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

Troops supporting pandemic response should get hazard pay, Senator says

Republican Iowa Senator Joni Ernst, a retired member of the Iowa National Guard and veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, has proposed that service members deployed for COVID-19 response get hazardous duty pay.

Ernst plans to introduce legislation this week that would provide a tax-free stipend for all active-duty, Reserve and National Guard members fighting the pandemic. If enacted, it would provide a monthly bonus as well as back pay to the initial date of deployment for thousands of service members.


The senator, who served in Kuwait and Iraq from 2003 to 2004, said those on the front lines potentially exposing themselves to illness deserve the support.

“Whether it’s delivering personal protective equipment, food, or medical supplies, our National Guardsmen and women have answered the call to help during COVID-19,” Ernst said in a statement released Tuesday. “As a former Iowa Army National Guardsmen, I could not be more proud of their tireless and selfless efforts.”

According to the Pentagon, more than 62,800 service members, including 46,800 National Guard members, are supporting COVID-19 response. The troops are treating patients, conducting coronavirus testing, distributing food and personal protective equipment and helping at hotels housing homeless persons who have tested positive for the virus.

As of Tuesday, 889 members of the National Guard Bureau had tested positive for COVID-19. A Guardsman, Capt. Douglas Linn Hickok, was the first service member to die of the virus, although he had not been mobilized for COVID-19 response.

Nearly 5,000 additional U.S. service members have contracted COVID-19, 100 have been hospitalized and two have died: Hickok and Aviation Ordnanceman Chief Petty Officer Charles Robert Thacker, who was assigned to the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt and died April 13.

Nationwide, cases of COVID-19 reached nearly 2 million on Tuesday, with 70,646 American deaths.

For most members of the U.S. military, hazardous duty incentive pay totals 0 a month.

Military advocates, including the National Guard Association of the United States and the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States threw their support behind Ernst’s legislation Tuesday.

“By definition, hazardous duty incentive pay is a monetary incentive for volunteers who perform hazardous duty based upon the inherent dangers of that duty and the risks of physical injury. EANGUS agrees with Sen. Joni Ernst that the duty our National Guard members are performing embodies that risk, and should receive hazardous duty incentive pay for COVID-19 response duty,” said retired Sgt. Maj. Frank Yoakum, EANGUS executive director.

Ernst’s proposed legislation follows a similar request last month from the American Federation of Government Employees, which is seeking hazardous duty pay for Department of Veterans Affairs workers caring for patients at VA facilities.

“I … implore Congress to pass legislation to provide hazardous duty pay to all front-line federal employees not already covered by existing laws like our nurses in federal prisons, and health care workers at the VA who provide direct patient care to our nation’s veterans,” AFGE National President Everett Kelley said in a statement.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why your radio guy is always up at 0430

Communications troops don’t get nearly the amount of love that they deserve. Sure, the job description is very attractive to the more nerdy troops in formation and they’re far more likely to be in supporting roles than kicking in doors with the grunts, but they’re constantly working.

In Afghanistan, while everyone else is still asleep, the S-6 shop is up at 0430 doing radio work. This is just one of the many tasks the commo world is gifted with having.

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.
Being appreciated is, however, not one of them.
(U.S. Army Photo)


The reason they’re up so early is because they need to change the communications security (or COMSEC) regularly. In order to ensure that no enemy force is able to hack their way into the military’s secure radio systems, the crypto-key that is encoded onto the radio is changed out.

Those keys are changed out at exactly the same moment everywhere around the world for all active radio systems. Because it would be impractical to set the time that COMSEC changes over at, the global time for radio systems is set in Zulu time, which is the current time in London’s GMT/UTC +0 time zone.

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.
This is also why the good radio operators carry two watches u2014 one in current time and another in Zulu time.

For troops stationed in Korea or Japan, this gives them a pleasant 0900 to change the COMSEC. Troops on America’s west coast have 1600 (which is great because it’s right before closeout formation.) If they’re stationed in Afghanistan however, they get the unarguably terrible time of 0430.

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 if being a deployed radio operator wasn’t sh*tty enough.

