Posts Tagged Military Family Support
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 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 12, 2011
A few top entertainment industry stars have joined forces with First Lady Michelle Obama to help shine the light on military families and their service and sacrifice.
The entertainment industry’s Inter-Guild Joining Forces Task Force today released new public service announcements featuring producer and director Steven Spielberg, movie star Tom Hanks and legendary talk show host Oprah Winfrey, a White House news release said. The task force developed the PSAs in support of the Joining Forces campaign, a national initiative launched by the first lady and Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, to support and honor service members and their families.
The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, Directors Guild of America, Producers Guild of America, Screen Actors Guild and the Writers Guild of America West formed the task force to provide creative and production support for Joining Forces, the release said, and to inform and inspire their members about military families.
The PSAs tell real stories about America’s military families and call on Americans to give back to ensure service members and military families have the support they deserve.
“The entertainment community answered the Joining Forces call and has done what they do best — bring to life stories that move us,” Obama said in the release. “Through this PSA campaign, Americans will learn more about the unique challenges and needs of our military families; see their strength, resilience and service; and find out how they can give back to these extraordinary troops and families who have given us so much.”
The guilds launched the PSA project following the first lady’s visit to Los Angeles in June. She discussed military families’ stories and issues and encouraged the guilds to incorporate their experiences into film, TV and digital media. The PSAs are a direct outcome of that visit, the release said, adding that A&E Networks, CBS, Comcast NBC, Disney ABC, FOX and WB have agreed to support the PSA campaign.
The PSAs encourage Americans to get involved in supporting military families by visiting the Joining Forces website. Visitors to the site can send messages of thanks, find opportunities to get involved and share stories of service, the release said.
“As a military mom I know just how much it means when people reach out to show their support for our service members and their families,” Biden said in the release. “The first lady and I hope that this campaign will inspire more Americans to take action and reach out to military families in their own communities around the country.”
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.
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 August 31, 2011
Guest blogger Donna Miles is a colleague of mine at American Forces Press Service.
By Donna Miles
Aug. 31, 2011
It’s hard enough being the spouse of a fallen service member, or a veteran declared 100 percent disabled.
But for many of these spouses, well-meaning federal rules that gave them up to two years after their loved one died or became disabled to take advantage of special hiring authorities for government jobs just wasn’t enough.
Too often, two years was too little time before they were ready to enter the workforce. Many were still grieving or were preoccupied with the challenges of caring for their children or disabled spouses during this difficult time. Others were enrolled in educational or training programs to prepare them for new careers to support their families.
Officials at the Office of Personnel Management recognized the problem, and moved today to make things right.
OPM published final regulations today that give these spouses as much time as they need to apply for a federal job under the military spouse noncompetitive hiring authority.
That authority, which has been in effect since Sept. 11, 2009, allows qualified spouses who aren’t already federal employees to apply directly to agency job opportunity announcements, without having to compete with other applicants.
This could prove to be a big deal in helping more spouses benefit from the hiring authority designed to help them when they need it most. The first quarter the hiring authority was launched, only 58 spouses took advantage of it. Between October 2009 and October 2010, 887 military spouses were hired under the program.
OPM Executive Director John Berry is hoping the new final regulations will help more spouses by bringing them into the federal workforce.
“Military spouses make countless sacrifices for our nation through their dedication and support on the home front while their loved ones are serving,” he said. “In recognition of their sacrifice, this rule will help military spouses find employment in the government.”
Posted by in Family Matters on August 4, 2011
By Elaine Sanchez
Aug. 4, 2011
A former military boss of mine was married to a civilian. When she found out her next assignment was in Turkey, he walked away from a good job, his family and friends to follow her overseas.
I admired the sacrifice he made back then, and didn’t think twice about the fact that he was a male spouse. It didn’t occur to me, until now, that he might have faced a few additional challenges due not to his status as a military spouse, but his gender.
I recently learned that just 5 percent of active duty service members’ spouses are male. But while they comprise a small portion of the population, they deal with some significant challenges, said Scott Stanley, a research professor from the University of Denver and a military family expert.
“A lot of these men are sort of swimming in a whole new part of the pool, if you will, without really knowing exactly where to go or what to do or what sort of supports to seek,” he said in a Military OneSource podcast.
Most spouses’ groups are female dominated and men often don’t feel comfortable there, he explained. Additionally, many family support programs are focused on connecting with civilian wives.
Still, these men need strong support networks and social connections. Stanley suggested they develop friendships with other couples who have the same dynamic and can relate to their challenges. Chaplains and counselors also can offer emotional support.
