Posts Tagged Military Family Support
By Lisa Daniel
Sept. 27, 2012
As the Army conducts its worldwide standdown for suicide prevention today, there is something family members militarywide can do, too, and it only takes a minute. Get out your smart phone and enter the information for the Military Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255 Press 1, militarycrisisline.net, or text at 838255.
All calls are confidential and they are taken by trained counselors. So even if you’re unsure if someone close to you may be suicidal, you could at least talk through the situation with someone who understands and could share insight. And in the terrible possibility of an emergency, you won’t be searching for a number to call.
Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III ordered the stand down in response to increasing soldier suicides, but noted it is a broader societal problem. “Ultimately, we want the mindset across our force and society at large to be that behavioral health is a routine part of what we do and who we are as we strive to maintain our own physical and mental wellness,” he said. Read more here.
As the Army stands down, I’m thinking of the families who struggle every day with the possibility of suicide. I’m thinking of the mother who makes daily calls to check in on her son, the wife who left her husband out of concern for their children after he attempted suicide, and the man who removed firearms from his brother’s house out of fear he would use them against himself. All bear unimaginable stress from the daily fear that a loved one will take his or her own life.
I’m also thinking of the families for whom the recent focus on suicide prevention came too late, for those who will forever think about how they may have missed signs leading up to a suicide.
I’m thinking of the Army family I knew who lost their only daughter to suicide when she was just 22. I knew Candace as the girl across the street, an outgoing and bubbly high school student who dreamed of being a pediatrician. She was a good student and an athlete and when she wasn’t studying or running, she spent many hours at my house playing with my son while I worked, often refusing payment, she said, because she so enjoyed playing with the baby. It was clear she had a gift with children and I marveled at what the future would hold for her.
My family moved away after a couple of years and Candace went away to college on scholarship, like we all expected. We lost touch after a while and somewhere in the next four years, Candace’s life got off track from what she had planned. At some point, she lost hope and took that awful step that has been called the permanent solution to temporary problems.
Eight years have passed and I still see Candace’s bright smile in my mind and wonder what could have been for her. Coping with any death is hard, but families and friends of suicide victims have the added torment of trying to understand how their loved one came to their decision and if they could have stopped them, if they missed the signs. More than a hundred Army families are coping with the suicide of a soldier this year and no doubt many more are dealing with another family member having taken their own life.
As Secretary Leon Panetta and other DOD leaders have said, understanding suicide and reversing its rising trend is hard; General Austin called it his toughest enemy. No training or information campaign will end all suicides. But today’s standdown hopefully will go a long way in helping people recognize the warning signs in a potentially suicidal person and, most importantly, it will elevate the conversation out of the darkness of being a taboo topic.
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.
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
Aug. 9, 2012
Families of wounded warriors already are benefitting from a program that started last month to make it easier for them to travel with their loved ones for medical treatment.
The Defense Department and Fisher House Foundation have teamed up to oversee the Hotels for Heroes program, which allows the American public to donate their unused hotel reward points to families of wounded warriors so that they might stay for free in hotels around the country while their family member receives medical treatment.
“The family members of our wounded heroes should never have to stress about the financial burden of travel,” David Coker, president of the Fisher House Foundation, said at a July 16 ceremony. “We are honored to help facilitate the process and are confident that the American public will help make this new program a success.”
Cindy Campbell, the foundation’s vice president for community relations and media affairs, said Aug. 7 that the program already has provided 60 nights of lodging for military families.
“We’re very fortunate in that many of the hotel chains banked a lot of points for us,” she said. “That has allowed us to go ahead and get started. And a lot of people already have donated points, but we are going to go through these quickly.”
Sadly, Campbell said, “there is a huge demand” from families who must travel to locations without one of the 57 Fisher Houses, or where they are full. The houses near large military medical centers fill up quickly.
The program’s sponsors are optimistic, given the success of its sister program, Hero Miles, that has allowed them to give away more than 30,000 plane tickets since it was created in 2003, Campbell said.
The annual need for hotel rooms “is a very substantial six-figure number,” she said, “so this is really going to help us out.”
Jessica Allen, whose husband, Army Staff Sgt. Charles Allen, is recovering from a roadside bomb, used Hero Miles to fly herself and her two daughters back and forth to her husband’s hospital bed during his recovery and rehabilitation.
“Hero Miles saved our family from a crushing expense – and gave our daughters the chance to be with their dad when he was in the hospital and learning to walk again,” Allen said at the program’s launch ceremony. “Hotels for Heroes will do something similar, and I am thankful to all the people who have and will donate their unused hotel points to benefit our military families.”
The program fills a void, Campbell said, in allowing the American public to give back. “It’s a very simple way for business travelers while they are racking up so many hotel points, to give back,” she said.
People can donate points by going to their hotel rewards club website, which has a tab for Fisher House donations.
Fisher House Foundation is best known for the network of comfort homes built on the grounds of major military and VA medical centers. The Fisher Houses are donated to the military and Department of Veterans Affairs, and families can stay in the houses while a loved one is receiving treatment. Additionally, the foundation ensures that families of service men and women wounded in Iraq or Afghanistan are not burdened with unnecessary expense during a time of crisis.
By Lisa Daniel
Aug. 7, 2012
Like many military spouses, Allison Lattuca doesn’t mention her husband’s Navy service as she job hunts with each forced relocation every few years.
