Posts Tagged American Forces Press Service
Posted by ldaniel in Uncategorized on July 2, 2012
By Lisa Daniel
The Defense Department is working to “fundamentally transform” the nation’s understanding of the invisible wounds of war, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta has said, and nowhere is that more apparent than at the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological and Traumatic Brain Injury.
DCoE is out in front on recognizing psychological problems among service members and recently began reaching out to military members and their families through social networking.
One event, now common in military family life — that also can be largely misunderstood — is a service member’s redeployment home. Public Health Service Lt. Cmdr. Dana Lee, a licensed clinical social worker in reintegration and deployment health at DCoE in Silver Spring, Md., recently took part in a Facebook chat with families about how to give service members a smooth transition back into their home life.
People often have unrealistic views of how a redeployment will be, Lee told me in a follow-up interview. “A lot of people think of it as a series of positive events,” she said. “You’re reunited with your family and friends, you’re going back to your favorite restaurants and activities.”
But returning to the routine of home life after war also can be a “period of extended stressors,” she added. “There are expectations that come with coming back. When you’re deployed, you’re focused on mission completion. There are different routines at home.”
A lot of things happen in the months that a service member is away, Lee explained. The kids have grown and changed, maybe the house is different, there may be a new car, and the couple’s relationship may have changed. Read the rest of this entry »
By Lisa Daniel
Lori Volkman was in college when she confronted what some would approach as an either-or situation: marry the Navy pilot she’d fallen in love with, or head for law school for the career she was passionate about.
Volkman had grown up in a Navy family and she knew she couldn’t have it both ways – at least not at the same time. “I knew exactly what was involved in that,” she told me when we spoke on Monday.
Not only would frequent relocations prevent her from practicing law, “I didn’t even know if we’d be anywhere long enough for me to finish law school,” she said. “I knew as Navy brat that there was a very real possibility of having only two-year duty stations.”
So Volkman and her husband came to an agreement: he would leave active duty for the Navy reserves, and she would go to law school.
Volkman, the deputy prosecuting attorney for Clark County in Washington state, says she is both fortunate and atypical of military spouse lawyers. “I’m one of the few who have enjoyed working in the same place for 12 years,” she said.
Just over a year ago, Volkman signed on to helping other military spouses pursue their careers in law after Erin Wirth, a federal administrative law judge and Coast Guard wife, asked her to join her and Mary Reding, another military spouse attorney, in starting The Military Spouse JD Network. Wirth had moved seven times in 15 years, and sometimes did not relocate with her husband, to maintain her law career even when it meant taking jobs below her experience level, Volkman said. Read the rest of this entry »
By Lisa Daniel
Department of Defense Education Activity’s schools have been on a roll lately with high achievement of both teachers and students. Now that the 2011-12 school year is behind them, students, teachers and parents have much to be proud of.
The latest recognition goes to math teacher Spencer Bean at Baumholder Middle-High School, Germany, who has been chosen to receive the 2011 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching here June 27. Read more here.
Bean is the kind of teacher parents hope their children will have in school: high-energy, innovative and focused on individual student success. The motivating force for Bean is that he loves his work.
In his 13 years of teaching, he said, “I’ve rarely ever missed a day of work; I just love it that much.”
Like many high-achieving students, Bean said, he had to be talked into teaching. He was a math major and, already married in college, wanted to earn a good living. He considered going into accounting or some other business area.
Bean had the good fortune of having a mentor who advised him to go into something he was passionate about, and a brother – an Air Force officer based in Germany – who told him that, for teachers, DODEA’s pay, benefits and opportunities for travel are hard to beat.
“With public schools, … it’s a tough thing to do to say you’re going to be a teacher,” Bean said. “You have to be really motivated. DODEA can definitely have the best and brightest because of what they offer financially.”
Defense Department schools have demonstrated success in many ways lately. In April, Angela Wilson, a 7th grade language arts teacher at Vicenza Middle School, Italy, represented DOD schools as one of four finalists in the annual National Teacher of the Year competition here.
