Posts Tagged DOD Family Matters
Posted by in Family Matters on February 9, 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
Feb. 9, 2012
Pet overpopulation is a sad reality in the United States. Up to 7 million animals enter U.S. shelters every year, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Of this number, about 60 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats are euthanized, and less than 2 percent of cats and 15 to 20 percent of dogs are returned to their owners, according to the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy.
Military families on the move should think carefully before taking in an animal to avoid contributing to this problem.
First, you should take into account your lifestyle and potential commitment to a pet. Are you an active family, with weekend hikes and daily runs, or do you prefer lazy weekends on the couch? Are you home enough to ensure your furry friend will get the exercise, training and attention they need?
Posted by in Family Matters on January 23, 2012
By Elaine Sanchez
Jan. 23, 2012
Last week, I traveled to California to join Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, as she embarked on a West Coast Joining Forces tour.
Dr. Biden had arrived with her husband a day earlier than me, so I caught up with her at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, where she was participating in a roundtable discussion on military kids and how schools across the nation can better support them.
She sat amid a group of educators, social workers and students involved in the Building Capacity in Military-connected Schools project, which helps to create military-friendly environments in schools and to raise awareness of their challenges among educators.
The participants took turns sharing their consortium success stories for Biden. Gena Truitt, a prior service member, military mom and social work intern, talked about how she created the Pride Club at an elementary school to foster camaraderie among military kids.
Robin Williamson, a Navy wife and school liaison officer, described how she helped to create transition rooms in 11 military-impacted San Diego-area schools. Families use the rooms to learn about school and community resources, and to create connections with other military families.
Biden wrapped up the roundtable by thanking the educators for their work and for rising to the Joining Forces challenge. “What you’re doing is a perfect example of how we want to change things in America, where every state, every school district has programs like this,” she said. “You’re doing exactly what needs to be done.”
After the roundtable, I drove down the coast to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, where Dr. Biden was headed the next day.
In the morning, I followed the media trail of cars down a very long and winding dirt road to the infantry immersion trainer. This state-of-the-art training complex simulates situations Marines may encounter in Afghanistan.
We were escorted to the top of a building, across the way from Dr. Biden, to gain a bird’s eye view of a live-fire exercise.
A Marine patrol entered a simulated Afghan bazaar and, moments later, a loud explosion echoed in the air. A female Afghan, whose leg had been “blown off,” fell to the ground screaming in pain. The Marines rushed to help her as a rocket-propelled grenade, shot from Biden’s rooftop, flew past.
The overall experience was incredible, Dr. Biden told us on her way out.
“It’s been an amazing experience to be here,” she said. “It made me realize just how difficult it is for our military when they go to Afghanistan and when they went to Iraq.
“Americans should be really proud,” she added.
Posted by in Family Matters on December 2, 2011
By Elaine Sanchez
Dec. 1, 2011
I met an Army wife a few weeks ago who truly embodies the marriage vow “for better or for worse.”
Catrina Tomsich stuck by her soldier husband through a war injury, severe post-combat stress and emotional abuse — not because she condoned the behavior, but because she had an unwavering belief that with time and care, he could find emotional healing.
“I believe you should never give up,” she told me while I was visiting with her at the Warrior and Family Support Center in San Antonio. “No matter what we’re given in life, we can choose how we deal with it.”
Army Sgt. John Tomsich had been suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder since his first deployment in 2005. Catrina encouraged him to get help, but he refused. He believed at the time that discussing issues such as anger or depression would be a sign of weakness to the soldiers serving under him. Instead, he told me, “You try and fight it and not tell anyone you have problems.”
While he maintained a stoic front on duty, he couldn’t contain his rage at home. “For five years I heard, ‘I hate you; I don’t love you anymore’ every day,” Catrina said. “That can definitely take an emotional toll on someone.”
Tomsich deployed again in 2009, this time in Iraq. About six months in, he suffered a spinal injury to his neck that caused him to lose the use of his right arm. He was flown to Brooke Army Medical Center for treatment, and Catrina drove down on weekends to see him. But when he developed a stomach illness that required surgery, she knew he’d need a full-time caregiver.
