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Military life comes with its own set of unique challenges that can impact a family's financial stability in many ways. The very nature of military service, for example, means families could find themselves moving frequently. This can disrupt employment for spouses, education for children and lead to additional costs that come with moving.

For all these reasons and more, military families need to recognize these unique challenges and address them with a comprehensive financial plan. If you're a member of a military family, read on for tips for creating a financial plan that can help address your needs.

1. Understand your financial situation

First, you need to have a clear sense of your financial situation. Gather key financial information, including income, assets, expenses, debts, savings, and so on.

2. Establish financial goals

Next, you want to consider your short- and long-term financial goals. Do you plan on buying a home? Do you have debt to pay off? It's important to have clarity on these plans as you put together a plan.

3. Create a budget

When developing a budget, you want to account for your regular expenses, such as housing, utilities, groceries and transportation. But you also need to set aside money for your savings and any debt repayment.

Tip: To make setting aside money a lot easier, use automatic transfers to savings accounts and retirement plans.

4. Set up an emergency fund

Given the unpredictable nature of military life, an emergency fund to cover unexpected expenses or loss of income is critical. Your established financial situation and budget should influence the scope of your emergency fund.

Tip: To determine the appropriate size of your emergency fund, calculate your average monthly expenses and multiply that by the number of months you want to cover. The stability of your income, the predictability of your expenses and your current financial obligations are all factors to consider.

5. Know your benefits

As a member of the military, you have access to many benefits that should factor into your family financial plan. Here are just a few not to forget:

Tip: By incorporating your discounts and benefits into your financial plan, you can reduce everyday expenses and put more funds toward savings and debt reduction.

6. Plan for deployments

If there's a chance you'll be deployed, make sure you have a plan in place to manage finances while away from home. Your spouse or a trusted family member should have access to key financial information if you're unable to oversee everything while deployed.

7. Consider education expenses

Whether you, a spouse or children plan to pursue higher education, start saving for tuition and other education expenses. Fortunately, there are education benefits available to military families, such as the GI Bill.

8. Be ready to make changes

Understand that a family financial plan isn't just something you set once and forget about. It will require constant monitoring and adjusting depending on your family's financial situation.

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Military discounts are a token of gratitude offered by businesses to the men and women who have served or are currently serving in the armed forces. These discounts are a small way to honor the sacrifices made by military personnel and their families, helping them save significantly on everything from groceries to travel expenses.

To help you take advantage of these savings opportunities, let's take a look at the top 5 discounts available to military servicemembers and veterans.

1. Automotive Discounts

The automotive industry has a long-standing tradition of supporting military personnel through various discount programs. Many car manufacturers, rental companies and insurance providers offer special pricing to active duty servicemembers, veterans and sometimes even their families. These discounts can apply to the purchase of new vehicles and are often in addition to other rebates and incentives available to the general public. Some of the most well-known car brands have structured programs that can save military members thousands of dollars on a new vehicle purchase, making it more affordable to own the car they desire.

2. Retail Benefits

The retail sector offers a plethora of exclusive in-store and online discounts to active-duty military members, veterans and their families. These discounts span across a wide range of brands and products, from clothing and electronics to home goods and sporting equipment. Many stores have a fixed percentage off the regular price, while others may offer special promotions during military appreciation events or holidays. Some online retailers also partner with military discount services to verify servicemember status, which you can then use to access discounts across multiple online stores.

3. Travel and Accommodation Deals

The travel industry is well-known for its support of military personnel through a variety of special offers and discounts. Many airlines provide reduced fares for active duty military members and their families, recognizing the need for affordable travel, especially when it comes to last-minute trips or emergency leave. Hotels and resorts also extend special rates to military personnel, often under a dedicated military discount program. These military rates can result in significant savings on accommodations, whether for leisure, during a PCS, or while on temporary duty.

