#militarymonday Bridging the Gap with Community Service

Volunteering and community service is something that I know that is mentioned fairly regularly on my blog.  It’s important to me, and I hope to pass that on to my children.  I feel like the spirit of volunteerism has dwindled among our society, but then I notice that more and more high school’s are requiring it for graduation, and whole school districts and community beautification day.  But what does that actually mean?  Does that mean that giving back to your community is become more important or does that mean to actually get people to volunteer we have to require it and have special days for it.  I’m not sure which.


This last weekend I joined up with one of my Blue Star Families pals and went to DC for DC Public Schools Beautification Day.  Me and some of my pals spent a good chunk of our day at Jefferson Academy School in South West DC.  It is a beautiful old school, brick with wood floors.  Such a cool old building.  The school had some water damage on some of the upper floors and new teachers were moving in.  Organizing books by reading level and hanging out classroom decorations was the order of the day, and it was a blast.  We even had some fellow military families and some service members come out as well.  It was great.  Giving back to the community, showing the local community that we as military members are invested in our communities no matter how long we may be there, is vital to the Civilian/Military relationship.

Me and my BSF peep Michelle, and two service members

Bridging the gap so that we both understand each other.  In Blue Star Families Military Lifestyle Survey, released early this year, this very topic was one of the most important.  Military families didn’t feel understood by their civilian counterparts.  But can we really dump that onto the civilian community?  We are responsible for that relationship just as much as they are, and community service is the way to do it.  In fact, in my opinion, it is the perfect way to do it!  We have all heard and seen stories about military connected individuals walking around with their hands out.  We deserve this, we deserve that.  My husband’s job is so dangerous that I deserve to get my bags on an airplane for free.  I’m not denying that all those things aren’t nice and wonderful, and on some level “deserved” so to speak.  But walking around feeling as if its owed to you and then throwing a tantrum when you don’t get it, doesn’t do much for our reputation.  A perfect example is the Sears Heroes registry for a gift card.  At a prescribed time you can register and try to “make it in.”  For the past three years this has been nothing but a nightmare.  Spouses flooding the Sears Facebook page saying the most horrible things that one could ever see.  I was absolutely ashamed to be called a military spouse at that very moment.  Every year I tell Sears thank you that I am surprised they continue doing it.  I chastise fellow milspouses in a rant on my Facebook status.  I know I’m being just as ridiculous but I seriously can’t help myself.   So can you really blame the civilian population for thinking we are unapproachable and snotty?  I can’t.

We do…what do you do?

In an effort to do my part for my military community, my local community and my children I want to give back.  My children will be raised knowing that everyone should do their part.  Bringing them with me to projects is my way of doing that.  Look for events in your area.  Find an area of interest for you and see how your community gives back in that way.  There are many National events relating to service that are held throughout the year.  Coming up next month is the 9/11 Day of Service.  You can visit the website to pledge your service, find local way to give back and more.  Points of Light is another great organization that provides you with ways you can give back.  Simply search your location and an area of interest.  The time is now.

How do you give back?!  Check out Points of Light or the 9/11 Day of Service website to get involved!!

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I took the pledge….have you?

 http://www.militarysaves.org/resourcekit/Logos/Military2color.jpg

This week is Military Saves Week.  Have you heard of Military Saves?  You may have seen flyers, banners around your installations.  You might have even been somewhere where a Military Saves Conference was being held.  Earlier this week I was sitting at a table for Blue Star Families, a fabulous organization for which I do most of my volunteer work, at a Military Saves event in the DC area.  It was only the first day, but I was bummed to not see as many young people as I had hoped.  Although, it should be noted that frequently this area, especially the location I was at, isn’t the frequent stomping ground for young service members.  I know they are here though.  That is really who I think we should be focused on.  I would say, that just from regular conversation in life, most young people do not thinking about retirement and the future.  Military Saves is about much for than that, its about debt reduction and saving in general (which let’s face it is hard unless you are in a two income household).

Getting Military service members to save and invest in the future has been a difficult task over the years.  First reading about the statistics in this Military.com article, it was a shock to me.  Mr. Air Force happens to be investment/retirement minded, almost entirely thanks to his Dad, who is also very investment/retirement focused.  It takes commitment and resolve to accomplish it.  Many people that I’ve met with have expressed dissatisfaction with the amount of money we Military members get paid.   I guess maybe if you were just looking at numbers, and thinking about CEOs and Dr’s and what not, we don’t.  But, I think if you were to consider what we get, great health care, a housing allowance that usually covers rent, plus some (at least it always has for us), and some of the other things we should be so lucky.  I mean we make enough for me to stay home, raise three children and live quite comfortably.  We go on dates, vacations, buy clothes and are great.  We don’t own a home, but that’s not in our cards right now.  That’s not the season in life we are in.  I could write a whole post about the misconception that owning a home is everything.  Young people falling all over themselves to own homes, instead of “throwing away money on rent”, because they think its what they are supposed to do. 

Happily, articles are reporting that as of last year more service members are participating in the TSP.  As long ago as 2011, we were seeing a record increase in Service member participation in the TSP, about 40%, and with the option for ROTH accounts being available to most Service members, last year, savings is happening all around.  Kate, who writes for Military.com (whose articles I love, btw), released a great article about planning for your future, what she would tell  her younger self about saving.  It’s been in the works for several years to modernize the TSP program, make it more accessible (in the realm of thought for younger service members) for those with no real experience or knowledge about investments and retirements.  Here’s hoping that automatic enrollment for service members (as it has been for Federal civilian employees) comes along soon.  As it is TSP is taken right out of your paycheck before you even see it, which I think is helpful.  I think you would have more service members taking part in thinking about their futures if they didn’t have to think about enrolling themselves.  Its very similar to my thoughts on the National Association for the Air and Army Guards (EANGUS).  If you attend the conferences (which we did for several years), most of those that attend are in their 40s +.  I would wager most younger members of the Guard (both branches) don’t even know what EANGUS does.  They do all that lobbying that makes our lives better.  Why aren’t more young people involved in that?!  The same goes for investing in your future.  The after….Military life won’t be forever.

Have you heard of Military Saves?  Visit their website and take the Pledge!  If you have heard of Military Saves, did you attend an event, have you signed the pledge?  What are you doing to change your future?

Visit Military saves online.

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