity for other discussions that are helpful in kids’ development.”
U.S. Army Master Sergeant (Ret.) Cedric King, CEO of PenFed Foundation Speakers Bureau VEIP investment
The hardest part about starting a business is finding the seed capital to get the ball rolling. Like the first step of a thousand-mile journey, it’s the hardest and most important. For many veterans, owning their own business is the way to financial freedom. There’s a reason entrepreneurs call seed capital “friends and family money.” Now veterans don’t need to go around asking loved ones for the money – one bank is willing to jump start your idea.
To find out why, just take a look a the PenFed Foundation’s Veteran Entrepreneur Investment Program. Besides the fact that PenFed serves the military-veteran community as a consumer base, it just makes sense for the PenFed Foundation to support veterans who are looking to start their own businesses. The numbers speak for themselves. While the number of vets who actually pursue entrepreneurship is relatively small compared to the number of separating military members, that doesn’t mean there’s a lack of interest, it might just mean there’s a lack of capital to get started.
Simply put, veterans need money and knowhow. They already have the work ethic. The numbers back that fact up too.
Medal of Honor Recipient Florent Groberg will speak at the 2019 Military Influencer Conference.
Entrepreneurs who are business owners tend to out-earn entrepreneurs who are not veterans. Vets are also a much more diverse subgroup of Americans in terms of age, ethnicity, disability, and experience. There’s nothing a vet can’t do when faced with a big job full of hard work. But like many entrepreneurs, veterans or not, many lack the startup funds to get the ball rolling. That’s where the PenFed Foundation’s VEIP comes in.
The VEIP aims to develop and grow vet-owned startups with seed capital for all the reasons listed above but the most important reason to support these entrepreneurs is because vets become knowledge bases for other vets looking to start their own businesses. Not only that, veterans who own businesses are 30 percent more likely to hire veterans themselves.
Charlynda Scales, vet and founder of Mutt’s Sauce is speaking at the 2019 Military Influencer Conference.
The PenFed Foundation is a national nonprofit organization founded in 2001 that is committed to helping members of our military community secure their financial future. Its mission is to provide service members, veterans, and their families and support networks with the skills and resources they need to build a strong financial future.The Foundation changes lives through financial education.
If you’re interested in starting your own business and don’t know where to begin, the Military Influencer Conferences are the perfect place to start. There, you can network with other veteran entrepreneurs while listening to the best speakers and panels the military-veteran community of entrepreneurs can muster. Visit the Military Influencer Conference website for more information.
As the world opens back up, use these military discounts to get out there. Keep a little extra money in your wallet, and remember that it never hurts to ask if a military discount is available.
Planes, trains, and cars
Airfare discounts for military families
Many airlines offer discounts to military service people and their families. Unlike government fares, military fares are set aside by airlines for military personnel on leave. To take advantage of the rates, call the airlines directly to inquire about a discount.
Service members and their families can use Space-Available flights to travel around the country and world at little to no cost. Though often unpredictable, military flights are perfect for families with flexible schedules and great planning skills. Contact your closest Air Mobility Command passenger terminal for specific information. Most terminals have a Facebook page where they post flight information, including their 72-hour flight schedule. More information and eligibility requirements can be found here.
Baggage fee discounts for military families
Many airlines—Alaska, Allegiant, American, Delta, and JetBlue—will waive or discount baggage fees for military families. After booking a flight, check the airline’s rules for checked luggage.
Travel perks through American Express Platinum
American Express now waives its annual fees on its credit cards, including its Platinum credit card. The card provides concierge booking services, five times the points for flights, worldwide airport lounge access, a $200 airline fee allowance, monthly Uber credits, and reimbursement for the TSA Precheck fee. Apply for the credit card and be sure to request its service member benefits.
Travel perks through Chase
Chase now waives its credit card fee for the elite card, the Chase Sapphire Reserve, for military members. The card comes with a variety of travel perks, including a $300 travel credit, Global Entry or TSA Precheck fee credit, car rental privileges, and complimentary airport lounge access. Apply for the credit card and be sure to request its service member benefits.
This new travel booking website, the co-brainchild of Priceline and the Department of Defense, provides an easy platform where military families can easily access unique rates on hotels, airfare, rental cars, vacation packages, and cruises.
Military families are eligible for a 10% discount on the lowest available fares, and military children up to 12 years old are eligible to receive a 10% discount on top of the standard children’s 50% discount.
Wyndham Worldwide Corporation offers a free membership program to military families. These condominium-style timeshares are located around the world for prices as low as $349 per week. Applications are required.
Prestigious military clubs around the world
For a nominal membership fee, military families can gain access to Marines’ Memorial Club & Hotel in San Francisco, only a few blocks from the Golden Gate Bridge. Reciprocal clubs around the world include the Victory Services Club in London and New York Athletic Club in Central Park.