4. Dining and Entertainment Discounts

Restaurants across the nation express their gratitude to military members by offering military discounts on meals. These discounts can range from a percentage off the total bill to a free appetizer or dessert. Some dining establishments may even offer a completely free meal to servicemembers on certain holidays like Veterans Day. It's a gesture that not only helps servicemembers save money but also gives them a warm welcome and a sense of appreciation from the community.

Entertainment centers like movie theaters and amusement parks also show their support for military members by offering special military pricing on tickets. This discount can make a night out at the movies or even a weekend resort more affordable, allowing servicemembers and their families to enjoy themselves without straining their budget.

5. Financial Services and Banking Perks

Financial institutions often provide tailored services to meet the unique needs of military members, including reduced loan interest rates. These lower rates can apply to mortgages, auto loans and personal loans, helping service members save money over the life of their loans.

Some lenders also offer special programs for military homebuyers, such as VA loans, which come with additional benefits like no down payment and no private mortgage insurance requirements. Active duty service members are encouraged to explore these options to maximize their financial benefits and make borrowing more affordable.

Looking for More Military Member Benefits?

Discover the discounts an AFBA membership has to offer.

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Historically, the military has been at the forefront of medical innovation. The necessity of saving lives on the battlefield has led to important discoveries as well as the development of cutting-edge medical techniques and technologies.

Major Walter Reed, for example, led the Yellow Fever Commission in Cuba in 1900, according to the Department of Defense. This commission’s work found that mosquitoes carried Yellow Fever — a discovery that saved countless lives.

Then, there’s the fact that because of wartime medical advancements, the survival rate for wounded and ill soldiers increased from 4% in World War 1 to 50% in World War II, per the U.S. Department of Defense.

The connection between military and civilian medicine is undeniable, as many advancements initially intended for soldiers have found their way into everyday healthcare practices. Let’s take a look at a few additional medical advancements that originated in the military.

Field Triage and Evacuation Systems

Military forces developed efficient triage and evacuation systems to provide timely care to injured soldiers. These systems have been adapted for civilian emergency response, ensuring that critical medical attention is given to those who need it most during such events as accidents and natural disasters. The military’s readiness and protocols for crisis response and disaster management have also been integrated into civilian disaster preparedness and response efforts.

Hemostatic Agents and Blood Clotting Innovations

The military played a significant role in advancing blood clotting technology. Hemostatic agents developed for military use have been instrumental in saving lives on the battlefield. Today, they’re widely used in civilian healthcare to control bleeding during surgery and trauma cases.

Trauma Care and Surgical Techniques

A bit more on trauma — battlefield surgery innovations have led to enhanced emergency surgical techniques in civilian healthcare. Military surgeons’ expertise in dealing with high-stress, trauma-related surgeries has improved outcomes for civilian patients in emergency rooms worldwide.

Prosthetics and Rehabilitation

The military’s dedication has driven innovations in prosthetic limb technology to rehabilitate injured soldiers. These advancements have greatly benefited civilian amputees by providing them with more functional and lifelike prosthetic limbs.

There have been significant advances in prosthetics since 9/11, according to the Military Health System and Defense Health Agency. For example, the Department of Veterans Affairs funded a clinical trial focused on percutaneous osseointegrated prosthesis, or POP implants. These implants are surgically anchored to an individual’s remaining thigh bone. In addition to several benefits compared to traditional prostheses, patients have reported that the POP implants feel like they are a part of them.

Telemedicine and Remote Healthcare

For everyday folks, telemedicine is more common than ever, but they may not realize that the military has pioneered telehealth. This technology has had a substantial impact on rural and underserved civilian populations, improving access to healthcare services. For the military, telemedicine has enabled remote medical consultations and diagnosis for soldiers deployed in remote locations.

Vaccination and Preventive Medicine

The military has played a vital role in vaccine development and distribution, from smallpox to COVID-19. Lessons learned from military-led vaccine research have paved the way for widespread vaccination campaigns and bolstered public health efforts.

