Military Monday – Warrior and Family Center opens in Bethesda

The USO recently opened their second Warrior and Family Center in the DC area.  This particular one has opened its doors steps from the National Medical Center Walter Reed.  It couldn’t be a more perfect location for one to open, and trust me it has been a long time coming.  When I had the pleasure to speak with then President of the USO, Sloan Gibson, he was bursting at the seams to talk about these facilities.  It was one of my first interviews with someone like that and I was a littler nervous.  But to hear him speak about his dream of opening these immediately put me at ease.  There was a lot of thought that went into designing and building these two buildings, which started to be discussed way back in 2009.  Warriors and their families were interviewed concerning design, and the number one request (which was granted) was a learning center of sorts for transitioning.  Within these walls you can music therapy, recording area, playing area, art classes and fly fishing.  TVs, computers, quiet areas and game rooms.

And while the name Warrior and Family Center implies that this is specifically for our nation’s wounded, however this is not the case.  The USOs doors are open to all military, and I have experienced the building myself.  They are both truly beautiful and feel like home, which is the whole purpose I’m sure.

The second facility is beautiful, and I almost like the design of the second better.  It is a much more open facility, as far as the feel.  Lots of windows with very wide hallways, sort of an open great room if you will.  The ribbon cutting was a wonderful time, hearing the words of those that designed and constructed it.  How it affected them, and how many of the construction and design team have signed on to become to volunteers themselves.  It affects people and hearing that is really touching.

 

The excitement over the building was electric, everyone was smiling and they all spoke of the same things.  They were beyond thrilled to see this building in action, so close to where it is most needed.  I will say this, we are in desperate need of an overhaul in the way we are treating the wounded.  And we aren’t speaking of just the physical wounds.  There was a Forbes article that discussed some of the startling numbers of “Invisible Wounds” as they are referred to.  The numbers were listed as reported on the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center.  The total number of TBI diagnosis by the DoD is over 290,000.  It is important to note that not all of the injuries are deployment related.  In fact 80% are the result of a non-deployment injury (ex: car accident).  But the injury is there, regardless of how it was required, and should be treated.  When broken down the study doesn’t reveal how the injuries were received, just the severity of them; however according to the Rand Corporation in a 2008 press release 20 percent of those have returned report symptoms of TBI and depression.  Most, as we are all aware, do not receive treatment because of the stigma attached to physiological issues; but for those that do, only half of them receive treatment considered “minimally adequate”.  This is one of the reasons why I believe what the USO has to offer is extremely valuable.  This is a chance to make things right.  To operate off the concept that I heard repeated over and over that day – a 360 degree concept of care.  I wish there was one of these centers at every single base.

 


With the President of the USO DC Metro                  My total geek moment with Miss America!!!!

It’s a step in the right direction; and when you hear those in power express understanding and an actual concern for what is happening it helps.  I wish they would talk about it more, all the time, every day.  This will change, I know it will.  Soon, the stigma will be less and less.  It won’t happen overnight, because it took longer than that for the problem to happen.  But this is an opportunity for those in power, either at the National Level of the military and individual unit leaders, to really effect change.  I’m excited at the possibilities for our military members.
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My Deployment Cycle….

Faced with more time separated from my Airman I began noticing patterns in my behavior.  My extreme highs and lows are finally under semi-control.  What I can tell you about that is if you are at all feeling even the slightest bit out of control, if you decide to be truly honest with yourself, get help.  There’s no shame in it.  This life is hard enough without feeling extra out of control.  But I’ve noticed I go along a specific pattern each time.  The first week or two is spent keeping myself ridiciulously busy. On any given day you can find me cleaning, organizing, throwing/give away bags and bags of junk.  I might even make a trip or two to Ikea in an effort to please my Deployment OCD self.  Each time he leaves this is my pattern.  No matter the length of trip and each time he goes this is what I do.  The next week or two is spent not sleeping, which inevitably leads to me becoming sick.  I’ve become too busy taking care of everything and everyone but myself, no wonder I get sick.  My body be like, “woman, slow down!!! Do I have to make you sick to slow you down because I’ll do it!”  And it does, so there you go.

