Calling All Branches of Guard and Reserve Spouses!!!!!!

When you think of the National Guard and Reserve what do you think of? Commercials talking about citizen soliders, the phrase “The weekend a month, two weeks in the summer,” and those people called out for earthquakes, riots and floods. But there is so much more to who we are and what we do.

Are you a Guard or Reserve Spouse of the Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, Navy or Marines? Do you live within driving distance of Bordentown, NJ? If you answered yes then you’ll want to continue reading. Words can not express how excited I am about a special event coming to New Jersey in a little over a month. For all of my years as a military spouse I have felt a twinge. One that has stayed with. One of being alone, different and out of place. I have never quite met any common understanding of military life as the wife of an AGR, then Active and now Traditional Status Airmen.We did all of this while remotely stationed at a location with no base housing, no commissary or exchange, or any support programs to speak of. The past fifteen years have been all about learning and adapting. It’s also been about feeling left out, desperately searching for support, hearing the word ‘No’, and hearing the phrase “You’re not active duty so we can’t help you.”

When you are in a room full of military spouses at an event you are more than likely one of a few that are just like you, if not the only one. People don’t understand, even those that you think should often have no clue what its like. Events held for Military Spouse inevitably end up having almost nothing relevant to your struggles, and to hear of an event just for you is just something that rarely happens.

But the wait is over! On September 22 an event is being help for spouses of all branches that are Guard, Reserves, or remotely stationed. At this event you will have the opportunity to network with other spouses, talk about your struggles, learn about resources that are available to you….but most importantly I hope you gain the confidence to advocate for yourself.

If you or someone you know are a Guard/Reserve Spouse, or are maybe on orders isolated away from a traditional base consider coming or spreading the word about SpouseTalks. This interactive event is designed to focus on the unique experiences that make up our unique lives. Each person brings their own unique story to the table and we want to hear that.

Stop by and like Homefront United Network’s Facebook Page, as well as my National Guard/Reserves/Remotely stationed specific page – National Guard Families

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10 Resources Every National Guard Family Should Know

As a National Guard family member, it has taken me years to feel confident within this community. It can be extremely difficult to find support within the community. Most of the time it is simply an issue of education; and many do not realize there is even a problem. We are often spread out, with our service member spouses traveling hours or even in an airplane, to their units. Many spouses, like myself, spend countless hours searching for support, assistance and reaching out to anyone that they can. Still, many others simply don’t try. The misnomer that this is a one weekend a month, two weeks in the summer job is simply incorrect. The idea that National Guard families don’t need as much support because we all live in our hometowns, with our families, is also not true in many cases. And what I want to make especially clear – most of these resources I mention here are accessible to National Guard families REGARDLESS of status. This is an important distinction to make because so very many of the non-profits in the military world DO NOT include National Guard families in their events and programs unless we are in a specific type of orders and for a specific amount of days, or deployed. Making sure NG families know these specific resources is very important to me.

I hope that this list provides information to families out there that are like me, seeking support and assistance. Maybe this post might even provide insight to those providing the support and other military branches that we view as part of our larger military family.

1. Military One Source – Even if you have never used Military One Source you probably have heard about it if you’ve been to any military event. I’m hoping you’ve at least heard of it. If you haven’t it is a large resource of information for military families in general. However I want to point out two specific aspects of the program that I have used. One is the counseling program. It appears overwhelming when you go to the website but it is so very easy. You simply call, verify your information and move on from there. If you are worried about privacy and information getting back to your spouse’s unit, please do not worry. The information is given simply to verify that you are military and qualify to have access for it. In all the cases that I have used it I have never once found that the information went anywhere else. Use it! The second is their products for purchase. They have books, the Sesame Street programs and many others are available to order for FREE! We have ordered several for our families and to give out to others.

