I run a PR firm for small businesses. After my brother died in Iraq, it felt like my world exploded — here are the 9 steps I took to rebuild my life and career. - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

I run a PR firm for small businesses. After my brother died in Iraq, it felt like my world exploded — here are the 9 steps I took to rebuild my life and career.

Picking up the pieces after a public tragedy is tough when you are self-employed. But it’s doable. 

In August 2007, my husband and I were living the dream — just four years earlier, I’d founded my own public relations practice just outside of Washington, DC. A few years after that, my husband joined me in the business and added his graphic and website design skills to our offerings. Our business prospered and we were busy taking care of our 3 kids from his first marriage, and dreaming about buying a home and getting pregnant or adopting. 

Life was looking up, and we headed to the beach in Georgia for a week of much needed rest with some friends. 

We spent one idyllic day at the beach with the kids swimming and all of us in the sun and having fun. I remember riding a beach coaster bike with fat tires and the basket full of sandy magazines, and feeling like all of my DC stress was peeling off with the ocean breeze. I still remember the sound of those wheezy pedals as I headed back to the beach house to get ready for a big meal with the gang. 

Then our lives – quite literally – blew up.

I realized on the way back that I’d missed a call from my mom, so I called her back and she didn’t pick up. I then called my aunt, who told me that my brother, US Army Specialist Christopher Neiberger, age 22, was killed in combat that day when a roadside bomb exploded. 

It felt like my life also exploded in that moment. I remember dropping the phone. I remember hearing someone screaming. Then I realized that the person screaming was me. It was the moment everything changed.

We hurried to my parents’ home in Florida. A news release was issued by the Army after our family was notified, and soon I was managing reporters not for my clients — but on behalf of my humble and grieving parents. 

Only 24 hours after I’d been carefree and pedaling on that beach bike, I sat down alongside my two surviving brothers to talk with our hometown newspaper and tried to sum up what the legacy of my little brother would be. 

Those days in Florida were busy — our friends and family wanted to be with us, and we were also meeting with the military, planning a funeral for our hometown, and organizing a burial service at Arlington National Cemetery. 

Before long, one of my clients called. 

I had turned in a magazine story just before going to the beach and she needed me to check my interview notes and fix something. I paused, told her what had happened, and said I would try to find time to fix it later that evening.

I sent the revised copy to her standing with the laptop at the end of the driveway using a neighbor’s WiFi signal, as my parents were still on dial up. I also sent an email to our clients updating them on our situation and extending our time away to two weeks. I looked up at the stars and wondered how the hell we were going to survive this. 

But survive it we did. His funeral was held in the church my husband and I had married in — and it drew hundreds of people — including demonstrators, counter demonstrators, TV crews, and hundreds of people who just wanted to show they cared. It was touching, overwhelming, and so much more all at the same time.

We flew home to DC the next day to get ready for the family to arrive for the burial service. I frantically vacuumed sand out of my living room carpet, bought towels because I had no time to do laundry, answered the door for floral arrangements and casseroles, and made a plan to get everyone to the cemetery on time in rush hour traffic with the army casualty officer. 

Ten days after Chris was killed in combat in Iraq, he was buried in section 60 at Arlington National Cemetery. 

The media covered the burial with our family’s permission, so there was footage on the news and in newspapers around the country.

I got up early the day after the burial service to say goodbye to my family and picked up the newspaper — there was a photo on the front page of the metro section of The Washington Post showing us getting our flag the day before at the cemetery. I made a mental note to pick up a few more copies and started to go back to bed — I was exhausted from the last 10 days.

My husband and I looked at each other and it was like a light bulb went off in both of our heads. It was our wedding anniversary. We agreed on cards and dinner. Then my husband said his stomach still hurt, and he thought he should see our doctor. I always think he’s a hypochondriac, since my dad is a doctor, so I joked, “I’ll even drive you to the appointment since it’s our anniversary.” It was such a normalizing moment — a reminder that we were “us” and life could somehow start again.

But even after all we’d just been through, life still had other plans. 

Our doctor told us to get back in the car and drive straight to the emergency room. Oh crap, I thought.

In the hospital, they called a doctor out of surgery on someone else to look at my husband. Now anxiety began churning my stomach into ugly knots. I knew they wouldn’t do that unless there was something really wrong.

And he had emergency surgery that night for a condition that could have killed him — an incarcerated hernia that, thankfully, didn’t go septic.

We never got the cards. Or dinner. An evil nurse threw me out of his hospital room.

I sat in the waiting room and wept into the same Washington Post I’d collected from my driveway that morning. In 11 days we went from being on vacation, to my brother dying, to that hospital waiting room. I was emotionally now at rock bottom. 

Hopefully nothing tragic ever happens to you. While my story might be unique to me, all of us face struggles in life. It’s challenging to figure out how to start again, after tragedy strikes. Here’s what I did to rebuild, and my advice:

1. Start slow and take time off.

My husband had a month long recovery, so we did not attend business meetings or networking events for a while — and thankfully much of DC shuts down in mid-August. Yet client emails kept coming in. I mowed the lawn and we ate some of the casseroles people had brought, and read our email. We took our time to ease back into the rhythm of business life.

2. Continue to communicate with your clients and contacts.

After a tragedy is when your clients and contacts need to hear from you. Some of them will legitimately care about you and want to know you are OK or how they can help. Others will be concerned about the ongoing work you do for them and how their work might be impacted by what you’ve gone through. 

3. Lean on people you trust.

This is where having a network is a huge bonus. I had a friend who typically helped cover press calls for my clients while I was out town on vacation each year. She helped me beyond that first week, and knowing she was there to help my clients gave me one less thing to worry about.

4. Keep your contact lists — not just your client lists — and communication systems up-to-date.

While I had a list of our active clients, I didn’t have a ready-made list of some of our other contacts, like the people we networked with or former clients. We didn’t have a business e-newsletter (like we do now) that I could easily send a message out to or a business Facebook page. Having those would have made letting people know we were taking time off, and letting them know when we reopened, a lot easier.

5. Signal when you are ready to start working again.

Only you know when you are ready. Some of your contacts or current clients may want to offer new work or get started on a project, but be unsure of your availability and not want to bother you. So you have to signal that you are ready again for business — whether that means you write emails, or you make phone calls, or send out an e-newsletter and make a Facebook post.

6. Remain open to new things.

In those first couple of weeks back in the office, I was sent two proposals and invited to bid on them. I looked at them and thought, wow, these would be great. I wasn’t hopeful I’d win the work, but I thought writing responses to them would get me back into my groove. Just the act of writing them, would let me dream about doing new work and get my creativity flowing. Amazingly, we won both of those jobs, and a few months later, I took on a gig managing public relations for an organization that assists families of fallen troops.

