FORCE PROTECTION, BOO REJECTION

I live on a military installation. Have I mentioned that before? I believe I have.

For years, I have witnessed the delightful Halloween tradition of booing in military housing. My kids love it and harass me from the first day of October on as to when I think we might get booed ourselves. 

Booing consists of placing (under the cloak of darkness) a fun treat on a neighbor’s porch. There is always a note with instructions on how to pay the fun forward. In turn, neighbors post on the neighborhood Facebook page their surprises as well as a thank-you or two. Newly PCS’d families get to know the current residents and a natural neighborhood bond begins to form.

While exciting and fun, booing has its downside. One year it may be my children, frozen with fear, refusing to get out of the car as we approach our targeted house. Because it is late, I’m in pajamas (my Mother says that is pedestrian) and I’m forced to run onto a neighbor’s porch so as not to ruin the moment. The next year, it’s me driving away too quickly thinking I have all the children but in fact I do not. Before you judge, imagine seven children jumping into a car screaming GO! GO! GO! It all gets very confusing. I quickly glance in my rearview mirror and see child #5 frantically running after the car. In an instant she is gone having flipped over a hedge hidden in the October darkness. 

Childhood memories my children.  You are welcome.

Where are the MPs when all this is going on? I ask myself that very same question every single year.

With each boo after-action and a newly presented game plan, I convince myself and the children it will be different, but it never is. I’m a glutton for punishment and the shattered dreams that only a made up Hallmark holiday can bring.  

There was however, one year that still remains our most memorable for the most unlikely of reasons.

The month of September was coming to a close and the boo harassment package, compliments of my children had begun. We chose our families, mapped out our game plan and went shopping. Some years we choose new families whose children might appreciate feeling welcomed after yet another military move; but this particular year, we chose the best friends of two of my children. Because of this, I went a little overboard. I purchased above and beyond what I should have and was happy to do it. Candy, toys, a small piece of clothing…all shoved into the boo buckets.

Proud was an understatement. Dressed in black, I piled six ninja children into my  15 passenger van and began the slow creep through housing. My kids were phenomenal. No crying, no falling, no freezing in fear, no forgetting part of the team. 

Mission accomplished.

The next morning I went over to one of the homes and let the mom know it was our family that had booed them. We were (and still are) good friends and in a prideful moment I wanted to hear how truly awesome her family thought our boo bucket was.

“Oh, it was you?” she asked with eyes downcast.

“Yes! What did you think?”

“Well,” She began sheepishly. “My husband refused to allow the children to have it and he threw it all away.”

“What? Why?”

“Anthrax.”

Wait. What? Wait.

“Anthrax?”

I live on a military installation. Have I mentioned that before? I think I have.

Level intensity. High. All day, every day.

I walked away and while disappointed, understood the mindset of her husband. What I know to be true is that every man and woman that wears the uniform in this great country of ours is a shepherd at heart. They are always watching, always observing, always ready to protect.  In that moment, I realized that our military professionals cannot separate who they are moment to moment. A protection mentality is at the very core of their being.

Having never donned the uniform, I cannot fully appreciate nor understand why anthrax contaminated candy immediately came to my neighbor’s mind. I will say with confidence though, as an American citizen with Marines as neighbors, I will sleep soundly this Halloween night.

Entertainingly Yours,

Cassie

FREE VITA TAX PREP ON BASE

Yep, you heard that right!

At this very moment there are uniformed warrior-gods not only ready to engage the enemy, but prepare your taxes (which can be quite the battle too).

Many U.S. military installations across our great nation and around the world are collaborating with the IRS to offer free, in-person tax preparation services for active duty members, retirees and dependents. Through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance or VITA, our active duty and their families have one less thing to worry about in a lifestyle that can often times be filled with uncertainty.

According to Army Lt. Col. David Dulaney, the Executive Director of the Armed Forces Tax Council, “Taxes for military members are complicated, noting frequent moves, deployments and the fact that tax laws change every year. The VITA preparers receive extensive training through the Defense Department and the IRS on the situations faced in the military community, such as combat zone tax benefits, extensions to file and pay, and special rules for the earned income tax credit.”

