True
Macy's

When Meredith Lozar's daughter was just 3 and a half years old, her husband, Nick, came home from a tour of combat in Afghanistan.

He had been gone for nine months. During that time, Meredith did everything she could to keep their daughter connected to him — showing her photo albums and even giving her an old shirt of Nick's to sleep with at night.

But when Nick finally came home, instead of the joyful reunion one might expect, Meredith watched her husband freeze with fear.


"He stood at the threshold of her room afraid to go inside … he wasn't sure she would even remember him."

While Nick was afraid he had been forgotten, those fears would quickly turn to joy.

"[Our daughter] recognized him immediately," Meredith remembers. "While she did not go to him, she did kiss him on the cheek and say, 'Hi Daddy.'"

And that meant the world to him; it was a major step forward as their family reunited, got used to being together again, and recovered from the stress of deployment.

Of course, this wasn't Nick's first homecoming nor would it be his last. Over his 17-year career as a Marine, his family lived through eight deployments and five combat tours. And with each reunion, there came new complex emotions, anxieties, fears, pain, and, of course, joy at finally being back together. But that's the reality, Lozar says, of being a military family.

With the Fourth of July approaching, there's never been a better time to learn more about military families and their experiences. That's why we've created this list of 17 things military families want you to know about them.

[rebelmouse-image 19346429 dam="1" original_size="5616x3744" caption="Photo by Stephanie McCabe/Unsplash." expand=1]Photo by Stephanie McCabe/Unsplash.

1. Reunions aren't always picture perfect.

Many of us have an image in our mind of how it plays out. A playful Labrador retriever tackles a man in military uniform, hardly able to contain excitement after months apart. Or a daughter is in tears as her mother, fresh off the plane in her combat boots, rushes to embrace her. After all, most of us have clicked on those emotional homecoming videos as they float across our newsfeeds.

But not every reunion goes down like that.

[rebelmouse-image 19346430 dam="1" original_size="5472x3648" caption="Photo by Jonathan Tajalle/Unsplash." expand=1]Photo by Jonathan Tajalle/Unsplash.

"I can tell you that it's not that easy," says Savannah Hewett, whose husband works as a security officer in the military.

Once, for example, she and her husband had been apart for 465 days. She had planned to surprise him at the airport only to find out that his deployment had suddenly been delayed by a week. Then, when that next week came, she had to wait over seven hours in the airport before she could finally embrace him.

2. Many families find ways to help their kids stay connected even while military members are away.

While separation can be difficult, there are creative ways that families stay connected to deployed loved ones. Some military members record a favorite bedtime story for their kids before deployment or create special photo albums. Even an old blanket or shirt can help a child feel comforted while mom or dad is away.

[rebelmouse-image 19346432 dam="1" original_size="5471x3647" caption="Photo by Bruno Nascimento/Unsplash." expand=1]Photo by Bruno Nascimento/Unsplash.

3. Finally coming back home can be an adjustment.

When military members come back home, it can take time for a family to reintegrate after having spent so much time apart.

Hewett describes that separation as living "two separate lives" — hers back at home while she parents and tries to maintain some sense of normalcy and his defending their country overseas. For kids, especially some who might not totally understand why a parent left or were too young to remember, seeing those lives come back together can be challenging.

Thankfully, those transitional times are made easier by organizations like Blue Star Families, which focuses on providing support to military families, including free events for them. Even a day at a planetarium can make all the difference for a family that is newly reunited.

That's why Macy's is making it easy for all of us to support charities like Blue Star Families. As part of their July 4 Give Back campaign, if you donate $3 at checkout in stores or online, you'll receive 25% off your purchase and a portion of your donation goes to helping Blue Star Families with their mission.

[rebelmouse-image 19346433 dam="1" original_size="6720x4480" caption="Photo by Edward Cisneros/Unsplash." expand=1]Photo by Edward Cisneros/Unsplash.

4. Of course, being reunited isn't the end of the story.

As long as they are enlisted, military members are still at work — and work can mean multiple deployments. Since 2001, more than 900,000 children have experienced the deployment of one or both parents multiple times.

"They're still deploying to every clime and place, as is their job. And the unknowns and uncertainty that come along with that still exist," Lozar says. "We don't know, sometimes, when our service member will be home, and we don't always know what they're supporting. And that's all part of it."