In May, Anuk Dayaprema, a seventh-grade student at Vincenza Middle School, represented DOD and State Department schools at the Scripps National Spelling Bee, and Dominik Muellerleile, an eighth-grade student at Wiesbaden Middle School, Germany, represented DOD and State Department schools in the 24th annual National Geographic Bee here.
In June, DODEA celebrated its first graduation – of three students – of its Virtual School, a high school that serves students through technology to get required courses they otherwise wouldn’t be able to take. And, DODEA offered live streaming of its graduations where many parents are deployed.
There are many reasons to celebrate Defense Department schools. Bean is just the latest example of a school system that does so many things right.
“I’ve never regretted it,” Bean said of his decision to become a Defense Department teacher. “I’ve loved it ever since.”
Posted by ldaniel in Uncategorized on June 15, 2012
By Lisa Daniel
American fathers, and especially military fathers, are getting some overdue attention lately with Father’s Day coming up this weekend.
President Barack Obama took time out of his regularly packed daily schedule to sit down to lunch with two dads — Army 1st Lt. Bill Edwards and Army Capt. Joubert Paulino, as well as two local barbers here — as part of the “Fatherhood Buzz” campaign sponsored by the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse and the Department of Health and Human Services. The campaign aims to connect fathers with local fathering resources through barber shops across the nation. Read more here. Watch the video.
Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta also has celebrated fathers. In his Father’s Day message to troops, Panetta thanked fathers serving in uniform for their loyalty and dedication to the country, and for balancing the demands of military and home life.
“I’ve seen how you focus on the mission while enduring extended periods away from loved ones,” he said. “Through it all, you’ve shown courage on the battlefield and tenderness to your families at home.”
Indeed, Panetta noted that not only are fathers “bettering our military and securing our nation,” but also are helping to raise and nurture families.
Edwards and Paulino are just two examples of standout dads, balancing service to their country with service at home. Another amazing military dad is Jeremy Hilton – voted 2011 Military Spouse of the Year by Military Spouse magazine. Hilton, a former Navy officer, gave up his career as a submariner to support his Air Force officer wife and their two children, one with special needs. He is the first father to receive the spouse award. Read more here.
Father’s Day was not recognized as a national observance until 1974 – 58 years after Mother’s Day began. But today’s dads are showing they truly are worthy of the recognition.
As Panetta said, “To fathers and husbands of those who serve: we simply could not do our jobs without your love and support. It is never easy to deal with the challenges and concerns of a deployment, just as it is always hard to take care of everything back at home.”
Posted by ldaniel in Uncategorized on June 13, 2012
By Lisa Daniel
Educators have long known that summer reading bridges the learning gap during the school break between June and September.
With that in mind, Defense Department libraries have kicked off their third annual summer reading program with a challenge to military members and their families to outpace the 10 million minutes they read last summer.
“Last year, we saw a 400 percent increase in participation across the program, and we plan to continue this trend with creative programs that connect with readers of all ages,” said Nilya Carrato, program assistant for the Navy General Library Program.
DOD’s Morale, Welfare and Recreation division is holding open registration at all of its 250 base libraries this summer, said Larra Clark, with the iRead Summer Reading Program. The program is for both children and adults and is flexible for installation libraries to “tailor it in whatever makes sense in their own community,” she said.
Under the theme, ‘Reading is So Delicious!” base libraries may have themed crafts, characters and story time programs for children, and reading challenges and book groups for teens and adults, as some examples, Clark said.
Judy Wiggins, whose husband, Air Force Staff Sgt. Lawrence Wiggins is based at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington, D.C., has taken part in the program with their two children for the past seven years. The couple’s daughter, Arielle, 11, and son, Acial, 6, have enjoyed meeting at the base library for the program each week of summer break, Wiggins said.
