Posts Tagged deployment support
Posted by in Family Matters on January 27, 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
Jan. 26, 2012
Although the wars are drawing down, the deployment schedules for our men and women in uniform aren’t easing up. Troops continue to meet multiple operational needs, such as theater security exercises with partner nations, Navy ship cruises and other training requirements.
Many military pet parents struggle with what to do with their forever friend when serving our nation away from home. It can be tough to stay focused on the mission at hand if family affairs aren’t in order.
Enter our partners in the nonprofit sector. For the past several years, many organizations have stepped up to the plate, providing foster pet services to our deploying troops.
“Military members have a hundred things to worry about when deployment or training comes up. The last thing they should have to worry about is the care of their pets while they’re away,” said Alisa Johnson, a Marine Corps officer and president of Dogs on Deployment, a nonprofit organization matching service members needing a foster pet family with volunteers who have agreed to take in their animals.
Alisa and her husband, Shawn, a Navy officer, observed the challenges military families face when it comes to pet care, which led to the creation of this service.
“We’re especially concerned with those military members that may live on one coast, while all their family lives on another, limiting those that they can rely on in their times of need,” Alisa said.
Since they launched the organization in June, more than 140 families have volunteered to be “boarders” and 20 dogs have been placed in temporary foster care.
Along with national organizations helping troops — including Dogs on Deployment and Guardian Angels for Soldier’s Pet — many local animal shelters are answering the call of duty and creating programs in their communities to help deployed service members with pet care.
The Hawaiian Humane Society’s Pets of Patriots program provides pet care assistance to military personnel deploying on short notice due to war. Families living on Oahu can sign up to be foster parents, while military pet owners provide food and medical care while away from their duty station. The society assists with the written agreements, provides sample forms and helps find suitable volunteers.
Additionally, the San Diego County Humane Society offered a low-cost seminar in December for military families to provide information on pet resources for relocation and deployment.
If you need a home for your pet while deployed, check with your local animal shelter to see if they might have a military pet outreach program, contact a national foster military pet organization or see if your command has a spouse communication network to seek temporary pet parents. The military in our own community can act as our second family, helping to provide resources for our furry friends.
Posted by in Family Matters on December 23, 2011
By Elaine Sanchez
Dec. 23, 2011
Molly Blake will unveil a special guest on Christmas, someone who is an even bigger hero to her daughters than Santa Claus: their dad.
She’ll use technology to enable her deployed husband, Marine Corps Lt. Col. Peter Blake, to participate in the morning festivities.
“We’ll prop him up on the fireplace on the computer,” she explained.
From his fireplace perch, their dad’s computer persona, which they’ve dubbed “Digital Daddy,” will be able to watch as his daughters, Leah and Helen, open gifts.
The lieutenant colonel’s deployment to the Pacific marks his fifth in the couple’s 10-year marriage. Molly, like many military family members, is accustomed to relying on creativity, and a heavy dose of technology, to keep her family connected throughout the holidays.
“He’s been gone for more Christmases than he’s been home,” said Molly, whose family is stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz. Her husband is the commander of Marine Attack Squadron 311.
To help speed through this separation, Molly used aluminum foil to fashion a bucket in the shape of a chocolate kiss, which she calls a “kiss jar.” The girls counted out one candy kiss for each day of their dad’s six-month deployment and loaded them into the jar. They’ll eat a kiss each day until he comes home, she explained.
Molly also created a “Daddy Journal” for each of them with their picture on the cover. On a recent night when they went out for sushi, they brought the journals along and wrote about the experience. “When he gets home he can relive some of these things,” she said.
Overall, the girls are staying positive. They understand the importance of their dad’s mission, she said.
Molly said she, too, is focusing on the positive. Her husband left for his deployment shortly after Thanksgiving. But while he won’t be home for Christmas, she said she takes comfort knowing other Marines will. “It takes the sting away when someone else will be able to be with their family,” she said.
Posted by in Family Matters on December 21, 2011
By Elaine Sanchez
Dec. 21, 2011
Last week, President Barack Obama and other senior officials welcomed the final group of U.S. troops home from Iraq – just in time for the holidays.
But thousands of other service members — deployed in Afghanistan or other locations around the world – won’t be so fortunate. They’ll be weathering the holidays far from home and away from their family and friends.
In a season that’s all about family gatherings, this can cause considerable stress, both for troops and their families back home. Dr. Vladimir Nacev, a clinical psychologist for the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury, offered some great advice for dealing with this stress and weathering the holidays away from loved ones in a recent DCoE blog.