2. EANGUS – This is the Enlisted Association of the National Guard. Mr. Air Force and I have been involved with EANGUS for years, only recently having stepped back a little bit with our schedules. You typically see more activity from retire service members and their spouses, however I really believe in this organization and wish more young people, especially spouses, would get involved. EANGUS does amazing work to improve the Guard, especially in regards to legislative issues. I would encourage you all to check it out and consider getting involved.

3. The Wingman Project {Ready Airmen} – this resource applies specifically to the Air National Guard. Here you can find resiliency resources, suicide prevention, and PTS support. There is also an App. What is really great about the Ready Airmen app is that you can access the information to whatever unit is close to you. If I needed assistance or information I could easily access the information of whatever unit is closest me, rather than contacting my unit across the country which may be unable to assist me easily.

4. Strong Bonds – Strong Bonds is a program in connection with the Army National Guard, however Reservists, and Guardsman from the Air Force side of things can access and attend these programs. Find a Chaplain at your unit to assist you in getting access to the events, or simply go on the website and do it yourself. We have done both. In connection with deployments sometimes you can get orders to attend. Usually it is a short weekend event as a couple or as a family, usually staying at a hotel in the area. I would encourage you to check out the information on the website. Also please share with any single Airmen or Soldiers as there are programs for them as well.

5. The JSS, National Guard Family Programs website – This website can be difficult to navigate but once you get to where you are going you can usually find some great information about events in your area or people to contact. On the map page you can find a list of contact information.

6. PillowProject USA – Similiar concept to a daddy pillow, except its a small pillow-shaped size. We have them, and after several years they are in great shape and our children love them. They ask for a donation to help cover shipping costs because they don’t charge for them. I try to donate to them occasionally simply because they really met a need for me when I was absolutely desperate. My sweet children were in desperate need of something that as a National Guard family we were having a difficult time qualifying for in the traditional sense of the word. Spread the word about them, and even if you don’t need them consider giving.

7. Blue Star Families – BSF is one of the first military focused non-profits that I discovered when I moved to the DC area, that also offers event invitations and programs to every branch of the Military – including Coast Guard, National Guard, Reserve…..regardless of status. Their Blue Star Museums program, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts, partners with museums across the country to provide free entry during the summer months. National Guard and Reserve families can access this program. This is such a huge deal to National Guard families.

8. Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program – What is great about this program is that it is a ‘Purple’ program, meaning all branches. You can find all sorts of events and support for you no matter where you are living. These can be really great opportunities to meet other Guard families in the area and get some valuable information for the locations in which live. Even if you think you’ve got it together, and you’ve got what you need, take the opportunity to go. Don’t make it a missed opportunity for something great!

9. Operation Purple Camps {National Military Family Association} – Operation Purple provides a free week of camp to military children of all branches and service status {National Guard and Reserve}. While priority is given children of wounded or deployed, or children who have been to the camps the previous years, it doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t get in! Apply!

10. Military Spouse Advocacy Network {MSAN} – MSAN is a more recent non-profit that has recently launched a mentorship program. They have advocates all over, and are really trying to grow their National Guard reach. Since they were founded by an Air Force Spouse, that is their most dense area of reach, but they are growing so quickly I know they can barely keep up. If you are an experienced Spouse in the NG or Reserve I would definitely encourage you to get involved! And that doesn’t mean you have to have been in for a really long time either! It’s a great opportunity to give back to our community.

Bonus Resource – I’m also including one of my most popular posts here on the blog in this list. It is all about how to make a readiness folder. A readiness folder is usually something that an FRG or Key Spouse might assist you with. But as we have already discussed sometime that person just isn’t around, you are too far away or you just don’t know how to even find that person. I encourage every military family to make a readiness folder, even if you think you aren’t going to go through a deployment. Having all that stuff together in one place is great. Making it on your own, while a little tedious, will be such a benefit to you and will also empower you because you are now armed with all the information you need.

Check out the Resource Tabs up top for my National Guard/Reserve resources!

stop by my National Guard Families Facebook page. On this page I try to provide as many resources and connections to Guard/Reserve and Remotely located families as I can! Contribute information, ask questions or just see what we have going on!

