“These are the folks who dreamed together–pulled together to create the Museum of the American Military Family–Wanda Umber, Circe Olson Woessner, Judy O’Reilly, Allen Dale Olson and Jayne Pilley. These photos from the earliest days make me appreciate how special my friends truly are.” Circe Olson Woessner

by Allen Dale Olson, Secretary/Public Affairs, Museum of the American Military Family

It was probably sometime during the fall of 2010 that I first heard my daughter, Circe, mumbling to herself about a medal for military mothers. Her older son had been deployed to Iraq, and like most mothers of those in military combat zones, she was worried about him. Never mind that her husband had been deployed several times, it’s different when the soldier is your child. “We military moms are tough,” she told me, half-jokingly, “we should get some sort of medal.” 

It wasn’t really a medal she was thinking about, but rather, something much bigger. “There must be a museum someplace,” she said and launched another search. Having grown up with my wife and me in military communities, she had heard many speeches and read many publications about the importance of family to a military man or woman. “But there are no museums for military moms,” she sighed. “Or for the spouses or kids. There are museums about  battles, squadrons, companies, and ships, but not one museum completely dedicated to the people who stand behind those soldiers, sailors, and airmen.”

A long pause. “So, I’ll start one.” 

At first, I considered that comment one of those usually harmless unmeant promises, but a few days later when I asked her about it, I thoughtlessly added that it seemed like something I’d like to help her with. 

That conversation resulted in a flurry of calls and talks with her friends and work colleagues and she and I meeting with state officials in an effort to find out how one starts a museum and then operates it after it has been founded. On March 23, 2011, under the business name Museum of the American Military Family and Learning Center, we received our tax-exempt status as 501 c 3 and our CRS numbers and documents from the state Public Regulatory Commission and we had a museum, on-line only–with no funding or supporters, but a museum nonetheless.

Ten years later we have three galleries, a special collections library, and a gift shop in a vintage house along Old Route 66 near Albuquerque. We have an operating budget, some volunteers and an enthusiastic and dedicated board of directors. We have permanent exhibits illustrating what it’s like to be a military spouse, or a military kid, and one telling the history of the world-wide school system for military children operated by the Department of Defense. We have a series of revolving exhibits dealing with subjects such as addiction and recovery, military family life overseas, and G. I. humor. 

We conduct town hall meetings bringing together the veteran and civilian community for discussions ranging from thoughts on war to helping veterans and their families re-integrate into civilian communities, and we work with the U.S. Immigration Service to host Naturalization ceremonies for military spouses. We have produced documentary films and published a number of anthologies, all first-hand stories about the challenges and achievements of military family life.

From the beginning, we made sure that all our programs, classes, and special events were free to the public. Our board of directors are all volunteers, and we have no paid staff. We have managed all our affairs because of donations and grants.

We have moved three times in our ten years and have now outgrown our current home. Finding a suitable place within our means is our highest priority going forward. We have been blessed with encouragement and cooperation with other museums in the area, and we owe a great deal to the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History for hosting our first-ever exhibition and whose staff taught us much about running a museum.

Founder and Executive Director, Dr. Circe Olson Woessner, says she is grateful for all the volunteer and professional guidance she has received during the past decade and looks forward to a post-pandemic future of still more programs.

For a complete picture of everything about MAMF and its blogs and podcasts, visit

For its 10th anniversary, the museum would like to celebrate by receiving birthday greetings from military families near and far–cards can be sent to its physical address: 546B State Highway 333, Tijeras, NM 87059.

Donating Your Old Car Helps MAMF

The Museum of the American Military Family& Learning Center has partnered with One Community Auto to promote vehicle* donations that will provide additional funding for the Museum’s mission of preserving military family history.

Your donated vehicle will help ensure that the Museum continues to provide relevant programing and resources to the public virtually and on site.

VEHICLES INCLUDE: cars, RVs, motorcycles, boats, planes, trucks, farm equipment, “totaled” vehicles and trailers.

HOW TO DONATE: Donating a vehicle to help the Museum is easy, and costs you nothing. We accept donations from anywhere in the nation (ALL 50 states). Just call 505- 901-9510 or fill out the online form below. We provide pickup at your location, handle all the title work, and provide you a receipt. It is very simple. 


Towing: One Community Auto picks up your vehicle donation, running or not, at your location and convenience.

