MAMF TURNS TEN

by Allen Dale Olson, Secretary

Museum of the American Military Family

It was probably sometime during the fall of 2010 that I first heard my daughter, Circe, mumbling to herself about a medal for military mothers. Her older son had been deployed to Iraq, and like most mothers of those in military combat zones, she was worried about him. Never mind that her husband had been deployed several times, it’s different when the soldier is your child. “We military moms are tough,” she told me, half-jokingly, “we should get some sort of medal.”

 

It wasn’t really a medal she was thinking about, but rather, something much bigger. “There must be a museum someplace,” she said and launched another search. Having grown up with my wife and me in military communities, she had heard many speeches and read many publications about the importance of family to a military man or woman. “But there are no museums for military moms,” she sighed. “Or for the spouses or kids. There are museums about  battles, squadrons, companies, and ships, but not one museum completely dedicated to the people who stand behind those soldiers, sailors, and airmen.”

 

A long pause. “So, I’ll start one.”

 

At first, I considered that comment one of those usually harmless unmeant promises, but a few days later when I asked her about it, I thoughtlessly added that it seemed like something I’d like to help her with.

 

That conversation resulted in a flurry of calls and talks with her friends and work colleagues and she and I meeting with state officials in an effort to find out how one starts a museum and then operates it after it has been founded. On March 23, 2011, under the business name Museum of the American Military Family and Learning Center, we received our tax-exempt status as 501 c 3 and our CRS numbers and documents from the state Public Regulatory Commission and we had a museum, on-line only–with no funding or supporters, but a museum nonetheless.

Ten years later we have three galleries, a special collections library, and a gift shop in a vintage house along Old Route 66 near Albuquerque. We have an operating budget, some volunteers and an enthusiastic and dedicated board of directors. We have permanent exhibits illustrating what it’s like to be a military spouse, or a military kid, and one telling the history of the world-wide school system for military children operated by the Department of Defense. We have a series of revolving exhibits dealing with subjects such as addiction and recovery, military family life overseas, and G. I. humor.

 

We conduct town hall meetings bringing together the veteran and civilian community for discussions ranging from thoughts on war to helping veterans and their families re-integrate into civilian communities, and we work with the U.S. Immigration Service to host Naturalization ceremonies for military spouses. We have produced documentary films and published a number of anthologies, all first-hand stories about the challenges and achievements of military family life.

 

From the beginning, we made sure that all our programs, classes, and special events were free to the public. Our board of directors are all volunteers, and we have no paid staff. We have managed all our affairs because of donations and grants.

 

We have moved three times in our ten years and have now outgrown our current home. Finding a suitable place within our means is our highest priority going forward. We have been blessed with encouragement and cooperation with other museums in the area, and we owe a great deal to the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History for hosting our first-ever exhibition and whose staff taught us much about running a museum.

 

Founder and Executive Director, Dr. Circe Olson Woessner, says she is grateful for all the volunteer and professional guidance she has received during the past decade and looks forward to a post-pandemic future of still more programs.

 

For a complete picture of everything about MAMF and its blogs and podcasts, visit www.militaryfamilymuseum.org.

 

 

Military Museum in Tijeras, NM Celebrates 10th Anniversary with Call for Stories from Military Families

by Erica Asmus-Otero

The Museum of the American Military Family (MAMF), located in Tijeras, New Mexico – is celebrating its 10th anniversary in March 2021.

In celebration of the anniversary, the museum is asking military families, both active and retired, to submit a memory to the MAMF about their military service on a postcard or birthday card.

“We want to connect with families through their stories and cards but cannot have a big celebration out of an abundance of caution with the pandemic,” said museum founder and military family member, Circe Woessner.

Founded in 2011, the MAMF collects, preserves and displays memorabilia and nostalgic stories donated by military families, providing ongoing support through podcasts, books, and other mediums.

“Many Americans don’t understand the sacrifices that the families of service men and women make – how many times their families are uprooted, have to assimilate with new cultures and customs, make and lose friends, and change schools or jobs on a regular basis,” said Woessner. “The MAMF brings to life the stories of these families through their memorabilia, while providing a support network of families who can truly relate with the many challenges and emotions we’ve all experienced.”

Postcard and birthday cards will be accepted throughout the month of March and will be carefully curated in a commemorative 10th anniversary album and posted on the museum’s Facebook page: @MuseumoftheAmericanMilitaryFamily. Birthday greetings can be sent directly to: MAMF 546B State Highway 333 Tijeras, NM 87059.

