Today’s guest post is written by Stephanie Himel-Nelson, Esq. the Director of Communications for the nonprofit organization Blue Star Families and a long-time volunteer for pretty much anything and everything. She lives in Chesapeake, Va. with her (now retired) Navy man and two boys.
When I was a kid I never really thought of what my dad did as “service.” He spent 20 years in the Air Force, as did his father before him, but it was just what we did. Serving in the military was the family business, so to speak.
Growing up in the family business gave me the opportunity to spend my childhood surrounded by the military community. Helping others was, again, just what we did. The spouse clubs were always rallying for a cause or raising money. And when they weren’t doing that, they were rallying around their neighbors. Let’s face it; being in the military isn’t always a safe job, but when the worst happened, there was always help and support from other military families.
The lessons my mom and dad taught me and my brother weren’t overt. They never sat us down and said, “It’s your responsibility to help where you can,” but they modeled the message every day. So I suppose it was no surprise that my brother headed off to the Army and I spent college and beyond volunteering for a domestic abuse and sexual assault program. Along the way, I met and married a Navy man. Clearly it was meant to be. He was, after all, in the family business!
Of course, for my generation, being married to someone in the military changed completely on September 11, 2001. Over the last 11 years I’ve met some amazing people in my new military community and I’ve seen the challenges they faced along the way. So in 2008, my turning point happened. I left my law firm and joined the ranks of full-time volunteers as a founding member of Blue Star Families, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting, connecting and empowering military families.
Over the last four years I’ve worked and, of course, volunteered with some inspirational women and men who truly want to make the world a better place. It may seem idealistic or even simplistic to some people, but I really think that people who serve our communities have it all figured out. You see, you get more than you give every time you volunteer. And service is a proud family business that I hope I can pass onto my children.