Military Monday: White House Spring Garden Tour

I am so blessed to be here in this amazing place, DC!  I mean, I never could have imagined, or would have even thought things would happen to me the way they have.  We were blessed at the end of April with tickets to the White House Spring Garden tour, and in turn I got to bless several sweet families with the opportunity to go.  That’s why I’m here doing this, to give back. It sounds so cliched but its true.  I love volunteering, and I think everyone should do it, and include their kids.  We take ours all the time to events and its so great.  It’s a legacy we are leaving them, and I hope they continue it.  Find a way to get involved.  You can look on Points of Light (great organization) to find out how to get involved in anything you want, whether it’s military or not – there’s my PSA for the day!

The White House gardens are beautiful.  They aren’t big and glamorous or anything, but beautiful none the less.  It’s the history really, that draws you in.  Trees planted by Presidents from years and years ago.  That’s really cool.    We saw a Japanese Maple planted by Frances Folsom Cleveland in 1893 (didn’t snag a picture!! GRRRRR).  There was also the Children’s Garden, by Lady Bird Johnson that we didn’t get to go see.  It’s definitely something you can do with kids.  We’ve been lucky enough to tour the White House and its definitely doable with kids.  However we did the inside tour we didn’t take Phillip.  If you ever get to go to the Easter Egg Roll bring a stroller.  They do allow them and I would bring it, even if you think your kids might not need it!  Bring it.  You can bring strollers to the Garden Tour as well.

 Jacqueline Kennedy Garden 

close up of Kennedy Garden

isn’t that Wisteria gorgeous?!

where all the awesome outdoor speeches happen
Rose Garden area
 The South Lawn Area (I think the Cutlip Maple is on the left here – planted
by George and Laura Bush in 2001)
I’m fairly certain this is the Cedar of Labanon planted by Jimmy Carter in 1978

 lots of vistors, but it wasn’t super overwhelming.

 White House Bee Hives

White House Kitchen Garden (is really big), planted by Michelle Obama with help from local 
community groups and area school children (originally started in 2009)

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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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Military Support Series – ScoutComms

One of the things I love about blogging is getting to meet really awesome people, and then talk about them.  I met Fred right after I had moved into town.  It was my very first blogging conference, and whether he knows it or not he sort of came to my “virtual” rescue and offered some moral support.  Then I stumbled upon him again at a military related seminar…..and once more at an Operation Homefront event.  Yeah, he’s everywhere.  One of these days I’m going to let him hire me.  Anyway, Fred is the CEO and founder of ScoutComms

ScoutComms provides strategic and unique assistance in the world of aerospace, defense and veterans sectors.  The list is incredibly long of the really cool things that they offer to their clients.  Services provided include media relations specifically targeted to increase outreach to exactly those that need it, Thought Leadership Support, consulting and guidance on veteran focused corporate giving programs and so much more.  ScoutComms specializes in something called ‘Precision Public Relations’, spending the time to find the right journalist, media outlet or partner for their client.  Who better to provide this large list of services then veterans and those that have spent years working closely with, and supporting, them.

Recently ScoutComms underwent a change.  It was a slight change that largely went under the radar, which is indicative of what I appreciate about how this organization runs themselves.  ScoutComms is now a registered B-corporation, or Benefit Corporation.  They are the first in the Nation to focus specifically on veterans and military family issues. They’ve taken on the mantle of not only providing services in a unique way, but blending it with advocacy and support. 

We’re one of the first social enterprises focused on veterans’ issues, but as the movement grows, we certainly hope to not be the last. As a social enterprise, we’re approaching our mission in much the same way we always have: through creating and implementing communications and philanthropic strategies for our clients and the veterans’ organizations we support. For our current clients, nothing will change in the way we provide a personal, precision consulting experience, and we hope this evolution opens the doors to future clients who share our vision that doing business and doing good are not mutually exclusive.

ScoutComms also has a blog, and something they call The Scout Report, a newsletter of sorts.  If you are a veteran, a milspouse, military-connected person or just concerned about veteran/military issues you should subscribe to this.  You can catch up on all the past issues of The Scout Report here.  It is very exciting to see this happen from the beginning, and I have absolutely no doubt that ScoutComms will accomplish great things moving forward.

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Military Support Series: The General’s Kids

I am very excited to highlight this particular military support organization as it now has a special place in my heart.  Only a couple days ago I announced that I was coming on board as Programs Manager for The General’s Kids.  I couldn’t be more thrilled to be a part of the organization and work alongside one of the most committed and dedicated military wives, and mother, I know.  Jaqueline to me, was just the blogger of a wounded solider.  And when I say just, I don’t mean just by any stretch of the imagination.  With two very small children, that was no small feat.  It was out of the struggle they experienced that this organization was borne, and it is quickly growing to accomplish some amazing things.