WANT AN EASIER WAY TO GIVE TO CHARITIES?

By W. Umber

Ask your financial advisor about a Donor Advised Fund (DAF) also known as a Charitable Giving Fund.  These accounts are setup through the financial services firm of your choice (Fidelity, Ameriprise, USAA, etc.).   You can fund this account with cash, stock, or other assets such as IRA minimum distributions, and you recommend an investment strategy once the assets are irrevocably transferred to the DAF.  The tax deduction for the charitable donation is taken at the time the assets are transferred into the DAF. Assets can continue to grow in value (tax free) depending on the investments you choose.  There may be other tax benefits depending on your situation.

Once the DAF is funded, you recommend “grants” or donations to your charity.  You can give anonymously, in memory of someone, or in support of specific projects.  The grant is made directly to the charity—no credit cards, checks, or websites to sign up for!  You will have a permanent record of the gifts you have made through the fund.

Essentially, this is like having a mini-foundation that you fund and control.  Check with your financial advisor to see if this is a good strategy for you, and don’t forget that you can donate to the Museum of the American Military Family through your Donor Advised Fund!

FINDING THE THREAD THAT BINDS: TELLING YOUR STORY 

Cherie Avila, Museum Storyteller

I grew up in a military family. Both of my older brothers attended a military school for part of their schooling. Upon graduation, all three of us kids served in the military.  Although I only served for four years, both of my brothers retired from the military. Most of my high school years were in Korea. When I was a senior year in high school, my dad was transferred stateside. I spent my senior year in Maryland longing to be back with my friends in Korea. When it was time for college, I applied to one university. The one university that I knew a friend from Korea was attending.  When I left the Army and chose the civilian career of a teacher, I did not initially realize the uniqueness of being an Army Brat. Over the years I have told friends about being raised in a military family, moving every few years, living in different countries and many states, and attending school in Korea. I couldn’t tell if my civilian friends didn’t believe me, or my story was just so different from their experience that they couldn’t relate. Either way, I often thought of my other “brat” friends and how I would like to reconnect with them.

As my own children started school and I was considering which schools they would attend, I began to think of my own school experience and what has happened to my classmates from Korea. I knew very little about social media at the time and had no idea where to begin to find them. One day I noticed that the public library was going to be showing the documentary, Brats: Our Journey Home. I went to the library, sat in a dark room with a handful of others, and the documentary began. It was about ten minutes into the documentary that I started bawling. I was crying and was not sure why this film was having such an emotional impact on me. At one point in the documentary, I saw the sign in front of my old high school in Korea, I realized why I was so moved. I said to myself, “Oh my gosh! It was real.” It existed. This school that I had been talking about for 30 years actually existed. My memories were real. The documentary validated my experience and my memories of my experience.

As members of military families, we are in a subculture of America that few others experience. Living on a military base is similar to a small town where everybody knows everybody, but unlike a small town, we rarely get the opportunity to go “home.” What does home even mean to military kids?  For the few of us that do get the opportunity to return to where we attended school, all the people are different, so it is not the same. There may be some buildings that are recognizable, but it is never the same, and to me does not feel like “home”. Soon after I saw the documentary, a friend asked me to join Facebook to see a photo of her new puppies. Once I joined Facebook, I began searching for friends from my high school in Korea. Once we connected, and began sharing photos and stories, it was if no time had passed. I felt more at home, than I had in a long time. In fact, one friend from high school and I were living in the same town for six years and had no idea the other was living there.

I believe that it is through our stories that we make connections with other members of military families, often finding similarities with which we can relate. Although we may share some similar experiences, there is no one stereotypical military family. Being a part of a military family, we all have very different stories, but once we share our stories we can begin to relate, to make connections, and perhaps find that sense of home you may be longing for. I believe it is through storytelling that we find the common thread that binds us together. The Museum of American Military Families can be that venue for thread-finding, but it does require you to be willing to share your story. I ask you to be brave and share a story from your life in a military family. You can start by visiting the the museum’s Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/MuseumoftheAmericanMilitaryFamily .  You can scroll on the side of this webpage and find a blog or podcast that reminds you of an event or episode you would be willing to share.

Together, let’s make 2021 the year of connections and start by telling your story.

Please email info@militaryfamilymuseum.org if you have any questions.