Each and every radio system that will be used needs to be refilled by the appropriate radio operator. When this is just before a patrol, the sole radio operator with the SKL (the device used to encrypt radios) will usually be jokingly heckled to move faster. The process usually takes a few minutes per radio, which could take a while.

This is also why the radios themselves are set to Zulu time. If the radio is not programmed to Zulu time — or if it’s slightly off —it won’t read the encryption right and radio transmissions won’t be effective. This goes to the exact second.

So maybe cut your radio guy some slack. The only time they could be spending sleeping is used to program radios.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

The best backyard games come from Scandinavia

The best backyard games, the ones that earn a coveted spot in your warm weather rotation, are casual activities that work as well for crowds as they do for one-on-one matchups. While we won’t ever turn down a game of cornhole, kanjam, ladder toss, and horseshoes, the best backyard games and lawn games come from Scandinavia. Why? Simple. Because of their soul-witheringly long winters, Scandinavians know how to celebrate summer. That celebration often includes participation in simple, fun games that lend themselves to hours of time on that oh-so-important sunlight. The games on this list exist are those that require you to throw one thing at a set of other things. They’re easy to pick up but still require skill and, when the time is right, lend themselves to serious competition. Think cornhole gets competitive? Try a game of Kubb or Mölkky and get back to us. Here are a few games to consider adding to your backyard this summer.


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.

Yard Games Kubb

The Swedish game Kubb dates back more than 1,000 years, when Vikings first conceived of the game as a pastime during those, long light-filled summer nights when they were finished sinking Skeggøx into the chests of their enemies. Legend has it, they’d lob the skulls and limbs of their slain foes across a decreed playing area; eventually, over centuries, it evolved into a more civilized game. In recent years, its exploded in popularity. Modern Kubb sets are, thankfully, made of carved wood instead of cadavers. Each contains 10 wooden blocks, called kubbs, as well as a foot-tall king (marked by a set of points to designate a crown) six tall blocks, and six skittles, the latter of which are used to demarcate a playing field. Once the field is set up properly, the object of the game is to lob kubbs in an attempt to knock down an opponent’s pins and, finally, their king. Accidentally knock down the king before the other pins results in an automatic loss. Simple, but good for hours of warm weather entertainment.

Buy now for .99.

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.

Molkky

More or less a mash-up of cornhole and bowling, Mölkky is a Finnish lawn game similar to Kubb. Twelve slim, numbered pins called “skittles” are set up on the grass. Teams take turns throwing a wooden block, or karttus, at said pins in an attempt to knock them down. The team who is first to knock down 50 points worth of pins wins. As is the case with games that have been around for a very long time, the rules vary and some are more complicated than others. Regardless of which you follow, the outcome is the same: fun.

Buy now for .97.

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.

Schilte Sjoelbak

A board game that can be played anywhere but is best befitting of the backyard, Sjoelbak is the Dutch version of shuffleboard. It consists of a 16-inch wide, 79-inch long wooden board and 30 wooden pucks. Each side of the board has four wooden channels; players take turns sliding pucks, trying to get them in appropriate lanes. After three rounds, the pucks are totaled (scoring is a bit confusing, but the rules are explained here) and the winner is decided. Again, it’s quite simple. But set up the board on a back table and don’t be surprised if it’s played long into the evening.

Buy now for 9.00.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

It’s time to get together for Wreaths Across America

The United States has a number of holidays meant to honor those members of the armed forces who are serving, who have served, and who have given their last true measure of devotion on the battlefield. There’s an organization now that seeks to make sure we remember everyone in uniform through its mission to “Remember, Honor, and Teach.” And it all starts one day in December, decorating for one of America’s biggest holidays.


Men and women in the U.S. military are putting their lives on the line for Americans back home every day of the year, says Wreaths Across America. The group aims to remember and honor those warfighters while teaching future generations to do the same. Their mission restarts every year on the third Saturday in December (this year, it’s December 15), when volunteers around the United States place a wreath on a veteran’s grave, say their name aloud, and thank them for their courage and sacrifice.

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.