The nonprofit In Honor of Our Troops Foundation offers free weeklong vacation accommodations for active-duty service members once a year. Restrictions apply.
Free and discounted campsites
Fees at various campgrounds across the nation are eligible to be waived or discounted. For instance, state parks will often waive day use and camping fees on a walk-up, first-available basis and via reservations if a military ID is presented. Tents for Troops is another nationwide program that connects the military with a minimum of two-night complimentary RV and tent sites. Other camping organizations, like KOA, may offer discounts on a location-by-location basis.
The Waves of Honorprogram permits any active-duty military, activated or drilling reservist, or National Guardsman and three of their dependents to one free admission per year to Sea World, Busch Gardens, or Sesame Place. Guests must present a military ID to participate and need to apply for the program in advance online through its Troop ID program.
The Public Benefit Corporation provides a wide variety of discounts ranging from car rentals, hotels and resorts, dining, movies, and especially for theme parks including Universal Parks, Six Flags, Seaworld, Legoland, and more.
This internet retailer website not only provides discounts on tactical gear, tools, and accessories but also on travel-related items like rental cars, hotels, cruises, and theme parks. It also offers discounted tickets for sports events like baseball, basketball, or hockey games in addition to race registrations and concerts. The membership is free.
The annual pass, normally $80, is free for active-duty military members and dependents including Reserve and National Guard members. Obtain the pass in person at any recreation site by showing a valid form of military ID.
Both Legoland resorts offer 10% off admission tickets for active military personnel when purchased at a ticket booth when a valid military ID is presented. Legoland Florida Resort & Water Park, though, gives active-duty service members free admission to its park without any restrictions or blackout dates and can be redeemed at the ticket booth.
This California amusement park offers discounts on admission tickets to active-duty personnel when a military ID card is presented. They also offer a Military Tribute Days program that gives free admission to active-duty service people, retirees, veterans, and one of their guests on specific days throughout the year.
Carnival offers reduced deposits, free room upgrades, and up to $50 onboard credit for trips booked months in advance. One must submit documentation to prove eligibility in advance otherwise benefits could be rescinded.
Food discounts for military families
Major restaurant chains like Hard Rock Cafe and Applebee’s often offer a significant discount on the overall bill if a military ID is presented before paying.
Retail, gas, and camping discounts for military families
With the Good Sam Club membership, which is more than half off its normal cost of $29 for active-duty military, people can access discounts on fuel at Pilot Flying J gas stations, Camping World SuperCenters, Good Sam parks and campgrounds, and other retail locations.
Tricare is warning customers that scammers are preying on coronavirus fears to steal personal information by offering Covid-19 test kits.
As the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States continues to climb, some Americans have growing concerns about the availability of testing. Nefarious actors, it seems, are taking advantage of that uncertainty by contacting people over the phone claiming to be Tricare representatives and offering Covid-19 test kits.
“The scam involves direct calls to beneficiaries with an offer to ship or sell COVID-19 testing kits. The calls include requests for personal information such as Social Security numbers, bank or credit card information,” the release states. “Beneficiaries should avoid any solicitation regarding a COVID-19 test kit by anyone other than their attending physician.”
Tricare will only provide Covid-19 test kits upon order from a physician, and currently physician orders require that a patient meet certain criteria in order to be eligible for a test.
Testing is authorized based on the clinical judgment of a provider, exposure, travel history and symptoms,” Tricare’s webpage reads.
“You must have an in-person or virtual telephone/video visit with a provider who will arrange testing in a military treatment facility (if MTF-enrolled) or in the private sector (if enrolled to the network provider with TRICARE Prime or if you’re using TRICARE Select or TRICARE For Life). If network, the cost of the test is covered in the cost of the visit itself.”
As a result of these scammers, Tricare is asking that any unusual or suspicious calls from people claiming to be Tricare representatives should be reported on their Fraud and Abuse page here.
There have been more than a half million confirmed cases of Covid-19 infection around the world thus far, with more than 23,000 deaths attributed to the disease. America recently crossed over the 75,000 confirmed cases mark, with more than 1,000 deaths.
Tricare beneficiaries can be tested for Covid-19 at no cost provided they meet Tricare’s aforementioned testing criteria.
For more information about how the coronavirus is affecting basic training graduations, click here.
If you want to learn more about how the coronavirus has affected PCS and TDY orders, click here.
Chantae McMillian Langhorst is an Army spouse of two years, currently stationed in Georgia while her husband trains to be a helicopter pilot. She’s also a mama to one-year-old Otto, Olympic athlete and just won the coveted title of “Titan” for the central region on NBC’s the Titan Games, hosted by “The Rock” Dwayne Johnson.
She’s just a little busy.