It was with trepidation that Catrina left her life in Houston behind to take on that role. She shut down her financial education business, left behind a network of friends and uprooted their then-5-year-old son.
Tomsich’s physical injuries were under control – in time, he regained the use of his arm with medication — but the abuse worsened. After a particularly bad episode one weekend, Catrina decided enough was enough.
“He had so much anger and rage,” she said, “and that weekend our son saw it, and was crying and scared of Daddy.
I wasn’t about to let that happen anymore. I put my foot down.”
Catrina marched into a trailer where she knew behavioral health specialists worked and demanded to speak to a counselor. A week later, Tomsich was placed in counseling for severe PTSD.
With medication and counseling, her husband has come a long way, she said. He’s still not where he was when they got married, she added, but “he’s 100 times better than in 2005.”
Given Tomsich’s initial reluctance to seek help, I was surprised they had decided to go public with their story. But it’s their hope, they told me, that their story will encourage others to seek the help they need.
Catrina said she’s seen enough marriages break under the pressure of a spouse’s physical and emotional wounds. “Women come and tell me, ‘He’s not the man he used to be.’ I tell them, ‘Never give up.’ If I had, we wouldn’t be here together now.”
If you are struggling with PTSD or other issues or know someone who is, the Defense Department offers a host of resources to help. Here are just a few:
Posted by in Family Matters on November 28, 2011
By Elaine Sanchez
Nov. 28, 2011
Editor’s note: The nomination period for the holiday episode has now closed, but please check back for future opportunities.
The cast of ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” would like to brighten the holidays for a deserving military family this year.
The reality show is seeking nominations for military families in desperate need of a home makeover. The selected family will be featured in an upcoming holiday episode.
“We want to do a holiday-themed episode that’s even bigger and more extreme than ever,” David Shumsky, the show’s casting director, said in an ABC news release. “In order to pull off such a huge venture, we need the support of the entire community. We know that the military communities will come out to help one of their own.”
The popular reality show features Ty Pennington, his design team and a host of volunteers performing a massive home makeover in just seven days. The show focuses on families whose home situation is a severe hindrance to their quality of life, Shumsky explained.
“We really want to help families whose homes present major problems for the family — those big issues that affect the family’s quality of life on a daily basis,” he said. “We want to find deserving people who just don’t have the resources, ability or time to fix those serious issues without our help.
“For this special episode we’d love it if the holiday season had some special significance to the family’s story,” he added. “Maybe they have unique holiday traditions or volunteer in an organization specifically geared toward the season. Ultimately, we want to give this family the best holiday they’ve ever had.”
Families in need of a makeover or community members who know of a deserving family are welcome to submit nominations. Nominations must include the names and ages of every household member, a description of the major challenges within the home, a short description of the family story, and a contact phone number.
People should also explain why the family is deserving, heroic or a great role model in their community and, if possible, include recent photos of the family and home. People can submit nominations via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on how to apply, visit the show’s website at http://abc.go.com/primetime/xtremehome/index?pn=apply.
Posted by in Family Matters on November 23, 2011
By Elaine Sanchez
Nov. 23, 2011
Dear deployed service member:
Last night, I packed my suitcase for a trip to see my family. The last time you packed your bags, it was for a yearlong trip away from yours.
We’ll soon crowd into our car and head to my parents’ house at the shore. You’ll step into a Humvee and convoy through a combat zone.
Tomorrow I’ll sit down for a Thanksgiving feast at a table surrounded by my loved ones. You’ll join your battle buddies in a dining facility.
At night, I’ll lay my son down in his bed for the night. You’ll lay down your rifle to catch some sleep in between missions.
I’ll check on my children one last time before I head to bed. You’ll blow a kiss to yours through a computer screen.
This Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for your service. For being among the 1 percent of Americans willing to part from your family for up to a year and put yourself in harm’s way for me and my family.
Even though you’re thousands of miles away, rest assured your sacrifices don’t go unnoticed. It’s my family’s tradition to say what we’re thankful for at our holiday dinner. This year, I’ll be sure to say how thankful I am for you.