Wreaths Across America began with Morrill Worcester of Harrington, Maine, the owner of Worcester Wreath Company. As a young boy, he was sent on a trip to Washington, D.C. where he saw Arlington National Cemetery for the first time. The experience never left him and, after he became a successful entrepreneur, he decide to give back to the men and women who died so that he could make his fortune.

In 1992, the company saw a surplus in its product and he decided to use them in the older areas of Arlington National Cemetery, the ones that were receiving fewer and fewer visitors every year. When other companies got wind of the plan, they joined in. The local trucking company provided transportation to DC. Members of the local VFW and American Legion posts decorated the wreaths with red bows, all tied by hand.

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.

Volunteers from Maine and in the nation’s capital helped lay the wreaths on the graves in Arlington. It even included a special ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. For 13 years, Worcester quietly and solemnly did the honored dead this service without advertising or announcement.

In 2005, at the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, someone noticed the wreaths on the grave markers in Arlington and posted a photo of its snow-covered majesty on the internet. It quickly went viral and those who couldn’t make the trip to DC wanted to do versions of the same in their own hometowns.

Since the company couldn’t possibly make enough wreaths to give to every grave in every state, they instead send seven wreaths to each state, one for every branch of the military and one for prisoners of war and the missing in action.

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.

The Clarion, Pennsylvania Civil Air Patrol has partnered with Wreaths Across America.

Since Wreaths Across America began in 2006, 150 sites across the United States hold simultaneous wreath-laying ceremonies. By 2008, that number doubled and wreath ceremonies were held in Puerto Rico and 24 cemeteries overseas. In 2014, the number grew to 700,000 memorial wreaths at more than 1,000 sites, including Pearl Harbor, Bunker Hill, and the September 11th sites.

Their volunteers managed to cover every grave in Arlington National Cemetery.

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.

Representatives of each branch of military service salute behind wreaths in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Ivy Green Cemetery in Bremerton during the Wreaths Across America ceremony.

(U.S. Navy Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Charles Gaddis)

Now the ceremonies are held on the third Saturday in December, and the movement of the wreaths bound for Arlington from Harrington, Maine is the world’s largest veteran’s parade. The annual wreath laying goals are surpassed now by education programs and partnership programs with local-level veterans organizations.

To learn more about Wreaths Across America, donate, or volunteer to lay wreaths, visit their website.

popular

4 reasons military brats make better adults

There’s definitely something different about growing up a military brat. There are obvious things like always being the new kid, living all over the world and missing huge chunks of time with your service member parent. Life was a bit harder for you, harder to you perhaps. But with hard things come some major perks in the adult world.

Here are 4 reasons military brats make better adults:

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 Tech. Sgt. Nadine Barclay/Released.

1. You’re a master infiltrator

Do you know what most people are awful at? What creates that dry lump in throats of even the top business professionals? Walking into a room not knowing a soul and having to work that room of strangers. Life taught you not just to work the room, but how to infiltrate foreign camps and dominate the space. Military kids know how to read groups and people like a cheap deck of cards.

Jumping off the deep end into the unforgiving social circles of middle and high school as the newbie pays off in spades as an adult. Trial and error networking in the formative years. Getting it wrong as a kid a time or two saves major face when Tom from the office is profusely sweating from anxiety while you’ve got a drink in hand pulling out stories from your diverse life deck like a boss.

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 National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Caycee Watson.

2. You’ve got contacts

Growing up in the same little town with the same group of friends is as American as apple pie. It’s what’s glorified in the sitcoms, and what you think you’re missing out on. But you’ve been wrong. Life today is international. Staying put is a thing of the past. Lucky for you, you have two generations of contacts all working in different states or even countries around the world to tap into for a reference or internship. If your family ETS’d in Kansas, but NYC is more your speed, the likelihood you already know someone there is far greater than Susan, whose territory ends at the cornfield. Be nice, grow your network and wait for those big doors to open.

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 Tech. Sgt. Nadine Barclay/Released.

3. You’ve got perspective

What’s the biggest value add potential employers are looking for in addition to a degree? Perspective. And you, you globetrotting, hardship enduring military brat have it in spades. You have actual firsthand knowledge of economies, well-planned cities or progressivism that works because you lived it.