7. Have good insurance and know your risk exposure.

Thanks to good health insurance, we didn’t face a huge bill from my husband’s emergency surgery. Because we are both self-employed, this event drove home how important it is to have good health insurance and to know what our risk exposure is financially if something happens. Every year, we use what my husband calls “the scariest spreadsheet ever” for open enrollment for work benefits during November and December, so we can evaluate the real financial impacts if a “major medical event” were to happen to one or both of us when we choose a health plan.

8. Keep a cash reserve in the bank that you can easily access.

We also had a cash reserve in the bank when our tragedy hit in 2007. We could afford to take some time off and not be stressed about paying our bills, but we also didn’t want to dip too heavily into the kitty either. A good rule of thumb is to keep at least three to six months of what you need to pay the bills in easily-accessible accounts (meaning your funds are not tied up in IRAs, or investments with withdrawal penalties). 

9. Seek help when you need it.

I began getting back “out there” at networking events and it wasn’t all good. At a women in business networking event, everyone attending had to get up in front of the entire group and talk about their business and family. I did fine on the business part, but when I got to the family part I cried and felt embarrassed. The reality was that I had spent so much time tending to everyone else and their needs in all of this — that somewhere deep inside I had forgotten to take care of myself. I found help with a therapist and the peer support of other gold star families.

Life can change in an instant and right now we may all feel like we are living in a state of perpetual crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Making some preparations — whether it involves getting your finances or insurance in order, keeping your records and contact lists straight, or being flexible and taking care of yourself — can give you stability and boost your peace of mind.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Educational considerations for parents weighing homeschooling

Over the last century, with the introduction of compulsory attendance and development of the modern public education system, teachers have largely held the responsibility of educating America’s youth. COVID-19 brought about the shuttering of our nation’s schools and education was very quickly thrust into the spotlight as parents found themselves back at the helm.

The sudden closure of schools brought about a cascade of consequences educators, parents and government officials were forced to triage. The bulk of this responsibility fell to parents, as they worked to fit a titan of a system into a quickly-changing scenario, with contradicting information, within the fluid environment of a home.

Though these efforts were nothing short of heroic and should be celebrated, the result has left many parents with a sense of trepidation as fall approaches.


As we approach the new academic year, homeschooling has taken on a new level of interest. In fact, a national poll completed in May indicated that 40% of parents were more likely to homeschool after the lockdown ends.

Across the nation, parents are seeking out information that will help minimize the negative impact COVID-19 has on their children’s education. Though they will ultimately have to weigh the options and choose the best fit for their family, there are a number of considerations for each.

District-directed learning and virtual academies

As mandates are passed down by governors, school districts are working to determine how to implement safety measures while balancing the educational needs of their students. As of now, district-directed learning hasn’t been fully fleshed out across the country as the plans are contingent on COVID numbers. Interest in virtual academies are at an all-time high, as parents are looking for options that won’t be impacted by rising COVID numbers. Virtual academies provided public education from state-certified teachers, adhering to the same testing, attendance, and accountability standards as their brick-and-mortar counterparts.

Among the benefits of district-directed and virtual learning is adherence to curriculum standards and special education guidelines. Students are expected to attend classes where they will interact with their teachers and receive feedback on their progress. Parents are expected to help facilitate learning and adhere to the structure of the school system.

Homeschooling

Though there are a number of homeschool curriculums that effectively “copy and paste” the structure of public education into the home environment, the foundation of homeschool is built with the child and family center. To these ends, it’s highly individualized and fluid. For those who are new to homeschooling, there are a number of considerations to help guide you.

Legalities

Homeschool is regulated at the state level, meaning that each state has different requirements. Research is key for military families. Home School Legal Defense Association has a number of resources regarding state and special education laws. Additionally, homeschool families will often utilize an umbrella school for guidance to complete their state requirements, making a potential return to public school easier.

Curriculum

Homeschool curriculums cover a wide range of educational philosophy. From classical style to unschooling, there is a curriculum fit for every family. Most families use multiple curriculums depending on the need and number of children. Some curriculums have module-based learning where students access videos, relieving some of the pressure from parents. Many curriculums are designed with multiple grades in mind, allowing for families to teach certain subjects to multiple-level learners at once. There are online curriculum quizzes designed by veteran homeschoolers to help you find your best fit.

Time

One point that tends to take public-school parents by surprise is the amount of time many homeschoolers dedicate to desk-work. Overall, homeschoolers spend a fraction of the time at a desk compared to their public-school peers. Additionally, the rate with which homeschoolers move through the material is highly individualized. For instance, if the curriculum provides 20 lessons on a certain topic, but the student has demonstrated mastery in 7, they move forward to the next concept. Conversely, if a student is struggling, parents are able to recognize it and take additional time to help ensure success.

Socialization

Though families are also facing tough decisions about how to proceed in the fall, co-ops have historically been sources of a great community and learning among homeschoolers. The size and design of each co-op vary greatly as each community serves a different purpose. Though many co-ops are also awaiting further guidance smaller gatherings may continue to have fewer restrictions. Additionally, you can connect with a few like-minded families and create a co-op, allowing your students to continue to have a social connection with peers during this time.

Though the circumstances that have led us to this point have been, in many ways, catastrophic; parents should be empowered by policy and lawmakers to make the best educational decisions for their children. At a time when uncertainty is the only constant, embracing alternative forms of education may just be the thing that allows this generation of students to excel.

Nichole is a doctoral-level Board Certified Behavior Analyst, professor, and school psychologist with a specialization in education law and policy. A homeschooling mom of four and Marine spouse of 13 years, Nichole and her husband are stationed outside of Washington, D.C.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Air Force Academy and the experiment of enlisted faculty

Enlisted airmen have been part of the Air Force Academy in both instructor and mentor positions. But now they have a chance to be considered full time accredited faculty teachers.

The Air Force Academy was established in April 1954 after several years of consideration. Long before the Air Force was its own branch of the military, senior leadership argued they needed a school that would be directly focused on the war in the air – they needed a place to train future airmen.


In 1948, a year after the formal establishment of the Air Force, the Stearns-Eisenhower Board was formed to study existing military academies. They concluded that the Air Force absolutely needed its own school and that at least 40 percent of all future officers should be service academy graduates.