Easy Paperwork: One Community Auto handles everything: MVD and IRS paperwork is done quickly and efficiently. We handle all title paperwork, so you have nothing to worry about.

Fast Scheduling: Complete the form or call One Community Auto to arrange a convenient time to pick up your vehicle.

Income Tax Deduction: One Community Auto issues you a receipt for the IRS. 

It’s a lovely way to help the Museum of the American Military Family & Learning Center

Military Museum in Tijeras, NM Celebrates 10th Anniversary with Call for Stories from Military Families

by Erica Asmus-Otero 

The Museum of the American Military Family (MAMF), located in Tijeras, New Mexico – is celebrating its 10th anniversary in March 2021.

In celebration of the anniversary, the museum is asking military families, both active and retired, to submit a memory to the MAMF about their military service on a postcard or birthday card.

“We want to connect with families through their stories and cards but cannot have a big celebration out of an abundance of caution with the pandemic,” said museum founder and military family member, Circe Woessner.

Founded in 2011, the MAMF collects, preserves and displays memorabilia and nostalgic stories donated by military families, providing ongoing support through podcasts, books, and other mediums.

“Many Americans don’t understand the sacrifices that the families of service men and women make – how many times their families are uprooted, have to assimilate with new cultures and customs, make and lose friends, and change schools or jobs on a regular basis,” said Woessner. “The MAMF brings to life the stories of these families through their memorabilia, while providing a support network of families who can truly relate with the many challenges and emotions we’ve all experienced.”

Postcard and birthday cards will be accepted throughout the month of March and will be carefully curated in a commemorative 10th anniversary album and posted on the museum’s Facebook page: @MuseumoftheAmericanMilitaryFamily.

Birthday greetings can be sent directly to: 546B State Highway 333 Tijeras, NM 87059.

Sonya L. Smith Unanimously Confirmed as New Mexico DVS Secretary

Sonya L. Smith Unanimously Confirmed as DVS Secretary by Ray Seva

SANTA FE- Sonya L. Smith was unanimously confirmed by the New Mexico Senate today as secretary of the New Mexico Department of Veterans’ Services (DVS). 
The vote was 38-0, officially naming her as the fifth DVS secretary—and first African-American to serve as head of the agency. She had been serving on an interim basis since her nomination for the position by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham last October after the retirement of then-Secretary Judy Griego.

Secretary Smith comes to DVS from the New Mexico Department of Health, where she served as a special projects coordinator–specifically helping guide the efforts of the agency’s COVID-19 testing team. Prior to that, she served as director of compliance at Southwest Care Center in Santa Fe, and before that, as director of primary care at the University of New Mexico Medical Group.

As a medic with the United States Air Force Reserve, Secretary Smith was activated to serve in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Upon receiving her honorable discharge, she earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Health Services Management from Norfolk State University in her hometown of Norfolk, VA, and a Master’s Degree in Health Care Compliance from Argosy University.

During the senate floor confirmation vote, senators from both sides of the aisle were quick to praise the nomination, citing Secretary-Designate Smith’s strong background.
“I rise in strong support of Secretary-Designate Smit,” said Senate Majority Floor Leader Peter Wirth (D-Santa Fe). “She has the skill-set that is really important for this job.” She also said something that really resonates with me—that every day is Veterans Day to her. My door will always be open to her for any help.”

“I stand here in strong support of Secretary Sonya Smith,” said Senator, Senate Minority Leader, and U.S. Navy veteran Greg Baca (R-Belen). “She has a kindness and the spirit to lead the department of veterans services. I’m happy to know that they will be under her guidance, and I look forward to working with her to serve our state’s veterans.”

In her preliminary virtual Senate Rules Confirmation hearing on February 12, Secretary Smith testified her three immediate goals as DVS secretary would be raising awareness for the prevention of veteran suicide, helping end veteran homelessness, and getting veterans registered for the COVID-19 vaccine.  

“I’m proud to be the first African-American to lead the New Mexico Department of Veterans Servcies,” she testified via Zoom. “Never did I ever imagine that when I came to New Mexico seven years ago that I would have the opportunity to serve as secretary of this agency. But I think back to what my grandmother always told me when I was growing up: ‘What’s for you…is for you.’ And she was always right. I really look forward to helping our veterans and their families.”