Living it and just reading about it are two very different things. It may have sucked moving time and time again as a kid, but with the right spin, you can become ten times more valuable than a local ever could be.

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 Christian Clausen/Released.

4. You’re just a better human

There are two kinds of people. The people that peak in high school, and the ones who unapologetically kick ass as an adult. Not sticking around a place long enough to establish your pre-real-world social hierarchy is painful, only until you realize that all your strife and struggle can and will make you a better adult.

You’ll be the one making the point of saying hello to the new guy in the office. You’ll be the one to see “different” as potential versus problematic. You will view the world through a much better, much bigger lens than your peers. You will be nicer overall because you endured a heck of a lot more things as a kid that has prepared you to face the hardships of life head-on.

No doubt growing up as a child in the military is quite the experience. There is, however, a tremendous amount of hope that all of those experiences can and will make military children the best damn adults around. Here’s to you military child.


MIGHTY CULTURE

Watch how this vet made $700,000 on his deployment gift to himself

We’ve all had that item we wanted to buy but maybe couldn’t quite justify or afford, but figured out a way to make it happen. For Air Force veteran David it was a 1971 Rolex Cosmograph Oyster. He appeared on Antiques Roadshow this week to tell his story and to have the watch that he so desperately wanted, but ultimately didn’t wear, appraised.


David entered the Air Force in 1971 with a draft number of seven.

He was stationed in Thailand from 1973-1975. While he was there, he flew on Air America and Continental and noticed that the pilots wore Rolex watches. “I was intrigued,” he told appraiser Peter Planes.

At his next duty station, Planes started scuba diving and found that the Rolex Cosmograph Oyster was a great resource to have underwater. He ordered one from the base exchange in November of 1974. With his ten percent military discount, it cost him 5.97. Making only 0 to 0 per month, that was a big buy. When he got it, it was too beautiful to wear. David put it in a safe deposit box and has kept it there since he bought it, only taking it out a few times to admire it. With all his original paperwork and the watch in pristine condition, David fell on the floor when Planes told him the value of the watch.

See his reaction and how much the watch is worth now:

www.youtube.com


MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Updates to Post-9/11 Gi Bill transfers are coming

The transferability option under the Post-9/11 GI Bill allows service members to transfer all or some unused benefits to their spouse or dependent children. The request to transfer unused GI Bill benefits to eligible dependents must be completed while serving as an active member of the Armed Forces. The Department of Defense determines whether or not you can transfer benefits to your family. Once the DoD approves benefits for transfer, the new beneficiaries apply for them at Veterans Affairs.

The option to transfer is open to any member of the armed forces active duty or Selected Reserve, officer or enlisted who is eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill and meets the following criteria:


  • Has at least six years of service in the armed forces (active duty and/or Selected Reserve) on the date of approval and agrees to serve four additional years in the armed forces from the date of election.
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 National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Jorge Intriago)

  • Has at least 10 years of service in the armed forces (active duty and/or Selected Reserve) on the date of approval, is precluded by either standard policy (by service branch or DoD) or statute from committing to four additional years and agrees to serve for the maximum amount of time allowed by such policy or statute.
  • Transfer requests are submitted and approved while the member is in the armed forces.
  • Effective July 12, 2019, eligibility to transfer benefits will be limited to service members with at least 6 years but not more than 16 years of active duty or selected reserve service. So service members with more than 16 years of service should transfer benefits before July 12, 2019.

For more information, go to https://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/post911_transfer.asp.

This article originally appeared on United States Air Force. Follow @USAF on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Army families eligible for assistance with remote learning expenses

A new program offsets costs associated with remote education for military kids.

Army Emergency Relief announced the financial assistance program earlier this year after evaluating the needs of Army families impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. It provides up to $500 per family to defray the costs of supplies purchased for students in K-12. The program is retroactive to March, when many schools started going offline.


Examples of items covered under this program are “traditional educational materials such as pens, paper, and books as well as educational technology including computers, tablets, and software,” according to the AER website. Assistance may be provided as a zero-interest loan, grant, or combination.