While male spouses may feel isolated at times, Stanley stressed that they’re not alone. “They may or may not be talking about it with other guys, but there are a lot of men out there who are going through this and feeling it,” he said. “You have to kind of figure out what’s going to work for you to cope with this in the best way you can at this time, because that’s going to be the best thing for your marriage, best thing for your family and the best thing for you down the line.”
For more on the unique challenges male spouses confront and for tips on how to overcome them, read my American Forces Press Service article, “Male Military Spouses Cope With Added Challenges.”
Posted by in Family Matters on August 1, 2011
By Elaine Sanchez
Aug. 1, 2011
Last week I sat down with Holly Petraeus, wife of Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, to discuss her role as chief of the new Office of Servicemember Affairs, which officially opened for business last week as the military arm of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
The office is intended to protect service members and their families from financial predators and pitfalls through education and enforcement of state and federal laws. Mrs. Petraeus, an Army spouse and longtime financial advocate for military families, was tapped to head up the office earlier this year.
As we talked, Mrs. Petraeus’ passion for the topic of families and finance was evident. Helping troops and their families is more than just a job to her, she told me — it’s personal.
“I’ve lived in this military community my whole life; I have a real heart for these people,” she said. “They’re all raised their hand to do what they do, often at the risk of their lives.”
The office will work to ensure service members and their families receive the financial protection and education they deserve through a threefold mission, Mrs. Petraeus explained. First, it will ensure military personnel are given a quality financial education, she said, “so they’re wise to consumer issues and can avoid the pitfalls out there.”
The office also will monitor consumer complaints and the response to those complaints, she said, and work with other federal and state agencies to help resolve issues.
Although the office is new, Mrs. Petraeus already has taken steps to help families. She recently signed a statement of principles with the judge advocate general of each branch of service to open the lines of communication and to ensure every financially related complaint is addressed. She also has established an informal partnership with the Veterans Affairs Department to help address mortgage and foreclosure issues. People who call her office with mortgage troubles will be referred to a VA home loan assistance program counselor for advice, even when it’s not regarding a VA loan.
Mrs. Petraeus told me she’s thrilled to be in a position where she can help military members and their families.
“My ultimate dream is that no service member signs a contract that they end up regretting for years or signing one that isn’t fair,” she said. “We can write rules and enforce at CFPB, and I’d love to see the real bad actors that go after service members — break the law to harm them financially — I’d like to see them enforced against.”
For more on my interview with Mrs. Petraeus, read my American Forces Press Service articles: “Holly Petraeus Works to Protect Military Families’ Finances” and “New Office Aims to Strengthen Families Financially.”
And please don’t hesitate to write in if you have a lesson learned or tip to share on finances for military families.
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?
Guest blogger Lisa Daniel is Elaine Sanchez’s colleague at American Forces Press Service. – Elaine Sanchez
By Lisa Daniel
May 16, 2011
Lt. Gen. Thomas P. Bostick, the Army’s deputy chief of staff for personnel, appeared on Capitol Hill earlier this spring along with other service leaders to report on the military’s state of readiness, including the health of the troops. The news mostly was good (see my article “Caring for People Aids Readiness, Official Says”). Despite 10 years of war, recruiting, retention and morale remain strong.
But Bostick’s assessment came with a warning of a troubling trend. The obesity crisis sweeping America has gone beyond health problems for individuals to threatening our nation’s military readiness. That’s because fewer than 30 percent of 17- to 24-year-olds are eligible to serve because they can’t meet physical or educational requirements, Bostick said. A big reason for that: one in five young people are overweight, compared to one in 20 in the 1960s, he said.
“As a nation, together, we must continue to address these concerns,” he said.
Bostick is not the first leader to sound alarms over America’s obesity problem. First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign has brought the issue into the national spotlight, as well as publicity from doctors, dieticians and others who share their concerns with the media.
There is no shortage of resources aimed at helping people maintain a healthy weight. Many volumes have been written on the values of counting calories — or, more recently, counting carbohydrates — and maintaining regular exercise. Weight loss clinics make millions of dollars by helping people manage their food, drink and exercise.
Even with all this, we remain a nation overweight. Unfortunately, knowledge of a problem isn’t always enough to effect change. Sometimes it takes an emergency.
My family discovered this in January when my 7-year-old daughter was diagnosed with Type 1, or “juvenile,” diabetes. Unlike Type II diabetes, or “adult-onset” that can be caused by obesity, Type I is an autoimmune disease that destroys the pancreas’ ability to produce insulin. Natalie was not overweight; as she lamented in the hospital, she eats healthier than many children her age. Read the rest of this entry »