“I don’t put it on my resume,” Lattuca told me at an Aug. 2 Chamber of Commerce Hiring Our Heroes’ job fair in Hampton, Va. “But if asked, I tell them the truth.”
Lattuca recently gave up her job at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney in Santa Barbara, Calif., to relocate to Hampton with her husband. “My job now is finding a job,” she said.
Lattuca’s resume shows a bachelor’s degree and years of work experience in investments and securities. But those years show gaps in employment that inevitably come up at job interviews. “Sometimes it does come back to haunt me,” she said. “They don’t want to put that kind of money into you, knowing you’ll be moving again.”
Lattuca’s employment challenges are common for military spouses. Thankfully, what is changing is employers’ willingness to deal with those challenges. That is due largely in part to the efforts of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Hiring Our Heroes program, which partners with the Military Spouse Business Alliance, the Defense Department’s Military Spouse Employment Partnership and the first and second lady’s “Joining Forces” campaign to support military families. Together, this quartet provides a powerful support network for spouses who otherwise may find job-hunting a lonely endeavor.
What Lattuca and others found at the Aug. 2 job fair were people who understood their challenges – most either are or have been military members or spouses — and were willing to help. From a spouse networking event to workshops that gave career advice specific to them, spouses were among kindred spirits here.
They heard from spouses like Randi Klein, a former Navy officer whose husband served as a submariner for 33 years, who told them about In Gear Career, a nonprofit that gives networking and career help to spouses. And Stefanie Goebel, another former Navy officer, who gave a presentation on the Chamber’s eMentor leadership program for spouses and veterans. Then there were the hiring officials themselves. Nearly every organization seemed to have a person who either served in the military or was a military spouse. There was Andrea Hall, a CSC recruiter who was an Army spouse for 21 years, and Lockette Dickerson, a Navy wife and human resources associate for the Navy Exchange.
Shronda Walker, who is new to the military, said she felt optimistic after attending the fair. Her husband, Marshaun, joined the Navy 15 months ago and Shronda recently joined him here from their hometown of Buffalo, N.Y. They can get by on his income, she said, but she would prefer to work. They don’t have children and the days alone can drag on while Marshaun works 13-hour shifts, she said.
“I’d like to have something to do,” Shronda, 23, said. “There’s only so much cooking and cleaning you can do.”
Walker and Lattuca represent some 85 percent of military spouses that the Defense Department, Chamber, and Joining Forces officials say surveys show either want or need to work.
Lattuca isn’t surprised by the high percentage.
“Yes, I want and need to work,” she said. “We like to go to restaurants and the movies, and to maintain a good lifestyle. And, it’s important to my self-worth and self-value that I can come home at the end of the day and feel like I’ve contributed.”
The combined efforts of the Chamber, DOD and the White House are giving spouses that choice.
Posted by in Family Matters on March 20, 2012
By Elaine Sanchez
March 20, 2012
With the temperature rising and the school year drawing to a close, parents across the nation are starting to think about summertime plans. With three young children and a stretch of lazy summer days ahead, it’s definitely a hot topic in my household.
Military families can get a head start on their planning today by applying for the National Military Family Association’s Operation Purple Summer Camp program. The nonprofit organization launched this free camp program nine years ago to support military children, ages 7 to 17, dealing with the stress of war.
The weeklong camps are open to military children of all ranks and services, both active and reserve. Officials will give priority to children who meet the association’s deployment criteria and have never attended an Operation Purple camp. Families should submit their application by midnight EDT on April 19.
This summer, officials said, 1,400 children will attend an Operation Purple camp at one of 16 locations in 14 states: Alaska, California, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Indiana, North Carolina, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Washington and West Virginia.
For more information or to submit an online application, visit the NMFA website.
Posted by in Family Matters on February 22, 2012
Feb. 22, 2012
More than 100 wounded warriors and military and veteran families will be the recipients of a new home this year, thanks to the generosity of a nonprofit organization and one of the nation’s largest banks.
Operation Homefront, which provides emergency assistance to military families and wounded warriors, has teamed up with JPMorgan Chase and Co. to create the “Homes on the Homefront” program, which will offer deserving military families new homes.
The bank will provide the homes and other support to Operation Homefront, a news release explained, and the organization will provide ongoing transitional services to the families until the properties are deeded to the recipients.
“This is an incredible gift from Chase to our men and women in uniform,” said Jim Knotts, president and CEO of Operation Homefront. “Chase’s imaginative, nationwide approach to providing quality homes to deserving service members and their families will make a huge difference in how these heroes can make that difficult transition and adjustment into productive civilian lives.”
The program’s first priority will be to place families who currently live in an Operation Homefront Village, which provides transitional housing for wounded warrior families. Other wounded warriors, surviving single spouses of those killed in action, and post-9/11 disabled veterans also will receive priority consideration. Any veteran of any era, regardless of wounded or disability status, is eligible to apply, the release said.
Military families can apply for the Homes on the Homefront program at http://www.OperationHomefront.net/HomesOnTheHomefront.
“Every day we work to give military families financial security so that when service members are in harm’s way, they don’t have to worry about their families back home,” Knotts said. “The homes provided by Chase takes that one step further, and will provide these families with additional peace of mind concerning their futures.”
Operation Homefront also is seeking monetary and goods donations from other companies so they can provide families with a fully furnished home.
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 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 email@example.com.
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.