Even before her husband decided to join the Army, Langhorst’s life was already deeply rooted in the military. Both of her parents were in the Army when they met, while stationed overseas in Germany. They would go on to serve and retire after 20 years each. Langhorst shared that she absolutely believes being a military kid helped her become more adaptable and independent. She knows those experiences served her well and helped mold her into the person and competitive athlete that she is today.
Langhorst graduated from Rolla High School in Missouri as a track and field athlete. She was also selected as a Nike All American. She received a scholarship to the University of Nebraska and began competing in the heptathlon. During her time in college, she received the coveted title of All-American five times while competing. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in art, she was approached by a coach who suggested she continue competing.
This time, in the Olympics.
“One of the best times of my life was learning about myself, how hard I could work and being able to dig deep and figure things out,” said Langhorst. In 2011 while training to compete in the Olympics, she suffered a devastating injury to her patellar-tendon in her knee during a high jump. Although she would never want to go back to that time in her life, Langhorst believes pushing through to heal from that injury to qualify for the Olympics made her a stronger athlete in the end.
Despite that injury, she made the U.S. Olympic team. Although Langhorst didn’t medal, she credits making it to the London 2012 Summer Olympics was one of the greatest achievements of her life.
In 2014, she found herself in Ohio training for the 2016 Olympics. Langhorst became a track and field coach at the University of Dayton. She also met her future husband, who was a sports trainer at the time. In 2015, she was selected for ESPN’s famous body issue. Although she didn’t make it past the trials for the 2016 Olympics, she didn’t give up. Langhorst began exploring the winter Olympics but stopped once she was faced with a surprise.
She was pregnant with little Otto.
Langhorst’s husband had begun the process of joining the Army and knowing that little Otto was on the way, they were even more excited for their new journey. They married in 2018 and he went off to Army training in 2019. After his graduation, they were stationed in Fort Rucker, Alabama, where he began helicopter pilot training. Then, Langhorst received an interesting phone call.
The Titan Games wanted her to try out.
They flew her out to Los Angeles in January of 2020 for a combine. A few days later, she was told she made the cut and would need to get to Atlanta to start filming. For 20 straight days she was involved in competitions twice a day and filming 12 hours a day. Langhorst describes it as an amazing experience but also exhausting. She also shared that there wasn’t much food. “I look so shredded on TV because I was eating like a bird,” she said laughing.
Langhorst became a Titan, swiftly eliminating her competition in the first episode.
“I hope I can inspire people,” she shared. Langhorst said that she understands how easy it is to get lost in being a military spouse and putting the service member’s career before your own. She found herself doing it before that call from The Titan Games. “Spouses need to know that they can still achieve a lot – even with a kid,” she explained. Langhorst said that having Otto gave her more purpose and the fuel to work even harder to make him proud.
These days, Langhorst is training for the Olympics again with the goal of medaling. Even with her super athletic abilities and tunnel vision goals, she’s absolutely human. She loves donuts, although she doesn’t indulge often. Fun fact: She loves training barefoot. Langhorst is also an artist who loves to paint and still searches for four-leaf clovers, something she always did with her dad who passed a few years ago. Now when she finds one, she feels him with her.
Langhorst has come a long way from the young girl who had her goals written on her bedroom ceiling. She hopes that her story of persistence and drive will encourage others to live their purpose. Langhorst has achieved so much in her life already, but she isn’t done yet. She’s just getting started.
To learn more about Langhorst, check out her website. You can also follow her on Instagram and Facebook as she takes you on her journey to the Olympic trials.
‘Tis the season for yuletide carols, family, gifts, entirely too much food, and, of course, some much-needed downtime. Somewhere between “I swear to defend….” and getting that sacred DD-214, many of us developed quite the affinity for film and television.
So, it’s only natural that we spend our downtime getting together on the nostalgia train to binge watch a few of our favorites. Christmas might be over, but there’s still time to enjoy these must-see holiday films. So, grab your spiked eggnog, a warm blanket, and snuggle up for a day’s worth of cinema magic as you pretend the break isn’t rapidly coming to an end.
Tim Allen is comedic greatness in this role.
(Walt Disney Pictures)
‘The Santa Clause’
The greatness of this film lies in two words: Tim Allen. His comedic timing is great here, and it really serves the premise of the movie: a dad kills Santa Claus and is forced to become Santa himself.
I mean, it’s a completely impossible narrative (Santa Claus is immortal, duh), but it’s fun all the way through.
This one is for all the dads
(20th Century Fox)
‘Jingle All The Way’
This one’s another movie about a dad and holiday hijinks. Arnold Schwarzenegger is on the search for a near-impossible-to-find toy in a quest to buy the affections of his son. In a lot of ways, this movie from the ’90’s has proven to be prophetic for its time. Much of the shenanigans that Schwarzenegger’s character experiences have become the standard holiday shopping experience.