By W. Umber

Ask your financial advisor about a Donor Advised Fund (DAF) also known as a Charitable Giving Fund.  These accounts are setup through the financial services firm of your choice (Fidelity, Ameriprise, USAA, etc.).   You can fund this account with cash, stock, or other assets such as IRA minimum distributions, and you recommend an investment strategy once the assets are irrevocably transferred to the DAF.  The tax deduction for the charitable donation is taken at the time the assets are transferred into the DAF. Assets can continue to grow in value (tax free) depending on the investments you choose.  There may be other tax benefits depending on your situation.

Once the DAF is funded, you recommend “grants” or donations to your charity.  You can give anonymously, in memory of someone, or in support of specific projects.  The grant is made directly to the charity—no credit cards, checks, or websites to sign up for!  You will have a permanent record of the gifts you have made through the fund.

Essentially, this is like having a mini-foundation that you fund and control.  Check with your financial advisor to see if this is a good strategy for you, and don’t forget that you can donate to the Museum of the American Military Family through your Donor Advised Fund!

Two new team members join MAMF!


Cherie Avila, Museum Storyteller

I grew up in a military family. Both of my older brothers attended a military school for part of their schooling. Upon graduation, all three of us kids served in the military.  Although I only served for four years, both of my brothers retired from the military. Most of my high school years were in Korea. When I was a senior year in high school, my dad was transferred stateside. I spent my senior year in Maryland longing to be back with my friends in Korea. When it was time for college, I applied to one university. The one university that I knew a friend from Korea was attending.  When I left the Army and chose the civilian career of a teacher, I did not initially realize the uniqueness of being an Army Brat. Over the years I have told friends about being raised in a military family, moving every few years, living in different countries and many states, and attending school in Korea. I couldn’t tell if my civilian friends didn’t believe me, or my story was just so different from their experience that they couldn’t relate. Either way, I often thought of my other “brat” friends and how I would like to reconnect with them.

 As my own children started school and I was considering which schools they would attend, I began to think of my own school experience and what has happened to my classmates from Korea. I knew very little about social media at the time and had no idea where to begin to find them. One day I noticed that the public library was going to be showing the documentary, Brats: Our Journey Home. I went to the library, sat in a dark room with a handful of others, and the documentary began. It was about ten minutes into the documentary that I started bawling. I was crying and was not sure why this film was having such an emotional impact on me. At one point in the documentary, I saw the sign in front of my old high school in Korea, I realized why I was so moved. I said to myself, “Oh my gosh! It was real.” It existed. This school that I had been talking about for 30 years actually existed. My memories were real. The documentary validated my experience and my memories of my experience. 

As members of military families, we are in a subculture of America that few others experience. Living on a military base is similar to a small town where everybody knows everybody, but unlike a small town, we rarely get the opportunity to go “home.” What does home even mean to military kids?  For the few of us that do get the opportunity to return to where we attended school, all the people are different, so it is not the same. There may be some buildings that are recognizable, but it is never the same, and to me does not feel like “home”. Soon after I saw the documentary, a friend asked me to join Facebook to see a photo of her new puppies. Once I joined Facebook, I began searching for friends from my high school in Korea. Once we connected, and began sharing photos and stories, it was if no time had passed. I felt more at home, than I had in a long time. In fact, one friend from high school and I were living in the same town for six years and had no idea the other was living there.

I believe that it is through our stories that we make connections with other members of military families, often finding similarities with which we can relate. Although we may share some similar experiences, there is no one stereotypical military family. Being a part of a military family, we all have very different stories, but once we share our stories we can begin to relate, to make connections, and perhaps find that sense of home you may be longing for. I believe it is through storytelling that we find the common thread that binds us together. The Museum of American Military Families can be that venue for thread-finding, but it does require you to be willing to share your story. I ask you to be brave and share a story from your life in a military family. You can start by visiting the website at or its Facebook Page Find a blog or podcast that reminds you of an event or episode you would be willing to share. Together, let’s make 2021 the year of connections and start by telling your story.

Please email if you have any questions.

New Mexico families can support the Museum of the American Military Family when they shop at Smith’s

The Kroger Co. Family of Stores is committed to bringing hope and help to local neighborhoods and organizations through their Inspiring Donations program. New Mexico’s Smith’s Food & Drug participates to give customers the opportunity to donate to local causes.

When you to link your Rewards card to the Museum of the American Military Family  (Organization IA946), Smith’s Food & Drug donates .5% of every eligible purchase. The more you shop, the more money the museum will earn!