“With the program, the kids read more and they get prizes,” she said. “They express themselves by reading the books they really like. Through the school year, they’re busy with homework and reading [textbooks]. When summer comes, they get to choose what they like.” Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by ldaniel in Uncategorized on June 6, 2012
Guest blogger Navy Lt. Theresa Donnelly, of U.S. Pacific Command, is the owner of Hawaii Military Pets, which provides pet resources for military families. She’s offered to share her pet-related knowledge in a series of blogs for Family Matters.
By Theresa Donnelly
With the uncertainty in military families due to constant moves and deployments, our four-legged family members provide comfort and stability in stressful times. These loyal, furry companions not only help those serving our nation, but are ideal friends to anyone in need.
In fact, a growing body of research is backing up what pet lovers already know – canines provide therapeutic benefits for those suffering from life’s invisible scars.
In the U.S. Army Medical Department Journal, Canine-Assisted Therapy in Military Medicine April –June 2012, authors retired Marine Corps Col. Elspeth C. Ritchie and Army Col. Robinette J. Amaker write that the “acceptance of canines in Army medicine and in the civilian world has virtually exploded.” They are the chief clinical officer of Washington, D.C., Department of Mental Health, and the assistant chief of the Army Medical Specialist Corps and occupational therapy consultant to the Army Surgeon General, respectively.
The authors cite several examples, such as canines being used to help children cope with autism, shelter dogs trained as services dogs and therapy dogs that help soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress.
Now, there is a difference between animal-assisted therapy dogs and service dogs. In 2010, The American with Disabilities Act revised its definition of service animalsto be “any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.”
This regulation on service animals contains no stipulations on breed and even allows miniature horses under special circumstances. There’s no regulatory body for certifying service animals, nor can businesses ask for medical paperwork and/or an identification card for the dog. They can ask if the dog is required because of a disability and what work or task the dog has been trained to perform.
According to the American Humane Association, an animal-assisted therapy dog is designed to improve a patient’s social, emotional, or cognitive functioning. Pet therapy is used in hospitals, nursing homes, schools, mental institutions and prisons. It also is used in wounded warrior clinics, and veterans’ centers.
Researchers have documented the positive benefits of animal-assisted therapy. In a 2005 study, the American Heart Association found that a 12-minute visit with a therapy dog reduced blood pressure and levels of stress hormones and eased anxiety among hospitalized heart failure patients. There have been additional studies with Alzheimer’s patients, school children in reading programs and even an ongoing study at The Department of Defense’s National Intrepid Center of Excellence where at least 100 service members have participated in the canine therapy program.
Susan Luehrs is the founder of Hawaii Fi-Do, a not-for-profit that sponsors trained therapy dogs’ visits to troops at Marine and Army Wounded Warrior battalions. Here’s how she describes the dogs’ healing effects when asked about the program.
“It’s the unconditional love of the dog that makes this all possible,” Luehrs said. “They don’t care what color you are, if you can read, if you have a missing limb — they’re just there for that touch and [the dogs] give that back.”
Many organizations provide a qualifying process for pet owners to begin therapy work. One example is Tripler Army Medical Center’s Human Animal Bond Program, which collaborates with The American Red Cross and Army Veterinary Services to screen dogs through a series of temperament and health tests to verify that they’ll make good candidates for visiting hospital patients.
The growing field of pet therapy shows that professionals are seeking alternative therapies to help patients deal with stressful circumstances. As this treatment gains acceptance, more pet owners can enjoy pet therapy as a way to bond with their pets and the people they’re helping.
If you’re interested in having your family pet become a therapy animal, ask your military veterinarian if they know of any local programs or contact a few hospitals, schools, the local Humane Society or a veterans’ center. There may be several programs to choose from for just the right fit.
Posted by ldaniel in Uncategorized on June 1, 2012
By Lisa Daniel
June 1, 2012
Our national leaders often speak of military families’ resilience, and that is something I witnessed firsthand here last week at the 18th annual Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors National Survivor Seminar and Good Grief Camp.
