Posts Tagged Family Matters Blog
Guest Blogger Army Sgt.1st Class Tyrone Marshall is a writer and photographer with American Forces Press Service in the Pentagon.
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
Sept. 19, 2012
After spending nearly two incredible weeks with some of the best Paralympic athletes the U.S. has to offer, I learned some very important things.
One, for sure, is that we love our athletes regardless whether they are Olympians or Paralympians. I thought I knew enough about the games when I left on a mission to cover the 2012 London Paralympic Games from Aug. 29 to Sept. 9. Wow, I was wrong!
Did you know the prefix “para” in the Paralympic Games doesn’t refer to anything meaning disabled? I assumed it did because of terms like paraplegic. Fortunately, my experiences there served to teach me a broad range of things. “Para” simply refers to the Greek term for “alongside” or parallel, according to the International Paralympic Committee. The Paralympics have been held in parallel with the Olympics since 1960.
I also learned that many Paralympians have overcome some tough disabilities! One of our military Paralympians, Jennifer Schuble, endured multiple afflictions only to thrive as a competitor during the Beijing and London Paralympics. She suffered a traumatic brain injury during hand-to-hand combat training, crushed her right arm in a car accident and was eventually diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
This didn’t stop her, though, and she’s now a Paralympic gold and silver-medal winning cyclist with a degree from the University of Alabama and a job as an engineer for Mercedes Benz. It was incredibly inspiring to be around these types of people who wouldn’t accept ‘no’ or accept being labeled “disabled” as a reason to stop living life the way they wanted to.
I thought Jennifer’s story was just miraculous, yet there were 226 other people with equally engaging stories. I felt extremely privileged to be able to witness them compete for our nation. I also don’t think I could have been any more fortunate than to witness what was called the most spectacular archery event of the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games.
There is no wonder – it was two Americans competing against each other, which I thought was a compelling storyline in itself! One archer was Matthew Stutzman, who has no arms. He shot with his feet and used his mouth and chin to set himself up.
Stutzman and his competitor, Dugie Denton, a former U.S. Army soldier, shot nothing less than an eight for the entire match. That means that not one of their arrows out of 30 shots placed farther away from the bull’s eye than the gold area immediately surrounding the center. It wasn’t until the last arrow was shot that Stutzman was declared the winner.
It was so exciting to watch all the athletes compete and the raucous crowd was thoroughly entertained, even though British fans outnumbered U.S. spectators, and every other country, , by three-to-one odds. The Paralympics offers great sportsmanship, indeed.
I think the most important thing I learned while watching the athletes compete was humility. The absence of hubris in these athletes was incredible, and much of that has to do with the support of their families. Many Paralympians came to London as previous gold or silver medalists and continued to dominate. Yet, they were still grounded because of their families. Tons of athletes like active duty Marine Corps Cpl. Rene Renteria participated in honor of their families who flew all the way to the United Kingdom to support them as they competed. I met children, mothers, sisters, spouses and so on, all cheering for their athlete.
It was great to know that even when things are not going how we planned, there are people out there, and more importantly, their support systems, fully intact and ready to cheer them on regardless of the circumstances of their plight.
They had that full support structure in place as they recovered from everything ranging from IED blasts to motorcycle accidents, and took the next step in their lives, facing new endeavors as often as possible. It was a lesson in not taking life for granted. And I’d also say it puts things in perspective, and lets you know how much family matters.
Read more about my Paralympics coverage here.
By Lisa Daniel
Sept. 8, 2012
With the anniversary of 9/11 upon us, families may be considering how best to commemorate the terrorist attacks of 11 years ago.
Many installations will have remembrance ceremonies, although they likely will be on a smaller scale than for the 10-year anniversary. Regardless of whether you attend such events, how you talk to children about 9/11 is important and especially for military families, according to Dr. Stephen Cozza, associate director of the Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md.
“With military families, 9/11 is an opportunity to remind children about the meaning of deployments,” Cozza said. “I think we can get a little disconnected from the mission, and having your parent away is hard. Remembering 9/11 draws us back to understanding what we’re doing [in Afghanistan]. It’s helpful and can lend certain meaning to know the military is still involved.”
And, he added, “There is certainly pride in knowing that your parent is working to prevent this from happening again.”
Discussions with children about 9/11 should be age-appropriate and based on information the child needs and is ready for, as well as the family’s personal connection to the tragedy, Cozza said. For those closely impacted by 9/11, children can benefit by memorializing the day with drawings, crafts, or poetry, or by putting up flags or visiting grave sites, he said.
Cozza suggests limiting children’s viewing of graphic 9/11 images on television and the Internet. Replays of the event can be both confusing and distressing, he said.
But as the topic comes up, it is a good chance for parents to reframe some of what children may have heard about the terrorist attacks, and “it’s a good way for them to know they can talk with their parents about tough issues,” Cozza said.