 

 

 

MAMF is proud to add a Student Liaison to its Team

Shanon Hyde, Student Liaison, is a Marine Corp brat and a student at Pennsylvania State University, majoring in Aerospace Engineering. From 2016-2019 he attended Kubasaki High School in Okinawa, Japan and was the President of his Junior class. While living in Okinawa, he had the opportunity to travel to several different countries, learning about different cultures and worldviews. In May of 2020 he graduated from Mooresville High School in Mooresville, North Carolina. In August of 2020, he started The Shanon Show podcast, which allows him to connect with military brats and share their stories on the internet. Shanon is committed to shedding a light on the issues that student brats face when transitioning to college, career, and life. In his free time, Shanon loves to make homemade sausage and watch Adam Sandler movies.

2020 in Review

In a year that has been full of change and challenges, I’d like to share with you some of the successes that the museum has had, despite having been closed for nine months.

  • We received a generous grant from the Griffinhart Foundation to develop a curriculum to accompany SHOUT! The curriculum was developed by professors from San Francisco State University and Truman College, Chicago, and will “go live” in 2021. (SHOUT! is a play, an anthology—and soon to be a full-length film.)
  • We published two anthologies: Brat Time Stories: A Book for Nocturnal Brats and On Freedom’s Frontier: Life on the Fulda Gap.
  • We created personalized video tours of Operation Footlocker-one for a public school district in Illinois; the other for the Defense Department Schools. We also developed some virtual curriculum for DoDEA 4thgraders, using stories submitted by generations of military “brats.”
  • We created a virtual exhibit about the University of Maryland Munich Campus which opened in late September.
  • We started audio and video podcasting on our MAMF Media podcast, and offer a wide variety of programs. We presented several virtual poetry workshops with Tacoma Poet Laureate Abby Murray.
  • Our East Mountain Collaborative partnered with many entities to provide relevant programming on suicide prevention, addiction resources, stress management and home-schooling tips. We also explored news sources and discussed how to recognize “fake” and trusted sources. All of these are viewable at militaryfamilymuseum.podbean.com
  • We received an Award of Excellence from the American Association for State and Local History. It is our second such award in as many years. In 2018, we also received the AASLH prestigious Albert B. Corey prize for our innovativeness.
  • We were careful stewards of our resources, and through the generosity of our community and some CARES Act funding, we have made it through this year and are optimistic that next year will be better. We will restart our capital campaign towards a building purchase.
  • Through the year, our collections have continued to grow with new artifacts acquisition, so we have purchased museum cataloging software. Once we get the “go-ahead” to reopen, we will begin to inventory and catalog our collection.

So, while 2020 has pushed all of to our limits, it has made us, as an organization, learn to be more flexible, run leaner, and think way out of the box.

So, What’s the plan for 2021?

 

  • Our collaborative is planning several video programs—in January we will present “So You Want to Write a Book—Now What?”
  • We are collecting stories for a special anthology celebrating 75 years of DoDEA—if you have a memory or two about attending DoD schools, we’d like to include it in the book.
  • We will be reworking a 30-year-old original children’s book manuscript, “My Momma Wears Army Boots”
  • SHOUT is slated to be performed in Los Angeles and Providence and will be made into a full-length film.
  • We will begin a very comprehensive project looking at gender, race, identity, religion and culture in military/families.
  • Our podcast will continue to grow and evolve as we add more interviews, stories and programs.
  • We may even unveil a new exhibit!

We hope that these programs are of interest to you, and you participate as applicable.

Also: Our museum is looking for several volunteer board members/liaisons to join our team. If you’d like to help grow our award-winning museum, further its mission of preserving and curating military family history, please email us at militaryfamilymuseum@comcast.net. Please tell us why you’d like to serve on the board, your skill sets and what you envision your role as a team member could be. Even though we are in New Mexico, several of our board members live elsewhere.

When we are permitted to reopen, please know that our board/docents have taken the New Mexico Covid Certification training so that our visitors and volunteers are as safe as possible.

We look forward to hosting you-virtually and in person!

Dr. Circe Olson Woessner, Founder & Director MAMF

 

We miss you!

If you’re planning to visit us, please make an appointment 24 hours in advance, and if you can’t come visit in person, check out our blogs and podcasts or follow us on Facebook. View one of our many blogs, like https://weservedtoo.wordpress.com, our podcast at https://militaryfamilymuseum.podbean.com and our website, https://militaryfamilymuseum.org

In order to keep you and us safe, your hosts will have taken New Mexico’s Covid-Safe Training.

The Importance of Community

One of the things military families tell me when they visit our museum is that they miss the life they left behind when they left the service. That life, of course, means different things to different people, but sometimes it’s quite clear that they are looking back nostalgically to what author and historian Mary Edwards Wertsch calls “life inside the fortress.”

