The Year in Review - 2012 has a lot to offer the military family, from local military discounts, to stories of personal experience, and articles from reputable resources like the DoD, USAA, Community and Family Policy and so many more.

So what was important to our families this year?  Here are the Top 10 Articles on from the year 2012:

MilitaryAvenue's Moving Checklist: A move isn't complete without a checklist! It certainly is less stressful with one. Click on a link below to take you to the appropriate time frame and then skim the other lists to make sure you are on track for a great move.

Growing Up in the Military: A few years ago, a debate emerged on an Internet newsgroup for military brats about what kind of flower military children of military parents were most like. The consensus became the dandelion.

13 Tax Deductions You Can't Ignore: Before tackling your tax return, brush up on this baker's dozen of deductions that could cut your tax bill.

DeCA begins testing new Commissary Rewards Card: The Defense Commissary Agency is testing the Commissary Rewards Card that will soon allow customers to access and redeem digital coupons at all its stores.

DOD Announces 2013 Housing, Subsistence Allowance Rates: On Jan. 1, 2013, service members can expect to see an average increase of about $60 in their 2013 basic allowance for housing, Cheryl Anne Woehr, the BAH program manager, said Dec. 13.

Face of Defense: Marine Boxer Fights for Olympic Gold: After leading the U.S. boxing team in warm-ups yesterday, Marine Corps Sgt. Jamel Herring demonstrated the unique style and speed that may earn him an Olympic medal.

MSEP Jobs! Connecting Military Spouses to Employers: It’s finally here! An online portal that connects military spouses directly to employers who want to recruit, hire, retain and promote military spouses into current job openings at their facilities around the world.

Planning Ahead – 5 PCS Tips you can do now: Educate yourself and then Start Saving! Do you know about your PCS Allowances and Entitlements? Find out what they are and what you need to do to get the maximum reimbursement for your move. Dislocation Allowance, Move-In Housing Allowance, Monetary Allowance in lieu of Transportation and much more!

Service Members, Families, Get Free Pass to National Parks: Service members and their families will be able to enter all of America’s national parks free of charge for a year under an initiative announced today.

5 Social Networking Tips for Military Members: Here's a scary war story: In 2007, when a fleet of new AH-64 Apaches arrived at a base in Iraq, several soldiers snapped shots of the choppers. Those images made their way online — along with the invisible meta data that gave away the compound's precise location. Armed with that information, insurgents launched a mortar attack that destroyed four of the helicopters.

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Raising a Generation that Loves

Today Newtown, Conneticut will bury the first of their children.  Noah Pozner, age 6, will be laid to rest at 1:00pm. (Newtown shooting victims: First funerals to be held) Then there will be 19 more funerals for children and 7 for adults.  Oh deep sorrow runs through my blood.

My husband, the level headed soldier who has seen more then I would like to imagine, came home on Friday and immediately turned on the news.  He watched for a quite a while, standing there stunned.  Then the man who is never sick complained of a headache the rest of the night.  I don't know if it was a headache as much as heartache.

The Christmas Tree - Military Family Style

O Christmas Tree
O Christmas Tree
How Lovely are Your branches

Isn't it amazing how many different styles of Christmas trees there are?

Protecting Your Hard Earned Tuition Assistance – DoD Blogger Roundtable

Fairy tales often start like this: Once upon a time… But our military benefits are not the things of fairy tales, they are earned and deserved! Some colleges have been less than honest with our service members while taking their benefits. It only takes a few to leave a bad taste. I can personally relate as:

Once upon a time, a Lieutenant signed up for an advanced degree program, drove 100 miles roundtrip for classes, spent hours studying and preparing for assignments while working a more than full time job and then received orders overseas. Two courses completed, in the bank for when the next opportunity arose several years later.

When I signed up for the next program; Surprise, surprise the "wicked witch"* announced that the classes were not transferable”. In fact, though described as advanced degree courses, the transcripts showed undergraduate course credit. Wait, I had been enrolled in an advanced degree program and the courses were paid for by the GI Bill at the rate for advanced degree hours.  Language in the transcript detailed that they were prerequisite courses, something that the school never explained. 