It took seven years for leadership to reach a consensus on site location and to receive funding. In 1955, construction began on the Academy in Colorado Springs. That same year, the first class of 306 officers were sworn-in at a temporary site – Lowry Air Force Base in nearby Denver, Colorado. Lt. Gen. Hubert R. Harmon was recalled from retirement by President Eisenhower to become the Academy’s first superintendent.

Women were allowed to enter the Academy beginning in 1975, and the first women cadets graduated in 1980. That flagship-class included the Academy’s first woman, who would later be superintendent, Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson. To date, the Air Force Academy has graduated more than 50,000 officers.

Since its inception, the Air Force Academy has provided a corps of officers dedicated to upholding the standards of their profession and of the Air Force. In turn, the Academy offers cadets the right kind of access to a diverse and varied faculty. Now that faculty is even more diverse than ever.

After its first year, the Air Force Academy says that having noncommissioned officers serve as faculty shows real promise, but there needs to be further evaluation to decide if it’s worth keeping. The Academy is the first service academy that features enlisted service members as official faculty.

A report issued this summer, written by Chief Master Sgt. Sean Milligan and Senior Master Sgts. Ecaterina Garcia and Gloria Kuzmicki was released a year after the test pilot began. The Air Force reports that it will need several more years to explore the sustainability of the program, but initial findings are very promising – both for cadets and for the current faculty on staff.

The four enlisted Academic instructors, including the Chief mentioned above MSgt. Milligan, Senior MSgt. Garcia and Kuznicki, along with Senior MSgt. William Baez. Milligan manages the enlisted instructors and teaches part-time in the management department. Garcia teaches military strategy studies, Kuzmicki teaches leadership and behavior science, and Baez teaches intro statistics.

In a statement to Air Force Times, Milligan said that the program proves that the Air Force can select and hire appropriately qualified enlisted instructors to help increase faculty diversity. He went on to say that it seems like having an enlisted faculty component helps to have a positive effect on the cadets. The diversified faculty might also help cadets have a more collaborative learning environment, leading to greater career growth – not to mention significant experience with enlisted airmen.

The Air Force Academy created three enlisted teaching positions for the senior noncommissioned officers, all of whom hold advanced degrees.

After being hired, each instructor receives their department assignment and teaches classes relevant to their subjects of expertise. This initiative’s main goal is to provide enlisted airmen who have advanced degrees with a chance to put their education to work while continuing to serve the Air Force.

The report concludes that cadets will ultimately be better served with a more diverse staff. It still remains to be seen how the program will continue to unfold, but it seems clear the Air Force is committed to providing the right proving ground for America’s next generation of Air Force officers.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Portland Protests: Veterans aren’t special—the oath they swear is

The video of my Naval Academy classmate, Chris David, beaten by federal police last month in Portland, shook me. Like bad guys from a straight-to-DVD movie, cowardly officers attacked a peaceful American exercising his Constitutionally-guaranteed right to protest. David stood unyielding, bearing the blows, earning the nickname ‘Captain Portland’ for his almost superhuman resistance.

Ironically, as police obscured their identity, David wore his Naval Academy sweatshirt for ease of identification, as a veteran. As if the word ‘Navy,’ written boldly across his chest might act as a shield, like Superman’s ‘S’ or Captain America’s star. As someone who’s gotten out of countless tickets by virtue of the Marine Corps sticker on my car, I’d shared the same illusion: My veteran status somehow made me special.


David and I reported aboard the Naval Academy to become midshipmen in July, 1984. After the shearing, the uniform issue and the tearful goodbyes, we swore an Oath:

‘I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic…’

By swearing allegiance to the Constitution and not an individual, such as the president, we bound ourselves only to the American people. Despite the nobility (or naivety) of David’s mission — to remind federal officers of their Oath to the Constitution, his presence at the protest came as a surprise for many Americans who’d dismissed protestors as nothing more than ‘lawless hooligans.’

Yet David, and our class, served the American people faithfully as Navy and Marine Corps officers, unhesitatingly laying our collective asses on the line. We’ve got the scars, both physical and mental—and disability ratings as proof. Because yes, we believe in America.

So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that David was at the protest. David, along with brother and sister veterans, were there to support not only one another, but to defend the Constitution, and by extension, the American people. It’s what we swore to do. Current leadership may possess the law, but not the will to resist an old Marine, soldier, sailor, airman or Coast Guardsman who swore that Oath. Because it’s the Oath that makes us special. Just ask ‘Captain Portland.’

Brian O’Hare is a U.S. Naval Academy graduate, former Marine Corps officer and disabled combat veteran. He’s a former Editor-at-Large for ‘MovieMaker’ magazine and an award-winning documentary filmmaker. Brian’s fiction has appeared in ‘War, Literature and the Arts’, ‘Liar’s League, London’, ‘Fresh.ink‘, ‘The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature’ and the ‘Santa Fe Writers Project’. He currently lives in Los Angeles. You can follow him on Instagram/Twitter @bohare13x.

Editor’s note: The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the various authors on WATM do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints or official policies of WATM. To submit your own op-ed, please email Managing Editor Tessa Robinson at Tessa.Robinson@wearethemighty.com.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

5 places to look for local military spouse events

When moving to a new location, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with the amount of information you don’t have on hand. A lack of people and support system, not knowing what the local events are all about, or even when they exist, not having the low-down on stores and restaurants, like which McDonald’s is “the good one” and so on.

All of the above and more comes with each PCS. There’s a nuance to each new base, and knowing or not knowing what to expect is part of the gig.


However, by searching out what your new stop has in store, you can more readily get acquainted with the locals. You can attend events, get immersed in the culture, and gain a better understanding of what your new base has to offer.

I run a PR firm for small businesses. After my brother died in Iraq, it felt like my world exploded — here are the 9 steps I took to rebuild my life and career.

Facebook

This household name is great for checking out local events. With their new(ish) feature, users can search upcoming parades, meetings, town happenings, and more by location. Get the details, save to get reminders, and even notify Facebook friends that you’re interested in each item. When starting out, Facebook is a great place to find what’s new and how you can get involved … or just how you can keep yourself busy!

MeetUp

Another free resource can be found online. While users creating events might pay, for searchers, the info is completely free. What sets this platform apart is the ability to search far and wide and by interest. Seek out what you enjoy and see what’s available surrounding your new duty station.

I run a PR firm for small businesses. After my brother died in Iraq, it felt like my world exploded — here are the 9 steps I took to rebuild my life and career.