If you have any questions, please email or visit their website at .

Here’s how it works:

1. Create a digital account.

A digital account is needed to participate in Smith’s Inspiring Donations. If you already have a digital account, simply link your Shopper’s Card to your account so that all transactions apply toward the organization you choose.

2. Link your Card to an organization. The Museum of the American Military Family is IA946

Select the organization that you wish to support. Here’s how:

  • Sign in to your digital account.
  • Search for your organization. (The museum is IA946)
  • Enter the name or organization number.
  • Select the Museum of the American Military Family from the list and click “Save”.
  • Your choice will also display in the Smith’s Inspiring Donations section of your account. If you need to review or revisit your organization, you can always do so under your Account details.

3. The museum earns. (Thank you!)

Note, if you are a customer, make sure you have a preferred store selected to view participating organizations.  Any transactions moving forward using the Shopper’s Card number associated with your digital account will be applied to the program, at no added cost to you. This is a very easy way to support the Museum of the American Military Family. 

MAMF Announces its 2021 Student Liaison

Shanon Hyde, Student Liaison, is a Marine Corp brat and a student at Pennsylvania State University, majoring in Aerospace Engineering. From 2016-2019 he attended Kubasaki High School in Okinawa, Japan and was the President of his Junior class. While living in Okinawa, he had the opportunity to travel to several different countries, learning about different cultures and worldviews. In May of 2020 he graduated from Mooresville High School in Mooresville, North Carolina. In August of 2020, he started The Shanon Show podcast, which allows him to connect with military brats and share their stories on the internet. Shanon is committed to shedding a light on the issues that student brats face when transitioning to college, career, and life. In his free time, Shanon loves to make homemade sausage and watch Adam Sandler movies. 

We are the Museum of the American Military Family & Learning Center

The Museum of the American Military Family & Learning Center (MAMF) is an all-volunteer 501 (c) 3 non-profit which:

-Honors Military Families
-Preserves their Legacies
-Shares their Stories
-Educates the Public

MAMF Director and executive board are non-paid; all voluntarily contribute their time, cash and/or expertise to the museum

MAMF is an inclusive hub providing a community for all people who long for the nostalgia of military service life or simply want to learn more

MAMF has created multiple exhibits which have displayed in museums such as the National Nuclear Museum, the Lea County Museum, Wheels and other venues such as the Albuquerque Special Collection Library, Explora, and the Balloon Museum.

MAMF has collaborated on exhibits and displays with the West Baton Rouge Museum, the National Hispanic Cultural Center, Sandia National Labs and the Albuquerque VA Medical Center.

In 2015, MAMF was recognized by a Proclamation with a unanimous vote in the New Mexico House of Representatives and in 2017, was a topic of discussion at a special session of a veteran’s committee in the New Mexico Legislature.

o In 2017, MAMF built and dedicated a memorial honoring military families and compiled an anthology focusing on the effects of war on children

o In 2018, MAMF received the American Association for State and Local History’s Albert B. Corey prize for innovative programming.

o In 2019, MAMF received an Award of Excellence from the American Association for State and Local History for its short documentary Love Song for the Dead; in 2020 for its work on addiction and recovery.

o In 2020, MAMF launched MAMF Media, a multifaceted podcast site

MAMF receives funding for projects from organizations such as the Endowment or the Arts and Humanities, Great Books Foundation and local service organizations and businesses as well as private citizens. It is an all-volunteer organization with no paid staff.

The MAMF library (2,100+ books, folios, etc.) provides research support to graduate/doctoral students, historians and professors.

MAMF provides speakers, displays, and programming to local organizations and schools.

MAMF leads book discussion groups using its own anthologies and hosts naturalization ceremonies for service members and military spouses.

MAMF, a Vietnam War Commemorative Partner, is listed in the Congressional Registry for the National Initiative for Arts and Health in the Military.

MAMF collaborates well and provides value to a community:

-Naturalization ceremonies

-Educational programs and workshops

-Research and Resources

-Film screenings and book groups

-Niche Tourism

-Internships and service project opportunities

-Special collection library

MAMF belongs to national professional and local organizations, such as the New Mexico Association of Museums, the American Alliance of Museums, the Museum Collaborative Council, the American Association for State and Local History, the Route 66 Alliance, and the National Veteran’s Intermediary.