The “fortress” refers to a military installation where families work, live, shop, and play inside the installation’s  perimeter fence. Living and working in such close proximity creates a very tight-knit community. While this community is comprised of very different individuals with very different perspectives, these individuals are bound together by a common purpose: the mission.

On an installation, at 5 o’clock pm, everything comes to a stop as the National Anthem plays over a loudspeaker. Children stop playing, cars come to a halt, and anyone walking outside comes to a stop. At 5 o’clock everyone faces the flag and places their hand over their heart or, if in uniform, salutes. The National Anthem also is played in installation movie theatres, and the audience stands at attention prior to viewing the feature.

There is a sense of pride and duty that comes with being a military family, and living on an installation requires a modicum of discipline: yards must be kept to a certain standard, children mustn’t run amok, rules must be followed.

One Air Force daughter says, “I grew up knowing that I was a child ambassador representing the United States,  the Air Force, and my immediate family.While living overseas and learning new customs and meeting new people, I represented the best of the United States.”

I grew up in Germany knowing that what I did reflected on my parents. If I did something wrong, people would tell them, and there would be Dire Consequences. Luckily, I was a pretty good kid, and the only dire consequence which happened was after my father received a letter from the Post Commander reprimanding him for allowing me to have 36 overdue library books. I was banned from the library for six months.

All people who have left this lifestyle, whether they liked it or not, have stories to tell.

Spouses often reminisce about living in base housing. They acknowledge the lack of privacy, but they also point out the great connections they built. Living in stairwells or in the close quarters of a military installation, means that the adults keep an eye on the kids, everybody knows everybody’s business, and one can’t  really “escape the busyness” of the military tempo.

Shannon remembers  life on Holloman Air Base during the Vietnam War. She describes when  a jeep pulled up to her quarters. “I watched from the window as they walked up to the house. They spoke to my mom for a few minutes and then mom came in. I remember holding my breath (we knew what this meant). She said, ‘I need you and your brother to go next door and stay there until I get back.’ We didn’t ask questions, we went…It wasn’t until years later that mom talked about it though. She told me that she was going to the houses of wives that were being told their husbands were not coming back. She hated the task, but she said she would be damned if those women were going to face that time alone.”

Even as times have changed, the conflicts are different, more spouses work, and life doesn’t solely revolve around the installation, military spouses still look out for one another.

Sometimes it’s in social media groups like Facebook, where someone might post “We’re moving to base soon, which pediatric dentist in town do you recommend”? Or, “There are two black-and-white dogs running down my street, does anyone know who they belong to?” Or, “Can anyone look after my toddler while I run to the commissary for an hour?”

As our lives get busier  and increasingly more isolated, we don’t have as much face-to-face contact with our neighbors as we used to, and small social media groups can be very helpful in bringing people together, building connections, and sharing information.

Adult brats often say that they can sense another brat, even in a crowd of strangers. Brats are drawn to each other because of their shared experiences. That happened to me just the other day at an East Mountain Regional Chamber of Commerce meeting. As I introduced myself to my tablemates, the man sitting to my left mentioned he was a brat. A little later, a woman came up to me and told me she was a brat as well. Instant community!

As military families, we are used to moving into and out of communities each time we PCS (move) even while yearning for a permanent “home” someday. “Home is where the heart is” is an oft-quoted platitude–people are the heart of our communities, and communities are what draw people to them when they’re deciding where to settle.

Our neighborhood is small, and when my husband and I are out walking our dog, our neighbors wave as they drive by. We recently got together for a neighborhood New Year’s Eve party, and via Facebook and cell phone, we keep each other informed if we notice anything out-of-the ordinary. It’s nice to have human connections.

Small communities are special. That’s one reason we chose to locate our museum in Tijeras—next to Molly’s Bar, because we wanted to be a part of a small, lively town and part of Route 66’s continuing history. We love the mountains, the folks who come and go from Molly’s, the tourists who are cruising the Mother Road, and the East Mountains’ unique vibe. People are neighborly here; they have time to visit a little. They offer to help someone out. They leave little painted rocks on our museum doorstep.

We hope our museum will become an increasingly important part of the business and tourism ecosystem here, and that as we grow and expand, we can meet many more of our East Mountain neighbors. Stop by the museum for a bit, let’s share a story and get to know each other!

_________________________________________________________________

(Circe Olson Woessner is the executive director of the Museum of the American Military Family & Learning Center. The museum collects and preserves the stories of military families of all branches and generations. The museum is located at 546B Highway 333, Tijeras.)

 

 

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