While hundreds of thousands of visitors descended on the Washington, D.C., area to commemorate our nation’s war dead, some 2,000 people crowded into a Marriott hotel here to help themselves and each other deal with the grief of losing their very own military heroes.
You might expect such a gathering to be morose, and there was an understandable amount of sadness. Most of the participants lost someone in recent years or months – a parent, spouse, sibling or child – and the deaths usually were sudden. The seminar and camps help by bringing surviving family members together in understanding and expressing their grief. Read more here.
The participants at TAPS events are called survivors, and the word is written on the red T-shirts all are given at registration. The word is more than just a way of describing the living, as you might read in an obituary; it also describes the strength and resilience of the families. When the adult participants came together in an oversized ballroom, they created a cacophony of chatter and, yes, laughter. In that room, on that day, you could not have known you were walking into a room full of grieving people.
Still, I moved delicately among participants, asking if they would like to talk about their lost loved one for publication. They all did.
“My husband was an awesome man,” Shelann Clapp, of Texas, told me. Her husband, Army Chief Warrant Officer 5 Douglas Clapp, was an Iraq war veteran with 31 years of service when the helicopter he was riding in near Fort Hood crashed, killing him and six others, in 2004. A conference center is named for him at Red River Army Depot, Ala.
In the early days, Clapp said, she would put on sunglasses to hide the tears as she cried her way through traffic to work each day. She and her husband had commuted together. But on this day, at the TAPS seminar, Clapp, wearing a button with a picture of her husband as a much younger man in Army fatigues, smiled broadly as she spoke of him. “He left a legacy for us,” she said.
Like other survivors, Clapp wished everyone could have known the person she loved. “We all want to create pictures of what that person was like.”
The wound was fresher for Bob and Kitty Conant, whose son, John, died from an undiagnosed heart condition in 2008. The Conants traveled to Washington from California to attend the seminar and serve as mentors to other grieving families.
Like all the families, their loss was devastating. Army Sgt. John Conant was a combat medic who had deployed three times. Two days before his heart stopped, he was cleared to go again. He had been battling post-traumatic stress, but seemed to have turned a corner and was reconnecting with his family in the months leading up to his death.
“Let me tell you a funny story about John,” Bob Conant said last week. He proceeded to tell me about the time his son, in a burst of anger fueled by post-traumatic stress, got into his car, threw the gear shifter into reverse, and floored the gas pedal to leave his home — but he forgot to raise the garage door. “It landed in the street!” his father said, laughing.
With strong religious faith, the Conants now are in a place where they can laugh at memories of their son. Other families are in different places in their grief. But one thing they no doubt all would like is to carry on the memory of their loved ones, all lost too soon. Read more here.
By Lisa Daniel
May 24, 2012
When Decorda Owens’ father deployed to Afghanistan last year with the Mississippi Army National Guard, the 13-year-old stepped up to take care of the family yard work and help his mother with his three younger sisters.
Like so many children of Guard and Reserve members, Decorda didn’t have the support of a military base where he lives in Starkville, Miss., yet he’d assumed a lot of stress and responsibility. The shining light for Decorda was a grant from the Our Military Kids nonprofit group to pursue his passion for hip-hop dancing.
As summer approaches and families search for camps, activities and possibly tutors to get the kids through those long three months, they should know about Our Military Kids. The organization, which began in 2004, awarded 9,150 grants worth $3.75 million last year. The grants are reserved for children of deployed National Guard and Reserve members, as well as children of service members severely wounded in Afghanistan or Iraq, whether they are active, Guard, Reserve, or retired. Families may receive up to $500 per child.
Decorda and four other children of National Guard and Reserve members traveled to Washington for an April 19 event to showcase how they’ve used Our Military Kids grants while their parent was deployed. The children, all honored as Our Military Kids of the Year for their high achievement, danced and performed various musical instruments before a packed auditorium at the Naval Heritage Center as proof of the nonprofit’s good investment.