MWR … or your branch’s equivalent

Short for Morale, Welfare, and Recreation, each military branch (and each base) will have its own MWR office that hosts events. Follow them online and sign up for email notifications, or stop by in person for a list of what’s ahead and how you can get involved. MWR is known for rec centers, recreational rentals, kids’ sports leagues, movie showings, parties, and more.

Word of mouth

As you meet new folks, make a point to have real conversations. Tell them what you like and what you’re looking to do at your new base. You never know who knows what … or who might be willing to try something new. But you can’t get access to their wealth of information unless you make it a point to be friendly and say hello.

I run a PR firm for small businesses. After my brother died in Iraq, it felt like my world exploded — here are the 9 steps I took to rebuild my life and career.

Out and about

Running errands just got more interesting! As you head to new spots in town, look for posters or bulletin boards that list upcoming dates. The grocery store, gas stations, the library — all of your regular errand stops, plus a few recreational, will inform you about upcoming activities. Make a point to seek out flyers or public boards and simply take note of what’s ahead.

Don’t sit in the dark when at a new duty station. Look for lists of what’s ahead for an easier way to transition and immerse yourself into the local culture. Military and civilian alike!

MIGHTY CULTURE

Can military spouses be buried in veterans cemeteries?

You may know that most veterans can be buried in state and national veterans cemeteries for little or no money, but what about their spouses and other dependents?

Your spouse may be eligible to be buried with you in a veterans cemetery at little or no cost. However, if you and your spouse have divorced and they have remarried, they probably aren’t eligible. Dependent children may also be eligible. Some parents of those killed on active duty may also be eligible.

As always, only veterans with an other-than-dishonorable discharge (and their dependents) qualify for this burial benefit. There are also other restrictions against those found guilty of certain crimes.


Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington National Cemetery is run by the Department of the Army. As such, it has rules that are a bit different than National Veterans Cemeteries, which are run by the Department of Veterans Affairs. The cemetery is also running out of space for new burials.

I run a PR firm for small businesses. After my brother died in Iraq, it felt like my world exploded — here are the 9 steps I took to rebuild my life and career.

Arlington National Cemetery.

Therefore, burials and inurnments, the placing of cremated remains in a large wall, are limited to specific groups. Currently, burial at Arlington National Cemetery is open to:

  • Members who died on active duty and their immediate family
  • Retirees and their immediate family
  • Recipients of the Purple Heart or Silver Star and above, as well as their immediate family
  • Any honorably discharged prisoner of war who died after Nov. 30, 1993, and their immediate family

Veterans and their dependents as well as some retired reservists are eligible for inurnment in the cemetery.

The cemetery will furnish a headstone/marker for both the veteran and dependents.

National veterans cemeteries

These cemeteries are run by the VA. There are currently 136 national cemeteries in 40 states and Puerto Rico. Locate a VA cemetery near you.

Burial is available to any veteran with an other-than-dishonorable discharge, as well as their dependents. The VA will furnish a headstone/marker for the veteran and dependent.

VA National Cemeteries

State veterans cemeteries

Many states have their own veterans cemeteries. Eligibility is similar to VA national cemeteries, but may include residency requirements.

Most states provide free burial and a headstone for the veteran; many charge a fee less than id=”listicle-2636201112″,000 for eligible dependents.

State veterans cemeteries

Other cemeteries

The VA may provide a free headstone or marker for all eligible veterans buried at any cemetery worldwide; however, it doesn’t pay the cost of placing the marker. Some states will reimburse this cost.

Dependents aren’t eligible for this benefit; however, some states may provide a headstone to dependents.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Dunford discusses military deployments to the border

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff laid out the process for military support to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security during a discussion with students in Duke University’s Program in American Grand Strategy Nov. 5, 2018.

The U.S. military has stepped out smartly to support DHS, Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford said. There are now 5,200 active-duty personnel helping Customs and Border Protection on the Southwest border.

The chairman spoke of the process solely from a military perspective. The Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection agency have the mission of securing the borders. DHS officials have said that they are worried that caravans of Central American asylum-seekers pushing up from the south may overwhelm CBP personnel. DOD was tasked to provide logistical and medical support.


Capabilities

Homeland Security told DOD in writing what capabilities they needed, Dunford said. DOD officials studied the request and proposed what is being deployed now. This includes logistical support, specifically to harden points of entry.

“There are soldiers on the border putting up concertina wire and reinforcing the points of entry,” the chairman said.

DOD personnel are also helping with movement and providing trucks and helicopters. DOD is also providing some medical support.

I run a PR firm for small businesses. After my brother died in Iraq, it felt like my world exploded — here are the 9 steps I took to rebuild my life and career.

Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, discusses the U.S. military’s support to Customs and Border Protection with students in Duke University’s Program in American Grand Strategy in Durham, N.C., Nov. 5, 2018.

(DOD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)

“There is no plan for U.S. military forces to be involved in the actual mission of denying people entry into the United States,” Dunford said. “There is no plan for soldiers to come in contact with immigrants or reinforce the Department of Homeland Security as they are conducting their mission. We are providing enabling capabilities.”

The military is following an order from President Donald J. Trump to support the Department of Homeland Security, the chairman said.

Clear guidance

From a military standpoint, he said, he asked a number of questions. The first was, “Do we have unambiguous directions on what the soldiers … have to do?”

The answer is yes, Dunford said, and what’s more, the soldiers understand what is expected of them.

“Number 2: ‘Is this legal?’ And the answer is, yes,” Dunford said. “And three, do they have the capability, the wherewithal to perform the task we’ve asked them to accomplish?”

The service members on the border “know exactly what they are doing, they know why they are doing it and they have the proper training and equipment to do it,” he said.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Warrior Rising helps vetrepreneurs build sustainable businesses

Almost every military career ends with the service member making a decision: find a job or start a business. For those in the National Guard or reserves, this choice parallels time in uniform.

Veterans who choose the path of entrepreneurship have an added resource to lean on. Jason Van Camp founded Warrior Rising — a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping veterans and their immediate family members start their own businesses.


“When you were getting out of the military you had a question, and that question was ‘now what? What am I going to do with myself?'” Van Camp said. “You probably thought to yourself ‘you know I could just sit back and collect my retirement or I could get a job or I could start a business.”

Starting a business after leaving the military is a journey Van Camp knows well. The former green beret left the Army after a seizure disorder forced him to medically retire. He founded Mission 6 Zero, a leadership development firm with high-profile clients including the NFL and Major League Baseball.

Warrior Rising was launched to help other veterans make the transition to business ownership. The resources provided by the organization are free to veterans and their immediate family members. It is funded by donations with 82.4% of every dollar going to veterans. The rest, Van Camp said, goes to overhead. He added that initially, 100% of donations went to veterans, but the company grew too large and he had to hire paid staff to keep up with demand.