So it was with great interest as we dialed in for the Blogger Roundtable with Carolyn L. Baker, chief of Voluntary Education Programs at Military Community and Family Policy at the Department of Defense. Carolyn was there to discuss the DoD revised Tuition Assistance (TA) Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). The implementation date has slipped until 1 March 2013 from 1 January to allow additional time for schools to sign and get the MOUs in place. In response to veterans’ organizations that were concerned about the “transportability” of course work into veteran programs (such as the GI Bill ) and participating college inputs, modifications to the MOU had been implemented late in 2012.

Carolyn L. Baker - DoDLive Photo
Ms. Baker added detail to a DoD article on the requirements and what the schools needed to do in order to be qualified for accepting students using TA. As of 1 March if the school has not signed the MOU, they will not be available for military students using TA as a form of payment. There are 2,400 schools participating and about 50% are public and 50% for profit schools. So are we limiting the student’s freedom of choice and what is the impact on the students?  She said “there is no impact on the students” and further explained that 95% of the military students are in high enrollment programs that have or will have MOUs signed by the cutoff.  The TA policy for students has seen no changes!

What about the impact on the schools? While there are apparently some concerns about meeting the new requirements, the DoD is committed to the program and it reflects the President's Principles of Excellence.  Increased oversight by a third party review (as identified in the MOU) will insure that the schools honor the requirements and guidance in the MOU and provide the students the biggest bang for their education buck!

DoD wants to protect the students and help them reach their education and personal goals. Transparency is key for the students and the MOU will provide that transparency so YOU know exactly what the course work will provide and if it can be transferred, delayed by deployments, continued via online resources, etc.

This was a great discussion so if you would like to listen to it please go to DoDLive for an audio transcript. For additional information on military education issues, official government links and other information please go to MilitaryAvenue’s Education Center!

* I do not mean to infer anything about the military education center or the hard working counselors by referring to the “wicked witch” but imagine my frustration over this issue and how I took the announcement versus the person explaining it to me. Besides MilAve_Deborah has worked in a military education center and I know that perspective quite well. :-) 
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Col K is a retired Air Force pilot who served with the best of the military community from the Army, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard and Air Force. He flew combat rescue and special operations helicopters, fixed wing trainers and airlift and retired while flying the C-17 as the Vice Wing Commander of the 62nd Airlift Wing at McChord AFB. He enjoys writing about military issues and is a frequent contributor to the the DoD Blogger Roundtable at DoDLive. 

A member of a proud military family that created to support the troops and their families, he enjoys the continued military ties from blogging.

The Home Depot Celebration of Service 2012 - Meet a military family.

The Home Depot Celebration of Service 2012 - Meet the Purvis family!

I had the pleasure of meeting the Purvis family in Grand Rapids, Michigan last week, as a part of The Home Depot Celebration of Service 2012The Home Depot provided them (that we delivered) with decorations, a corner Christmas tree, and an opportunity to meet a wonderful family.  Throughout my time with the family we shared plenty of laughs and a few serious and emotional topics.

Mr. Purvis has been in the Army National Guard for about 11 years.  He has been deployed 3 times, to Egypt, Iraq and Afghanistan.  The family's living room wall is covered in pictures and memories from his multiple deployments and service to our country.  His wife is a huge arts and crafts fan and mentioned that she is “addicted” to Pinterest.

More than just the winter-blues

The Holidays. They can be a very tough time of year.

Not only is it getting darker and darker in our part of the hemisphere but we are missing family, friends and loved ones that are around the world.  We are looking back at our year and have seen changes we may or may not like.  We are looking ahead wondering what the year ahead will have in store for us.

Your spouse might be deployed.  Your parents might be thousands of miles away.  You may be experiencing the mind-blowing effects of PTSD.  Your schedule is crazy and the thought of 'Silent Night' is really only a song. Or it might be just a little /too/ silent!

According to Military OneSource there are ways to manage seasonal stresses without canceling the holiday season altogether! Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Be realistic. Few of us have ideal families, unlimited resources or perfect lives. Stop putting pressure on yourself to magically create a perfect scenario during the holidays.

Tips to Protect Your Hard Earned Military Money! The BBB Military Line is for You.

Do not give away your hard earned military cash! You served. You or your soldier, airmen, marine, sailor or coastie served in a high threat environment to bring in the bacon and now an unethical business or person wants to take it from you.

Have you ever been a victim of consumer fraud? Concerned about how to avoid becoming a victim? Many of our military community are vulnerable to consumer fraud, scams and contract issues due to their age, relocation to new and unfamiliar areas and their wide spread use of the internet according to Brenda Linnington, Director of the Better Business Bureau Military Line! Did you know that the BBB had a specific military line? I knew about BBB but had not really dug into the Military Line until I sat next to Brenda at the 3d Annual USAA Influencer Conference in November.