The General’s Kids, L.L.C. was designed for our nation’s little warriors. Whether they are infants or teenagers, facing the life-changing injury or illness of a parent leaves a lasting impression. There are so many wonderful organizations out there that benefit wounded warriors and their families, and children often benefit from these. But at The General’s Kids we are proud to focus 100% on the children and young siblings of the wounded, ill, and injured. We can help connect children and teenagers of various ages with others across the country who are going through similar struggles, provide sponsors who will send encouraging cards or care packages, and will soon be able to offer financial assistance for things like special interests or school funding. Children living the Wounded Warrior life are faced with a harsh sense of reality. We intend to help bring back some of the things that help comfort and lighten these kids’ hearts. Our goals are big and extend all the way up to wanting to fund Disney vacations and college scholarships. Our belief is that whether there are 10,000 wounded warrior kids or just one, each and every one is a priority and deserves to have their sacrifice for our freedom acknowledged.

I have seen The General’s Kids provide hand-made crochet/knit blankets, or small stuffed bears to children at Walter-Reed, which I in particular love.  Often times these children are coming here very quickly and without the ability to pack up every little thing.  Having something special given to them, even if they don’t fully understand can be so beneficial.  Frequently our facebook page will put a call out for items for children that are coming to Walter Reed, like portable dvd players, small toys, video games or board games.

school supplies for little warriors
One of my favorite stories from The General’s Kids is the story of a little girl named Isabelle, who asked for gift cards for her birthday and gave them all to be donated to little warriors at Walter Reed Medical Center!  It’s stories like this that make me want to be a part of this organization.  Something as simple as this can make the day of a child whose life has been turned upside down.
At The General’s Kids they are so many ways you can give back – We have a sponsorship program, a pen pal program, care packages and just simply donating…even spreading the word is so helpful.  We don’t discriminate here at The General’s Kids…it doesn’t matter what branch of service, or military status (active/guard), or the type of injury.  Even if the child’s parent has returned to active duty, the pen-pal program would still be very beneficial to the child.  But we need your help to make sure we can help as many little warriors as possible.  Please check out our programs page and the FAQs for more information on all the programs.
Take a minute to like The General’s Kids on facebook, share the page with as many people as you can!  Share the website as well!  If you are an organization that is looking to sponsor, or give back and wants to partner with us, we would be so honored and blessed to have that help!  I know I have a lot of crochet and knitting type friends too…whip up a blanket and we’ll make sure it gets to someone in need.

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Military Support Series: Lone Survivor Foundation

With the release of the movie, by the same name, this past weekend I thought it only fitting to run Marcus Luttrell’s Lone Survivor Foundation as this week’s “Military Monday” post.  It wasn’t until several days ago that I had heard about the organization, and I wanted to take the opportunity to share.


First let me share some thoughts from those that help run the Lone Survivor Ranch and Foundation, as well as those that have benefited from this organization. 

The Lone Survivor Foundation provides specialized education and healing retreats to those injured, both physically and psychologically by war.  What I absolutely love about this foundation is that it recognizes that injuries received in war, are far deeper than physical; and while addressing the wounds and issues facing those with physical injury is important, helping those with non-visible injuries is vital to force retention, the overall health and well-being of our service members and their families.

For far too long we have shoving this aside, and not really addressing it as a problem, while service members and their families struggle to make it through the day.  The military prepares them, and to some extent we as family, for war; but where is the real training and understand for the war that wages as home?

Along with these healing retreats the Lone Survivor Foundation is committed to assisting in the healing process of these “Invisible Wounds”, by educating the service member, their spouses and children.  With the aid of specific therapies, and implementation of coping mechanisms, the Warrior and their family members can move forward on a positive path towards healing.  A unique aspect of the treatment and education process is done through Equine Assisted Learning.

You can watch one of the Board Members of LSF, doctor of clinical medicine at Harvard University, and Commander in the Naval Reserve, speak about some of the statistics, as well as the desires of what the Foundation is looking to accomplish.

If you get a moment please visit the Lone Survivor Foundation website to learn more about this, and spread the word to those that are in need.  More importantly I believe every military family should be educated about the options available to them should they ever find themselves in a situation where this would be needed.  Education is the truest path to avoid a breaking point and the quickest to healing and recovery.

LSF website

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