Recognizing something and admiting it is a problem is the first step in recovery right?  I mean, I realize in the grand scheme of things this isn’t a huge problem, or an addiction, but it is affecting me for sure.  My body is telling me something, and whether I want to pay attention or not its going to do what it wants.  And like most moms and women I never ask for help.  I’m the first to offer it or give it (totally not tooting my own horn here, but you get what I mean), but asking for it is hard.  Its almost as if I equate it with weakness, with not being able to handle all the things in my life I feel like I”m supposed to.  But we are designed to have a help-mate, someone who stands by us and lifts us up.  Mine just happens to not be here all the dang time.  So I need to fill that in with people who clearly love and care about me, who offer help.  I need to take it when its offerred.  So after going back in my mind I’ve come up with a possible solution (or at least a new path to try) to the current cycle I go through.
1. Take it easy!
this has to be important!  This time setst the tone for the entire separation (at least for me).  Don’t try to organize or purge the whole house in the first week.  Do leave the house every day, dragging your kids everywhere.  Just be!  Read a book, paint your nails, doing silly things with the kids.  Get out that craft box and play!  There are more fun and relaxing things to do that can keep you busy after they leave then things that will run down your body

 
2. Stay healthy!
While you can’t predict what horrible plague like death your child will bring home from school, you can do your part to stay healthy while you endure this separation. Keep up on those vitamins, echinacia or whatever! Get that coldeeze in there if you feel something going on. Eat healthy and find that time (see 1) to exercise. Leave the dishes in the sink and do a quick workout (find my favorite quick YouTube workouts here).

 

 
3. It’s okay to feel
Typically I like to mask my feelings.  I know, so completely healthy right?  Since I went so long without getting help, my emotions were crazy out of wack.  So there is a part of me that wants to swing the pendulum the other way.  Any emotion is bad emotion.  It means I’m crazy and out of control.  No way man!!!  It’s okay to sad.  Your parnter in crime is gone and you’re alone.  This is for real and it sucks.  This all goes back to number one.  Keep busy so you don’t feel is my interpretaion of Keep Calm and Solider On; although I don’t think that’s what it means.  It doesn’t say Keep Calm and shove your feelings so far down that eventually you crack!
Now its time to Keep Calm and Soldier On….I have to totally rewire my brain to follow a road less traveled.  The one where I don’t freak out, stay healthy and enjoy some me time.

Do you do the same thing?  How do you stop yourself for heading down the wrong path when you are by yourself?

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Military Support Series: Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program

Making sure those that are remotely stationed, and those that aren’t close to a larger base, has been something I’ve been passionate about for many years.  When I first started getting out there to advocate for this group of people I was a young MilSpouse with a one year old.  It was 2007 and I jumped feet first into the EANGUS community with the goal of spreading the word about young military families.  I am pleased to bring you more information about the Yellow Ribbon Program, which is available to National Guard and Reserve families (of any branch).  As an Air Guard family, we frequently were able to participate in programs originally designed or created for Army Guard families.  The same thing goes for the Strong Bonds program, so make sure to look for those as well.

The Yellow Ribbon Program offers several tips to make sure you have the support and help you need to get through the toughest things the military has to offer.

1. Find a military family readiness/support group in your area.
This can come in many different forms – through church, through the National Guard base or Armory’s family programs office, or just something you create on your own.  Contact larger organizations like National Military Family Association or Blue Star Families and let them know you are there.  Sometimes its a matter of knowing a group of people are there.  With so many military families spread out over this country, and many not near larger installations, there is a whole group of people not being reached.
If you haven’t already registered with JSS (Joint Support Services), do it!  You can search for all types of benefits and assistance that is in your area, including the Yellow Ribbon Program.  They have contact information and ways for you to connect with people if  you can’t find help in your area.  National Military Family Association Support Group Link