Deployed service members may experiences a range of feelings while away over the holidays, Nacev wrote, such as loneliness, depression, homesickness, frustration, stress or guilt. They may distance themselves from family and friends back home to avoid hearing about fun festivities they’re unable to attend, and even isolate themselves from their battle buddies.
But being alone is the worst path to take, Nacev said. “Being around others and socializing with friends and family are important steps for maintaining your well-being and future reintegration,” he wrote.
Nacev suggested deployed troops stay in touch with their loved ones via email, Skype or social media as often as possible. If possible, they should try to participate in some of the holiday activities in real time.
As for deployed parents, they can:
– Write their child a brief letter about all the different ways they’re loved and appreciated. Consider several letters to be read on different days.
– Create a holiday ornament with their child’s name on it.
– Record a reading of a favorite holiday book or story and send it to their child, which can be part of a holiday or year-round bedtime routine.
Family members back home also face higher levels of stress, Nacev said. He suggested families continue their holiday traditions and create new ones that their deployed loved one can take part in too.
“Maintaining consistency and structure helps everyone who is affected by the separation, particularly families with younger children,” he wrote.
Nacev also pointed out the importance of taking time out to rest and recharge. Activities such as going to the movies, shopping, getting a massage or exercising are fun and can reduce stress. Getting involved in community volunteer opportunities can be emotionally and spiritually rewarding as well.
Whether deployed or not, people who are feeling sad or lonely should talk with someone, Nacev said. “Getting things out in the open can help you navigate your feelings and work toward a solution to successfully manage your stress,” he wrote.
A variety of support programs are available to troops and their families year-round, including the DCoE Outreach Center, Military OneSource, Military Homefront, Military Families Near and Far, Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program and Families OverComing Under Stress.
Posted by in Family Matters on October 27, 2011
By Elaine Sanchez
Oct. 27, 2011
I spoke to a spouse last year about dealing with deployments and keeping military marriages strong. Her husband had just returned from a yearlong deployment in Iraq.
She cited an example of the types of issues that can arise when communication falls to the wayside. As the primary disciplinarian while her husband was gone, she adopted a “three strikes and you’re out” rule for their 3-year-old son. Her husband, however, was more of a “one strike” kind of guy, and reinstituted his stricter ways upon his return.
Upset at being usurped from her disciplinarian role so quickly, his wife got angry. “At first I yelled at him a lot,” she said. “I’d correct him more than I’d correct my child.”
In time, she learned to bite her tongue and to discuss the situation with her husband behind closed doors.
Marriage is tough enough without tossing in the additional stressors of military life — frequent deployments, reintegrations, separations and moves, to name a few. But even the toughest military challenges can be weathered with some advance planning and healthy communication skills. And in the process, marriages can grow even stronger.
Posted by in Family Matters on September 29, 2011
By Dr. Kate McGraw
Clinical Psychologist, Defense Centers of Excellence
Sept. 29, 2011
If you could have the ideal loving relationship, what would that look like? For some couples, it would involve a lot of time together and shared interests, and for others, it may include more space and time spent separately. There are many ways to be a loving partner, and the key is discovering what your partner needs from you, rather than what they aren’t giving to you.
Often, loving your partner means putting yourself in their place and imagining what would bring them happiness.
Military couples face incredibly challenging stressors together. Those couples who remain resilient often find themselves with stronger relationships when the dust settles. However, many of the unique stressors imposed on military couples may chip away at the fabric of safety and peace within the relationship. What can you and your partner do to help protect your relationship from the stress of military life?
Here are some ideas to enrich your relationship so it serves as a vessel of comfort for both of you:
– Ask your partner what he (or she) needs. Also, you should be able to identify what you need and how your needs can be met. If you both develop empathy for each other’s needs, than you both will be satisfied with what you can create together in your relationship.
– Eliminate all sarcasm, name calling, belittling or other types of verbal and emotional abuse, and make a pact not to tolerate displays of temper such as slamming objects or doors. These behaviors cause significant damage to the trust and safety between you and may lead to physical abuse. If you’re able to say at least five positive comments to every negative comment, your relationship will feel much more loving and supportive.
– Nurture the bond between you. One way is to foster and keep open, regular communication about the important things in your life, as well as the small daily matters.
– Develop a homecoming ritual upon your partner’s return from deployment. This ritual can serve as a line of demarcation — a dividing point from their being away at war, to being here, at peace.
