Today’s military community is facing unprecedented challenges from the impact of multiple wars to budget cuts to force reduction. Now, more than ever, organizations are stepping up to provide resources in the form of programs, information, and support. Yet, an information gap exists; even with increased channels of communication like Facebook and Twitter, military families are not aware of all that exists to serve them. A new organization, the Military Family Advisory Network (MFAN) seeks to change that. Formed this summer, MFAN has appointed an advisory board comprised of members of some of the leading non-profits, such as the American Red Cross, Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), and Blue Star Families, to provide guidance on the key issues facing service members, veterans, and their families.
Shannon Donahue, Director of MFAN, explained that “there are a remarkable array of programs available for active duty and veteran families, but many of the people who can benefit from them don’t know they qualify or how to gain access. We created MFAN to serve as a mechanism for peer-to-peer, trusted communication allowing us to reach more military families, especially those in hard to reach populations.” One of the distinguishing characteristics of the organization is that it will serve today’s current serving force along with those preparing to transition out of the military. Because of force reduction, quality of life issues such as employment, affordable health care, and education are an immense concern as tens of thousands of troops are set to be discharged.
Shelley Kimball, 2013 Coast Guard Spouse of the Year and Blue Star Families’ Coast Guard Chapter Director is one of the nine members of the new Advisor Board. She expressed that the greatest strength in the organization’s mission is the collaboration of all branches and expertise coming together under one place. “Any time a group comes together in the common hope to improve the lives of military families and service members, it’s a positive thing. I am looking forward to seeing what those of us on the advisory board can accomplish together when we pool our expertise and experience. For me, personally, I will work to ensure that Coast Guard families get the same benefits and support granted to our families of other branches because we are not always eligible for certain DoD benefits. Military spouse employment support is also a priority for me. Those of us on the advisory board come from many different perspectives, and I look forward to learning from the other members about the issues they are prioritizing. I think it will make all of us better advocates for the groups we care so deeply about.”
The organization’s first focus will be Suicide Prevention Month in September. With rising numbers of suicide amongst veterans along with concerns of the increasing mental health challenges of family members, MFAN aims to inform the community of valuable resources that provide tangible assistance. One example, the Veterans Crisis Line, provides free, confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, even if they are not registered with the Department of Veterans Affairs or enrolled in VA health care. Contact information for access to the call line is:
Phone: 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1
Online chat at www.VeteransCrisisLine.net
Send a text message to 838255