Retired Army Lt. Gen. Raymond Mason, director of AER, said the idea for the program came after a discussion with partners from sister relief societies about COVID-19 support for military families. Eligible soldiers can apply for assistance directly on the AER website.

“We have an online application and that’s the first place to start. Once we work the assistance case — usually 12-24 hours, depending on how complicated it is and several other situations — we then send an electronic funds transfer from our bank account directly to the soldier’s bank account,” he said.

Soldiers from the Army National Guard and Army Reserve who have been mobilized in support of COVID-19 are also eligible to apply, but they must go through their chain of command.

“The chain of command can validate their status, as in they are mobilized in support of COVID-19, and then work it back in through the electronic process,” Mason said.

All of the new COVID-19 related programs created by AER — of which there are roughly three dozen — will exist at least until the end of the year, Mason said, and new programs are constantly being added as needs come to light. To date, AER has distributed 2,000 in COVID-19 assistance, and Mason hopes more soldiers will request support.

“What keeps me up at night is that there is some need out there and it isn’t coming to us, either because of a communication problem or they are experiencing something that we haven’t thought of. We’ll always look at exceptions to a policy, so just because you go to our website and it isn’t there, don’t let that stop you. Come on in,” Mason said.

The most common ranks requesting AER assistance are E5s and E6s, but soldiers of any rank are eligible. And Mason is aware that service members can be hesitant to ask for help, which is why AER put a direct access program in place almost four years ago to achieve multiple objectives.

“It [the direct access program] allows soldiers to come to AER without chain of command involvement. It was really two reasons: One, it was the stigma, that survey data supports about asking for help, and secondly it was to get soldiers to come to us and not go to predatory lenders.

“Asking for help is a sign of strength.”

Visit https://www.armyemergencyrelief.org/covid19/ to apply for assistance and to learn about additional AER programs.

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

6 dumb things only military spouses do

Everybody does dumb stuff, and military spouses are no exception. (Example: eating Ben & Jerry’s for dinner every night during a deployment and then wondering why we didn’t hit our goal weight.)


But there are a few dumb things that only military spouses do, such as:

Hey, I just met you. And this is crazy. But give me your number. And be the emergency contact for my baby.

Every PCS means starting over, in every way. We get three to five weeks to unpack and arrange everything, get everyone registered for school, find a doctor, find a dentist, find a … oh yeah, find a place to live. Wonder of wonder, during that mad dash, what we didn’t manage to find was a friend we would trust with our child’s life.

For military spouses, emergency contacts are the proverbial Canadian girlfriend/boyfriend from summer camp. “I swear I know people, and they like me enough to take my kid to the ER, but they just don’t live here.” So, we list the name of, literally, the very first person we meet, cross our fingers and hope no one gets hurt this year.

Ooh! PCS stickers! I can craft with those!

When the ever-lengthening “Home is Where” plaque in the entryway doesn’t make the point loudly enough, we peel those little PCS stickers off the backs of our furniture and use them to make Christmas ornaments, maps, and other crafts.

Because nothing says “holiday spirit” and “welcome home after a hard day,” like a passive-aggressive homespun visual that basically means “remember that time your job forced the whole family to move to Ft. Huachuca? Where there are TARANTULAS! Good times…”

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 if we don’t see enough camo…

Make a purse out of a uniform.

Why, and I mean why, do we do this? The ACU pattern was ugly and impractical when soldiers wore it. Multi-cam and MARPAT look like a pigeon flew over after an all-night sugar binge. Basically, anything that ends in “uniform” was not designed to be stylish, except for maybe the Navy blueberries (Why did they want sailors to blend in with the OCEAN? If a sailor is in the water, don’t we need to see him so we can fish him out? I digress.) None of these handbags are cute.

But that doesn’t even touch on the real issue, which is – these are old clothes. Worn by people who get paid to do dirty, sweaty, disgusting things. You don’t see the wives of garbage collectors making diaper bags out of threadbare, bright orange coveralls for a reason. Why are you putting your baby’s bottle and snack pack of Cheerios into something your husband wore on the Darby Queen, Kayla? It’s not even hygienic.