– Often service members returning from deployment need a period of readjustment to their old lifestyle and familiar surroundings. They may want to talk but are unable to find words to express their experiences or feelings about what they’ve been through. They may need time to themselves, which you should respect. Nonmilitary partners also can play an important role in the relationship’s stress management by lovingly encouraging their military loved one to seek help for severe post-deployment problems.
– Service members should remember that their partners want to help and reconnect with them, and should have compassion for the stresses their partners experienced during their time away. It’s OK to share your feelings about your deployment experiences without sharing details about what you saw or did. In this way you can reconnect emotionally, lean on your partner for support, and feel less isolated while protecting them from the harsh realities of what you experienced.
Be alert for signs of traumatic brain injury or post-traumatic stress disorder. If you find yourself unable to cope, talk to your partner about it and seek professional help. If you have suicidal thoughts, always seek professional help, as you may be experiencing depression, which resolves with proper treatment.
In the end, our relationships reflect the amount of energy and devotion we put into them. If you give your relationship the gifts of compassion and empathy, regardless of what the external world heaps upon you, you will reap the rewards of contentment and love within your relationship.
Are you familiar with some of the risk factors for suicide, which include relationship issues? Find out more about suicide prevention information and resources on the DCoE website.
(This post was reprinted from the Defense Centers of Excellence Blog.)
Posted by in Family Matters on July 6, 2011
Guest blogger Nancy French and her husband, Army Reserve Capt. David French, are recognized bloggers and book authors.
By Nancy French
July 6, 2011
When my husband, David, was deployed with the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment to Iraq, I’d never balanced my checkbook. I was what you might call a bystander to our financial lives after embarrassing David enough — the last straw was when I bounced our tithe check — to start handling our money exclusively. If adults had superlatives, I’d be voted, “Most Likely to Get My Electricity Turned Off,”
When David left for the war, however, it seemed less frivolous and more dire. Women would say, in hushed tones, “You should know more about your finances,” they would say, “in case something happens.”
Something happening was meant to induce fearful visions of the bank seizing my car because I couldn’t figure out where to send our monthly check if David couldn’t assist me. Before deployment, I felt invincible and full of life, not bothering to plan for the worst or, to be honest, even think of it. But before David left, we filled out some basic Army forms that ridded me of any of this false security.
In case something happened, David made a box of important documents that would guide me through our finances. In case something happened, he created a will and taught me about our insurance policies. In case something happened, our friends in Boston agreed to travel with me out of the country, and my neighbors agreed to watch the kids.
It sobered me. When David drove off that Saturday morning to begin his journey to Iraq, I feared for his safety and he feared he’d return home to a house with a yellow ribbon on the porch and a foreclosed sign in the yard — an all-too-common occurrence.
Soldiers give power of attorney to their parents or girlfriends and return to realize their “loved ones” have bought new satellite televisions, pick-up trucks, and — in one case I heard of — plastic surgery. Wives, who already feel deserted, feel entitled to live it up while their husband is gone, or, in my case, lack the know-how to keep things afloat.
One day, I was driving in my car and came across Nashville financial guru Dave Ramsey’s talk show.
“I give you the same advice your grandmother would’ve given you, except I keep my teeth in,” he said, describing his old-fashioned money advice. It got my attention.
To get started, he advised something called a debt-snowball. This is when you list all your debts from the smallest to the largest and pay the little debts first. Theoretically, if you can get over the shock of seeing all our debts in a list, it’ll give you immediate emotional gratification of getting rid of one naggingly small debt at a time. Then, you take the money you would’ve paid on it the next month and pay on your second debt. By the time the final debts are reached, the extra amount of cash you have to pay them off will grow quickly, just as a snowball rolls downhill and gathers momentum.
It sounded good, simple and understandable. So, I sat down and decided to look at our numbers for the first time. I felt like a child who had scraped her knee, afraid to assess the damage.
“Complete Lists of Debts” I wrote on a page of a notebook I’d ambitiously titled “A New Leaf.” David had given me carte blanche and power of attorney, realizing he couldn’t monitor both al-Qaida and my checking account, so I decided to keep this whole adventure a secret. I wrote down each item of debt, which represented anywhere from just a few to several thousand dollars. Revealing the wound was painful, each item causing me to physically wince — Sallie Mae (David’s Harvard loans); Plato (I-didn’t-even-get-a-degree loan); Land Rover (overpriced, gas-guzzling loan); Saab (car that might or might not have a gear shift loan), American Express (new laptop); and Visa (too many dinners out).
To start the snowball rolling, Dave Ramsey suggested having a yard sale or selling something of value. In seeing it all laid bare like that, I got a lump in my throat, took a deep breath, and did what any red-blooded American girl would do. I put David’s Land Rover up for sale.
