Hurricane Preparations Include National Guard

August 31, 2008

Since the Global War on Terror began, thousands of National Guard Soldiers have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. Their involvement in those wars however, hasn’t diminished their importance on the home front, as evidenced by preparation in Louisiana and Texas, as Hurricane Gustov heads towards the gulf coast states. They always stand prepared to respond in cases of natural or man made disasters, even though often, they too are affected by these disasters.

Mandatory evacuation orders have already been given by the mayor of New Orleans as well as several gulf coast cities in Texas, such as Corpus Christi, Beaumont, Port Arthur and others. The National Guard is already patrolling the streets in New Orleans and in Texas, federal, state and local resources are ready to deploy at a moments notice. Due to the unpredictable nature of Hurricane Gustov, citizens in Texas aren’t taking any chances and have boarded up windows, stocked up on supplies and thousands are fleeing ahead of the storm, in case it veers and ends up hitting Texas. Keep the people in the path of this horrific storm in your thoughts and prayers as it heads towards the coast.

Actions Earn Army Reserve Soldier DoD Soldier’s Medal

August 30, 2008

Because of the actions of an Army Reserve Soldier on a busy Texas interstate highway, one man is alive and the Soldier has been awarded the DoD Soldier’s Medal. She doesn’t feel that she did anything special, however, her actions enabled a victim of an accident to live. The man and his family are grateful for her actions. More often than not, our Troops react to situations with courage, bravery, and valor.

When she saw the body slam into the ground in front of her car on the freeway, the first thing on the mind of SSG Jacqueline L. Hunt’s mind was to do what she could to help the man out. As she was driving home from a party with friends around midnight on March 17, 2005, near Fort Worth, a man pulled his vehicle onto the side of the road, stepped out of the car and got hit by a passing truck.

“I was the designated driver … when he landed in front of me,” she said. “I put on the emergency brake, and ran to him. Some semis were coming, so I picked him up and moved him to the shoulder,” Hunt explained. She further stated that the man was almost twice her size, but she lifted him and carried him to the side of the road. She feels like the adrenalin coursing through her body, was what enabled her to do so. She then began assessing and treating his injuries.1

The man had severe head injuries and wasn’t breathing. She told her friends to call 911. A semi driver pulled over to help as well. To protect the scene, he parked his truck to block the scene and erected road barriers. According to Hunt, paramedics who responded told her that the man might have died, had she not been there to render aid. The following day, Hunt contacted the family of the victim, explaining to them what happened and providing support to them.

Hunt feels that because of the training she has received, as well as the experiences she had in Iraq, she was able to have the presence of mind and knowledge of how to treat the man’s injuries, which were serious and life threatening. She never thought to keep going, instead of stopping to render aid. Because of her job in a Civil Affairs unit, having a sense of compassion for community, is commonplace to her.

“You must have compassion because your number one priority is the community. You’re dealing with people, not numbers. We’re always thinking about that and what to do to help.”2

FORT BRAGG, N.C. - Staff Sgt. Jacqueline L. Hunt is awarded the Department of Defense Soldier\'s Medal by Maj. Gen. Alan D. Bell, Deputy Commander of the U.S. Army Reserve Command, on August 22, 2008. Hunt earned the honor for saving the life of a traffic accident victim who had serious, complex, and life-threatening injuries. She is an Army Reserve Civil Affairs Soldier with the U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (Airborne) and assigned to the 490th Civil Affairs Battalion, located in Abilene, Texas. Photo by Sgt. Sharilyn Wells

FORT BRAGG, N.C. - Staff Sgt. Jacqueline L. Hunt is awarded the Department of Defense Soldier's Medal by Maj. Gen. Alan D. Bell, Deputy Commander of the U.S. Army Reserve Command, on August 22, 2008. Hunt earned the honor for saving the life of a traffic accident victim who had serious, complex, and life-threatening injuries. She is an Army Reserve Civil Affairs Soldier with the U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (Airborne) and assigned to the 490th Civil Affairs Battalion, located in Abilene, Texas. Photo by Sgt. Sharilyn Wells

On Friday, August 22nd, Hunt was awarded the DoD Soldier’s Medal for her actions, by Army Reserve Command, Maj General Alan D Bell and the commanding general for the US Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command, (Airborne) Maj. General David A Morris, in a special ceremony at the Special Operations Museum near Fort Bragg.