In addition to vaccines, the military has excelled in preventive medicine strategies, including disease surveillance and prevention. These strategies have proven effective not only for soldiers but also for civilian populations in preventing the spread of infectious diseases.

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February is Black History Month — an important time to recognize and honor the profound contributions and sacrifices of African Americans throughout our nation's history. Despite the immeasurable hardships and discrimination they've faced in a country that had, until around 60 years ago, denied their rights as citizens, African American soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines have continually shown exceptional valor and resilience both on and off the battlefield.

This year, to celebrate and honor our nation's Black service members, we'd like to take a look back at their heroic journeys throughout history, shedding light on their often unsung stories.

The History of African Americans in the Military

From the very inception of the United States of America, Black service members have demonstrated an unwavering commitment, courage and determination to defend the nation. In fact, they've answered the call of duty to serve and sacrifice in every single U.S. war, from the Revolutionary War through Iraq and Afghanistan.

As we commemorate the enduring legacy of African Americans in the military, let's trace their remarkable history from the 1700s to the modern day.

The Revolutionary War

Beginning prior to the Revolutionary War, both free and enslaved Black people rose up against the British during the Boston Massacre. In fact, Crispus Attucks is considered to be the first casualty of the revolution, bravely leading the protest before the tragedy transpired.

Following the Boston Massacre, over 5,000 Black soldiers from all 13 colonies fought for the American cause, seeking the prospect of freedom from both the British and the colonists. Unfortunately, only about 20% of those who served were freed from their bonds.

The Civil War

While Black minutemen and soldiers served in regiments throughout the later 1700s and early 1800s, it wasn't until 1863 that the U.S. government officially allowed African Americans to enlist in the armed forces. However, the Civil War was obviously a turning point for Black military history, as by the end of it, nearly 200,000 Black soldiers had served in the Union Army. Meanwhile, the Confederate Army had recruited a small group of Black soldiers toward the end of the war, but they wouldn't see combat before its end.

The Great Wars

By the time of World War I and World War II, the horrors of chattel slavery had ended, and Black Americans were quickly becoming a much larger part of the nation's military — despite continuing discrimination and segregation. To put it into perspective, the First World War saw over 380,000 African Americans serve in the army, while over 1 million Black men and women served in the second.

Fighting fascism on one front and racism on the other, Black service members demonstrated extraordinary courage and resilience, with legendary groups like the Tuskegee Airmen leaving an indelible mark on history.

Modern Military Diversity

In today's modern military, the landscape has significantly evolved. The U.S. military is continually committed to improving racial diversity and providing equal opportunities for all service members. And with each branch making a more proactive effort to recruit and train a diverse force of soldiers, sailors and airmen, the nation can not only strengthen its capabilities but also reflect the values of equality and inclusion that are so central to America.

Honoring Black Heroes

As we continue into Black History Month, and throughout the year, it's important to take the time to reflect on and commemorate the sacrifices and contributions African Americans have made in the line of duty. Their stories of bravery and determination inspire us all and remind us of the strength found in diversity and unity.

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The word "valor" conjures up images of bravery in the face of incredible danger — a description well-suited for service members. But did you know that valor can be stolen?

The Stolen Valor Act is meant to help protect service members and their reputations and identities. It's also a defense against any false claim of military decoration, stopping people from lying about awards, medals or other recognitions. However, like most legislation, the Stolen Valor Act is an ongoing story — one that's about to get more complicated.

Here's everything you need to know about stolen valor and how to protect yourself.

What Is Stolen Valor?

Stolen valor is essentially a lie. It involves falsely claiming military service, rank, recognition or even someone else's identity. While it's not technically illegal to just "make things up" — for example, to impress friends at a party — stolen valor is more complicated than that, which is why it is considered a crime. (So is military impersonation, a similar offense committed willfully, wrongfully and with or without intent to defraud.)