Posted by in Family Matters on November 15, 2011
Guest blogger Dallas Nagata White, an Army spouse, shares her experiences at a Hiring Our Heroes career fair Nov. 14 on Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii. Along with more than 50 employers, First Lady Michelle Obama also attended the fair, which was sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as part of a yearlong effort to help spouses and veterans find employment.
By Dallas Nagata White
Nov. 15, 2011
As I walked through the Hickam Officers’ Club with my cameras slung around my shoulders, I read the signs on some of the booths I passed by: Bank of Hawaii, Farmer’s Insurance, GameStop.
These businesses were among over 50 employers at the Hiring Our Heroes job fair sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. According to the website, this program was launched in March and is “a yearlong nationwide effort to help veterans and their spouses find meaningful employment.”
Although I tend to first identify myself as a photographer, I will always be proud of my time as an Army spouse, as it has exposed me to the previously unfamiliar world that is life in the military.
I was born and raised in Hawaii, and met my husband after he was stationed here at Fort Shafter. Unlike many military spouses who may marry into the service very young, I was fortunate enough to have already finished my four-year college degree and be running my own business here in Hawaii before becoming an Army wife.
However, as I watch my husband prepare to finish his second enlistment and be out of the military by next summer, I can understand how scary the transition to civilian life can be, especially in this economy. First Lady Michelle Obama, the daughter of an Army veteran, has come out as a strong supporter of veterans and their spouses in post-military life.
Posted by in Family Matters on November 2, 2011
First Lady Michelle Obama would like to add a military flourish to the White House’s holiday decorations this year.
She’s asking military children from throughout the world to create holiday cards honoring their service member parent and to send them to the White House no later than Nov. 16, according to a Navy news article by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Monique K. Hilley.
The White House is honoring American heroes this holiday season, the article said, and the cards will offer a fitting tribute to the nation’s military heroes.
“We are asking kids like you, from military installations around the world, to create a holiday card that represents your parent who is serving our nation,” the first lady wrote in a personal letter to military children. “I encourage you to use your imagination, and include words, pictures and drawings to create a holiday card that honors your brave mom or dad.”
The handmade cards should by 5 by 8 inches, and should include the parent’s name, branch of service and command.
Participants can mail the cards to: Reservation 1, Attn: Social Office, P.O. Box 8070, Washington, DC, 20032. And be sure to include a return address, the article said.
“Thank you for helping with this fun project, and most of all for your family’s courageous service to our nation,” the first lady wrote. “I look forward to seeing the results of your creativity!”
Posted by in Family Matters on October 18, 2011
By Elaine Sanchez
Oct. 18, 2011
First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, will attend the first game of the World Series in St. Louis tomorrow to spread their message of veteran and military family support.
Major League Baseball officials have dedicated the game, which pits the Texas Rangers against the St. Louis Cardinals, to veterans and their families, according to an MLB news release. The game will be aired live on Fox starting at 7:30 p.m. EDT.
Obama and Biden’s aim is to encourage Americans to support and honor veterans, service members and their families through initiatives such as the Joining Forces campaign and Major League Baseball’s Welcome Back Veterans program.
During the day, Obama and Biden will host a military family appreciation event at the St. Louis Veterans Center, a White House news release said. Families attending the event will get a sneak peek at the new Joining Forces and MLB public service announcement slated to premiere during the game. The PSA features the first lady as well as New York Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira and Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Johnny Damon, both of whom come from military families.
Obama and Biden also will participate in a special pregame ceremony with veterans and military families at Busch Stadium.
Also prior to the game, the first lady and Biden will answer questions about the Joining Forces campaign submitted by MLB fans through Facebook and Twitter. People around the country can submit questions through MLB’s Facebook page or on Twitter with the hashtag #AskMichelle.
Posted by in Family Matters on October 11, 2011
By Elaine Sanchez
Family Matters Blog
Oct. 11, 2011
My friend and I were walking through the parking garage yesterday en route to the mall when she saw me fiddling with my iPhone.
“Let’s have a moment of silence for Steve Jobs,” she said, referring to the Apple co-founder and CEO. I wholeheartedly agreed.
Jobs lost his battle with pancreatic cancer Oct. 5, and the world lost a technological genius and visionary who revolutionized the way we use computers and phones, listen to music and, with the introduction of the iPad, browse the Web. The resultant App Store and its vast array of often-addictive games even changed the way we spend (or to some, kill) our time.