No holiday season is complete without Kevin.
(20th Century Fox)
By now, you’ve probably noticed that parental neglect and aloofness is a bit of theme among the items on this list — but Home Alone cranks it up to full blast.
Kevin McCallister, as played by the immortal Macaulay Culkin, became the iconic ’90s smartass that indirectly shaped a generation. In the film, Kevin proves to be more than capable when he defends his family home against would-be invaders using nothing but wit and a closet full of toys.
It’s sheer conjecture, but we’re sure Kevin McCallister grew up and served — that resourcefulness says “veteran.”
Yippee ki yay, MF.
John. Mc. Clane.
Die Hard is definitely the most non-holiday movie on this list but, make no mistake, it is absolutely a holiday flick! It’s got a Christmas tree and a happy, warm and fuzzy ending.
Close enough for me!
It is, literally, a Christmas story.
‘A Christmas Story’
“You’ll shoot your eye out!”
It’s one of the most iconic lines in cinema history, but it’s not even the best in the film. A Christmas Story is brilliantly written, fantastically acted, and features some of the best narration in film.
This one is to be viewed, preferably, on Christmas Day, but as long as there’s snow on the ground, it’s still good.
As we settle into the new normal of our kids distance learning and all of us staying home as much as possible, it’s important to stay connected to our family members and friends around the world. One great way to stay connected is through the power of shared storytime.
For 30 years, United Through Reading has helped military families stay connected through deployments, drill weekends, TDYs, and irregular work hours. Now with shelter in place orders across the country, their app is a great way to stay connected to extended family members in the military.
With the free United Through Reading App military families are able to record and enjoy storytime on demand and also receive complimentary books!
The app launched in May 2019 and uses TroopID to verify military affiliation.
“By using TroopID, retirees, veterans, service members, and their immediate family members have a United Through Reading story station in their pocket – opening up endless possibilities to connect with their families over storytime,” said Dr. Sally Ann Zoll, CEO of United Through Reading.
CMSgt (Ret) Denise M. Jelinski-Hall reads everyday to her one year old grandchildren Dakota and Hunter, but last year when she found herself traveling away from their home in Colorado, she turned to United Through Reading.
“Reading their favorite stories provides consistency in their little lives. When Grandma can’t physically be there – the recordings are the next best thing. They get to hear Grandma’s voice, see my face and all the silly things they love. The recordings also are available on ‘their time’ as I’m not always available at the right time to read a story but the recordings are always there.”
The babies loved it, crawling right up to the laptop their mom Ashley set up for them to have storytime with Grandma, giggling and following along.
Photo courtesy of CMSgt (Ret) Denise M. Jelinski-Hall
For Caitlin Sommer, United Through Reading helps her kids connect with her brother Jesse who is in the Army. Jesse sent a number of books and recordings to his sisters ahead of a deployment and Caitlin’s two sons watch them two to three times a week.
“The sappy side of me – I want them to know Jesse, their brain spans are goldfish, for me when he comes back they can pick up where they left off,” she said. “As video chat becomes more common, even today with social distancing, it’s a wonderful way to stay in touch with people. Reading is really important to kids; it’s wonderful they have a personalized video from their uncle.”
Whether you want to connect with your niece or nephew, grandchild, or godchild, United Through Reading is a way to stay connected no matter the distance. To learn how to use the app check out this video:
And the best part about the app? You can send a book to the child for free! So start reading along with all of the kids in your life today – for now and future times away from home. Download it today at utr.org/app.
There has never been an active-duty military spouse elected to Congress. As overall military representation has fallen by roughly 20% over the past 60 years, spouses of service members are seeking to close the military-civilian representation gap.
Military Families Magazine spoke to three military spouses running for elected office in 2020 to see what led them to take the leap from concerned citizen to candidate.
First active-duty spouse in Congress?
If elected in November, Lindsey Simmons, a candidate for Missouri’s 4th Congressional District, would be the first active-duty military spouse elected to Congress. To put that in context there are currently 535 representatives in the 116th Congress. Since the election of the first female representative in 1917 there have been 51 sessions of Congress and thousands of opportunities to elect an active-duty military spouse.
Army spouse Lindsey Simmons is running for Missouri’s 4th Congressional District. Her political journey began when she started working with and for veterans in her community, trying to close the civilian-military representation gap. (Military Families Magazine)
Like many military spouses, Simmons’ journey into public service started through her advocacy for military families, with a desire to improve schools and health care access.
“I recognized that There was a huge gap between military families and civilian families,” Simmons said. “And so much of the policies coming down from Washington and how they were affecting our families never made the news.”
On the surface, the military population seems diverse, with increased participation from women and minorities. However, those who join the military are more likely to come from military families. With the overall size of the military in decline, the average citizen’s connection to someone in the military has dropped. Seventy-nine percent of baby boomers have a military connection as compared to only 33% of millennials.