2. Participate in activities and groups in your unit or community.
Once you find that support you have to get out there!!  Attending the activities that are often planned for military families—including scrapbooking nights, ice cream socials, military kids nights and holiday dinners—can help you feel more like a part of the local community, especially when you’re missing your Service member. Playgroups and military spouse groups provide additional opportunities to meet people in a similar situation and exchange advice and information.
3. Get involved with OperationMilitary Kids (OMK).
Every parent knows that deployment can be stressful for children. OMK aims to help military kids cope with deployment by bringing them together for fun activities with other kids who understand. Sign your kids up for a variety of social, educational and recreational programs.  Also, Our Military Kids offers scholarships for military children, whose parent is deployed, to help pay for those special activities.  You can find out more information about Our Military Kids here.
4. Stay in touch through military publications and websites. 
Your loved one’s unit, post or base newspaper is a vital source of information about workshops and programs offered to spouses and families. Some units will share news and announcements through Facebook and Twitter so you can stay up-to-date on upcoming events or opportunities to meet with other families.   
5.  Keep connected after deployment through a Virtual Family Readiness Group (VFRG).
Once your loved one is deployed, you can maintain these new connections through a Virtual Family Readiness Group, a controlled-access web system that links Service members to their families and units. The VFRG provides a secure means for your Service member to communicate with family members far from home, and the unit commander posts updates so that you have access to the latest information.  Each Service has different types of VFRGs, so be sure to contact your unit or command Family Programs staff for details.

For more info please visit their website and register for events on their event’s page 

You can find more resources specifically for National Guard and Reserve on my General Military tab.  Make sure to check out the other resources listed under MilSpouse and Family Support.  Many of the programs listed there offer specific help to those that are in the National Guard and Reserves.

If you feel like you are missing a program in your area, or are having trouble locating one please leave me a comment or email me cammostylelove (at) yahoo (dot) com.  I’ll be happy to help, or point you in the right direction.
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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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How children deal….

 

 Over the many years of our military life, we’ve experienced many days, weeks and months without daddy.  It’s interesting how children evolve in their understanding.  Military kids are quite a breed of their own.  They experience things not a lot of other children do, and they adapt in their own ways.  One particular time in our life that comes to mind was when my oldest was about 4.  Ami was not really aware nor did I think she cared much.  At that point in her short little life it was all about mommy.  Brian, however, didn’t handle it quite as well.  He never wanted to leave me, even to be in the next room at Gymboree.  He was sad and cried all the time.  He couldn’t, however, explain it to me all that well.  He knew daddy was gone and thought he was in the computer.  I remember breaking down in Gymboree when my friend was visiting, trying to manage things.  Pretending like I had it all together when clearly I didn’t.  I think there was some lingering depression and just the fact that I couldn’t help my son.  The pressure on moms in general is undeniable.  We want to provide stability and happiness to our children; when we can’t it wrecks havoc in our mom brain and heart.  I had no other real support do to the nature of our location, and I didn’t have a lot of friends whose husbands were with mine.  Most of them weren’t married or were married to other service members.  The load was too much to bare and I kept it all in.  In turn I think whatever the kids were feeling was compounded by the feelings I thought I was keeping to myself.  They are pretty smart little devils aren’t they?

                   Getting in a little wrestle time

                                                                                                                           Daddy’s Home!
So now, during this most recent time apart I have a 17-month-old, an almost five-year-old and an almost seven-year-old.  Phillip is aware in his own way, and I notice it way more than Ami at his age.  Every time the phone rings he says “daddy daddy!”  He checks the bed and the closed bathroom door.  Brian is more talkative and obviously his understanding is way more developed than when he was 4.  He discusses it with his school counselor and his other military buddies at school (school counselor = amazing support).  Ami, so far, isn’t displaying any issues, verbal or otherwise.  However, her relationship with her daddy has recently developed into that typical daddy/daughter thing so we’ll see if that changes.

 
 of course, Murphy’s Law applies – via a hole in the chin

All I can do is take this one day at a time.  My support system here isn’t well developed, but what I do have is wonderful.  I recently just met a lady (while volunteering) that lives a similar life to mine.  She has young kids and doesn’t have support system that is connected to her husband’s career ( like me), which is different then a separate support system).  It was a little God moment.  I didn’t have to take this volunteer slot, I didn’t know much about her.  I also didn’t know I would need a ride to another metro station because the one where I was at was closed.  Sometimes its those little moments that you least expect, that don’t seem all that important, that make all the difference?

 post-deployment trip – my favorite picture ever

Have you noticed changes in your kids over the years?  How do you handle it?
What about little moments…..what’s your deployment “little moment’?

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