Her 12 Kids Learn There’s Always Time to Give

Laurie, Tim, and nine of their twelve children!

When raising 12 children, there’s no such thing as extra time.

Laurie Leder will be the first to tell you.  She’s the busy, busy spouse of Army Staff Sergeant Tim Leder, stationed at Fort Belvoir, Va.  While she may not have a lot of spare time, she values community service so much that she and her whole family make time to volunteer with the USO.

Laurie started volunteering after she received a video in the mail from United Through Reading, a USO partner. When she put the disk in the player she saw her husband in his camouflage uniform, alone in a chair, reading bedtime stories to her kids from a base in Iraq. Tears streamed down her cheeks.

“Every single night the kids could put the disk in and listen to him read a story to them,” she said. “A lot of times people don’t realize how big something that small is, especially when you have little ones who wouldn’t otherwise remember him after being gone for a year.”

Her oldest is 20—too old for bedtime stories—but her youngest is only nine months. All of her kids are home schooled, and Lori encourages every one of them to join her in volunteering  at the USO as soon as they’re old enough.

“I feel like my family has gotten way more from the USO than I can ever hope to give back, so when it comes time to teach my children about community involvement and volunteering, the USO is at the top of my list.”

With so many USO programs and activities on and off base, every member of the Leder clan finds something to do. Laurie herself assists with stuffing care packages and hosts weekly coffee meetings for military spouses on base.

Her older teenagers help lift heavy crates of food at the farmers market, the 10- and 11-year-olds watch younger children during the morning coffees, and even her 8-year-old enjoys handing out popcorn and drinks to soldiers watching movies on the lawn.

“When you’re reaching out to other people, you realize that you have more than you think you do,” she said. “So it’s not extra time—it’s time well spent.” - Joseph A. Lee, USO Staff Writer

Get Some Oxygen—Don’t Let Your Marriage Become a Casualty of War

In an interview with Army SGT Philip Romero about the invisible wounds of war, he told the USO that it’s difficult to explain complex wartime emotions to his wife.

Romero suffers from post-traumatic stress.  “My wife asks me … ‘Why don’t you talk to me about it?” he says.  “How am I supposed to tell my wife that I’m sorry I didn’t die and two younger guys could have made it home? How do you explain that?”

Romero’s silence and bouts of anger are not uncommon in military marriages, particularly those where a spouse is dealing with PTSD.

“There is a level of stress on wounded warrior couples that seems ten-fold what a normal marriage bears,” said Noel Meador, Executive Director of Stronger Families, creator of a marriage training program called Oxygen.

A military couple learn to communicate more effectively at a recent Oxygen Seminar

The USO recently teamed up with Stronger Families to provide the workshops free to wounded, ill or injured troops.  It’s a way to tackle tough issues in a non-threatening environment.

Stronger Families coaches work with groups of about 25 couples, teaching them practical skills for improving communication, resolving conflict, rekindling romance and finding new hope.

“The ability for a spouse to empathize is tremendous,” said Meador, “and that’s really what we’re trying to reinforce… If we can help give couples the tools they need to communicate how they are feeling, we can help them attain a mutual understanding of the problem and work together to diffuse the anger safely.  Eventually couples can come up with an action plan to move forward in their relationships.”

In partnership with Stronger Families, the USO hosted three Oxygen seminars last year and plans to host six more this year.  The workshops are held near military hospitals, warrior transition units and wounded warrior battalions. -  Joseph Andrew Lee, USO Staff Writer

“Military Wives (And Moms) Are Heroes, Too”

 

Military wife and mom Kelly Walker gets ready for the gala. (Photo by Kelly Wallace)

 

There was a special pre-party event that occurred before the 2010 USO Gala this year: P&G (our newest Worldwide Strategic Partner) set up a beauty suite for the wives of the Service Member Honorees of the Year!

iVillage’s Kelly Wallace was there to capture the moment, and spent time with Kelly Walker, the wife of Sgt. Eric Walker, the USO’s Marine of the Year.  “I very much enjoyed it,” Walker, a mother or two, told Wallace after her beauty sessions. “I don’t get pampering, I guess, very much, so it was quite enjoyable to have someone do my hair and my makeup.”

But, as Wallace points out, none of these women do what they do for attention or awards.  Walker concluded, “I’m just very proud of (my husband) and what he does, and so I’m honored for what I get to do for him.”

We’re proud of all of these military wives and moms (and their Service Member Honoree spouses!) and hope you’ll take a minute to watch the video below, then say “Thank You” to the military wife or mom in your life…

Networking, Milspouse Style

by Sue Hoppin, Founder and President, National Military Spouse Network

The National Military Spouse Network (NMSN) is a modern solution to an age-old problem.

As military spouses, we often wonder if it’s possible to have it all. Traditionally, the transient military lifestyle has limited our ability to create and sustain a career path that meets our deepest goals, talents and aspirations. The National Military Spouse Network (NMSN) believes that by leveraging today’s technology and employment trends, it is entirely possible to maintain a rewarding career within the framework and challenges of the military lifestyle.  We believe that a truly portable career is one that allows military spouses to leverage our existing skills and interests into meaningful, paid work.

Military spouses looking for a job in the DC area face a challenging environment.  With over 85% of jobs being filled through the hidden job market, most folks will find their next job through networking.  For military spouses, this can prove quite daunting.  Our transient lifestyles pretty much guarantee that we’re rebuilding our networks every few years.  By the time we’re meeting people who can help us with the job search, it’s almost time to pack up and leave again, so how do we build this mystical network to help support our career goals?

The NMSN provides a community for military spouse professionals, businesses, academics and media to share expertise and craft innovative solutions on balancing a viable career with the military lifestyle. We are the pre-eminent networking, mentoring and professional development organization committed to the education, empowerment and advancement of military spouses.  Our quarterly networking events in the DC area are a great place for military spouses to connect with one another as well as potential employers and those dealing with military spouse employment issues.

Networking in a fun environment with other military spouses.  What could be better?  Our next event is August 16th at the EATBAR in Arlington from 6 to 8 PM. (Click here to download the invite.)  Remember, the first step in getting your dream job is getting out there and meeting people!  We hope you can join us.  Pre-registration is required, so make sure you sign up at www.nationalmilitaryspousenetwork.org.  You can see pictures from our last event here.

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Sue Hoppin co-authored, “A Family’s Guide to the Military” for the popular Dummies series and has also been listed in “Who’s Who of Military Spouses” by Military Spouse Magazine in 2007 and 2008. The opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of Sue Hoppin and do not necessarily reflect those of the USO.