What makes stolen valor so complex? One example is nuance. In some cases, a service member may have received the wrong authorization and could be unknowingly wearing a medal or other decorations inappropriately. That's right: Even active service members can commit an act of stolen valor. These acts are covered under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), while veterans and civilians answer to civilian federal law.

The Stolen Valor Act is a series of attempts to clarify these issues, balancing military service protections with free speech rules. Here's a look at the legislative history:

The Stolen Valor Act of 2005

This legislation made it a misdemeanor to lie about earning any kind of military medal or honor. These lies included wearing, manufacturing and selling any medal without legal authorization. The reasoning was clear: "Fraudulent claims surrounding the receipt of [military honors] damage the reputation and meaning of such decorations and medals." Penalties included fines and imprisonment.

However, the legislation didn't last long. In the United States vs. Alvarez, one of multiple stolen valor cases, state official Xavier Alvarez's legal team argued that these rules infringed upon the First Amendment protection of free speech. In 2012, the Supreme Court declared the legislation unconstitutional.

The 2013 Amendment

In 2013, stolen valor rules came back, this time with a new caveat: The lies in question must result in some kind of tangible benefit before they can be considered legally problematic. This helps focus legislative language on fraudulent activity that isn't protected under the First Amendment.

The new Stolen Valor Act identifies protections for military awards including:

  • Congressional Medal of Honor.
  • Distinguished service cross.
  • Navy cross.
  • Air Force cross.
  • Silver star.
  • Purple Heart.
  • Combat Action Badge.
  • Combat Action Ribbon.

Penalties include fines, imprisonment for up to one year or both.

"Our nation can never fully express our gratitude for all that our men and women in uniform have experienced on our behalf," said Senator Dean Heller, one of the creators of the amendment, in 2013. "Their acts of valor helped ensure the safety and security of our nation, and the honor of their awards should never be compromised.

A New House Provision

In mid-2023, the House Appropriations Committee released its Fiscal Year 2024 bill, which included a potentially problematic provision for stolen valor laws. This would make it far more difficult to obtain military service records.

The idea is mostly an attempt to defend service member privacy, which is more important than ever in today's world. However, there's a perhaps unintended consequence: It would be incredibly complicated to disprove any fraudulent claim of military service. You could technically get the information if you really needed it, but you'd have to get permission from the service member or their family — and if that didn't work, you'd have to file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, which could take months or years to come through.

It's crucial to protect personal information, sure. But opponents of the provision point out that it's equally important to be able to disprove lies that could hurt service members or their families.

How To Spot Stolen Valor

Although ongoing legislation shifts the playing field for the Stolen Valor Act, you can still help spot trouble. Here are a few red flags that someone could be lying about a military honor:

Incomplete Understanding of Military Duties

Military duties are rigorous and highly regulated, as any service member should know. You'd probably be able to list the specifics of your responsibilities even decades after active service. That's why it's often suspicious when someone has an incomplete or incorrect understanding of military duties — whether the tasks they supposedly completed or the functions of the military overall.

If you suspect someone could be committing an act of stolen valor, ask yourself this: Does it sound like they learned everything they know by watching war movies? This kind of surface-level or even flat-out wrong understanding of the military is often a giveaway that you're not hearing the truth.

Of course, if someone is truly dedicated to such lies, they may have done in-depth research. That means this red flag isn't always applicable, and you may need to look elsewhere for signs of deception.

Lack of Details

These days, it's easy to look up details about particular deployments or military operations — but someone who's falsifying their experiences won't have the specifics. They might be purposefully vague, avoiding in-depth discussions and changing the subject, or they might make things up to fill in the gaps. While a civilian may not notice inconsistencies in such a story, service members and their families will likely be the first to suspect that something isn't right.

This is particularly true if the person mentions a particular deployment location and date. Do other service members' recollections line up? There's always a chance that someone has simply forgotten a detail or had a different perspective and experience — but in general, everyone's stories should be similar.