Gauge life events by location and childbirth.

Forget journals and Facebook memories, we can tell you what was going on in the world in any particular year by recalling where we lived and which child was born there. “Let’s see, we were at Camp LeJeune, and Jackson was a newborn … he had the worst colic, you know … so that must have been 2016 and Hurricane Matthew.”

Get itchy every three years.

Fish and houseguests start to smell after three days. For duty stations, it’s more like three years. Three years into each move, the grass starts looking greener elsewhere, and the luster of our current location begins to wear off. We’ve eaten in all the good restaurants, visited all the local sites, shopped in all the cute boutiques, and now all we notice is what this duty station doesn’t have.

At the first rumor of a new base, we start googling, joining Facebook groups, and surfing real estate apps. If Uncle Sam wanted us to be settled and content, he wouldn’t keep moving us all over the planet.

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.

Prom photo? Military ball? What’s the difference?

Go to Prom every year until menopause.

Okay, so it’s not really prom, but it’s the same rubbery chicken, the same DJ, the same up-do and mani-pedi, and the same expensive dress we’ll never wear again (or at least not until we PCS). Military balls feel a lot like prom, except there’s alcohol, uniforms, symbolism, and patriotism.

Well, even if it isn’t prom, we still feel like Cinderella getting ready for the ball, just like we did in high school.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Parents use creativity to take kids on driveway adventures

In March, parents across the country began hunkering down at home with kids of all ages. Stay-at-home orders going into effect across states at different times left many juggling both parenting and teaching, and trying to find a way forward.

As temperatures across the nation heat up, parents have taken to driveways and sidewalks to ease that at-home blues for their kids, letting creativity take the lead with sidewalk chalk designs.

For Abbey Tucker, a mom of four girls ages 3, 7, 11 and 13, the creativity began with her oldest child.

“My oldest daughter drew some balloons at the start of quarantine,” the Atlanta-area mom told We Are The Mighty.


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.

“I took a photo of my 3 year old with them and loved it so we decided to try some more and it took off from there. The ideas come from lots of places – the internet, favorite Disney films or just things we would love to do that we can’t do right now.”

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.
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.
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.

Heather Gibb, a central Pennsylvania mom of three, can relate.

“It all started with Ella asking me to draw her a princess carriage to sit in,” Gibb said, referencing her 5 year-old daughter. “So I Googled it because I actually am terrible at drawing unless I have a picture.”

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.

Gibb said that the princess carriage led to her son, Rhett, wanting a crocodile.

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 that led to me getting 100 other ideas from Pinterest,” she shared.

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.
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.
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.

When Heather Tenneson of Madison, Alabama had to cancel a much-anticipated family trip to Disney World, she took her daughters using chalk (and a little bit of imagination) in the driveway.

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.

Tucker, Gibb and Tenneson are just three examples of parents taking their creativity outdoors.

When We Are the Mighty asked parents to share how they were getting creative with their kids outside, they delivered. Messages of hope and inspiration, Disney characters, stained-glass inspired works of art, learning tools and games came tumbling into our inbox from every corner of the country.

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.

(Amber — California)

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.

(Austin — Pennsylvania)

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.

(Austin — California)

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.

(Calvin — Sugar Hill, Georgia)

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.

(Courtney — Kansas City)

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.

(Declan — Honolulu, Hawaii)

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.

(Jordan — Pennsylvania)

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.

(Kayden — Harrisburg, PA)

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.

(Kayden Willa — Harrisburg, PA)

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.

(Lauren son Maddox, pictured — Littleton, CO)

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.

(Max — Honolulu)

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.

(Nicole — Las Vegas)

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.

(Rachel — Oxford, MS)

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.

(Rachel — Oxford, MS)

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.

(Rachel — Oxford, MS)

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.

(Robyn — Houston, Texas)

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.

(Robyn — Houston, Texas)

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.

(Robyn — Houston, Texas)

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.

(Robyn — Houston, Texas)

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.

(Robyn — Houston, Texas)

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.

