A military service man greets his family on base

Being in a military family deployed overseas, you’re already an international family. So it’s fitting that you take time to celebrate International Day of Families, held each year on May 15.  

A Military serviceman poses with Cirque Dreams during a tour to Yokota AFB with AFE.

On the face of it, setting aside a special day to celebrate family doesn’t seem like a big deal, especially if you already gather regularly for observances like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Grandparents’ Day, birthdays and holidays. But think about how special your military family really is. Your family possesses the unique qualities of being flexible about change, open to new cultures, actively supportive of each other and proudly patriotic. Yet yours is also a family much like all others: You have a rich ancestry, deal with everyday problems, rely on each other and face the uncertainty of the future as a close-knit unit. So setting aside some time each year to really focus on the importance of your family is important, and can create meaningful memories.

We Are Family       

Two families are all smiles at an AFE show.

Doing things together keeps families together. Attending family-friendly entertainment – comedy shows, musical performances, magic shows and visits from professional sports figures – is a simple way to fit in quality family time. Armed Forces Entertainment (AFE) celebrates family activities with a wide range of free entertainment for service members and their families deployed overseas. If you haven’t already bookmarked the AFE website with the show lineup and schedule, that’s a great first step in getting out there together for some free fun. With special tours and shows for Month of the Military Child, the winter holidays, plus the summer Heat Wave music festival, you’re sure to find plenty to do together all year ’round.  

A Marine greets his family after returning from deployment to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., Feb. 27, 2022
A Marine greets his family on base, photo by Marine Corp Sgt. Seth Rosenberg via DoD

A traditional way of celebrating International Day of Families is to volunteer in your community, focusing specifically on helping other families. Check with your base command on what activities they know about, or research who needs help on your own. There’s sure to be a non-profit in the area that needs you.

Make Family Time Fun

If you’re more of a DYI person, let International Day of Families inspire you.

  • Spend a few hours on International Day of Families marking a world map with the places you’ve been, both individually and as a family. Then make a list of the places you each want to visit, and the activities you’d like to do together once you’re there.
  • Create a family tree and share the details with your family.
    • Start on it this year, gather details from your relatives, and make a big splash with the stories and links next year.
  • Write a short story about your family – the quirky relatives, your unique military experiences, some family recipes – and read it aloud to your family. Don’t forget to include photos too!
  • Create a progressive storybook about your family, and ask everyone to add their own memorable chapter. Work on it together on International Day of Families, then keep editing and tweaking until you’re ready to share it with your extended family.

No matter where you live, no matter what your family looks like, take time on May 15 to think about how valuable your family is to you. Celebrate that love this year, and every year, on International Day of Families.

Air Force Staff Sgt. Pierre Dover and his family pose for a photo, photo by Air Force Senior Airman Kristin Weathersby via DoD

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