If military families choose not to participate in a “second service” by running for elected office, then their voices and experiences are left out of the political process, widening the civilian-military representation gap.
Simmons is running for Missouri’s 4th Congressional District. Her political campaign was born out of her concern for her communities’ access to healthcare and other services. (Military Families Magazine)
With fewer experienced representatives in Congress, “their [politicians’] only notion of the military is what they see,” Simmons said. “And often the liaisons that DOD sends are going to be higher-ranking officers.”
Because military spouses are not subject to DOD Directive 1344.10 — the regulation that prevents active-duty service members from engaging in politics — there is no reason they cannot attempt to close the gap. According to Sarah Streyder, Director of the Secure Families Initiative and active-duty Air Force spouse, there is a lack of clarity surrounding what level of political engagement is acceptable for military families. Military programming is “missing a call to public sector engagement,” Streyder said. There are no reasons spouses should not “lobby our representatives, by voting, by speaking up in order to be a more active part of the conversations that drive war and peace.”
Serve where you want to see change
Not everyone feels called to serve in Congress, but their participation is no less valuable. Navy spouse Alexia Palacios-Peters is running for the school board in Coronado, California. Things shifted for Palacios-Peters during a parent-teacher conference.
Coronado, California School Board candidate and Navy spouse Alexia Palacios-Peters participated in #thefrontstepsproject while actively running for elected office. Photo credit: Katie Karosich. (Military Families Magazine)
“It became clear that the teacher didn’t realize dad was deployed and had been extended four times,” Palacios-Peters said. “You’re in a military town and how many kid’s parents are on the [U.S.S. Abraham] Lincoln?”
It seemed that Coronado, a proud Navy town with a high military population, didn’t have strong military representation.
“Not all of them are residents here or are able to vote here,” Palacio-Peters said. As a politically-active resident, she hopes to “be that voice for military families because decisions are going to affect our kids.”
Being a voice in local communities is not out of reach for the average disinterested citizen.
Before Melissa Oakley decided to run for elected office, she actively participated in politics, founding the Onslow Beat Conservative News Blog. Oakley is pictured interviewing Congressman Dr. Greg Murphy (R) after his first town hall. (Military Families Magazine)
“I really wasn’t into politics,” Melissa Oakley, a Marine Corps spouse who is running for the Board of Education in Onslow County, North Carolina, said. “I had the mindset ‘I’m a military spouse and they know I’m going to move, and they don’t want us.’ But in reality, they really do want us.”
Oakley’s call to service was born out of her personal conviction to help her community. She founded a food pantry and supported local like-minded political leaders. According to Oakley, local government involvement is vital.
“A lot of people think that we need to focus on the president; no not really. Because if you’re a homeowner your local government is controlling your property taxes being raised,” she said.
Military spouses can make a difference in the communities in which they live. The only hurdle is finding a way to get involved.
Where do I start?
Because Melissa Peck, a Navy spouse, was stationed in Japan with her family, she felt removed from the 2016 election cycle. Rather than throwing up her hands in frustration, upon her return to the U.S. she immediately joined her local political committee and brought her family along for the ride.
“All four of my kids have gone canvassing with me,” Peck said. “They have attended political rallies. We hosted a meet and greet for a congressional candidate in our home.”
Today, Peck is an elected leader of her local political party.
All candidates agree. You don’t have to run for office to make a difference. Whether you contribute one hour a month, or you turn your volunteering into a full-time job, it is appreciated. It’s attainable. And it makes a difference.
Wondering what you can do to make an impact on your community? You don’t have to run for office to make change happen:
Easy next steps
Register to vote.
Volunteer for a candidate or political party you support.
Research candidates for the 2020 election via Vote411.org.
Go to school board meetings.
Show up to virtual and in-person town halls.
Sign a petition for a cause you support.
Involve your kids. Show them the process isn’t just for politicians.
It’s no doubt that those who haven’t lived the military lifestyle have a difficult time with some of the logistics. In everything from decoding thousands of acronyms, to seemingly “hard” dates that change at the drop of a hat, to the mindset of doing without a loved one for months on end, if you haven’t lived it, it’s a foreign reality.
That’s not to say non-military folk aren’t empathetic, simply that they haven’t experienced military happenings firsthand. However, that is to say they should remain impartial at all times. And they definitely shouldn’t tell a milspouse the following three things:
You knew what you were getting into.
Yes. That is an actual thing that people say to military members and their spouses alike. A quite common thing.
Sure. We know the main points. But all the details? Some surprises are sure to come along the way with anything in life. No matter how prepared you are, no one can anticipate the emotions of that first deployment (or the tenth).
Saying that a milspouse can’t talk about a situation being hard just because they knew about it upfront, is wholly unfair. We are communicators. When things bother us, we discuss them. When we are having a rough time, we tell others … that’s part of what helps the situation get better.