In the five years since its founding, Warrior Rising has grown exponentially. In 2015 the company helped six veterans establish businesses. Last year the number was 1,016. This year, Van Camp said, Warrior Rising on pace to help 1,500 veterans start new businesses with about 40 signing up every two weeks.

Despite frequently saying during an online interview that “business is hard,” Van Camp said Warrior Rising already has some success stories.

Firebrand Flag Company, for example, recently sold out on a limited run of fireproof American flags.

“They’re ramping up business right now and I have no doubt this is going to be a multi-million-dollar company,” Van Camp said.

People interested in using Warrior Rising’s free services should first go to the organization’s website to sign up. Van Camp said an intake specialist will call the applicant within 48 hours.

“So, you have an intimate one-on-one conversation with someone about your business idea, what you’re trying to accomplish, why you’re trying to do it. Is it a good idea? Do you have the money for this? Does your spouse support you?” Van Camp said. “Questions about the actual journey you’re about to embark on.”

I run a PR firm for small businesses. After my brother died in Iraq, it felt like my world exploded — here are the 9 steps I took to rebuild my life and career.

From there, applicants are sent to Warrior Rising’s education platform, Warrior Academy – online training that translates a military operations order into a business model. Van Camp said the training is designed to be difficult to prepare would-be entrepreneurs for the realities of owning a business.

“You can’t start out with 0,000 salary. That’s not how it works in business,” he said. “You’re going to have to grind and go without pay and suffer for a while before you start seeing revenue — before you start seeing everything start to pay off and you see a return on investment.”

After the training is complete, applicants are paired with mentors who are successful in the industry the veteran hopes to succeed in. Van Camp said the mentors are usually, but not always veterans.

Eventually, after the veteran has met all of the requirements, they can ask Warrior Rising for financial assistance and the organization will assist them in finding investors, loans or grants.

But that’s not the end of a veteran entrepreneur’s journey with Warrior Rising.

“What I realized is it wasn’t just about starting a business and finding your purpose through business ownership, it was also about creating a community and joining a community and joining a tribe of people that can support you and you can feel comfortable with like you’re part of the family with,” Van Camp said. “We have platoons all over the country.”

In the past, the organization hosted numerous in-person events, but the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has forced Warrior Rising to turn to online venues for events.

Van Camp described coronavirus as a game changer in many ways for those hoping to start businesses. First, he said, more people are applying for Warrior Rising’s assistance.

“It’s been even more prevalent because of COVID,” he said. “Because people are at home looking for that next step because they ask the question ‘now what’ and they come to Warrior Rising for help.”

He said the pandemic will continue to affect the business world for the foreseeable future. He said trucking and logistics, online services and recreational vehicle sales businesses are doing well. His outlook is equally optimistic for credit card processing companies, home security and solar sales.

The outlook is less rosy for commercial real estate.

“Clients of mine that have office space, they’re realizing right now that they don’t need office space. They can work from home,” Van Camp said. “They’re putting as much product out the door as they did before. Private equity firms, venture capitalist firms, the companies that basically control their finances are going to say ‘listen, anything that doesn’t affect the bottom line, get rid of’. They’re going say ‘we don’t need office space. We don’t need to pay rent.’ Coronavirus is going to change the game.”

Van Camp said it’s hard to predict what kind of businesses will be successful. The deciding factor usually has more to do with the would-be entrepreneur than the business itself. Even those with ideas others think are bad might succeed if they’re tenacious and adaptable, he added.

“We try to make it difficult for them and if they continue to try to move forward and if they say ‘I don’t care what you think. I don’t care if you laugh at me, I’m doing this no matter what’, those are the guys that succeed,” Van Camp said. “We try to make sure they understand all the risks. We try to help them understand there’s no guarantees and they’re probably going to fail. We give them all the stats. For some people it scares them off. That’s a good thing because they would have been scared off during their business endeavor anyway. I’ve seen some things that I thought ‘well that’s a dumb idea.’ Because they didn’t quit, they proved me wrong.”

Veterans interested in starting a business can find resources on the Warrior Rising website at https://www.warriorrising.org.

This article originally appeared on Reserve + National Guard Magazine. Follow @ReserveGuardMag on Twitter.


MIGHTY CULTURE

What next of kin should expect if service member is killed

It’s included in that giant bucket of information dumped on you in briefing after briefing right before deployment:

Exactly what will happen if your service member or another member of his unit is killed? What should you expect? What happens if they are injured?

We get a lot of questions about this at SpouseBuzz. Readers want to know what to expect from the notification process, can’t remember what was said in those briefings or maybe never made it to one. They want to know who will show-up at their door, what they will say and when they will arrive. They want to be empowered with information.


We understand the predeployment mental block on this stuff. While it may be the most important part of any predeployment briefing, it’s probably the part you most want to forget. Who wants to dwell on the possibility that their service member may not come home before he even walks out the door?

But it is so important. And whether this is your first or fifteenth deployment, a refresher from the casualty affairs folks is probably a good idea.

I run a PR firm for small businesses. After my brother died in Iraq, it felt like my world exploded — here are the 9 steps I took to rebuild my life and career.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Adam Dublinske)

But we’re not PowerPoint people here. So instead of making you sit through an acronym riddled briefing the next time we see you, we’ve gone straight to the source at the Pentagon to get you as cut and dry a run down here as we can.

Look at this as a point of reference. Forward it to other members of your unit or include it in your FRG newsletter. And if you have any questions, leave them in the comments and we’ll do our best to get you the official answer and get back to you.

But first, a caveat: The policies and information we’ll talk about below are the Pentagon’s military-wide standard, straight from Deborah Skillman, the program director for casualty, mortuary and military funeral honors at the Defense Department. However, like almost everything else in the military, each service has the ability to change things at their discretion. We’ll note where that is most likely to happen. In a perfect world, though, the below is how things are supposed to be done.

What to expect if your service member is killed:

Two uniformed service members will come to your door to tell you or, in military speak, “notify you.” One of them will actually give you the news, the other one will be a chaplain. Sometimes a chaplain may not be available and so, instead, the second person will be another “mature” service member, Skillman said. If you live far away from a military base there is a chance the chaplain may be a local emergency force chaplain and not a member of the military, she said.

These people will come to your door sometime between 5 a.m. and midnight. This is one of those instances where the different services may change the rule in limited instances. Showing up outside this window is a decision made by some very high ranking people. If it happens it’s because it’s absolutely necessary.

