Service Members

Service Members

Thanking and showing more support more often.
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Since this past weekend was Memorial Weekend, I decided to discuss just how important it is to support our troops. They sacrifice their lives everyday to protect our nation. In my personal opinion, we do not show enough support. I mean don’t get me wrong, It’s great that we have a day set aside where we can take a day to reflect on all our service members have done, but we must not forget to thank them and support them on other days as well. Being a service member is not easy, there are constantly sacrifices that not only the service member has to take, but their families as well. This is a duty that is very taxing. I can only imagine how hard and frustrating it is to dedicate your life to protecting the nation and only hear a thank you every so often. This is why I will always thank service men and women when I see them. I want to let them know that I appreciate all they do. I have learned that most of them have amazing stories to tell if you allow them to speak. They are people too and they need to be heard just like anyone else. So if you find yourself in front of a service member, do not shy away. Tell them how thankful you are for them. Try not to forget that they need to speak too so allow them a chance to speak. I’m so encouraged to see how much of a change we can make. It is super important that we make these service members feel appreciated and that they can know that their sacrifices weren’t for nothing.

Cover Image Credit: Loudoun Now

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3 Reasons Why Step Dads Are Super Dads

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I often hear a lot of people complaining about their step-parents and wondering why they think that they have any authority over them. Although I know that everyone has different situations, I will be the first to admit that I am beyond blessed to have a step dad. Yep, I said it. My life wouldn't be the same that it is not without him in it. Let me tell you why I think step dads are the greatest things since sliced bread.

1. They will do anything for you, literally.

My stepdad has done any and every thing for me. From when I was little until now. He was and still is my go-to. If I was hungry, he would get me food. If something was broken, he would fix it. If I wanted something, he would normally always find a way to get it. He didn't spoil me (just sometimes), but he would make sure that I was always taken care of.

SEE ALSO: The Thank You That Step-Parents Deserve

2. Life lessons.

Yup, the tough one. My stepdad has taught me things that I would have never figured out on my own. He has stood beside me through every mistake. He has been there to pick me up when I am down. My stepdad is like the book of knowledge: crazy hormonal teenage edition. Boy problems? He would probably make me feel better. He just always seemed to know what to say. I think that the most important lesson that I have learned from my stepdad is: to never give up. My stepdad has been through three cycles of leukemia. He is now in remission, yay!! But, I never heard him complain. I never heard him worry and I never saw him feeling sorry for himself. Through you, I found strength.

3. He loved me as his own.

The big one, the one that may seem impossible to some step parents. My stepdad is not actually my stepdad, but rather my dad. I will never have enough words to explain how grateful I am for this man, which is why I am attempting to write this right now. It takes a special kind of human to love another as if they are their own. There had never been times where I didn't think that my dad wouldn't be there for me. It was like I always knew he would be. He introduces me as his daughter, and he is my dad. I wouldn't have it any other way. You were able to show me what family is.

So, dad... thanks. Thanks for being you. Thanks for being awesome. Thanks for being strong. Thanks for loving me. Thanks for loving my mom. Thanks for giving me a wonderful little sister. Thanks for being someone that I can count on. Thanks for being my dad.

I love you!

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Abroad 'Grew' Me

Change can not even begin to describe it

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"Abroad changed me."

It's the cliche, all-encompassing, slightly asshole-ish phrase that any student returning from a study abroad experience is bound to let slip at least once. As ironic and annoying as it may sound, especially when repeated 100 times, it's definitely not false. However, I believe it best gets its point across when modified slightly.

The one slight correction that can be made to this statement is the word "changed". I know for a fact that my study abroad experience opened my eyes to new cultures, new perspectives, and new possibilities. I was able to branch out and pursue areas of interest I had never imagined. However, I am still me. I did not morph into a new person or lose anything I once had before I boarded that plane. If anything the correct phrase (although not grammatically proper) should be "Abroad grew me". The path I followed in my experience, every twist, turn, and bump that hit me along the journey, helped me to become something more of myself.

My problem-solving, communication and overall interpersonal skills have become so much stronger than those which I left JFK Airport within early September. All of this combined, my confidence has grown tenfold. In terms of my self-confidence, I have never felt more validated or reassured of who I am, what my values are, and what I want out of this life. All of these things are due to the situation I was put into, but I would not call them changes. Because the word "change" insinuates I never had any of these skills or characteristics before.

Being brave, for example, is not something I typically would label myself as. But when you are lost in the streets of Morocco, frantically running in circles to find a blue building (in what is known as the "Blue City") when your bus is leaving in under 5 minutes, the act of going up to a complete stranger and getting your Spanish to somehow coincide with their Arabic is not just a show of bravery, but a necessity. It is how you survive. Although I quickly learned that after a few too many travel fiascos, I also came to realize how much better life can become when you let this bravery into other aspects of your life - not just the emergencies. The little parts like trying new foods, volunteering to make a fool of yourself and flamenco dance, stopping at the street corner to converse with the woman selling flowers, these are the small things that shaped my entire experience. And these are the biggest things that helped me to grow. This bravery was something that I always had, just never to the extent at which I tapped into during my time abroad.

Yes, coming back from studying abroad I feel like the world around me and my normal life have changed. I never could have expected it to stand still just because I was absent. However, I do not feel that I have "changed" from who I was before. A desire for a challenge is what led me to go abroad in the first place and I am extremely blessed to be able to say that my wish was fulfilled. With each new experience, I expanded my horizons, and piece by piece I watched myself morph into what I would now call a confident and well-rounded individual. This growth has brought me to where I am today, but it is only the starting point on my adventure to further explore cultures, the world, and where my place is in it all.

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