(Robyn — Houston, Texas)

Whether parents are encouraging creativity through art, looking for a family-friendly outdoor activity, or simply seeking another way to entertain kids at home, sidewalk chalk delivers.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

4 gifts the military gives children

It isn’t an easy life to live, being a military child. And while there’s plenty of articles and entire organizations dedicated to making that life better or making up for all the hardships, there are plenty of silver linings too.

Military families worldwide can all take a minute to feel good about the hidden gifts, they’re giving to their children simply by being part of the service community.


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.
Noah Strasbaugh, son of U.S. Air Force Maj. Steven Strasbaugh, 351st Air Refueling Squadron assistant director of operations, sprays his dad with water in celebration of his “fini-flight” at RAF Mildenhall, England, Feb. 28, 2019. Dating back to World War II, the U.S. military has celebrated pilots’ and other experienced officers’ final flights either at their current unit or their career. U.S. Air Force/Emerson Nuñez

1. The gift of time

Entire lives are spent wasting time. It would be fair to say that generally speaking, most Americans and especially American children are too busy running from thing to thing to value the simple gift of time together. When someone is in your life every day, it’s nearly impossible to step back and see just how important, irreplaceable and invaluable they are to you.

This is not the case for military families. Deployments, TDYs, and school after school result in long periods of time reflecting upon relationships. All that time apart strengthens bonds and makes playing catch in the backyard a memory they’ll cherish forever. At an early age, military children get how important time together is, and are far less likely to waste it.

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.
A student with Mokapu Elementary School performs a traditional Hawaiian dance during the school’s May Day celebration, Marine Corps Base Hawaii. U.S. Marine Corps/Zachary Orr

2. The gift of culture

Almost everything written about moving constantly across the world with children is negative because it leaves out one major perk — experiencing culture. International culture, customs, and respect are concepts which remain foreign to those who live their entire lives in one place. When children live globally from a young age, many of life’s barriers fade away.

Military children will grow up accustomed to foreign languages, an openness to international cuisine, and the unique perspective to see the world’s commonalities from firsthand experience. If nothing else, they will grow up knowing exactly what’s out there and be unafraid to live their own lives anywhere on the map.

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.
A Gold Star child and her mentor pose for a photo during the 21st annual TAPS National Military Survivor Seminar and Good Grief Camp for Young Survivors, in Arlington, Va., May 22, 2015. Gen. Dempsey addressed surviving family members of fallen service members from both behind a podium and behind a microphone as he sang a few songs. DoD photo/Daniel Hinton

3. The gift of family

Nope, that wasn’t a typo. Military children will grow up with the gift of family…the military community. The old saying that “you don’t get to choose your family” is only half true. While we have no control over who we’re directly related to, we can choose the people we trust, love and create unbreakable bonds with.

Military families spend years and even decades apart from blood relatives, but over time realize that experiences like deployments, loss and PCS moves forge ties just as strong. Growing up in the military provides a constantly cycle of opportunity to meet wonderful people from all over the world and the looming threat of separation to bring you closer to them.

Just as service members feel a lifelong bond to those they served with, military children feel uniquely tied to the people that stepped up and stepped in when their family was away. No one knows what they went through better than the ones who lived it right alongside them.

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.
Students at Lackland Independent School District march and cheer during the PurpleUp! Parade April 12, 2019, at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. The parade was held in honor of the Month of the Military Child. April was designated as the Month of the Military Child in 1986 to recognize the sacrifices children in military families make along with the challenges they face. U.S. Air Force/Krystal Wright

4. The gift of turning the page

Something about childhood adults often forget was the deep desire to just start over when tween social life took a nosedive into the embarrassing with one fatal mishap- like the accidental fart in math class which forever brands you as “tooter.”

Enter the sweet gift of moving every few years. Did you get labeled something awful? There’s a move for that. Did rumor have it that your breath smells like the hot stench of death? Don’t live with it, just pick up and move! Dear children, we are giving you the sweet gift of reinventing yourselves every few years. A gift that allows you to boldly try new haircuts, new clothing styles, and hell, even a few weird accents after that CONUS move back to the states.

All things considered; military parents can rest easy tonight knowing that they aren’t completely screwing up their kid’s lives.

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