You are supposed to learn about your spouse’s death before anyone else. A different team of notification folks will deliver the news to your in-laws – but only after you’ve been told. Same thing goes for any children your spouse has living elsewhere or anyone else he’s asked be told if something happens.

The news is supposed to reach you within 12 hours of his death. The services use that time to get their notification team together, find your address and send someone to your home. If you live near the base and have all your contact information up to date with your unit, they’ll arrive at your home very quickly. If you’ve moved and live far away from any base, it may take the full 12 hours. If you live in a very remote location (for example our past unit had to send a team to notify in the Philippines) it could take more than 12 hours.

I run a PR firm for small businesses. After my brother died in Iraq, it felt like my world exploded — here are the 9 steps I took to rebuild my life and career.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zachary Hada)

You’re supposed to hear the news first from the notification team. There’s a reason for that, and it’s not just because it’s solemn and respectful. Telling you in person makes sure you are in a safe place to hear such life changing news. And it makes sure that the information they are giving you is accurate, not just a rumor. After they notify you, the team will stay with you until you can call a friend or family member to be with you or until the next official person – the casualty assistance officer – can arrive.

If you hear the news first from someone else, the notification team will still come. In that case instead of delivering notification they will deliver their condolences, Skillman said. Even though the unit goes into a communications blackout after someone dies or gets seriously injured, sometimes word sneaks out anyway through a well meaning soldier or wife who doesn’t know the rules. The team, however, will still come and do their duty.

What happens after notification? You will be assigned a casualty assistance officer who will walk you through all the next steps, including the benefits you receive as a widow. You can read all about those here. That service member has been specially trained for this duty. His or her job is to make sure you get everything you need from the military.

What if your service member is wounded?

The notification process for a injured service member is different but the result is still the same — you are supposed to learn the news before anyone else (other than his unit) stateside. Here’s how it works:

You’ll receive a phone call. If at all possible, Skillman said, the phone call will be from your service member himself. If that’s not possible a military official will call you with as many details as he has and then give you regular updates by phone until they are no longer necessary. If they cannot reach you (let’s say you dropped your iPhone in the toilet again) they will contact your unit to try to reach you through whatever means necessary.

If your service member is severely wounded and will not be transferred stateside quickly, you may be able to join him wherever he is being treated outside the combat zone, often Germany. The official will let you know whether or not this is an option.

You’ll be regularly updated with how and when you will be able to see him. If he is transferred to a treatment facility stateside far away from you, the military will help you arrange travel to wherever he is being sent.

What if someone else in your unit is injured or killed?

Some of the hardest moments you’ll have as a military spouse will be spent wondering if your service member is the one who has been injured or killed. Because the unit downrange goes on blackout until all the notifications stateside are made, you may be able to pretty well guess when something has happened based on a sudden lack of communication. Will it be you? Will the knock be on your door this time?

That can be very a scary time. In my experience, the best thing to do is to choose to not live in fear. When our unit lost 20 soldiers in four months, it became very easy to predict when something had happened and sit in dread in our homes alone — just waiting, watching and praying. However we knew that wasn’t healthy. So instead, a small group of us purposefully spent time together instead.

I run a PR firm for small businesses. After my brother died in Iraq, it felt like my world exploded — here are the 9 steps I took to rebuild my life and career.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chris Willis)

Specifically what happens in the unit when a service member is injured or killed probably differs from unit to unit and base to base. But most of the processes look something like this:

The unit goes on blackout. That means that all communication from downrange to families is supposed to abruptly and without warning stop. That blackout will likely last until notification to the families has been made.

You will receive a phone call or an email from your unit that someone has been killed or injured. After all the family has been notified, the unit will let you know who has been killed or injured by either email or phone. If it has been less than 24 hours since the last family member was notified, the message will only tell you that someone was killed or injured — not who. If you are told about it via a phone call, the person making the call — possibly a point of contact from your family group — will likely read you a preset script. An email could look like the below, one of the many our unit received during our 2009-2010 deployment:

Families and Friends of 1-17 IN,

On Sept. 26, 2009, 1-17 IN was involved in an incident that resulted in 1 soldier who was Killed in Action. The soldier’s primary and secondary next of kin have already been notified.

On behalf of the soldiers of 1-17 IN, I send my condolences to the soldier’s Family. We will hold a Memorial Ceremony for this soldier at a time and place to be determined.

Please remember to keep the soldiers of 1-17 IN and all other deployed soldiers in your thoughts and prayers. Thank you for your continuous support.

The Defense Department will release the name of the person killed no less than 24 hours after the family has been notified. That buffer gives the family some private time. However, you may learn who it was before that. The family may choose to tell people. If blackout is lifted downrange, your servicemember might tell you. The most important thing during this time is to respect the family’s privacy. If you do happen to know who was killed before the family or the DoD has released the name, for the love of Pete don’t go blasting it all over town.

You will receive details from your family readiness group on how you can help support the family and when the military memorial will be. Above all us, respect the family’s privacy and needs. Attending the military memorial can be a great way to show that you care without being intrusive.

Also read: This is how the military conducts a ‘death notification’

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 Things you can do outside while social distancing

One of our biggest saving graces during the pandemic is the opportunity to catch some fresh air! Whether you’re cooped up at home with kids or are working overtime to fill a need for essential employees (or both!), catching that fresh vitamin D is good for the body.

In fact, going outside can boost your mood and jumpstart your immune system; it can reduce pain and all the scents can do wonders for your endorphins. But don’t take these scientific reasons into account all on their own, experience the outdoors for yourself and keep everyone busy during the pandemic.


Here are 6 things you can do while social distancing:

Go on a walk

Simple, easy, and done with minimal planning. Steer clear of any neighbors, of course (especially if you live on post or in tight quarters), but now is the perfect time to get in your steps! Explore your neighborhood and find areas you’ve never visited or just breath in that fresh oxygen while taking a few laps around the block. Repeat as needed.

I run a PR firm for small businesses. After my brother died in Iraq, it felt like my world exploded — here are the 9 steps I took to rebuild my life and career.

Have a picnic

You’re eating at home anyway, so why not take the party outside? Lay down a blanket to keep the bugs at bay, then enjoy some fun and breezy meals out in the yard. Repeat as weather allows.

Go on a scavenger hunt

These lists are swarming the Internet, so luckily you won’t have to work hard to find your objectives. Whether you’re taking kids or are looking for a more sophisticated list of items, a scavenger hunt is a great way to get creative outdoors.

Don’t forget the neighborhood bear hunt either.