5. Deployment isn't like any normal long distance relationship, either.

It can be easy to try and put yourself in a military spouse's shoes by remembering a time when you and your partner were long distance. It's just not the same thing, though. Spouses not only have to grapple with distance, they also have to cope with the anxiety of not knowing if their spouse will return safely and how an injury or loss could change their family's future.

6. Spouses trying to overcome that distance have to find ways to cope, which can mean getting a little creative.

It's not uncommon to go months without hearing from a service member, particularly if they're in active combat or special forces. Even a phone call or a letter home isn't guaranteed to come with any regularity, which means that every time there's breaking news about an attack, many families are left feeling helpless, not knowing if their military members are safe and dreading the worst.

That said, as technology has evolved, many military spouses have found new ways to stay connected. For military members with access to WiFi, virtual dates have become much more common thanks to platforms like Skype. So while the distance can be difficult, when spouses finally reconnect, seeing their loved one's face is priceless.

[rebelmouse-image 19346434 dam="1" original_size="4336x2891" caption="Photo by Hanny Naibaho/Unsplash." expand=1]Photo by Hanny Naibaho/Unsplash.

7. All this time alone though means that some military families can start to feel isolated.

In fact, according to a survey conducted by Blue Star Families, more than half of military families feel they do not belong in their civilian communities.

"The price of war runs so much deeper than what I think most civilians realize," Hewett explains. While trying to lead their own lives and fit into their new communities, they also have to deal with having a loved one at war while parenting alone — and it can take a toll.

That's why Lozar works as Blue Star Families' connected communities manager, helping military families better integrate into their communities.

8. This isolation isn't helped by the fact that they have to move a lot.

According to the Blue Star Families annual Military Family Lifestyle Survey, 72% of military families live in their communities for two years or less before moving, which means they don't get enough time to really form any deep connections with their communities.

It also means that the average military kid will have attended anywhere between six to nine schools by the time they're a senior in high school. If you've ever been the new kid on the block or in class — not knowing where to sit at lunch or how to make new friends — imagine the emotional roller coaster that comes with being that kid every two years.

However, according to Hewett, many military families can be fortunate enough to move together, so families that developed close ties on one base may wind up making the same move to another.

9. But that's just one of many sacrifices military kids make.

All the bedtime stories, birthdays, holidays, graduations, and sports games missed can take their toll. And the very real confusion, fear, and even anger over a parent's absence, however noble that absence might be, means that these kids can struggle with their mental health a lot more than their civilian peers.

That said, with the right support, military kids can thrive. As with any mental health challenge, early intervention is key to ensuring youth have the resources they need to succeed.

[rebelmouse-image 19346435 dam="1" original_size="4928x3280" caption="Photo by Frank McKenna/Unsplash." expand=1]Photo by Frank McKenna/Unsplash.

10. Spouses make their own sacrifices too, including professional ones.

The military wife staring wistfully out of a window waiting for her husband to return is a stereotype. Being a military spouse simply isn't a full-time job.

In fact, a second source of income is very important to many military families, who may find that a military income isn't sufficient to support them. Not to mention, spouses often have career aspirations of their own, and those aspirations can sustain them while their partners are away.

11. Unfortunately military spouses can have a tough time getting hired.

The military spouse unemployment rate is estimated to be at least four times higher than the civilian rate. Because they often move frequently, their resumes can look a little different, with positions held for short periods of time or gaps when jobs were difficult to secure. That leads to many spouses remaining unemployed, underemployed, or taking on volunteer roles instead.

"[Employers] know they're going to move in a couple years or a couple months," says Hewett, who knows this issue all too well, having struggled herself to find meaningful work. That's why she decided, after being unable to secure flexible work that fit into her family's unpredictable schedule, to volunteer as the president of New Mexico's Blue Star Families chapter to support families like hers.

[rebelmouse-image 19346436 dam="1" original_size="3000x1843" caption="Photo by rawpixel/Unsplash." expand=1]Photo by rawpixel/Unsplash.

Luckily, though, this is starting to change. Many companies are starting to make it a priority to hire military members and their spouses.

12. However, securing reliable childcare can be a challenge.

Spouses also struggle to land work because securing childcare can be difficult. "It's very challenging for us because our service member doesn't have [predictable] hours," Hewett explains.

It's difficult to know when you'll need a sitter if your spouse is called to the base at the last minute, deploys with little time to prepare, or picks up an extra shift unexpectedly. "Often times, as the spouse, we are [both parents], at unexpected times and for long periods of times," Hewett says.