“SSG Hunt has taken to heart her training and combat experience, and has used it in the most positive way to give back to the victim and his family, to her unit and to her community,” said Morris.3

Since the accident, Hunt has remained in contact with the victim and his family. She feels that this experience has helped her to teach her Soldiers to do what is right, despite the situation with which they’re faced, saying that her priority is to make sure her Soldiers think about what the right thing to do is, and then act on that.

While she is honored to receive the Soldier’s Medal, which is the 7th highest medal that can be awarded to US Soldiers, this one given in recognition of actions not involving actual combat, Hunt doesn’t want others to forget the fact that there are Soldiers currently still fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. To her, she was just doing her job, as any other Soldier would in the same circumstancese.

“I really don’t want to be called a hero because I don’t want to take away from what our Soldiers are doing downrange,” she said. “This is my job. This is every Soldiers job.”4

This is an award that was and is well deserved. Our Soldiers so often, think about the welfare of others, before they think of themselves. Many of our Troops, do things like this, with no thought to receiving accolades, but instead, because they feel that it’s the right thing to do.

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Army Launching New Campaign To Combat Sexual Assault

August 29, 2008

In the job that I hold, I work with victims of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault on a daily basis. Regardless of the severity of the assault, one thing holds true … both Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault are crimes that are very preventable. The Army has announced that it will be launching a new campaign to combat sexual assault in the Army, officially beginning on September 9th, though in many installations, those measures are already being implemented. The new campaign, entitled I. A. M. Strong, is a campaign that will encourage Soldiers to be aware of what’s going on around them and to “Intervene, Act and Motivate” to prevent sexual assault.

The Sgt. Major of the Army introduced the new program on August 6th, to the Soldiers attending the 2008 Better Opportunities For Single Soldiers (BOSS) Conference that was held in Landsdowne, Virginia. The program will officially be announced on September 9th, when Secretary of the Army Pete Geren launches the Sexual Assault Prevention Campaign and Strategy. The idea is for all Soldiers to change from a “response” type focus to a prevention focus.

“I need your help with an issue that is affecting our Soldiers – sexual assault,” Preston to the Soldiers attending the BOSS conference. “We’ve been on the defensive concerning this crime – and it IS a criminal act,” Preston continued. “The Army was focused on response. Now, we’re going on the offensive. We’re implementing a new prevention campaign.”1

The Army and it’s population, is a reflection of American society. The Army’s Soldiers and family members come from American society. Sexual Assault is a big problem in the civilian world, with many sexual assaults going unreported, because the victim is often made to feel ashamed or made to feel that the sexual assault was somehow their fault. Unfortunately, like American society, sexual assault occurs in the military. The military and the Army’s belief, is that sexual assault and domestic violence are against the Core Values of the Army and the Standard of Conduct and that they have NO PLACE in the Army. Therefore, over the past few years, they’ve created specialized programs to combat these crimes. Currently, the prevention of sexual assault has one of the highest priorities of the Army’s senior leadership and they are determined to do everything possible to ensure that sexual assaults are not tolerated in the military community.

“As the Army moves out front in these efforts, I need you to ask yourself and each other, ‘What can we do now to prevent sexual assault?”’ said Preston. “It’s about bringing the team together, being a leader, looking out for our fellow Soldiers and taking them under your wing to keep them safe. Our Army values and the Warriors Ethos should make it a given,” he said. “But to remind you and all our Army Soldiers, I want to reinforce that it’s your duty as a Soldier to:


“When you recognize a threat to a fellow Soldier, I expect you to have the personal courage to INTERVENE and prevent Sexual Assault. As a warrior and a member of a team, you must INTERVENE.”


“As a brother, a sister, a fellow Soldier it is your duty to stand up for your battle buddies, no matter the time or place. Take ACTION. Do what’s right. Prevent Sexual Assault. ACT!”


“We are Soldiers, MOTIVATED to engage and keep our fellow Soldiers safe. It is our mission to prevent Sexual Assault and to live the Army Values and take care of our fellow Soldiers. We are all MOTIVATED to take action, to promote SAPR (Sexual Assault Prevention & Response) Programs and become advocates within our communities. We are strongest …. TOGETHER!2

CSSM Preston used the analogy that as a Soldier, one would not aid the enemy on the battle field in harming another Soldiers. In the same way, it is expected that Soldiers look at Sexual Assault in the same manner and help to stop potential offenders and their inappropriate behaviors and actions that may lead to sexual assault.