Suspicious Language

There are a few ways to break down someone's language if you suspect stolen valor.

First, consider whether they "talk like a service member." Do they use the right terminology in the right places? Do they treat certain topics, responsibilities and fellow service members with respect? Do they speak about their experiences with familiarity? Everyone's experiences are different, so it can be difficult to know for sure — but trust your gut on this one.

It can also be helpful to remember the context of stolen valor as a legal term. If you were to hypothetically charge someone with this crime, they would have to be getting some kind of tangible benefit from their fraudulent claim. That means they might weave certain kinds of language into their speech or writing. Are they trying to get something from you or others? Do they sound like they're persuading you logically, emotionally or ethically? Can you link anything they're saying or doing to a money-making opportunity?

Protecting Your Valor

Service members and their families shouldn't have to fight for the valor they rightfully earned, but sometimes, it's necessary. That's why you should keep an eye on stolen valor laws and watch out for suspicious activity in on- or offline communities where you can't verify someone's military background. Most importantly, look for any kind of identity theft that could impact your reputation, finances or quality of life.

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Winter is here and, per usual, it's brought lower temperatures and an increased chance you'll catch a cold. While we can't guarantee you'll stay 100% healthy all season, we can provide plenty of tips for staying healthy and lowering your chances of picking up an inconvenient illness.

Let's get started so you can begin your journey toward a healthier winter.

Wash Your Hands Regularly

This one's simple and incredibly effective. Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, you can easily spread germs on your hands when you touch contaminated surfaces or objects and then touch your mouth, nose or eyes. That's why it's so essential for you to wash your hands regularly throughout the day.

It's especially important to wash your hands after blowing your nose, sneezing or coughing, using the toilet or touching garbage.

But placing your hands under a running faucet isn't enough. The CDC advises you to wash them with soap for at least 20 seconds (or, if it helps, that's the length of time it takes to sing the "Happy Birthday" song twice).

Don't Forget Hand Sanitizer

Washing your hands is important, but if you aren't able to on the go, having hand sanitizer helps too. Fortunately, it's very easy to purchase travel-sized hand sanitizer that can easily slip into your pocket or bag. Plenty of communal spaces — from gas stations to stores — also make hand sanitizer available to customers looking to kill germs they've picked up while out and about.

Get Plenty of Sleep

The idea of sleeping through those cold winter days certainly sounds appealing, but it can actually help you stay healthy too. Mayo Clinic states that poor health in adults is linked to receiving fewer than 7 hours of sleep in a night.

For those ages 13 to 18, Mayo Clinic recommends 8-10 hours of sleep per 24 hours, and for those 19 and up, 7 or more hours per night.

Stay Hydrated

On cold days, you likely want something warm to drink, but don't lose sight of the value of consuming water daily. Drinking water regularly helps you maintain a normal temperature and encourages your body to rid itself of waste, according to the CDC.

When possible, try to choose water over overly sugary alternatives. And if you haven't already, consider getting a water bottle you can fill up regularly throughout the day.

Manage Stress

The holidays, more traffic, shorter days, icy roads, snow — all ingredients for increased stress. And while stress is pretty unavoidable sometimes, too much of it can do real harm to your body.

Per Mayo Clinic, it's easier for the body to get sick after stress has lowered the immune system. Additional effects of stress include fatigue, headaches, chest pain, stomach issues and sleep problems (and we already covered how important sleep is).

To better manage stress, remember to eat healthy, exercise and practice relaxation techniques, such as yoga or meditation.

Embrace Winter

Finally, embrace the winter season — it's not all bad, right? Find joy in the simple pleasures, like building a snowman or enjoying a cozy night by the fireplace. A positive attitude can do wonders for your physical, mental and emotional well-being.