I run a PR firm for small businesses. After my brother died in Iraq, it felt like my world exploded — here are the 9 steps I took to rebuild my life and career.

Bust out the old fashioned games

Tag, Frisbee, wiffle ball and more will turn into family favorites during the pandemic. Your family is already in close quarters, so don’t fret about a few passings of the ball.

However, don’t be afraid to be firm with neighbors and let them know they can’t join. Hellos from a distance remain kosher, but passing objects between households is a strict no-no.

Go for a drive

Weather not going your way? For the days you need a change of scenery, head to the car. This is a great time for an automated car wash (don’t forget to Lysol any buttons that need to be pushed), or a cruise to somewhere new.

Roll down the windows and feel the breeze while everyone jams to favorite tunes.

I run a PR firm for small businesses. After my brother died in Iraq, it felt like my world exploded — here are the 9 steps I took to rebuild my life and career.

Sit and talk

Weeks ago this might have sounded boring, but today, it’s a nice change of pace! Sit with your morning coffee, FaceTime a friend, let the kids play and simply enjoy being outside and enjoy the fresh air.

Being outdoors can do wonders for your mood and endorphins. Take advantage of this easy but proven mood booster!

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Legendary songwriter, Army veteran John Prine dies from COVID-19

The world lost another great today, as legendary songwriter John Prine succumbed to complications from COVID-19, his family confirmed to Rolling Stone. Prine, 73, lost his battle with the novel coronavirus at Nashville’s Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Prine was known for his innumerable talents but none better than his ability to tell the story of humanity through his words. Prine’s acclaim as one of America’s best songwriters has prompted a flood of tributes from celebrities and fans alike as they mourn an indescribable loss.

We’re heartbroken here. And all our love — each of us, the entire Belcourt community, our town — to Fiona and John’s family. We’ve loss a beautiful one.pic.twitter.com/SShyVQ2cC3

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From gracing the Opry House stage for those memorable New Year’s Eve shows to other special Opry appearances including one alongside the StreelDrivers and Bill Murray, John Prine has touched our hearts with his music. We are thinking of his family and friends tonight. pic.twitter.com/FV3nIfT1kc

twitter.com

Oh John Prine, thank you for making me laugh and breaking my heart and sharing your boundless humanity. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. This is one of the most gorgeous songs ever written. Bonnie Raitt John Prine – Angel From Montgomery https://youtu.be/1T5NuI6Ai-o  via @YouTube

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Prine was born in Maywood, Illinois. He was one of four sons of a homemaker and a union worker, who raised the boys to love music. Prine grew up on the likes of Hank Williams and other performers of the Grand Ole Opry, but it was really his father’s reaction to Williams’ music that touched Prine. “I used to just sit and watch how he would be so moved by the songs,” Prine said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. “In fact, I might have been more affected by the way the songs touched him than by the songs themselves – they seemed to have such power.”

Prine graduated from high school in 1964 and started his career with the U.S. Postal Service as a mailman. Instead of focusing on the monotony of his day job, Prine used the time to write songs. But his career delivering mail was cut short when he was drafted in 1966 into the Army. The war in Vietnam was escalating, but Prine was sent to Germany where he served as a mechanical engineer. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Prine said his military career consisted largely of “drinking beer and pretending to fix trucks.”

I run a PR firm for small businesses. After my brother died in Iraq, it felt like my world exploded — here are the 9 steps I took to rebuild my life and career.

After two years, Prine returned to the postal service and started writing songs until he became a regular on the Chicago music circuit.

While Prine’s discography is impressive, it was his song “Sam Stone” about a veteran struggling with addiction that resonated with millions of soldiers across the world. Maybe Prine really did just drink beer and fix trucks, but his haunting portrayal of Sam Stone will never be forgotten.

John Prine – Sam Stone

www.youtube.com

John Prine – Sam Stone

Lyrics:

Sam Stone came home,
To the wife and family
After serving in the conflict overseas.
And the time that he served,
Had shattered all his nerves,
And left a little shrapnel in his knees.
But the morhpine eased the pain,
And the grass grew round his brain,
And gave him all the confidence he lacked,
With a purple heart and a monkey on his back.There’s a hole in daddy’s arm where all the money goes,
Jesus Christ died for nothin I suppose.
Little pitchers have big ears,
Don’t stop to count the years,
Sweet songs never last too long on broken radios.Sam Stone’s welcome home
Didn’t last too long.
He went to work when he’d spent his last dime
And soon he took to stealing
When he got that empty feeling
For a hundred dollar habit without overtime.
And the gold roared through his veins
Like a thousand railroad trains,
And eased his mind in the hours that he chose,
While the kids ran around wearin’ other peoples’ clothes…There’s a hole in daddy’s arm where all the money goes,
Jesus Christ died for nothin I suppose.
Little pitchers have big ears,
Don’t stop to count the years,
Sweet songs never last too long on broken radios.Sam Stone was alone
When he popped his last balloon,
Climbing walls while sitting in a chair.
Well, he played his last request,
While the room smelled just like death,
With an overdose hovering in the air.
But life had lost it’s fun,
There was nothing to be done,
But trade his house that he bought on the GI bill,
For a flag-draped casket on a local hero’s hill.There’s a hole in daddy’s arm where all the money goes,
Jesus Christ died for nothin I suppose.
Little pitchers have big ears,
Don’t stop to count the years,
Sweet songs never last too long on broken radios.

I run a PR firm for small businesses. After my brother died in Iraq, it felt like my world exploded — here are the 9 steps I took to rebuild my life and career.

Prine’s ability to tell a story through his words was truly second to none. In his memoir, “Cash,” Johnny Cash wrote, “I don’t listen to music much at the farm, unless I’m going into songwriting mode and looking for inspiration. Then I’ll put on something by the writers I’ve admired and used for years–Rodney Crowell, John Prine, Guy Clark, and the late Steve Goodman are my Big Four.” Rolling Stone referred to Prine as “the Mark Twain of American songwriting.”

Your death leaves a hole in our hearts, John Prine. Rest in peace, Sir.

I run a PR firm for small businesses. After my brother died in Iraq, it felt like my world exploded — here are the 9 steps I took to rebuild my life and career.
MIGHTY HISTORY

What would happen if the Hanukkah story took place today

In 168 BCE, the Seleucid king Antiochus Epiphanes IV set to quash Judaism among his subjects. Matthias the Kohein and his five sons fled to the hills and assembled a rag tag group of revolutionaries known as the Maccabees. The Maccabees fought the seemingly endless mercenary army until they reached Jerusalem and reclaimed the Temple Mount.