And even when you finally figure out a good system, you'll likely be moving again and have to start over. That's why assistance programs and day cares that offer subsidized care for military families are so crucial.

13. Housing can be tricky, but it's not all bad.

Obviously if you're moving frequently, you can't really buy a house and expect to live there forever. And with some military bases being very isolated, many families are faced with a difficult decision. They could live on base and take whatever the military is willing to provide, choose a location that isn't near much of anything, or live entirely separate lives from their spouses until they can reunite again.

However, there are great aspects to living on base. Depending on where you're stationed, some bases have campgrounds, community events, dancing, youth centers, arts and crafts centers, libraries, and bowling alleys. What's more, many military families develop close bonds to other families in the area, creating an important sense of camaraderie.

14. There are a lot of misconceptions about their families — and the stereotypes hurt.

Infographic via Upworthy.

15. And that's why, even with support from other military families, veterans need their civilian communities more than ever.

[rebelmouse-image 19346438 dam="1" original_size="3460x2618" caption="Photo by Benjamin Faust/Unsplash." expand=1]Photo by Benjamin Faust/Unsplash.

Studies are showing that many veterans struggle with loneliness, with vets reporting that their spouses are often their sole confidants.

With social and community support, as well as a little education, the mental health of military families could improve significantly. "Even one connection is all it takes to help a military family feel less isolated," Lozar says.

16. Thankfully, that connection is something any one of us could offer.

Lozar says that being neighborly can make all the difference. "Military families want to be more involved in their neighborhoods," Lozar explains.

"Be a good neighbor and go over and say hello," she continues. "Help that person feel more welcome."

[rebelmouse-image 19346439 dam="1" original_size="4288x2848" caption="Photo by Brandon Morgan/Unsplash." expand=1]Photo by Brandon Morgan/Unsplash.

Beyond a simple hello, support could look like volunteering with organizations like Blue Star Families, offering free child care to a local military family that's struggling, helping those families connect with sports teams or clubs for their kids, and encouraging schools to reach out to new military families to get them more involved.

17. Even with these sacrifices, it doesn't mean that military families regret their decision.

"There's a lot of hardship, but there's also a lot of good things, too. We have the opportunity to travel. We meet people all over the world," Hewett says. "And somehow [the military becomes] your family."

For families like Hewett's, there is pride in knowing that they've contributed to something bigger than themselves.

"I don't think anybody would regret being a military family," she continues. "[We have] a higher purpose. There is something far greater than us that's going on that we're a part of."

Salute those who serve by donating at Macy's to organizations that support veteran and military families from June 28 to July 8.

Images courtesy of Letters of Love
True

When Grace Berbig was 7 years old, her mom was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues. Being so young, Grace didn’t know what cancer was or why her mother was suddenly living in the hospital. But she did know this: that while her mom was in the hospital, she would always be assured that her family was thinking of her, supporting her and loving her every step of her journey.

Nearly every day, Grace and her two younger sisters would hand-make cards and fill them with drawings and messages of love, which their mother would hang all over the walls of her hospital room. These cherished letters brought immeasurable peace and joy to their mom during her sickness. Sadly, when Grace was just 10 years old, her mother lost her battle with cancer.“

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Losing my mom put the world in a completely different perspective for me,” Grace says. “I realized that you never know when someone could leave you, so you have to love the people you love with your whole heart, every day.”

Grace’s father was instrumental in helping in the healing process of his daughters. “I distinctly remember my dad constantly reminding my two little sisters, Bella and Sophie, and I that happiness is a choice, and it was now our job to turn this heartbreaking event in our life into something positive.”

When she got to high school, Grace became involved in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and a handful of other organizations. But she never felt like she was doing enough.

“I wanted to create an opportunity for people to help beyond donating money, and one that anyone could be a part of, no matter their financial status.”

In October 2018, Grace started Letters of Love, a club at her high school in Long Lake, Minnesota, to emotionally support children battling cancer and other serious illnesses through letter-writing and craft-making.


Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Much to her surprise, more than 100 students showed up for the first club meeting. From then on, Letters of Love grew so fast that during her senior year in high school, Grace had to start a GoFundMe to help cover the cost of card-making materials.

Speaking about her nonprofit today, Grace says, “I can’t find enough words to explain how blessed I feel to have this organization. Beyond the amount of kids and families we are able to support, it allows me to feel so much closer and more connected to my mom.”