Practice Healthy Habits Year-Round

All of these tips can help you this winter, but they work in spring and beyond as well. Germs never rest, so make sure you're defending yourself against them. Also, don't hesitate to reach out to AFBA for assistance managing your health and well-being.

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Here's a fun fact: Did you know the National Guard is older than the Army and even the country?

December 13th, 2023 marks this military force's 387th birthday — a testament to its enduring legacy of service and sacrifice. As we celebrate this milestone, it's important to commemorate not just the history of the institution, but also the brave men and women who have served and safeguarded our nation for nearly four centuries.

Join us as we take a deeper dive into the history and significance of the U.S. National Guard.

When Was the National Guard Established?
Today, the National Guard includes both the Army National Guard as well as the Air National Guard. However, long before the invention of the airplane, the organization began as a colonial militia force, tracing its roots back to Massachusetts.

On December 13th, 1636, the Massachusetts Bay Colony organized the 181st Infantry, the 182nd Cavalry, the 101st Field Artillery and the 101st Engineer Battalion to protect itself. These four regiments still stand as the oldest units in the U.S. military.

What About the Air National Guard?
While the National Guard is older than the Army, the Air National Guard and the U.S. Air Force are actually the same age. That's because, prior to 1947, the two were part of the Army Air Corps (later changed to Army Air Forces during WWII). However, the National Security Act would officially separate the two branches on September 18th of that same year, eventually transferring the Army Air Forces units to the newly established Air National Guard as an aerial reserve component.

The Role of the National Guard
As a state-based military force, the National Guard plays a pivotal role in responding to domestic emergencies and natural disasters, as well as defending our country when necessary. They operate as a dual-purpose institution for both state and federal missions across U.S. states and territories — even deploying overseas. With diverse capabilities, from combat to humanitarian work, the National Guard is dedicated to responding to critical emergencies, preserving homeland security and supporting global peace efforts.

What Does it Mean to be Part of the National Guard?
While National Guard servicemembers are sometimes lampooned as "weekend warriors," this jab couldn't be further from the truth. Being a member of the National Guard carries an immense commitment to service, readiness and community. They may be citizen-soldiers, but they maintain a delicate balance of military duty with civilian work — all while undergoing rigorous training to prepare for times of crisis. That way, they're ready to defend, protect and serve the nation on a moment's notice.

Commemorating the National Guard's Birthday
The National Guard's birthday isn't a national holiday, nor is it a free day off of work or school. However, that doesn't mean the day isn't celebrated. Many servicemembers make a point to commemorate December 13th to honor military heritage as well as the sacrifice of their brothers and sisters in arms. One common event is the cake-cutting ceremony, in which the oldest member of a Guard unit and the youngest cut a large cake to share with everyone. Some units might also host local celebrations, gathering with other members of the Guard and the larger community.

Recognizing 387 Years of Service and Sacrifice
While there won't be any fanfare or parades this December 13th, civilians can still honor the National Guard's birthday by attending community events and expressing their gratitude toward those who have served. Taking the time to hear their stories, learn about their contributions, and actively support veterans and their families is a meaningful way to recognize their sacrifices and perhaps the best way to celebrate this observance.

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Podcast popularity has been on the rise in recent years, with millions of listeners and nearly just as many options — and military podcasts are no exception. With so much content, it can feel daunting to search for the perfect series that suits your interests. That's why we took the time to find a few of the best military podcasts across a diverse range of perspectives and topics, from historical viewpoints and foreign policy to personal stories of bravery and courage.

AFBA's Top 5 Military Podcasts
Here are our picks for the top 5 military podcasts:

1. Mentors for Military
The Mentors for Military podcast offers thought-provoking discussions with real people and their stories. Led by a diverse group of 18 veterans, each episode of Mentors offers a captivating glimpse into the experiences of a wide range of servicemembers, from elite forces to Army Rangers.

For those intrigued by military life, this show offers an enlightening view through authentic conversations with veterans. Just sit back and tune in to the engaging conversations they have as if they're sitting with you in your living room.