Children can become anxious from warnings about ongoing terrorist threats, so conversations should focus on safety and preparedness, Cozza said. The anniversary is a good time to explain the increased security at military bases, airports and government buildings, along with the message that such measures keep us safe.
“We don’t want to inundate kids with information that might be frightening for them,” he said. “Our job is to listen and be understanding.”
Cozza, an advisor to Sesame Street’s Let’s Get Ready program for disaster preparedness, framed a discussion with young children this way: “There was terrorist event and that is when people do bad things to hurt people without any reason. This is the time for us to remember the people who died.”
“We never want to promise kids that bad things aren’t going to happen,” but they should know that such events are rare, Cozza said.
Children can feel empowered by being prepared, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency has a website especially for kids to help them prepare for all types of emergencies at www.fema.gov/kids.
“That sense of mastery is really important to kids’ sense of emotional competence,” he said.
The website for the Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress includes pages for helping children through traumatic events, as does that of the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, which includes talking to children about mass shootings.
Cozza said parents should resist inclinations to avoid talking about tough topics. “It’s not that we can’t talk to children about these things, it’s finding the right ways to talk to them. In post-disaster situations, we always want to balance our understanding of risk and resilience and strength.”
Guest blogger Navy Lt. Theresa Donnelly is the owner of Hawaii Military Pets, a volunteer online resource for military families in Hawaii. The blog and Facebook page provide information on moving with pets in the military, boarding information and pet policies in state and federal governments. She partners with nonprofits that specialize in service members and their companion animals, such as Dogs on Deployment and Pets for Patriots.
By Navy Lt. Theresa Donnelly
Aug. 13, 2012
As my military family prepares to move to San Diego next year after almost seven years of Hawaii duty, we are dealing with what many military families endure – how to find a rental that allows our big, goofy well-behaved boxer dogs.
Our society loves pets, with most Americans owning at least one. According to the American Pet Products Association, 62 percent of all households have pets, but owners struggle to find affordable and safe rental properties. The National Council on Pet Population and Research found that moving is the most common reason owners give up their dogs, and the third most common reason they give up their cats.
Some of the hardships faced by families with animals are restrictive pet policies, which occur in privatized military housing, off-base rentals and city and state governments. These policies also prevent some pet owners from obtaining insurance when purchasing a home. It’s unfortunate that irresponsible pet owners have caused property owners, rental companies and even city and state governments to adopt such policies, but there are resources to help military families overcome the challenge.
If you’re not ready to buy a home, but determined to find a rental where you can keep your pets, here are some tips to help ensure all members of the family can stay under one roof:
– Check with other military families to find out what’s worked for them. “I have two large dogs, and I started looking early, not because I want to choose a place early, but because sometimes you notice patterns in which rental management companies are more pet friendly. I’ll contact people that say, “no pets” but then offer a larger pet deposit if it’s a house I really like,” said Kristen McDeeLite, a military spouse stationed in Hawaii.
–As soon as you know the location of your next duty station, start looking online. A great resource is the Automatic Housing Referral Network. Sponsored by the Defense Department, this free service lists off-base rentals, privatized military housing, temporary lodging, military-shared rentals, and allows property owners to list their homes for rent. On the listing, there is a paw print next to each rental and information on banned breeds as well as weight, size and numeric limits.
–Contact your sponsor, the base family service center and a local animal shelter. Your sponsor may have a newcomer’s packet with housing information. Talk to families already living there and ask them for recommendations. See if local shelters have a housing pet program or other referral services.
–Call properties that state “no pets” and find out why. Perhaps you can build a rapport with the property owner and better understand their negative experiences. Maybe your family can help them overcome the negative stereotypes caused by irresponsible pet owners.
–Demonstrate to your landlord that you consider your pet a cherished, lifetime, indoor family member. Offer to bring your freshly groomed, well-behaved pet to an “interview” with the property owner and have letters of reference from previous landlords, neighbors, obedience instructors and your veterinarian attesting to the good behavior of your pet(s). Have all veterinarian records handy and offer to sign a pet addendum making you personally liable for damage to property and injury to others.
Moving rarely is a smooth, stress-free process. But preparing early, putting aside savings and planning smartly will help alleviate some of the hassle and help ensure your furry family member arrives at your next duty station happy and healthy.
By Lisa Daniel
When First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden started the “Joining Forces” campaign 15 months ago, they did so with the goal of creating impactful and lasting health, education and employment support for military families.
The campaign had two significant achievements this week that its director, Navy Capt. Brad Cooper, told me hit both of those marks.
First, North Carolina became the 26th state to pass a law making it easier for military spouses to transfer their professional licenses. (Read more.) South Carolina and Hawaii passed similar laws in recent weeks, potentially affecting tens of thousands of military spouses, Cooper said. With similar legislation pending in California, Ohio and New Jersey, the campaign is “exceeding our expectations” in getting laws passed in all 50 states by the end of 2014, he said.