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#MilitaryMonday The Wingman Project and Real Warriors Campaign

It’s the last day of September, therefore the last day of Suicide Prevention Awareness Month (check out my post here); so now do we just move on to the next awareness month?  I get the idea of awareness months, but sometimes I worry that after that month passes, it will be forgotten.  People tend to take up the mantle of a cause when its cool or profitable, and then it eventually falls by the wayside.  For those that are living through these sorts of things, one month of recognition just simply isn’t enough.

I wanted to highlight some resources that concentrate on keeping this issue at the forefront all the time.  It isn’t until issues of mental health because a concern all the time, that things will change.  There shouldn’t be a negative stigma attached to someone living well.  As someone that has personally struggled with depression and anxiety

The Wingman Project, of the Air National Guard – 

was created in August 2007 by the Deputy Director of Safety of the Air National Guard as a collaborative solution, including chaplains, family support, medical community, and safety, for all Airmen and their families to address suicide intervention. Since then, the project has been endorsed by the US Air Force and the Department of Defense, receiving an HQ Air Force “Best Practice” in July 2009. 
On their website you can access ACE training for family and friends, and also request comprehensive ACE training, where you could then train others to be a Wingman.  
The New StepUp Campaign encourages everyone to spread the word about the Wingman project and suicide prevention awareness.  Learn ACE, download the mobile app and find your local DPH.  Talking about it, and not sweeping it under the rug is the way to make it “normal” and acceptable!

I met some of these wonderful people this summer at the National Training Seminar for Military Child Education Coalition.
The Acadia Military Support Services Program is specially designed to help our Active Duty Service Members and their families focus on healing from the trauma of living through life-threatening events and human tragedy while courageously performing their military duties to maintain our freedom.  Our highly qualified professionals stand ready to provide first-class mental health care, and unequaled substance abuse recovery and rehabilitation through  our network of TRICARE certified facilities.
There’s a wide range of resources and treatments available through this program, and they are prepared to handle anything that comes their way.  They have compassion and love for our troops and their families; and providing care in a stress-free and safe environment is their goal.  They have residential treatment facilities scattered about the US, and provide assistance to the service member and their families from all five branches including the Public Health Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association.
The Real Warriors Campaign is a multimedia public awareness campaign designed to encourage help-seeking behavior among service members, veterans and military families coping with invisible wounds. Launched by the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE) in 2009, the campaign is an integral part of the Defense Department’s overall effort to encourage warriors and families to seek appropriate care and support for psychological health concerns.
What I love the most about the Real Warriors Campaign is that they feature, and regularly talk about, real service members that have sought out mental health and psychological treatment.  I think that really is 
the best way to address this issue.  These real warriors have continued on with successful military careers, maintaining security clearances and learning coping skills to do all those things.  They also provide confidential assistance through phone, live chat and email in partnership with the Defense Centers of Excellence Outreach Center.
Service Members can log into service member forums to talk with men and women who have 
been where you are.
I wish I could post every single video and PSA.  I urge you to watch more of them, spread the word, show them to your friends, husbands, wives, friends….

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Military Monday: Lets Make a Readiness Folder #militarymonday

I’m no stranger to the “going it on your own” life.  In more ways then one it applies to the military life.  For some it is the very essence of their world.  For those of us in the National Guard or Reserves world it can be a daily thing.  Having been stationed fairly remotely, without the conveniences of a standard base, find the kinds of support many of my online friends talked about was difficult, if not impossible.  I have a couple of friends who aren’t even stationed in the same town, or even the same state, as their significant others unit.  Many National Guard and Reserve Units are lacking in the support department, don’t have FRGs and don’t have the resources to provide remotely located spouses with the guidance they need to navigate these tricky waters of MilSpouseDom.  For those that are girlfriends or finaces the waters can be even more treacherous to explore.

