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Spotlight on Candace Wheeler

Chairman, Board of Governors 2004-2005

Candace’s involvement with the Association began in 2001, after hearing Joyce Raezer (then, Government Relations Director, currently Executive Director) speak at the U. S. Army War College. Candace joined the Association and began as a Volunteer in the Government Relations Department in 2001, taking on the role of Chair of Nominating Committee in 2002. She was elected Vice President in 2003, and served as President in 2004, and became Chairman of the Board in February 2005. 

After the terrorist attacks in 2001, the United States rallied to support the troops in their missions in Afghanistan and in Iraq.  By 2004, when Candace was elected President of the Association, it was becoming clear that these would be long engagements, with repeated deployments for military families. More than ever, military families needed additional support to cope with the realities of a nation engaged in two wars.

Under Candace’s leadership, the Association successfully championed an increase in the death gratuity for survivors, as well as improvements to the Casualty Assistance program. For service members deployed in a combat zone, the Association worked to make the temporary increases in the Family Separation Allowance and Imminent Danger Pay permanent. Candace and the Association also worked to increase funding for military children in civilian schools, counseling for military family members and service members, additional childcare facilities, and for more robust family support programs.

During this time, it was also becoming evident that children were showing the stress of repeated deployments. Continuing the work of former President Barbara Williams, Candace and the Association launched the first Operation Purple® camps in 2004, with the goal to empower military children and their families to develop and maintain healthy and connected relationships. In 2004, the Association served close to 1,000 children in 12 camps located across the country. Since its inception, the Operation Purple® program has served close to 40,000 military children and teens, and has filled a critical need within the military community.  

The rapid growth in membership during Candace’s tenure necessitated changes in the Association’s governance and in how the Association reached its members. To respond to this need, the Association developed and launched a new website. Spearheaded by Executive Director Julia Pfaff, the website enabled the Association to reach out to more military families than ever before, and to provide them up to date information and education on a myriad of pertinent topics.  

Candace believes strongly that military families today need to become their own advocates. To do that, she say’s “You must stay current on the latest information and know what resources and benefits are available. That is one of the many reasons families should join the National Military Family Association.”

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