2012 Year in Review
Over the past 43 years, we have grown and changed in as many facets as the military community we serve. As a community changes and expands, so to do its needs, and for the National Military Family Association, 2012 was a year of putting into practice the new and different ways we’re evolving with the new face of military family support.
New Ideas, Advocacy, and Expertise
Our mission to fight for benefits and programs that strengthen and protect the quality of life for service members and their families is more relevant and pertinent than ever. In striving to meet military families where there is the most need, in 2012 we were able to bring a giant idea to life.
Our brand new online initiative, MyMilitaryLife, is the first app of its kind and allows military spouses to get the information they need right when it’s needed. This app also addresses the age old question of “How do I know what I don’t know?” by anticipating needs based on the user’s profile. Our goal is to put customized information directly in the hands of military families. MyMilitaryLife currently features six life paths or categories: moving, having a baby, spouse education, separation or retirement, raising kids, and deployment. Five new life paths will be added this year, covering areas such as spouse employment, military family basics, and reintegration. In order to connect to today’s 1.1 million military spouses most effectively, we understand it is critical to diversify our outreach approach and find better ways to provide them with the information they need.
Along with important information, upcoming features of MyMilitaryLife will allow military spouses to connect with one another by sharing information and giving feedback on what programs really work. With nearly 4,000 downloads from the iTunes and Google Play stores since October, we look forward to extending the reach of information as the application continues to grow.
MyMilitaryLife was launched at our annual Leadership Luncheon, which was sponsored by the Association of Military Banks of America. Leaders in the technology and defense community attended, based on our expertise in military family issues. Panelists General Michael Hayden (former Director of the CIA), Mr. Vivek Kundra (former first Chief Information Officer of the United States), and Dr. Eric Schmidt (Executive Chairman of Google) discussed the Nation’s rapid adoption and reliance on technological advancements as well as its impact on national security, wartime operations, and military family communications. We were also pleased to present S&K Sales Company with the Dr. Lowell G. Daun Award at the luncheon, for their significant contributions to the development of our Association and initiatives.
Keeping with the theme of strengthening our online connection, we launched our blog, Branching Out. In addition to our thriving social media platforms, we hope that Branching Out will create another link to our community by highlighting important issues and creating immediate conversations with families.
In November, we were delighted to receive the Capital One Award for Small Business Veteran and Military Spouse Employment at the Chamber of Commerce’s Hiring our Heroes Gala. Investing in the quality of military family life is second nature, as 77% of our employees are military spouses, and nearly all of our employees and Volunteers have a personal affiliation with the military community. We continued our roles as advocates on behalf of military families by presenting at Military Spouse Employment Forums at Hiring our Heroes Job Fairs, and by submitting testimony for four hearings and testifying as part of the Military Coalition Panel.
Military families are constantly on the go, which makes it difficult for spouses to gain the educational tools needed to find and keep meaningful employment. Army spouse and scholarship recipient Erin Dupey touched on the benefits of continuing her education:
“Life as a military spouse is filled with ever-changing circumstances. Through my husband’s deployments and our military moves all over the world, my educational pursuit has been the primary source of stability in my life.”
With many spouses making the decision to begin or return to their educations, it’s more important than ever to see that they have every resource available to help with this transition. We printed the fourth edition of our Military Spouse Education Resource Guide, and had another strong year with our Joanne Holbrook Patton Military Spouse Scholarship Program. Nearly 9,000 spouses applied, and we were pleased to award $474,000 in scholarship funds thanks to sponsors Folds of Honor Foundation, Fisher House Foundation, BNY Mellon, ASMBA Star Foundation, Dominion Power, and Health Net Federal Services. We awarded 542 scholarships to military spouses in 2012 and launched the licensing, counseling, and mental health components of our program to support spouses seeking licenses and certificates in critically-needed career fields.
War has been a guiding force of military life for more than 10 years. Military kids continue to grow up in an era of prolonged uncertainty and face stressors never experienced by previous generations of military children. Our free Operation Purple® camps continued to address the needs of military kids by sending 1,581 kids to camp. And the benefits are real. In 2012 the Association received results from a RAND effectiveness study in which parents reported improved communication and lowered levels of stress in their children as a result of attending Operation Purple camps.
With troops leaving Iraq in December of 2011 and settling back into family life, 2012 brought a critical need for strong, reintegration-focused programs and resources for families. We held six Operation Purple Family Retreats and four Healing Adventures programs for families looking to reconnect with their returning or wounded service member. It would be amazing if time stopped when a loved one returned from deployment, but life continues without missing a beat, often making it difficult to bring the service member back into the family’s routines and communicate needs.
“Both my husband and I realized how much getting out together away from day to day activities can really bring us together in a positive direction.” –Operation Purple Family Retreat Participant
We are thankful for the donors who share in this mission and the support from our camp partners to help keep the Operation Purple program going strong. We’re looking forward to the 10th season of camp in 2013.
Nearly 200 dedicated Volunteers across the country and overseas provide the critical piece to our success by being both the voice of the military community and sharing providing information with their community. Our “home town” advocacy helps shape our legislative concerns by arming our Government Relations team with the best practices, real stories, and concerns from communities to bring forward to our Nation’s leaders. Our Volunteers raised awareness and reported concerns on issues like education, housing, health care, and the widespread and growing support of military family issues in civilian communities.
In addition to providing information and resources specifically to the military community, we were also invited to conduct briefings for civilian organizations and participate at conferences interested in military family support. We continued our legislative relationships, working closely with Congressional offices, including the House and Senate Military Family Caucuses, and provided input to the White House’s Joining Forces Initiative.
In 2012, our Association was most pleased to be a sought-after resource for information and support during times of uncertainty in the military community. During the threat of the economic “fiscal cliff” and the months following troop drawdown, both military and civilian communities looked to us for best practices and preparation in the event of crisis. One of the biggest perceptions we work against is that the wars are over and everything in our community is returning to “normal.” Although one war is over, its repercussions and effects remain while another war carries on. Military families know that nothing is certain, but want assurance that basic benefits and programs will never be in jeopardy. In 2012, we were appalled to see others did not understand the importance of robust military family support, and witnessed threats to commissary and health care benefits. Providing stability in times that are anything but stable remains a critical effort of our Association. Our post concerning threats to commissary benefits reached more than 3,000 people on Facebook, and had 1,800 views on Branching Out, our most popular blog post to date. For this and other reasons, it is important that the “outside” world remains engaged and supportive of issues in the military community.
The National Military Family Association remains among the top of all charity organizations rated by charity evaluators. We remain a trusted nonprofit among policymakers and donors, who commit to supporting military families. We are proud that 85% of each dollar contributed to our Association is applied to programs and activities that improve the quality of life for military families. We received our ninth consecutive four-star rating from Charity Navigator, meet all 20 of the Better Business Bureau’s standards for Charity Accountability, and hold an “A+” rating from CharityWatch.
2012 was a busy year for politics, and this year the buzzing and bickering from Washington could not be ignored. We watched the fiscal cliff negotiations of December closely since a possible sequestration would have meant dramatic cuts in defense spending. It’s not often that the decisions from so far up have such an enormous trickle-down effect. We were proud to provide timely accounts of the events in Washington for military families to create a meaningful dialogue with our community and make sure families’ voices were heard on Capitol Hill.
We believe 2013 will be a transitional year for military families as our Nation comes to grips with the consequences of budget debates, the beginning of the drawdown in Afghanistan, and the need to support military families dealing with the stresses of many years at war. We are excited to move forward and remain military families voice and resource. Our community is changing, as is our Association, and we will meet military families wherever they need us.
Return to Full Issue