Since its inception, Letters of Love has grown to more than 25 clubs with more than 1,000 members providing emotional support to more than 60,000 patients in children’s hospitals around the world. And in the process it has become a full-time job for Grace.

“I do everything from training volunteers and club ambassadors, paying bills, designing merchandise, preparing financial predictions and overviews, applying for grants, to going through each and every card ensuring they are appropriate to send out to hospitals.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

In addition to running Letters of Love, Grace and her small team must also contend with the emotions inherent in their line of work.

“There have been many, many tears cried,” she says. “Working to support children who are battling cancer and other serious and sometimes chronic illnesses can absolutely be extremely difficult mentally. I feel so blessed to be an organization that focuses solely on bringing joy to these children, though. We do everything we can to simply put a smile on their face, and ensure they know that they are so loved, so strong, and so supported by people all around the world.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Letters of Love has been particularly instrumental in offering emotional support to children who have been unable to see friends and family due to COVID-19. A video campaign in the summer of 2021 even saw members of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and the NHL’s Minnesota Wild offer short videos of hope and encouragement to affected children.

Grace is currently taking a gap year before she starts college so she can focus on growing Letters of Love as well as to work on various related projects, including the publication of a children’s book.

“The goal of the book is to teach children the immense impact that small acts of kindness can have, how to treat their peers who may be diagnosed with disabilities or illness, and how they are never too young to change the world,” she says.

Since she was 10, Grace has kept memories of her mother close to her, as a source of love and inspiration in her life and in the work she does with Letters of Love.

Image courtesy of Grace Berbig

“When I lost my mom, I felt like a section of my heart went with her, so ever since, I have been filling that piece with love and compassion towards others. Her smile and joy were infectious, and I try to mirror that in myself and touch people’s hearts as she did.”

For more information visit Letters of Love.

Please donate to Grace’s GoFundMe and help Letters of Love to expand, publish a children’s book and continue to reach more children in hospitals around the world.

Upworthy is sharing this letter from Myra Sack on the anniversary of the passing of her daughter Havi Lev Goldstein. Loss affects everyone differently and nothing can prepare us for the loss of a young child. But as this letter beautifully demonstrates, grief is not something to be ignored or denied. We hope the honest words and feelings shared below can help you or someone you know who is processing grief of their own. The original letter begins below:


Dear Beauty,

Time is crawling to January 20th, the one-year anniversary of the day you took your final breath on my chest in our bed. We had a dance party the night before. Your posse came over. Aunts, uncles, grandparents, closest friends, and your loving nanny Tia. We sat in the warm kitchen with music on and passed you from one set of arms to another. Everyone wanted one last dance with you. We didn’t mess around with only slow songs. You danced to Havana and Danza Kuduro, too. Somehow, you mustered the energy to sway and rock with each of us, despite not having had anything to eat or drink for six days. That night, January 19th, we laughed and cried and sang and danced. And we held each other. We let our snot and our tears rest on each other’s shoulders; we didn’t wipe any of them away. We ate ice cream after dinner, as we do every night. And on this night, we rubbed a little bit of fresh mint chocolate chip against your lips. Maybe you’d taste the sweetness.

Reggaeton and country music. Blueberry pancakes and ice cream. Deep, long sobs and outbursts of real, raw laughter. Conversations about what our relationships mean to each other and why we are on this earth.


Keep Reading Show less
Images courtesy of AFutureSuperhero and Friends and Balance Dance Project
True

The day was scorching hot, but the weather wasn’t going to stop a Star Wars Stormtrooper from handing out school supplies to a long line of eager children. “You guys don’t have anything illegal back there - any droids or anything?” the Stormtrooper asks, making sure he was safe from enemies before handing over a colorful backpack to a smiling boy.

The man inside the costume is Yuri Williams, founder of AFutureSuperhero And Friends, a Los Angeles nonprofit that uplifts and inspires marginalized people with small acts of kindness.

Yuri’s organization is one of four inaugural grant winners from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, a joint initiative between Upworthy and GoFundMe that celebrates kindness and everyday actions inspired by the best of humanity. This year, the Upworthy Kindness Fund is giving $100,000 to grassroots changemakers across the world.

To apply, campaign organizers simply tell Upworthy how their kindness project is making a difference. Between now and the end of 2021, each accepted individual or organization will receive $500 towards an existing GoFundMe and a shout-out on Upworthy.