Three years to the day of Antiochus’ rampage against the Jews, the Maccabees held the dedication. The Festival of Lights as we know it came from this celebration and when the tiny jar of oil managed to keep the menorah lit for eight days.

As a fun thought experiment, and because I love AlternateHistoryHub, lets re-imagine and contextualize the Maccabean Revolt with today’s weaponry, training, and armies. To keep the completely fictional and arbitrary scenario fair, Matthias the Kohein and his sons are the Shayetet 13 – the Israeli equivalent to the Navy SEALs. They serve as both instructors and fighters for the rest of the revolt: made up of IDF personnel — because being a “normal” civilian isn’t exactly a thing in modern Israel.

The modern equivalent of the Seleucid Empire is a bit of a gray area. They hired many Syrian mercenaries, but they weren’t exactly modern Syria. Though it spanned across Turkey to India, its culture, customs, and religions were Hellenic. Since Greece and Israel are allies in real life, this seems to help avoid any pitfalls.

I run a PR firm for small businesses. After my brother died in Iraq, it felt like my world exploded — here are the 9 steps I took to rebuild my life and career.
Also pretend like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was a while away because much of the revolution took place in the West Bank. (Image via MyJewishLearning.com)

As anyone who is aware of Israeli war history knows, Israel has a strong and constantly-tested military. While it has a 176,500 strong standing military, the number of fit military service troops is around 3,00,000. Their current defense budget if $18.6 billion annually and their Merkava main battle tanks are one of the most devastating in the world. All of that on top of a nuclear-triad option.

I run a PR firm for small businesses. After my brother died in Iraq, it felt like my world exploded — here are the 9 steps I took to rebuild my life and career.
And since this is a large scale revolt under the guidance of a Spec Ops group that is on par with our SEALs, they would use everything at their disposal. (Image via IDF Blog)

As for the Hellenic Armed Forces, their peacetime strength is around 113,500 troops with a total 4,000,000 fit for service troops. Their current defense spending budget is around $9.3 billion and they are the largest importer of conventional weapons in Europe and they have the highest G.D.P percentage towards military spending in the EU.

I run a PR firm for small businesses. After my brother died in Iraq, it felt like my world exploded — here are the 9 steps I took to rebuild my life and career.
As far as military might, they each fall around the same skill and fire power. After all, Spartan blood runs deep in the Greeks. (Image via Reddit)

Just by pure numbers alone, Israel would take the fight. That’s not even including the home-field advantage of an insurgency. Even if the Greeks were to hire entire mercenary companies to fight for them, an average mercenary company only has roughly 10k personnel and would eat most of their already dwarfed budget. In $366 billion dollar industry, the modern equivalent Seleucid Empire would just not have the funds to match the Maccabean Forces.

Just as they did over two thousand years ago, the Maccabees would reach the Temple Mount and rededicate it by lighting the golden menorah.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Moving again? VA offers military spouses job security, peace of mind

Passion for serving Veterans. Support from colleagues. Opportunities to learn and advance in a career. For VA newbies Nicole Locker and Jennifer McFarland, these are among the most appealing aspects of their positions.

Mission aside, what makes a VA career different when you’re a military spouse is the sense of security that comes with knowing you will still have a job the next time you have to move. That’s because we appreciate the transient nature of military service and offer remote work options and many varied job opportunities across the country.

We understand that one of the challenges you face as a military spouse is frequent relocation and the impact it has on finding and maintaining permanent employment. Of the more than 600,000 military spouses worldwide who are actively seeking employment, 30% are unemployed and 56% are underemployed. Yet military spouses are well-educated and highly qualified for a wide range of careers.

Locker, now a vocational rehabilitation counselor with VA’s Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA), had shared her concerns about moving with a neighbor, a Veteran who also works at VA.

“I told her I was worried about finding a job when my active-duty husband gets orders to move for the military,” said Locker, who had been employed at a private university. “She was persistent in encouraging me to apply and apply and apply [to VA]. I finally completed the paperwork as a military spouse applicant and included supervisor experience I had gained from working in academia. I also mentioned how passionate I was about serving the military community, and somehow I got lucky and got my shot.”

McFarland, a Veterans Service Representative with VBA, was also concerned about job loss until she came to VA.

“As an active-duty spouse, the number one benefit is the job security,” McFarland said.

Other benefits Locker appreciates are the opportunities for professional growth and the collegial environment she works in, where a good portion of her team is either a Veteran or a military spouse.

“I’m now on a team of people with so much experience that you can get help at a moment’s notice if you need it,” said Locker. “There also are career growth opportunities and chances to find your specialty and grow more in that area, like supporting Veterans on campus or working on suicide prevention.”

The military spouse advantage

Both McFarland and Locker said their experiences as military spouses are invaluable in their VA careers. “Having the familiarity of military culture as a spouse helps me relate to the Veterans we serve,” said McFarland. “I feel like we are part of the same community, and Veterans sense the genuineness of my passion to help them as if they were my family.”

For Locker, being able to multitask and think on her feet are real career assets. “Adapt and overcome is the motto, right? We figure things out. We learn, we take notes, we ask questions – but we also understand chain of command and how to do that in a respectful way to be most effective,” she said. “While our family members are out deploying, we are managing the home front while also maintaining family responsibilities and our own career path and aspirations.”

A VA priority

Because we value military spouses, we make recruiting and hiring you a priority:

  • We tag VA opportunities ideal for military spouses on USAJobs.
  • We highlight key information – remote work opportunities, flexible work schedules, child care and health benefits – in our job announcements.
  • We use noncompetitive procedures approved by the federal government for positions covered under Title 5 hiring authority. That means when you apply to become a VA accountant, police officer or human resource specialist and meet the minimum qualifications, you’re hired.
  • We work with the Department of Defense to identify spouses with health care experience or training as a physician, nurse, social worker or occupational therapist. These positions do not require a USAJobs application.

Once you’re hired at VA, the sky’s the limit. Just read what Cheryl Mason, a former military spouse turned Veteran spouse, says of her experiences. Mason now oversees a staff of 1,200 lawyers, law judges, and operations and legal staff as Chairman of the VA Board of Veterans Appeals.

“There are an incredible number of paths to choose once you get your foot in the door,” McFarland continued. “I have seen numerous internal-to-agency-only job postings, which greatly improves our chances for new opportunities. I have only good things to say about my experience here so far. I look forward to learning more.”

Work at VA today

A career at VA relieved the job stress related to frequent moves for Locker and McFarland. See if a VA career is right for you, too.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.