But to be shut down by someone who has zero idea of what they’re going through and to have them tell you your feelings don’t matter because you knew a military marriage would be hard? Hold me back.
It’s a harder situation than anyone thinks – and instead of being told their feelings are invalid, military spouses should be celebrated and supported for their help within the armed forces community.
The guided-missle cruiser USS Monterey (CG-61) Homecoming
At least … it could be worse.
Sigh. Another common response to military lifestyle changes is “at least.”
“At least he won’t be gone that long.” “At least he gets to come home for the birth.” “At least he’s not deploying.” It’s a minimizing statement that makes us want to pull our hair out.
Why can’t it just be hard? Why do milspouses have to be told their feelings aren’t as big as they feel them?
Yes, it could be worse. That’s true of anything in life. But we don’t need the Debbie Downers of the world pointing out stats about how much worse off life could be. If you can’t muster up a sincere, “That’s tough! It’s ok to be upset,” then maybe just don’t say anything at all.
But you get great benefits.
And? Anything else you’d like to toss in from left field, Karen? Sure, milspouses are grateful for how wonderful it is to get free flu swabs or take courses via the GI Bill. But we promise, that’s not the first thought that comes up.
There are great benefits of military life. But it’s not exactly an even trade-off for the sacrifices the entire family makes. Really, it’s apples and oranges, and if you talk to milspouses about how they should be grateful for all the benefits during month seven of a deployment, they just might throw said fruit in your direction.
When talking to military family members, be careful what you say. Even when ill intentions aren’t in mind, be careful not to belittle their experience or denounce what’s been gone through. It’s a lifestyle that you can’t understand unless you’ve lived it, and sometimes, when things are hard, we just want to be heard.
Candlelit makeshift memorial on the steps of the US Supreme Court following the the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. (Wikimedia Commons)
My little girl has always been defiant, yet respectful. She’s opinionated, witty, and undeterred from any goal, plan, or scheme she sets out to pursue. She can wear down even the most hardened of resolves, with well-formed arguments and logical persuasions. She’s a lawyer in the making.
Rather than dampen that argumentative and determined spirit to fit within the bounds of responsible parenting, we hope to shape it using strong role models. So, we fill her bookshelf and Netflix queue with as many “Sheroes” as we can — including icons like Susan B. Anthony, Harriet Tubman, Amelia Earhart, and the Notorious RBG.
Two years ago, she chose to portray Justice Ginsburg in her school’s third grade Living Wax Museum. In a room full of Betsy Rosses and Babe Ruths, Hannah stood off to the far side as the sole, small, defiant RBG. She refused to break role even for a hug after her speech — completely dedicated to her assignment.
When I told her of Ruth’s passing the morning after we lost her, she still had most of her speech memorized. The importance of her death was not lost to my 10-year-old. Over the following days and weeks, we’ve had many conversations and reflections about the legacy of RBG, and the work left for us to pick up. I often pair these conversations with an embarrassing serenade of Hamilton’s “Dear Theodosia”; specifically, this refrain of hope:
If we lay a strong enough foundation We’ll pass it on to you, we’ll give the world to you And you’ll blow us all away
The foundation is laid, now we must make sure to pass it on. Here are eight lessons I hope to pass along to my daughter from the life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Representation is vital and always worth fighting for.
“Women should be in all places where decisions are being made.” Yes, Ruth, yes. It is imperative to make sure that every perspective is heard and respected, and that is impossible to do without diversity of thought and experiences. I want my daughter to not only recognize imbalances of opinions but to seek out and welcome those on the margins — on the playground, a boardroom, elected office, or even Supreme Court bench.
Even if you’re the only one standing for what’s right, know that you can pave the way for others.
Have unrealistic expectations.
Justice Ginsburg herself recognized early in her life that becoming a judge as a woman was an “unrealistic expectation” but that didn’t deter her pursuit of advancing her career to its apex. Instead of being dismayed by cultural standards of the day, she set her sights on fairness and equality and never let the fact that she was the first, or only, limit her ambition.
Dream big, baby girl — don’t ever let the world dictate to you what’s possible.
Dissent respectfully and befriend the other.
Ginsburg is famously quoted as stating, “you can disagree without being disagreeable.” She’s also known for being friends with Justice Antonin Scalia, whose opinions and interpretations of the law often wildly opposed her own. I want my daughter to learn how to hold space for disagreement, discourse, and acceptance of “the other” in all aspects of her life — without losing sight of what she believes in and speaking up with respect and dignity.
Always remember that everyone is going through something.
Don’t ever be afraid to be yourself.