The organization even appealed to top Navy leadership to cut short the deployment of Petty Officer Christopher Karnbach, a Navy reservist deployed to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, a couple weeks early so he could surprise his family and join them on stage as Our Military Kids’ Military Family of the Year. They agreed, and Karnbach had an emotional reunion with his wife, Anne Marie; son, Christopher, and daughter, Abigail, both of whom demonstrated that they’ve learned to break boards with tae kwon do kicks from lessons provided by the grants.
“It’s been a great opportunity for my children and I’m sure for everybody else’s to give them something to think about besides having a deployed parent,” Karnbach said of the grant money the couple’s two children received to take tae kwon do lessons.
The military’s top leaders frequently tout the importance of public-private partnerships to support military families and Our Military Kids, supported by public and corporate money, is a good example.
Posted by ldaniel in Uncategorized on May 21, 2012
By Lisa Daniel
May 21, 2012
Exciting changes are underway for military spouses that could affect families who serve for generations to come.
It used to be, in the not-so-distant past, that a decision to marry into the military was a decision to not have a career of your own. Even if a spouse could juggle the demands of military home life plus a paid position, who would hire her (95 percent are female, according to Defense Department figures) knowing she would be gone in a couple of years due to a forced military relocation? And how would she even get to the point of applying for a job if she had to renew her professional license – nurse, teacher, realtor, therapist, just to name a few with such requirements — in every new state?
Through the work of DOD’s Military Community and Family Policy office and Michelle Obama and Jill Biden’s “Joining Forces” campaign, 16 states have passed laws to improve professional license portability and another 11 have legislation pending. Also, DOD’s Military Spouse Employment Partnership last week added 34 employer “partners” for a total of 128 that post jobs on the site specific to military spouses. As part of the program, the employers – CACI, General Dynamics, Dell, Microsoft, American Red Cross, GEICO, and Sterling Medical are just a few — agree that their positions can move with hired spouses.
The catalyst for change has been the spouses themselves who spoke up about the need. Indeed, DOD officials say 85 percent of military spouses have responded that they either want or need a paid job. Read the rest of this entry »
By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service
Ask people what their all-time favorite family vacation has been and chances are good national parks will be in most of the answers. I don’t have any science to back that up, but I have been struck by the number of people who recollect their best memories of family bonding in places like Yellowstone, Yosemite, and the Grand Canyon.
Somehow, even traveling for hours in a cramped car with cranky kids seems to vanish from the memories of those who have experienced America’s most magnificent places. From the peaks of Alaska’s Denali to the lowlands of Florida’s Everglades, the National Park Service’s 397 national parks and many thousands of historical and archaeological sites and wetlands were each brought into the federal system because they are the best of the best – those places deemed worthy of protecting for everyone to see.
That’s exactly what Interior Secretary Ken Salazar had in mind when he announced yesterday that the $80 annual pass for all the national parks and public lands will be waived for active-duty military members and their dependents, starting May 19, Armed Forces Day.
Salazar said he hopes military members and their families will visit the parks and public lands for fun, rest and relaxation, family bonding, and to experience those places America holds dear. As the Interior secretary said, these are “the very places they not only defend, but that they own.”
The World War II generation had a close connection to the parks, National Park Service Director John Jarvis said, because some military training was done there – such as when the 10th Mountain Division trained on Mount Ranier in Washington – and some places were reserved for a time only for returning service members and their families. Also, the federal government then made a push to improve the parks and add infrastructure for the returning warriors.
“If you talk to folks of that generation, they came back, had kids, got in the station wagon, and did the national park tours,” Jarvis said.
Officials hope today’s generation of troops and families make the same connections. And with national parks – 84 million acres of land and 4.5 million acres of oceans, lakes and reservoirs — in every state except Delaware, many are just a day trip, or less, away.
So, why wait? Play hooky on your Saturday chores, let the kids miss soccer practice, pry the electronics out of their hands, and hop in the SUV. Those mountain trails, battlefields, nature preserves and historic homes are just around the corner.