Have I had my taxes prepared by VITA? You bet your sweet return I have! (Full disclosure: a few years back I went to the dark side and had my taxes prepared by a national chain. In fact, I paid the fees to have 4 years of VITA returns checked. Not a single mistake was found. Very impressive to say the least.)

Gather your tax information for the past year (and an up-to-date power of attorney if your spouse is deployed) and head on over to your local VITA offices. Make sure to bring along your bank information that include routing numbers, as well as original social security cards of all dependent family members.

You will find professional, uniformed personnel under the guidance of an expert overseer that are able to file both federal and state returns. The entire process is free, all you have to do is make that appointment!

The deadline to file this year is April 17 with military members serving outside the United States receiving an automatic two-month extension.

VITA is a wonderful way our country gives back to our service members and their families who sacrifice so much.

So get going!

Entertainingly Yours,

Cassie

Going Once, Going Twice… SOLD!

Have you ever attended an auction? Held that funny paddle in your hand? Fought it out with someone across the room for that fabulous antique dresser and won?

Well I am here to let you in on a little secret. Your closest base has an auction for you to attend, compliments of the U.S. government.

Just when you thought you had memorized all the acronyms out there, allow me to share one more: DRMO.

DRMO is the abbreviation for the Defense Reutilization and Marketing Office. I have included the link for the Defense Reutilization and Marketing Services (DRMS), which is a broader scoping explanation of what surplus auctions are all about.

As far as I could find, there are twelve different versions of this description (some use redistribution rather than reutilization, etc.) but what it really comes down to is that bases all around the country must unload their old or unwanted surplus and you, my friend, are the beneficiary.

Simply search the abbreviation DRMO and then your installation name. Information should pop right up.

The auctions are held annually or bi-annually in warehouses, hangars, storage facilities and sometimes in parking lots both on base and off.

There are traditional auctions where one registers and purchases a paddle with a number. There are also first-come, first-served with lines wrapping around the event hours before the doors open!

All auctions have some sort of preview prior to the event. Whether it is a walk-thru the day before, a walk thru the morning of, or a glossary of items being auctioned in an online catalogue on the installation website, you will know what’s being sold so you can formulate your game-plan.

But whatever the case, show up early and have plenty of cash.

My experience with the DRMO auctions are somewhat extensive…my first was a live bid auction. I watched with anxious anticipation as a beautiful cherry desk came across the stage. The auctioneer began to call the cadence that only an auctioneer can and before I knew it I was the proud owner of a solid cherry desk purchased for $45.00!

You must have the ability to pick up your newly acquired goods immediately so I pulled my minivan around to the loading dock for pickup. As I turned the corner I saw six identical cherry desks. How fun I naively thought. I handed the gentleman my receipt and he politely let me know that I better move fast if I wanted to get all six desks out by the end of the day.

Mama say what?

You see friends, I had failed to do the walk-thru and missed that the desks were sold as a pallet of desks, meaning a group. I purchased six gorgeous desks for $45.00! A steal in its own right but what a nightmare getting them home and storing them. I subsequently sold all six and learned a valuable lesson of auction etiquette. Make every effort to research what you are purchasing and by all means do the walk thru.

Over the years I have seen camping equipment, old bowling alley pins, daycare supplies and furniture, old hotdog and cotton candy machines from the recreation checkout and more military equipment than one could imagine.

My favorite however, is when the base needs to unload their old glassware, serving pieces and pub furniture from the different social clubs on base. My biggest score ever was a pallet of 180 wine glasses for $22.00! This particular auction was at Offut Air Force Base in Nebraska and the auction was a walk thru style set up. A huge hangar was filled with old and surplus items that needed to be unloaded in order to make room for the new items. The wine glasses were in piles on the floor. I grabbed as many as I could and made an offer.

The collection has been a wonderful addition to my entertaining cache. I have used them at weddings, Christmas parties, brunches, and large scale neighborhood events. Remember though, we are all on weight limits for our household goods so I encourage you to be very selective about what you bring on board. Check out my post, “So were you overweight when you got here?”  to better understand weight guidelines and consequences.

Do your research and go with a group, make it a unit outing. Be forewarned, auctions can be very addictive so pace yourself.

Have you attended a DRMO auction? Share with us your experiences, your finds and that big score!

Entertainingly yours,

Cassie