“As I take step back and look this – and my dad was an Army officer – this signals a pretty remarkable cultural shift,” Cooper said. “I remember my mother — as well as my wife, spouses of my friends — were reluctant even to indicate they were military spouses” to prospective employers, he said.
Second, the National Association of Social Workers, at its annual convention here this week, announced it is launching a free, online training course for all social workers to better understand the unique needs of military families. It also is providing a set of standards for working with veterans and military families, and is creating a professional Credential for Social Work with Veterans and Military Families. (Read more.)
Social workers are considered the nation’s frontline mental health services providers, and they practice in every county in the country. The NASW represents 650,000 of them. Its pledge to Joining Forces follows that of the four largest nursing associations, representing 3 million nurses, and the Association of American Medical Colleges and the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine, with 105 and 25 schools, respectively, in training doctors to serve military families and veterans. The Association of Marriage and Therapy Therapists also has signed on, as well as associations representing psychiatrists, psychologists and surgeons.
“This really represents, to me, not just the impactful piece, but the sustaining piece,” Cooper said.
Spouses’ and veterans’ employment also has made major strides, Cooper said. More than 2,000 companies have signed on already hiring 25,000 spouses and 65,000 veterans, and pledging to hire another 175,000 in the next two years, helping bring down the veterans’ unemployment rate, he said.
“This really is the largest outreach and advocacy efforts we’ve had on behalf of veterans and their families for years,” Cooper said.
Joining Forces has been successful, he said, because “we’ve been able to breach through years and years of bureaucracy and bring people together and focus them on the effort.” All they needed was leadership and direction, he added.
“People, generally, want to be helpful,” Cooper said. “They don’t always know what they can do. Our objective is to steer them to meaningful action.”
Joining Forces’ efforts have caught the attention of military spouses.
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.
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.
By Lisa Daniel
April 30, 2012
Education was front and center in Washington last week and at least two major events directly impact the education of military families’ school-age children.
First, Angela Wilson a 7th grade language arts teacher at a Defense Department school in Vicenza, Italy, spent the week in the nation’s capital representing DoD schools as one of four finalists in the annual National Teacher of the Year competition.
Wilson, accompanied by her husband, Chase, who also is a 7th grade teacher at Vicenza Middle School, shined a light on Department of Defense Education Activity schools for both their quality and also on the unique challenges of their students and teachers.
The week’s packed agenda included a ceremony with President Barack Obama at the White House, a reception at the vice president’s home at the U.S. Naval Observatory with Dr. Jill Biden – a teacher so dedicated she continues to teach three days each week while serving as “second lady” – as well as opportunities to discuss education policy with Education Secretary Arne Duncan. The teachers also participated in classes and training of their choice at the Smithsonian, and events with education-focused companies and nonprofits to advance classroom teaching. That, not to mention the discussion these best and brightest had amongst themselves and will no doubt share with their colleagues, should comfort DODEA families.
The knowledge and skills the Wilsons will bring back to the classroom is vast. But even more important, Angela Wilson told American Forces Press Service, will be her message to students that American leaders – all the way to the president – care about them and their education.
“They do value education, you can tell,” she said.
The news got even better when Duncan sent an April 24 letter to all public school superintendents – where 80 percent, or 1.2 million, of students from military families are enrolled — encouraging them to understand and respond to the needs of military students, many of whom change school districts more than a half dozen times in their parents’ military careers. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by in Family Matters on April 25, 2012
Three years ago, I was in an editorial planning meeting here at American Forces Press Service where staff hashed out ideas for improving our content. We covered the secretary of defense, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and other DOD leaders voraciously. What more could we be giving readers?
Then came the voice of our then-new colleague, Elaine (Wilson) Sanchez. Elaine wanted to give a stronger voice to military families. A former military mom herself, her vision – that families matter, and we should say so — gave birth to AFPS’s Family Matters blog. The timing could not have been better, as attention to military families has increasingly become part of leaders’ messages, from the commander in chief and the first lady on down.
Posted by in Family Matters on April 5, 2012
By Elaine Sanchez
April 4, 2012
First Lady Michelle Obama yesterday unveiled a new hiring effort that will deliver thousands of portable, flexible job opportunities to military spouses.
Eleven companies have pledged more than 15,000 jobs for military spouses and veterans, the first lady said. The good news for spouses is the vast majority of these jobs – in areas such as customer support and telemarketing — can be accomplished from home.
Other jobs will be in contact centers located near military installations, and offer family-friendly scheduling, growth opportunities and the ability to transfer seamlessly from one center to another
This commitment will make a “huge difference” for military spouses, Obama said during a teleconference announcing this effort. “Having an opportunity to have a decent job … is one of the most important ways we can support these families,” she said.