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Spotlight on Jean Hilsman

President, Board of Governors 1981-1982                     

“They were going a brave step further to create change in issues affecting them,” Jean Hilsman, former President of the National Military Family Association, said regarding her first impression of a group of women called the National Military Wives Association (NMWA). In 1980, Jean and her family were transferred from Fort Gordon, Georgia, to Fort Myer, Virginia, and she wanted be a part of something bigger. After hearing about the Association, she decided to attend a meeting to find out what this interesting group was all about.  She understood the issues of the Military Family very well.

The group of women proved to be exciting in their efforts representing military families. Taking a brave step forward, the group worked to create changes in issues affecting members of the uniformed services and their families and survivors through Congressional action as well as Department of Defense action.   During this time, military members of the family generally determined the welfare of the family members. This group however, was speaking up for themselves and the needs of military families. It was exactly what Jean was looking for. After a short time as a member of the Association, Jean was asked to be the President and accepted the challenge. At the time of her Presidency, the organization had approximately 3,000 members, and one paid staff member who performed secretarial duties on a small salary.

While Jean was President, studies and trips were completed to identify issues affecting military families. These studies and trips demonstrated the military family was the key to the retention of the military member.

As a result of these trips and studies, the Association was instrumental in the establishment of the Department of Defense Family Policy Office.  The Association felt it was important to join forces with military leadership and made the transition from the Wives Association to the National Military Family Association, an organization supporting military families as a whole.

Jean continues to remind family members to support each other today. Military families share happy moments, emergencies, and sad moments with each other when away from close family members. It is important to be strong and stay connected.

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