Whether a diehard Apple fan or not, it’s undeniable that Jobs changed the face of technology forever. Year after year, he unveiled one cutting-edge product after another – the iMac, iPod, iPhone and the iPad – making technology as accessible and useful for a military spouse juggling schedules and kids during a deployment as for a high-powered executive balancing budgets and businesses.
Recognizing the astounding potential for a military application, officials continue to explore the use of smartphones and tablet devices in the field for everything from translation to mapping to filing reports. And, as a side note, I read a CNN blog post the other day that says Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, uses an iPad each day to access the latest information.
We can also credit Jobs and other visionaries like him for their impact on our military families. In the past decade, our troops have deployed frequently to locations thousands of miles from home. In the past, they would rely on spotty phone service and “snail mail” to maintain connections at home. But now-staple devices, such as the personal computer (which Jobs helped to make wildly popular), the Internet, smartphones — and the resultant social networking they allow — have and are bridging the physical divide.
Thanks to this technology, kids can video call their dad in Afghanistan to share a recent achievement, a proud mom can text pictures to a military loved one overseas and a soldier dad can watch the birth of his child from thousands of miles away.
As this technology continues to evolve, I look forward to a future where gaping chasms of distance will become mere cracks in the sidewalk for our military families.
So, for the second time this week, I’d like to take a moment to remember Jobs’ contributions, not just on the technological side, but also on the human side.
Perhaps President Barack Obama summed it up best in his Oct. 5 statement on the passing of Steve Jobs. “The world has lost a visionary,” he said. “And there may be no greater tribute to Steve’s success than the fact that much of the world learned of his passing on a device he invented.”
Posted by in Family Matters on September 30, 2011
By Elaine Sanchez
Sept. 30, 2011
I’ve heard Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and his wife, Deborah, speak at a variety of events, and can’t remember a time when the topic didn’t turn at some point to military families.
Even today, with the admiral’s retirement at hand, military families’ service and sacrifice remain front and center for this 40-plus year military couple.
In his farewell message to the armed forces today, Mullen said serving troops and their families has been the greatest privilege of his life.
“Everywhere Deborah and I went to see you and your families we walked away humbled by the magnitude of the responsibility you have volunteered to carry and strengthened by the willingness and dignity with which you carry it,” he wrote.
“Not a day goes by that I don’t think about the burdens placed on you and your families,” he added. “Your sacrifices will be forever fixed in my heart, and I am eternally grateful for your service.”
During their four-year tenure, the Mullens have worked to bring light to the sacrifices made each day by troops and their families, and to improve the support offered to them.
This past summer, I attended the launch of the Military Spouse Employment Partnership, a DOD program aimed at expanding job opportunities for military spouses. The Mullens were there to help kick off the program along with Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, another staunch military family advocate.
In her remarks, Mrs. Mullen acknowledged the difficulties military spouses face in finding jobs, not due to their qualifications or training, but due to their frequent moves.
Most of those job seekers are women, she noted at the time, “educated, resilient, serious women who possess strong values and even stronger work ethic.”
Spouse employment is just one of the many family issues the Mullens have addressed. To name just a few, they’ve spotlighted the importance of seeking mental health care, worked to improve care for wounded warriors, and reached out to the families of those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Through his “Conversation With the Country” initiative, the chairman has encouraged local communities to understand the value of veterans and their families.
With his own farewell message sent, Mullen read his wife’s farewell to families during his retirement ceremony today.
“Nothing can be more trying at times than life in the military — the deployments, the stress, the uncertainty and the fear,” the admiral read. “But then, nothing born from ease and comfort can ever foster the pride and the resilience that military families exude every day.
“It has been my honor — my deep honor — to be a military spouse and a Navy wife, and to know so many others who wait and worry and work so hard.
“Thank you for your quiet sacrifice and for empowering me to represent your concerns. It has been the greatest privilege. I will miss the life and I will miss all of you.”
The Mullens may be headed off to what the admiral previously has called “a long winter’s nap,” but they leave behind a legacy of military family support that will last for decades to come.