After all, he was in Iraq. He wasn’t using it.
The next night, I was standing in my driveway accepting payment in cash from some guys in Nashville. When they drove away, they took my garage door opener, my Prince CD, and an enormous financial headache with them.
I hadn’t thought this all through. David would eventually return and need a vehicle, but I planned on being filthy rich by that time. Now? I got out a marker and wrote down the amount of my monthly Land Rover payment and designated it for next month’s American Express bill.
And so it began, a snowflake of an idea turning into a snowball of momentum. Over the course of the year, I got two extra jobs, planted trees in our otherwise pretty dull front yard, asked my neighbor to help me plant flowers, and generally tried to make our home a better place upon his return. (I did have extra time, since I didn’t have to shave my legs for the whole year.)
Whether I would succeed in my effort was yet to be seen. But there was something intoxicating about making something happen, rather than sitting around and fearing that somewhere, across the world in some sandy wasteland, something might.
Guest blogger Rebekah Sanderlin, a journalist and an Army wife at Fort Bragg, N.C., has been writing about military family life on her Operation Marriage blog since 2006. She and her husband, a master sergeant, are attempting to raise a son, a daughter and two yellow labradors despite multiple combat deployments and a television that seems to be stuck on “Dora the Explorer.” This post also appeared on the Blue Star Families Blog. – Elaine Sanchez
By Rebekah Sanderlin
May 20, 2011
I am a very good war bride.
That’s not just bluster on my part; that statement has been tested and proven, time and again. But take away the war and, as I’ve learned in this past year of no deployments, I am not a very good bride.
Sure, I can handle all the chores on my own. I’ve installed a thermostat, a backyard fence and even a toilet sans husband; mowing the grass is a breeze. I can put together a care package like a champ and know exactly when to take it to the post office to avoid the longest lines. I’ve given birth alone in the middle of a hurricane and seen two babies grow from newborn to near-toddlerhood with nary an adult around to help. I make a mean batch of family readiness group brownies, I rock at putting together the “we miss you” slideshows to send downrange and I can even listen to “Blood on the Risers” now without cringing. Let me tell ya’, Rosie the Riveter’s got nothing on me — I can do it all alone.
What I can’t seem to do is anything together.
This togetherness bit is a whole new test for my husband and me, one that probably doesn’t make any sense to those of you suffering through your first deployment or to those who can’t fathom spending more than half your marriage apart. But I bet there are a few of you out there wearing knowing smiles and nodding your heads as you read this.
My husband and I have gotten so good at doing things all by ourselves that we can’t figure out how to do them together, and even a year of togetherness has yet to fix that. We still trip over each other in the house. We still can’t coordinate our bedtimes. We still get frustrated, resentful, angry and irritated that the other one doesn’t do things the way we would do them. It’s like we’re stuck in that awful newlywed time, that time when the honeymoon has worn off but familiarity has yet to set in. And we can’t seem to get out of it.
To be perfectly honest, this is really more my problem than his. He has adjusted to being home far better than I have adjusted to having him here, which makes sense, I guess. It’s not like he was deployed by himself all those times. He went with a bunch of people; people he had to work and live closely with. I, on the other hand, shared my space with just two little people – two little people who had to do exactly what I wanted them to do because if they didn’t want to I could pick them up and make them do it anyway. I can’t pick up my husband, though I have been tempted to try. So he has more practice at this sharing thing than I do. And it has gotten better with time, but it’s still not great.
So tell me, after all this time spent turning myself into good ol’ Rosie the war bride, how to I morph back to being just a regular bride?
Feb. 16, 2011
Family Matters guest blogger, Debbie Nichols, is a military mom and grandma. Her daughter, Tech. Sgt. Erin Caldwell, is in the Air Force, and she has two grandchildren, Ivie and Bailey. Debbie cared for her grandchildren when her daughter, a single mom at the time, deployed to Afghanistan, and will continue to support them and her new son-in-law when her daughter deploys again in the coming year.
In this blog, Debbie shares her top 10 lessons learned while caring for her grandchildren during her daughter’s deployment in Afghanistan. – Elaine Wilson
By Debbie Nichols
It took me some time to think about what I had learned while caring for my grandchildren during my daughter’s deployment, because when you live through a challenging time, you don’t think about what you are learning from it. You are just trying to cope.
I remember there were days I wished I was not in that situation and just wanted to have my old life back. And there were days I cherished having my two granddaughters living with us.
