America Supports You: Group Works on Behalf of Military Families
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Mar. 23, 2007 Since it began in 1969 as the Military Wives Association, the National Military Family Association, with headquarters here, has been a voice for military families.
The National Military Family Association is a member of America Support You, a Defense Department program highlighting the ways Americans are supporting the nation’s servicemembers.
Serving all seven branches of the military, including the National Guard and Reserves, the organization initially worked to create financial security for the survivors of servicemembers and retirees. Those efforts resulted in the Survivor Benefit Plan. By 1984, however, the association had expanded.
“NMFA realized that as it grew as a professional organization, those who benefited from the work were military families, and not just military wives,” Michelle Joyner, communications director for the organization, said. “As the association grows and military life changes, we understand that military families also include family members … who aren’t necessarily uniformed services ID card holders.
“All family members support the servicemember and are affected by the challenges of military life,” she added.
Over the years, the association has continued to educate military families about their rights, while fighting for better quality of life for those same families, Joyner said. Some of its many accomplishments include improvements in the areas of health benefits, dependent education, retiree and survivor benefits as well as spouse employment.
With representatives in military communities worldwide, there’s a direct link between the families the association serves and the central office.
The association also administers the Joanne Holbrook Patton Spouse Scholarship through its Military Spouse Scholarship Program. Ranging from $500 to $1,000, the scholarships may be used for tuition, fees and school room and board. Full details about the scholarship program are available on the association’s Web site, www.nmfa.org.
Despite its workload, the National Military Family Association’s paid staff is small. But the organization has a solid corps of 200 volunteers who are committed and passionate about the work they do, Joyner said. Whether paid or volunteer, most working with NMFA are military family members who have a unique understanding of the issues and can speak from experience.
“Our volunteers lead the association as board members around the world, and support military families through the events of our lives such as deployments, reunions, moves, births and deaths,” she said.
Her organization’s membership in America Supports You has made its job easier by providing the means to connect those in need with those who can help, Joyner said.
“(America Supports You) has allowed NMFA to reach out to the American public with information about resources such as our summer camps for military children and scholarships for military spouses,” she said. “(It has enabled) many more families to benefit from these incredible programs.”