2. Veteran's PATH
Veteran's PATH is an excellent resource for former military personnel who may be struggling with mental health. Its goal is to help ex-servicemembers find Peace, Acceptance, Transformation and Honor by using practices such as meditation and mindfulness. Not only does Veteran's PATH serve as a vital platform advocating for mental health in the military, but it's also working toward shattering the stigma around these types of issues.

Whether you've considered meditating and you just don't know where to start, or you're curious and want to give it a shot, Veteran's PATH offers a wealth of free content to help you better manage your mental health.

3. Women of the Military
Women of the Military provides a critical platform to elevate the voices of female active-duty servicemembers and veterans. Hosted by the creator of Airman to Mom, Amanda Huffman, each episode exclusively focuses on interviews with women who have served in the military, amplifying their unique stories, experiences and perspectives.

As an Air Force Officer, military spouse and veteran herself, Huffman brings her own background experience to these interesting discussions while covering an array of perspectives. And with a new episode each week, there's plenty of ground to cover and stories to explore.

4. Veterans Chronicles
Veterans Chronicles is a compelling podcast series documenting the remarkable stories of some of America's greatest heroes. Each hour-long episode captures the historical accounts and unique personal narratives of eyewitnesses through in-depth interviews.

Covering moments in military history like D-Day, Hanoi, Baghdad and Fallujah, these stories offer profound insight into the lived experience of our servicemembers, their bravery and the profound impact of their sacrifices. Simultaneously, Veterans Chronicles acts as a living record and tribute to the dedication and valor of our nation's heroes.

5. Military Mom Talk Radio
Finally, our last podcast pick takes a unique perspective on military life. Military Mom Talk Radio offers a supportive and empowering platform for women to share their ideas and concerns around the military lifestyle.

Episodes cover a wide range of topics, such as handling grief, finding a supportive community and more. Through engaging discussions and interviews, hosts Sandra Beck and Robin Boyd help women navigate the complexities of military life, including everything from health care to childcare and eldercare.

Whether you're an active-duty servicemember, a veteran or a civilian, these podcasts serve as important platforms to educate, advocate and gain a deeper understanding of each other and our history.

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As Veterans Day fast approaches, it's important to take the time and reflect on the significance of this observance to honor the brave servicemembers who've answered the call of duty. Let's take a closer look at the history of this federal holiday before diving into some ways you can participate.

From Armistice to Veterans Day
The first Veterans Day was celebrated on November 11, 1919 — however, the holiday didn't always go by that name. Following the end of the first World War, President Wilson commemorated the 11th day of the 11th month as Armistice Day; but it wasn't until 1926 that the United States Congress officially recognized the holiday.

After World War II, President Eisenhower issued the first Veterans Day Proclamation, both renaming the observance and shifting its focus to honor all of our nation's veterans.

How To Observe Veterans Day and Honor Our Nation's Heroes
Whether you have a servicemember in your life or you're looking for more ways to show your gratitude this Veterans Day, here are a few ideas to honor our veterans:

1. Take a Moment of Silence
Each year on Veterans Day, there are two minutes set aside for a moment of silence to honor those who have served and their family members at 2:11 PM EST.

2. Extend Your Gratitude
If you know a veteran or meet one, don't forget to thank them for their service. Even this simple expression of appreciation can have a huge impact.

3. Send a Letter or Care Package
Consider sending a personal letter and care package to our servicemembers. Who doesn't appreciate a nice note and fun treats every once in a while, especially while you're away from home?

4. Assist a Veteran You Know
If you have a veteran in your life, be sure to check in with them and see if there's anything you can help them with.

5. Support Military Families in Need
Even if you don't know a military family personally, there are plenty of organizations, like Soldiers' Angels, that allow you to lend a helping hand to families in need.