Once I started making my top 10 list of lessons learned, I realized I could have made the list much longer. But I focused on the knowledge gained that I felt other guardians would find the most useful.
Here is my top 10 list of lessons learned during a loved one’s deployment: Read the rest of this entry »
Dec. 27, 2010
I’m pleased to introduce a new Family Matters guest blogger, Megan Just, a Navy veteran and the editor of the weekly newspaper at March Air Reserve Base in Riverside, Calif.
As both the sender of less-than-ideal care packages and the receiver of awesome ones, Megan discusses the importance of care packages to deployed servicemembers and the elements that distinguish an outstanding care package from a run-of-the-mill one.
By Megan Just
One of my most vivid memories of my deployment to Iraq is the adrenaline rush of receiving care packages. The arrival of a care package could instantly turn a bad day into a euphoric one. Receiving care packages was so important to me that I often wrote about them in my diary.
At the beginning of the deployment I wrote, “I received Eric’s (my boyfriend) package today and I’ve been waiting all night to open it. I’ve been so looking forward to it that I don’t want the anticipation to be over.”
The next day, after opening his package, I wrote, “Eric’s box was great. He sent my favorite fig sugarless cookies (which I am finishing as I write), a bunch of Cliff Bars and a variety of dried fruit. He also sent two issues of ‘National Geographic’ and ‘Climbing.’”
In that care package, Eric had also enclosed a small book he made that contained his favorite quotes, photos of us together and a long letter. My reaction to the book tugged at my heartstrings enough to nauseate you, so I’ll pass on sharing that section of my diary here, but I can assure you, the book meant a lot more than the fig cookies and it is still a treasured item today.
Toward the end of deployment, even as the recipient of an estimated 50 care packages, I was still raving about them. “I love getting care packages,” I wrote. “It is hands-on proof that somebody loves me. Opening them is like being a kid on Christmas morning. Each package contains a surprise and what is inside is additionally valuable because the contents are things that I can’t procure myself.”
While all care packages are great to receive, I did notice a difference in the emotional impact of a run-of-the-mill care package versus one where the sender put a lot of thought into selecting the contents and packaging them in a creative manner.
A run-of-the-mill care package contains generic items and things servicemembers can easily buy themselves at the Exchange on base or order online. A run-of-the-mill care package is one that might as well have been packed by one of the many web-based care package companies. See, the preparation of an exceptional care package cannot be outsourced. The preparation and thought that goes into a care package is half of its value and the servicemember can perceive this extra effort.
Now, I must confess that buried in my past is a string of these generic care packages. Back then, I was dating a servicemember who was deployed to Iraq and although I am a procrastinator by nature, I was determined to send him care packages at regular intervals and I was determined to do it in an efficient manner. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by in Family Matters on September 16, 2010
by Elaine Wilson
Sept. 16, 2010
I’ve heard many leaders discuss the need for better military family support, but I’ve heard few do it with the same passion and candor as the Army chief of staff and his wife.
I was lucky enough to catch Gen. George W. Casey Jr., and his wife, Sheila, speaking to an audience about their concerns for military families during the 2010 Defense Forum in Washington, D.C.
After nine years of war, it’s clear the nation will be engaged in conflict for some time to come, Gen. Casey said, but less evident is what effect that long-term combat will have on servicemembers and their families.
“We have to try to figure out the cumulative effects — how they will manifest themselves after nine years of war,” he said. “We have to work our way through that.”
The past nine years have left a lasting impact on the nation and its military, Gen. Casey said, citing statistics to drive the point home. More than 3,200 soldiers have died, leaving more than 20,000 family members behind. More than 27,000 soldiers have been wounded, with 7,500 of those soldiers severely wounded and requiring long-term care. Since 2000, the Army has diagnosed about 100,000 soldiers with traumatic brain injury, and since 2003, about 25,000 have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress.
“I honestly think those numbers are probably low,” the general said. “We wrestle hard with reducing the stigma of seeking care.”
Gen. Casey called for better support of soldiers to build their resilience. It takes 24 to 36 months to recover from a combat deployment, he said. Yet, the Army is deploying soldiers at a rate of one year deployed and one year at home. The Army’s objective is to have two years at home between deployments, but that won’t come to fruition till 2012, he said.
A rapid deployment pace and the current lack of “dwell time” at home have accelerated the cumulative effects of war, Casey said, and his wife agreed.
“Our soldiers are stretched and they’re stressed,” Mrs. Casey said. “And parents, spouses and children of our troops are all feeling the stress.”
Read the rest of this entry »