RBG’s small stature, demure presence, and unapologetically feminine attire was her own personal statement on inclusion. She didn’t attempt to earn admission to the “boys club” by becoming more masculine or conforming to a “safer” version of herself. She changed nothing, and steadily let her work speak to her deservedness. “My mother told me to be a lady. And for her, that meant be your own person, be independent.”
Occupy all spaces with power and authenticity, sweetheart.
Be steadfast in your efforts and mindful of balance.
RBG set such a stellar example of resiliency. Decades of fighting cases centered around equality brought forth some huge wins, but also many defeats. This didn’t deter her efforts or weaken her resolve. With each dissent on cases she lost, or opinions on those she won, she was able to push the narrative ever forward. To find the stamina for a career that spanned her lifetime, she set aside time for things that made her happy, found balance, and took care of her body. She once said, “Real change, enduring change, happens one step at a time.”
The world will tell you that failure and setbacks aren’t ok. They’re lying. Always keep fighting for what you care about and learn when you fall short.
Choose your battles, and your words, wisely.
“Reacting in anger or annoyance will not advance one’s ability to persuade.” We’re living in an age of noise and outrage, and are slowly losing the ability to debate respectfully and “argue” a point with impact. Some battles are worth fighting, but others won’t conclude in agreement or progress–no matter how right one is. I want my daughter to know when to speak, when to yell, and when to seek out better words.
But remember, always “speak your mind, even if your voice shakes.”
Have both brazen confidence and humility.
When asked why she chose to pursue law, RBG replied, “I became a lawyer for selfish reasons. I thought I could do a lawyer’s job better than any other.” And she was correct. There’s no shame in knowing who you are, what you’re good at, and that you deserve to pursue your dream. Her confidence didn’t grant her a free pass to success though, her curiosity and diligence did that.
Your confidence will be intimidating to some people. Don’t ever let their insecurities tempt you to become smaller.
Know that you are worthy of respect and admiration.
I want my daughter to know that she deserves nothing less than a partner that emphatically and sacrificially supports her. Ruth credits her late spouse, Marty, with unwavering support for her career, and adoration of her mind. “Whatever we do, we do it together.” I want my daughter to likewise only accept equality in a partner.
Find you a Marty, girl. Or, better yet, find someone like daddy.
What my daughter ultimately takes with her from my attempts to bestow some RBG wisdom to her, is yet to be seen. But when I asked her what she admired most about Justice Ginsburg, she wrote this:
Ruth Bader Ginsberg inspires me because she never gave up, and stood up for what she believes in. She famously said, “Fight for the things that you care about. But do it in a way that will lead others to join you.” I think this means that you should fight for things you believe in, but don’t hurt others in the process. – Hannah Artis, 10
And you’ll blow us all away.
Ruth, parents of daughters — and sons — everywhere are thankful for the legacy that you leave behind.
As a U.S. Navy messman, Doris “Dorie” Miller, a Black 22-year-old sharecropper’s son from Waco, Texas, was restricted from handling any weapons. His duties included serving the officers’ mess, collecting laundry, and shining shoes. Despite the institutional racism built into the Navy at the time, Miller found success as the boxing champion of his ship, the battleship USS West Virginia. Still, he was segregated from his white shipmates in both his duties and berthing. However, Miller and the Navy would soon learn that hostile fire doesn’t discriminate.
On December 7, 1941, Miller woke at 0600 to serve the breakfast mess. Afterwards, he proceeded to collect laundry. At 0757, a torpedo dropped by Lt. Cdr. Shigeharu Murata of the Japanese aircraft carrier Akagi struck West Virginia—it was the first of nine torpedoes that would eventually sink the mighty battleship. General Quarters was sounded and Miller made his way to his battle station, an anti-aircraft battery magazine located amidships. Upon finding the position destroyed, Miller proceeded to “Times Square”, a central location where the fore-to-aft and port-to-starboard passageways crossed, to report himself available for other duty.
The COMMO, Lt. Cdr. Doir Johnson, recognized Miller’s powerful boxer build and ordered Miller to accompany him to the bridge to help him move the ship’s skipper, Cpt. Mervyn Bennion, who had taken a piece of shrapnel to the abdomen. Miller and Johnson were unable to remove Bennion from the bridge and instead moved him from the exposed position where he was wounded to a sheltered spot behind the conning tower. Bennion refused to abandon his post and continued to fight the ship, issuing orders and receiving reports from his officers.
A cartoon depicting Miller’s action at Pearl Harbor (Charles Alston—Office of War Information and Public Relations)
After moving the captain, Miller was ordered to accompany Lt. Frederic White and Ens. Victor Delano to load the number 1 and 2 M2 .50-caliber anti-aircraft machine guns which sat unmanned aft of the conning tower. Since he had no training on the weapon system, White and Delano instructed Miller on how to load and man the guns. Expecting Miller to feed ammunition to the gun, Delano was surprised to turn around and see Miller firing one of the guns. White loaded ammunition into the guns and Miller continued to fire until the ammunition was expended. Miller’s actions with the captain and the machine gun have become well-known thanks to their depiction in Hollywood films; most notably, Pearl Harbor where Miller was portrayed by Cuba Gooding Jr.