6. Help Unhoused Vets
Nobody deserves to live on the streets, but especially those who have served our country. Contributing your time or money to organizations like U.S. Vets can go a long way in helping unhoused veterans get back on their feet with a roof over their heads.

7. Make a Donation
If you're feeling generous, consider making a donation to any number of veteran organizations. For example, Disabled American Veterans (DAV) is a great nonprofit offering life-changing support to our nation's heroes.

8. Volunteer Your Time
In addition to U.S. Vets and DAV, there are countless other nonprofits and charities that are in need of helping hands. Volunteering your time at these organizations can be a great way to give back and serve those who have already served.

9. Support Veteran-Owned Businesses
Beyond helping veterans through charity organizations, you can also lend your support to businesses owned by servicemembers. Whether it's a local store or a national brand, providing this economic support is crucial to keep these businesses thriving.

10. Visit a Veteran Memorial
Finally, you can pay your respects to the brave servicemembers who gave the ultimate sacrifice by visiting a local or national veterans' memorial. Feel free to leave a small token of your respect in a fountain or on a gravestone, and consider donating if the memorial has the option.

While our list stops there, that doesn't mean yours should! Don't be afraid to get involved with your local community and find out more ways you can help give back to our nation's heroes.

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October 26th marks National Day of the Deployed — an observance created by the organization Soldier's Angels to honor the heroic men and women currently deployed. In other words, it's a day to say "Thank you" for all the sacrifices our active duty servicemembers and their families make in the name of our country.

Of course, this gratitude can extend beyond words to actions, such as sending a care package or volunteering to help out veterans and military families. But before we dive into ways you can support our deployed soldiers, let's first understand why we celebrate the Day of the Deployed.

The history behind the Day of the Deployed
First celebrated in 2006 — when the group Soldiers' Angels approached then-Governor of North Dakota, John Hoeven, to proclaim the day as a time to honor active-duty servicemembers — the Day of the Deployed is a relatively new holiday. However, this was only the start, as, by 2010, the movement to recognize October 26th as the Day of the Deployed had grown to 40 states.

In 2011, Hoeven, who was then a Senator, sponsored a unanimously agreed-upon resolution to designate October 26 as an official national holiday, which is now observed by all 50 states.

But how can you participate in the Day of the Deployed?

Observing the Day of the Deployed
When our troops are deployed, they must leave behind their families, their homes, and almost everything that's familiar to them in service to their country. These significant sacrifices warrant recognition.

Here are a few ways you can give back to those who are currently deployed and their families:

The appearance of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.The appearance of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.

1. Write a letter
One simple way to brighten a soldier's day is to send a thoughtful letter. Even if you don't know them personally, writing a letter to a stranger is sure to lift their spirits, especially when they may be missing home. This small and easy gesture goes a long way in showing your support and spreading love.

2. Send a care package
Speaking of spreading love, nothing shows you care more than a care package — after all, it's in the name! Whether it's clothes, toiletries, snacks or other treats, sending a package of goodies is a surefire way to put a smile on someone's face. Opening up a box of brand-new products from back home is a huge boost to morale, especially when soldiers are deployed overseas in unfamiliar countries.

3. Help a military family
If you know someone who is currently deployed, be a good neighbor and check in with their family. There's a long list of ways you can support them, from offering to help out with repairs around the house to cooking meals or watching their kids. Anything can help take the load off a little — even just listening to them talk about their own challenges.

4. Join a local event
Many communities organize local events, fundraisers and other gatherings on and around the Day of the Deployed to help support our soldiers and their families. Search for one near you to participate in, or, better yet, ask some friends to go with you. These are great opportunities to spread awareness, show your support and give back to the community.

5. Connect with Soldier's Angels
Whether you're having difficulty finding organizations near you or you're interested in the work they're doing, consider connecting with or supporting Soldiers' Angels. Donations are always a welcome option, but with both in-person and virtual volunteering options, anyone is capable of lending a helping hand.