The new I.A.M. Strong campaign will have several features to get the message out to Soldiers, including influential role models, peer-to-peer messages and a social network that encourages Soldiers to participate in prevention and accountability. Also to be offered will be community workshops, projects and awards. The I.A.M. Strong program will also launch a tour this fall that will feature live interactive training. The program will address everything from dating, sex and non-stranger sexual assault.

The Army’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program has the goal of creating a climate within the Army, where Soldiers live their lives according to the Army Values. To do so, sexual assault incidents must be eliminated. If assaulted, a Soldier must understand that they can and are encouraged to report sexual assault incidents. They can do so, without fear of reprisal and know that they can and will receive the help and treatment that they desire and deserve. Leaders are also being encouraged to ensure that offenders are brought to justice, instead of just receiving a slap on the wrist. While the SAPR program is a necessary part of the Army, the focus is preventing assaults before they occur. That’s where Soldiers are encouraged to focus.

“Sexual Assault goes against our Army Values and Warrior Ethos,” Preston said. “I need you to intervene before an assault happens. Have the personal courage to take action and be motivated to make the program a success – take ownership.”3

I couldn’t agree more. Think for a minute, how many times, you may have observed a couple in a parking lot, say perhaps Walmart, arguing with each other. How many times have you seen a man and woman physically fighting with each other. Did you intervene, or even call the police? Or did you stop and watch for a second and then go on your way, thinking that what was happening wasn’t any of your business? Unfortunately, in this country, that occurs all the time. People are so wrapped up in their own lives, that they’re not willing to stop and help when someone appears to be in need of help. Let me ask another question. What if you walked away when you saw that couple fighting in the parking lot and you found out later that the woman had been brutally raped and killed by the man she was arguing with. Would you feel guilty for not intervening?

What the Army is asking, no telling it’s Soldiers that they MUST do, is to intervene in these types of situations, instead of being that person who just walks away. Someday, that woman or man who was sexually assaulted might just be you or one of your loved ones. Wouldn’t you want someone to intervene?

This program can work, if people are willing do act and intervene when they see something suspicious going on. This is a program that should be implemented in every branch of the military and in every state and city across our country. Too many times, people chose to be walk away instead of intervening and unfortunately, if they had intervened, someone’s life might be saved or a sexual assault might possibly be prevented.

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Treating “Wounds Of The Mind”

August 28, 2008

Awhile back, I wrote this story about the new Restoration and Resiliation Center at Fort Bliss and how they were utilizing alternative therapies to help treat Soldiers suffering from PTSD and TBI. I also wrote a few weeks later about how they Army was hoping to replicate the program across the Army, because of the successes they were having at Fort Bliss.

Currently the US military has $4 million allotted to study whether alternative and holistic therapies can help to mend the “wounds of the mind.” Because of the high numbers of Soldiers returning that have been diagnosed with PTSD and TBI, the government is currently offering grants for groups to conduct clinical studies on the effects of therapies such as yoga, Reiki, animal assisted therapies, meditation, etc. According to the DoD’s request for proposals which closed on May 15th, they are totally supportive of the use of alternative therapies, if they are proven to be efficacious.

One person, who has applied for a research grant, Lola Scarborough, the owner of Yoga Lola studio in League City, Texas, is hoping to be able to document the benefits of Kundalini yoga on veterans who are suffering form PTSD and TBI. According to Scarborough, Kundaline yoga awakens an untapped reserve within the people who utilize it, envisioned as a sleeping serpent at the base of the spine. The thought is that this untapped reserve can help veterans deal better with anger, flashbacks, depression and anxiety …. Symptoms that are often associated with PTSD and TBI.

“There is a big problem with people coming back from war. They are able to survive physical wounded through body armor, but they are blowing up their brains,” Scarborough said.1

Across the country, many yoga studios are offering free sessions to veterans who are suffering from PTSD and TBI. They understand that PTSD is a chronic condition and are hoping that their services will help these veterans. They’re not, by far a cure all. Often it’s found that a combination of traditional and holistic treatments work the best, which is what is occurring at the Fort Bliss program.