Meet the first four winners:

1: Balance Dance Project: This studio aims to bring accessible dance to all in the Sacramento, CA area. Lead fundraiser Miranda Macias says many dancers spend hours a day at Balance practicing contemporary, lyrical, hip-hop, and ballet. Balance started a GoFundMe to raise money to cover tuition for dancers from low-income communities, buy dance team uniforms, and update its facility. The $500 contribution from the Kindness Fund nudged Balance closer to its $5,000 goal.

2: Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team: In Los Angeles, middle school teacher James Pike is introducing his students to the field of robotics via a Lego-building team dedicated to solving real-world problems.

James started a GoFundMe to crowdfund supplies for his students’ team ahead of the First Lego League, a school-against-school matchup that includes robotics competitions. The team, James explained, needed help to cover half the cost of the pricey $4,000 robotics kit. Thanks to help from the Upworthy Kindness Fund and the generosity of the Citizens of the World Middle School community, the team exceeded its initial fundraising goal.

Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team video update youtu.be

3: Black Fluidity Tattoo Club: Kiara Mills and Tann Parker want to fix a big problem in the tattoo industry: there are too few Black tattoo artists. To tackle the issue, the duo founded the Black Fluidity Tattoo Club to inspire and support Black tattooers. While the Brooklyn organization is open to any Black person, Kiara and Tann specifically want to encourage dark-skinned artists to train in an affirming space among people with similar identities.

To make room for newcomers, the club recently moved into a larger studio with a third station for apprentices or guest artists. Unlike a traditional fundraiser that supports the organization exclusively, Black Fluidity Tattoo Club will distribute proceeds from GoFundMe directly to emerging Black tattoo artists who are starting their own businesses. The small grants, supported in part with a $500 contribution from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, will go towards artists’ equipment, supplies, furnishings, and other start-up costs.

4: AFutureSuperhero And Friends’ “Hope For The Holidays”: Founder Yuri Williams is fundraising for a holiday trip to spread cheer to people in need across all fifty states.

Along with collaborator Rodney Smith Jr., Yuri will be handing out gifts to children, adults, and animals dressed as a Star Wars’ Stormtrooper, Spiderman, Deadpool, and other movie or comic book characters. Starting this month, the crew will be visiting children with disabilities or serious illnesses, bringing leashes and toys to animal shelters for people taking home a new pet, and spreading blessings to unhoused people—all while in superhero costume. This will be the third time Yuri and his nonprofit have taken this journey.

AFutureSuperhero started a GoFundMe in July to cover the cost of gifts as well as travel expenses like hotels and rental cars. To help the nonprofit reach its $15,000 goal, the Upworthy Kindness Fund contributed $500 towards this good cause.

Think you qualify for the fund? Tell us how you’re bringing kindness to your community. Grants will be awarded on a rolling basis from now through the end of 2021. For questions and more information, please check out our FAQ's and the Kindness Toolkit for resources on how to start your own kindness fundraiser.

Cellist Cremaine Booker's performance of Faure's "Pavane" is as impressive as it is beautiful.

Music might be the closest thing the world has to real magic. Music has the ability to transform any atmosphere in seconds, simply with the sounds of a few notes. It can be simple—one instrument playing single notes like raindrops—or a complex symphony of melodies and harmonies, swirling and crashing like waves from dozens of instruments. Certain rhythms can make us spontaneously dance and certain chord progressions can make us cry.

Music is an art, a science, a language and a decidedly human endeavor. People have made music throughout history, in every culture on every continent. Over time, people have perfected the crafting of instruments and passed along the knowledge of how to play them, so every time we see someone playing music, we're seeing the history of humanity culminated in their craft. It's truly an amazing thing.

The pandemic threw a wrench into seeing live musicians for a good chunk of time, and even now, live performances are limited. Thankfully, we have technology that makes it easier for musicians to collaborate and perform with one another virtually—and also makes it easier for people to create "group" performances all by themselves.

Keep Reading Show less
More

The airplane graveyard that 3 families call home is the subject of a stunning photo series.

From the skies to the ground, these airplanes continue to serve a purpose.

This article originally appeared on 09.18.15


What happens to airplanes after they're no longer fit to roam the skies?


An abandoned 747 rests in a Bangkok lot. Photo by Taylor Weidman/Getty Images.

Decommissioned planes are often stripped and sold for parts, with the remains finding a new home in what is sometimes referred to as an "airplane boneyard" or "graveyard." Around the world, these graveyards exist; they're made up of large, empty lots and tons of scrap metal.

Keep Reading Show less