Blue Star Families Top Concern: Pay and Benefit Changes

bluestarsurveyThe 2013 Survey by Blue Star Families lists changes in military pay and benefits as well as changes in military retirement benefits as the number one concern of more than 5,000 military families who responded.

This is the fourth year that Blue Star Families has collected data to assess the top priorities of military families and what can be done to support their goals. The information is shared with those who can help effect change like lawmakers and support groups from the local level all the way to the White House.

Here’s what military families ranked as their #1 issue (Percentage of Respondents Ranking #1):

  • 35% Military Pay/Benefits
  • 21% Change in Retirement Benefits
  • 19% Spouse Employment Opportunities
  • 16.4% Deployment Impact on Children
  • 16% Educational Opportunities for Children
  • 14% Services for Transitioning Out of the Military
  • 12% Op/Tempo Deployment
  • 11% PTSD/TBI/Combat Stress
  • 7.7% Rising Number of Suicides
  • 7.5% Service Member Educational Opportunities

Additional survey details of interest finds that 72 percent of responding military families rely on social media and say it is important for communicating with a deployed family member. And for the first time, Facebook surpassed email in popularity.

Financial stress is a major concern among military families with 65 percent reporting money problems linked to a spouse’s employment, uncertainty of military life and frequent moves.

You can read the full 54-page survey results here.


Military Kids Creativity Contest for Blue Star Museums

Image courtesy of Blue Star Families.

The deadline for military children ages 6 to 17 to enter the “Way Cool Creativity Contest” is Sept. 5 at 11:59 p.m.

So, break out your crayons, paint or video camera and find your most creative way to thank the 1800 Blue Star Museums for giving military families free admission from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

The rules are simple:

  • There are two categories to choose from: (1) artwork or video short (no more than one minute max!) inspired by your visit to a Blue Star Museum or (2) artwork or video short (no more a minute in length) that expresses thanks to the art community who made the program possible.
  • Entries will be judged based on their overall appeal, quality, creativity and incorporation of the Blue Star Museums star in the artwork or video.
  • Include your name, email and phone number, as well as your parent(s) name and branch of service.
  • PDF and JPG files accepted, the higher the resolution the better.
  • Entries will be grouped by: Ages 6-12; Ages 13-17.

Thanks to technology, entries are easy too:

  • The entry form is available HERE.
  • Take a picture of your artwork and email the jpeg or upload your video to YouTube and send us the link using our handy dandy entry form. Include a short description of your museum experience or inspiration to
  • Include your name, email and phone number, as well as your parent(s) name and branch of service.

All entries will be posted online and then voting begins. Prizes include a $500, $250 or $100 savings bond! OR, an IPad for first place, Nikon Cool Pix P100 for second and for third place, an Ultra HD Flip Video.

Emotional Cycles of Deployment: Stage 2 – Detachment and Withdrawal for an Army Wife

Josh and Alison hug during pre-deployment pictures at Fort Carson, CO.

The detachment and withdrawal stage occurs in the final days and week prior to deployment. The description provided by the Army’s website, hooah4health is specific to the soldier and his or her spouse.  Alison shares her experience with this stage:

 I find this stage to be one of the most difficult emotionally and mentally.  In the front of my mind I am preparing to be a single-married person; once the deployment starts I don’t have my husband to confide in or run to for support—I become the sole decision maker.  In the back of my mind I often feel guilty planning my next twelve months without my husband because I know there will be some good times with my family and friends.

I don’t always express my feelings of sadness and anger about him leaving—but they are always present.  Josh and I try to spend as much time together as possible but I find that I start distancing myself a couple of weeks prior to deployment while Josh seems to draw closer to me during this time.  This happens on an hourly basis and the constant attaching and detaching is an emotional roller-coaster.  I’ve come to accept this as something I have to just let happen.     

Josh and Alison have a tradition for their last night together before deployment - dinner at Red Lobster.

Our emotions are high and our tempers are short so at times petty issues turn into major problems.  I start to feel numb to emotional pain; it’s my body’s way of protecting me from the ups and downs of the coming year.

I think this stage is the most strenuous on the marriage, particularly for couples experiencing their first deployment.  This is Josh’s third tour and it seems easier now to recognize the stages we are going through and we expect things to be rocky and emotional.

Ted - the bear with Josh's voice on a computer chip.

It’s common to have a lot of platoon, company, and battalion events during the final weeks. These last-minute gatherings provide bonding opportunities for the soldiers and the wives as we all prepare for the deployment.

Josh and I always go out to dinner for his favorite meal at Red Lobster the night before he deploys.  He gave me a bear named Ted, which has a recorded personal message from Josh reminding me of his love and encouraging me to push on—such a precious gift.    

Thanks again to Alison for sharing the wife’s perspective.  My experience with this stage as a mother will be covered in my next post.

Free Museum Admissions this Summer for Blue Star Families

The John and Mable Museum of Art.

The G.Wiz Science Museum for kids and the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota are among more than 1,000 museums nationwide offering free admission this summer to active duty military and their families. 

This is the second year for the Blue Star Museum initiative which was conceived as a way to thank military families for their service. It’s a partnership between the Blue Star Families organization, the National Endowment for the Arts and the MetLife Foundation.

The 2011 Blue Star Museums program starts Memorial Day,  May 30th, and runs through September 5th, Labor Day. The military ID holder and up to five immediate family members will get free admission at participating museums. More than 1,300 museums have signed up across the nation to be a part of the Blue Star program. 

A list of those museums by state is available here. Active duty National Guard and Reservists also are eligible. More than 300,000 military families visited in the inaugural year, check out the Blue Star Museum Blog .

Ad Campaign Aims at Helping Blue Star Families

Multiple deployments and Permanent Change of Station (PCS) are two of many stresses unique to military families. There’s a Public Service Ad Campaign aimed at letting the Blue Star Families know they are not alone.

For help, military members and family members can call 800-273-8255.

As an aside, two contributors to Off the Base who are Blue Star Mothers are part of a Blue Star Mothers event Saturday hosted by the White House. Congratulations to Dorie Griggs and Tracie Ciambotti both excellent examples of supportive and proactive military moms.

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