So, what can you do to stay afloat?  One thing you can do is put together a Family Readiness Folder.  I happen to extremely blessed with a husband who actively makes sure I’m connected in some way to his Unit, and he has an amazing boss, who feels more like family then a co-worker, having been the rock I’ve leaned on whether he knew it or not.

What makes a good Readiness Folder?

Contact Information is Key:

Gather together key contact information from your husband, the base website or anyone else you can get it from.

1. Family Services Contacts

  • Family Programs local 
  • Family Readiness Assistant
  • Youth Programs
  • Air Wing Family Programs Coordinator (or other branch Equivalent)

2. Support Services

  •  Military OneSource Consultant
  • Transition Assistance Advisor
  • ESGR (Employer Support Guard/Reserve
  • TriWest (for your area)
  • ID Cards/DEERS
  • Survivor Outreach Services
  • American Red Cross

3. Wellness Team

  •  Director of Psychological Health
  • Military Family Life Consultant (adult/family & child/youth)
  • Chaplain
  • Personal Finance Counselor
  • Suicide Hotline (national (800) 273-TALK)

4. Yellow Ribbon Program contact info

5. Your local unit or operations group contacts

  • Group Commander
  • Squadron Commander
  • Operations Support Commander
  • Director of Operations
  • First Sergeant

6. Track down the list of FRG or Key Spouses, or maybe your s/o’s buddy’s spouse or significant other.  Finding a connection with another spouse, girlfriend or family member connected to your husband is important, even if its just one.

Pre-deployment Information Form

Find one of these and fill it out before a deployment.  This will have important information  for the unit, like deployment location and time information, who your family is, who your child are, emergency contacts, information about you so that you can be located and specific concerns about the deployment.  It is important that you are kept in the loop during a deployment.

Important Dates

Include an important dates section in your folder – drill schedules, special events, or local events that might be helpful to those stationed near you, and for those that are not.  They may want to make the trek closer if there will be special base events or holiday events (especially for families).  Our local base had Easter, Halloween and Christmas events for the kids.  There is also usually a unit BBQ.  For the National Guard many states have a State Military Ball where all branches affiliated with the Guard and Reserves in the area are usually invited.

What My Family Should Know:

This is a guide for all the things you should know, your family should know.  It is also a great way to get the conversation going about topics no one wants to talk about.  Lets face it, who really wants to have a conversation about funeral arrangements before anyone is actually passed on.  Talking about those things is important none the less. For me, I wanted to confidently be able to stand my ground and specifically state that I knew exactly what my husband wanted.  This may also force your significant other to have this conversation.  If I could recount the stories that I’ve been witness too where that was never discussed and problems arose.  Contact information going unchanged – never being changed from a parent to a wife, and other similar situations.  Being married to an Eagle Scout, being prepared is a mantra around here.  It never EVER hurts to be prepared…it can always hurt to be unprepared.

Here’s a link to a packet if your unit doesn’t have one.  I can also probably get one of mine, so please feel free to email me if you feel the one linked to doesn’t work for you.

Other Notes:

Many Family Readiness Groups on base have booklets for deployments and info ones to have around all the time.  Seek them out.  If you aren’t near your husband’s unit, but you are near another base, reach out to them!  Currently we are nowhere near hubby’s home base, but close to so many.  I am always actively seeking programs that we are eligible for.  We have full rights to the MWR too.  Last year we got a pool pase for a great deal.  Sure it wasn’t the local neighborhood pool that I could walk to, but it was hundreds of dollars cheaper.  If you’re a mom look for a local MOPS group.  The base here has one, but there is bound to be a local church that hosts one.  Each one is different, and while all of them are faith-based,  they are all different.  Seek out other Moms groups in your area as well.  There was more than one in the area we were in previously, faith based or not.  They are out there!  Look online for military support groups, or facebook. While many can have drama (what doesn’t in life anymore), I can tell you that I have made some amazing friends that I have 6yrs later, and many I eventually met in person.  These ladies were my saving grace at times and I couldn’t be more thankful.  Find out if your area has a local Blue Star Families.  They have been an amazing connection for me.