What is less known are Miller’s actions after he ran out of ammo. Lt. Claude Ricketts ordered Miller to help him carry the captain, now only semi-conscious and bleeding heavily, up to the navigation bridge and out of the thick oily smoke that had begun to engulf the ship. Cpt. Bennion succumbed to his wounds and died soon afterwards. For his actions, he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. Miller proceeded to pull injured sailors out of the burning mix of oil and water and was one of the last men to abandon West Virginia as she sank. Afterwards, Miller continued to rescue his fellow sailors from the water and move them to safety.
Adm. Nimitz pins the Navy Cross on Miller at a ceremony aboard the USS Enterprise at Pearl Harbor on May 27, 1942 (U.S. Navy)
While it’s unfortunate that Miller’s actions after his gun ran out of ammo are lesser known, it’s tragic that Miller’s actions during the attack initially went unrecognized. An official Navy commendation list of outstanding actions during the attack did not bear Miller’s name and only listed “an unknown Negro sailor”. The Pittsburgh Courier, one of the leading Black newspapers at the time, didn’t think this was enough. “It made two lines in the newspaper,” said Frank Bolden, war correspondent for the Courier, in an interview before his death in 2003. “The Courier thought he should be recognized and honored. We sent not a reporter, we sent our executive editor to the naval department. They said, ‘We don’t know the name of the messman. There are so many of them.'” The Navy’s apathy didn’t deter the Courier though.
Hoping to undermine the stereotype that African Americans couldn’t perform well in combat, the Courier was determined to identify the unnamed Black sailor and properly recognize him for his actions. “The publisher of the paper said, ‘Keep after it’,” Bolden said. “We spent ,000 working to find out who Dorie Miller was. And we made Dorie Miller a hero.”
After Miller was identified, the African-American community swelled with pride. Amidst the shock and sorrow that gripped the country following Pearl Harbor, they had a war hero that represented them. Initially, however, the Navy only awarded Miller a letter of commendation. It took a campaign by the Black press and a proposal from Admiral Chester Nimitz, commander of the Pacific fleet, to President Roosevelt for the commendation to be upgraded to the Navy Cross, the third highest honor for valor at the time.
Miller continued to serve in the fleet aboard the USS Indianapolis and was advanced to Messman First Class in June 1942. Later that month, the Courier started a campaign for him to return home for a war bond tour alongside white war heroes. As part of the campaign, the Courier published a photo of Miller next to a photo of a Sgt. Joseph Lockard receiving an officer’s commission for sounding a warning that went unheeded before the attack on Pearl Harbor. The photos were captioned, “He Warned…Gets Commission. He Fought…Keeps Mop,” highlighting the disparity in the treatment of white and colored servicemen.
The recruiting poster was designed by artist David Stone Martin (U.S. Navy)
The campaign succeeded and Miller returned to Pearl Harbor in November. He went on a war bond tour that included Oakland, Dallas, and his hometown of Waco until he reported to Puget Sound in May, 1943. He was advanced to Cook First Class on June 1 and reported to the escort carrier Liscome Bay. That year, Miller was featured on a Navy recruiting poster called “Above and beyond the call of duty.” At the Battle of Makin, Liscome Bay was sunk by a Japanese submarine on November 24, 1943. Miller and two-thirds of the crew were listed as presumed dead. His body was never recovered.
Since his death, Miller has had schools, streets, community centers, and a foundation named after him. A memorial in his hometown of Waco, Texas features a nine-foot bronze statue of Miller. While the Navy named a Knox-class frigate after him, the remainder of Miller’s naval dedications are quarters, galleys, and a housing community—until now. On January 19, 2020, the Navy announced that CVN-81, a future Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier, would be named the USS Doris Miller. The Doris Miller is scheduled to be laid down January 2026, launched October 2029, and commissioned in 2030. She is the first supercarrier to be named for an enlisted sailor and the first to be named after an African American.
Miller’s niece, Brenda Haven, and her family react after the unveiling of a framed graphic commemorating the future USS Doris Miller at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam (U.S. Navy)
The fight to honor Miller continues though. Since the Navy announced that a carrier would bear his name, efforts to upgrade Miller’s Navy Cross to a Medal of Honor have been renewed. The man who was told he could not handle a weapon but still defended his ship and rescued his shipmates will have his name on one of the Navy’s mightiest ships. Doris Miller will be listed alongside names like Gerald R. Ford and John F. Kennedy. If he is posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, it will mark the final victory in the fight to properly recognize Miller for his courage, valor, and dedication to duty.