Brenda is all about helping our service members and their families. She is a West Point grad and her husband and son are active duty Army as well! She agreed to talk about the Military Line with me so I could better explain how it can help you. There is nothing more frustrating than to see our service members or their families become victims of some unscrupulous business. While on active duty, I saw them on the outside of the military gates trying to draw in young folks to get a payday loan as an example. Now many have moved to the internet or found other ways to scam their targets – YOU! Brenda said that the most complaints to the BBB from the military community are those in the E-6/7s ranks and the second group is E-1 through E-4s. But fraud can strike anyone!

Commissary Gift Card for You

It is that time of year. When we have a hard time finding air because the schedule is so busy.  Parties, kid-concerts, shopping, meal planning, travelling and so much more.  It is easy to get lost in the festivities and forget to take a moment to remember the joy in the season.

Start your membership today -
To help encourage and empower our military families SitterCity has presented us with four $50 Commissary cards to give to military-families!  Wow, what a wonderful gift!  

The "Macho Spouse" at USAA Blogger Conference

Jeremy Hilton, 2012 Military Spouse of the Year
see below
Who is the military spouse? We know many of the demographics – they are young, try to maintain a career, mostly female but as the number of female military members trend upwards, the number of male spouses does as well.  Most have faced numerous deployments in the last 10 years and many have children. They are often engaged in social media like Facebook, twitter and blogging as well.

When MilitaryAvenue was invited to a blogger gathering in San Antonio, with banking/insurance/investment giant for their 3rd Annual Influencer Conference (See "Two Very Different Veteran Day Celebrations") it sounded like an opportunity to learn more about a company/association that we had been members of for more than 40 years. What I did not realize was the diversity of the 25 bloggers in attendance. They came from wide and far and had diverse audiences like military families and members, financial bloggers, bloggers from other military associations and even from the Better Business Bureau. The conference was well laid out with a great agenda that balanced the social opportunities with the business presentations.

Meet the "Macho Spouse":


I am constantly reminded how things change through the years.  Computers and Internet have changed communication, from hand written letters of many years ago to nightly Skype conversations with soldiers and children, airman and wives, marines and husbands, sailors and moms, coasties and dads (and any of that mix you can imagine).

This Christmas season I am so happy to have our family whole but we are still glued to the computer.  There are two new loves.  (Don't get me wrong: family is more important then these fun tools.  However, you can certainly take the time to watch these as a family and create memories if you are together!)

Military Friends - A Puzzle for Our Civilian Counterparts

Military friends!
Sometimes our military lifestyle is a puzzle to our civilian friends and the rest of the nation. We have some opportunities that civilians normally do not receive and we also face challenges and lifestyle issues they may never see. But one thing we have that is "just to die for" is our military friends. We come together from all over the country (and in some cases the world), of all races, ethnic backgrounds, economic and educational levels, different goals and lifestyles and so much more diversity that most Americans ever have the opportunity to experience. 

I have to admit that this is our (my military spouse, mil brats and my) experience but I do believe it reflects the military community as a whole. We made friends at the beginning of an extended career, in the middle and near the end of the road towards military retirement. All were special; each filled a void of not being from here at that installation or we connected in a unique way, whether work related, gym, youth activities, volunteer offices, classes during education efforts or maybe an extended TDY/TAD.

Change of Command: Celebrate Parade Rest

Although geese fly in formation, they did not waddle on the parade field at Scott AFB. No goose steps. The left feet hit the turf on the beat of the bass drum. Flights, squadrons, groups and wings presented polished top notched personnel, as always, ready to shine and report to General Welsh, the Chief of Staff of the Air Force.

Our military has a time honored tradition to uphold precision and honor in a way that showcases the challenge of working together. The step by step, in step march of men and women blends the missions the training and the esprit de corps of individual squadrons, groups and wings: they all meet this challenge in a Change of Command.

At attention, ready for orders.
AMC Change of Command ceremony
Link to the Change of Command 

The old adage "You'll fight in war as you train in peace" holds true for change of command. There is purpose, movement, orders and reactions. Best, there is a beginning and an end. The mission goes forward, the driving force of the Air Force is flying high, and the world is impressed.

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