So, I hope this helps and is a place to start for you.  Please do not hesitate to contact me for clarification on anything listed here, as well as help tracking down the information for your local area.  If you’re totally lost and wouldn’t even begin to know where to start PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE email me and I will help you!!!

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Military Support Series – “Our Military Kids”

Jumping back into the swing of things, I am so very happy to bring to you the third installment in my Military Support Series.  In light of April being the Month of the Military Child, I thought what better organization to highlight first this month then Our Military Kids.

Our Military Kids Logo

Our Military Kids, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization created to provide support and recognition to military children. This may include children ages 3 years through the 12th grade of deployed National Guard and Reserve service members, along with children of Wounded and Fallen Warriors from all branches of service. The grants to children pay for fees associated with athletic, fine arts, and tutoring programs. Our Military Kids’ grants keep military children engaged in activities of their choosing, helping to relieve the stress of separation from a parent by providing a positive distraction, minimizing emotional destabilization, building self esteem, and enabling academic achievement.
 Our Military Kids provides tangible support to the children of deployed and severely injured National Guard and Military Reserve personnel through grants for sports, fine arts and tutoring that nurture and sustain the children during the time a parent is away in service to our country.
Last month I had the amazing opportunity to sit down and have lunch with Linda Davidson, co-founder of OMK.  It was truly amazing to hear the story in person, to talk about the direction and how the direction has grown and changed over the years.  To talk about the future and what other things this wonderful organization can accomplish.  Starting as a group of people who sought to serve the children of Guard and Reservists in the State of Virginia only, then growing nationwide, and not stopping until OMK began helping the children of Wounded Warriors as well.

me and Linda Davidson
Linda, and the amazing staff, Board of Directors and volunteers have worked tirelessly to provide grants of up to $500 to cover six months of extra-curricular activities for a child of a deployed service member, who is deployed for 120 days or is one of two missions overseas totaling 180 days in a one-year period and there are at least 30 days remaining, and the child will start the activity before they return home.  The grants are to support athletic activities, fine arts and also tutoring.  Most of us that are military-connected know what its like to have a loved one gone, even if its only for a two week training or field mission.  Regardless of the length of time, when it involves children its difficult.  Two weeks, two months or a year, to them its all hard.   I have personally experienced so many different types of separations and they have all been hard on my children, especially when they are too young to really understand anything.  We haven’t been lucky enough to be a recipient (because I didn’t know about OMK!!!  Crazy!!), but I know that it would have been such a blessing.  One day maybe OMK can expand to include Guard and Reservists families that are in unique situations like prolonged TDYs, Geo-Bachelor, shorter stint missions and more unique situations that I know are out there.
Our Military Kids conducted a survey of recipients (in both the Guard/Reserve and Wounded category) to garner more insight and information into the lives of these families and the effect that it has. 
  • 82% noticed an increase in the stress or anxiety level of their child during the parent’s deployment
  • 97% indicated that participating in an activity benefited their child
  • 100% found the grant application process easy
  • 99% reported that participatin significantly contributed to the overall well-being of the entire family
  • 99% thought the Our Military Kids program should be continued and made available to other families
 My little Military Kid

If they surveyed me I’m sure they would find very similar responses.  My kids are involved in Martial Arts and Awana.  I know that having those things, that pattern, that stability in their lives is incredibly valuable to my children.  The support that they find, that is extremely difficult for those of us not attached to a larger unit and/or on a substantial base is beyond words.

To learn more about Our Military Kids, please visit their website and here are some special links!

Press Release – Business support OMK (if you’re in the VA read this!!!)
Donate to Our Military Kids
Vehicle Donation Program
Our Military Kids Facebook
Our Military Kids Twitter

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