Practitioners of the holistic practices, say that things such as yoga, which is an ancient Hindu practice of utilizing meditation through controlled breathing, balancing and stretching, is great for relieving stress and trauma. Some Soldiers in Iraq are already using the yoga techniques, doing yoga when they can in their spare time, to help relieve the stressors.

The executive director of the VA’s National Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, fells that the government’s willingness to attempt to find scientific proof that yoga and other holistic treatments are beneficial for patients suffering from PTSD and TBI is a positive move.

“This is what science is all about, testing something that a lot of people out there say works,” said Matthew Friedman.2

I’m all for this type of research. One of my uncle’s is a practitioner in Oriental medicine and teaches at a School of Natural Therapeutics in New Mexico. He has been in the practice for years and swears by it. I’ve talked with him extensively about his thoughts in utilizing these therapies for treatment of PTSD and TBI and am pretty excited about what he’s seen and been able to do. I look forward to hearing more about this and hope that more and more military installations across the country will begin utilizing these treatments. After all, if these non-invasive and non-pharmaceutical treatments prove effective, then this is a much better avenue of treatment for our Troops, then having them doped up on medication to help them on the road to recovery.

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Business Boot Camp Benefits Disabled Vets

August 27, 2008

Often when a Soldier is injured and is unable to return to active duty military life and has to be medically retired, one of the things that they worry about the most, is how they’re going to be able to support their families. Often they feel that the experiences in the military, won’t translate well into the civilian world. The VA, Wounded Warrior Project and other organizations offer training opportunities and employment opportunities for our wounded warriors.

Recently at College Station, Texas 16 military veterans, all who have lasting physical and emotional injuries caused from their time in combat, attended a weeklong workshop at Texas A & M University. The workshop was designed to help the veterans become successful business owners. One veteran who attended the event, excitedly leaped to the front of the room, to present his idea for a design business, to the group.

“Hello everyone,” he said, taking the microphone. “My name is Orlando Castaneda and I am a combat veteran.”1

The program at Texas A & M, called the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities, started initially at Syracuse University in New York, just last summer. This year several other colleges started the program as well, including A & M, Florida State University and the University of California at Los Angeles.

The week long boot camp at A & M ended last Saturday. During the week, Castaneda and other participants were able to present their ideas for businesses to a panel of business personnel from Bryan-College Station and other cities in Texas. The group of wounded warriors who participated, included 13 men and 3 women. Their injuries ranged from hearing loss, burns, and brain injuries. They were taught things such as the essentials of operating a business. Their instructors were the business faculty at Texas A & M. The program doesn’t end however with the final day of the class. They are still able to send their ideas and business plants to Richard Lester, the director of academic entrepreneurship programs at A & M.

“They can send their business plans to me,” Lester said. “I’ll vet it or send it to other faculty.”2

The ideas that the wounded warriors had for businesses ranged from Castaneda’s design business, to a school for at-risk children, a specialty sneaker store to a business that provides specialty equipment for military bomb technicians. Many of the veterans, wanted their business to be one that could help Soldiers who are still in the military or those who have served in the past.

“I’m a big believer in veterans helping veterans,” said Castaneda, who volunteers at a Dallas VA, while still receiving treatment for the TBI he suffered. “I believe it’s my responsibility to make sure other Soldiers are OK. Soldiers do need a lot of help,” he said. “There’s not many people that stick up for Soldiers.”3

This is a fantastic opportunity for our wounded warriors, who might desire to become business owners. With the training and information provided at these sessions, they can be better prepared for what it will take to operate a business of their own. Hopefully more colleges across the country will develop the same or similar programs to help wounded warriors.

Houston Chronicle

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Thieves Steal Part Of 9/11 Memorial

August 26, 2008

One thing that really angers me, no pisses me off, is when someone steals something that doesn’t belong to them. When I worked as a police officer, it was my pleasure to put those people in jail. I really hope that happens in this case. It really pisses me off that the people who do this type of thing, give no thought to the meaning of the memorial and how many people they victimize because of their actions. In my opinion, they deserve to spend as much time in jail as the law allows, as well as a hefty fine.

For the second time in three years, thieves stole a piece of concrete rubble from the Pentagon, at the 9/11 Memorial in Napperville, Illinois. In 2005, after the first theft, city officials installed surveillance cameras at the memorial. Unfortunately, last week, the cameras weren’t working and didn’t catch the thieves on film, last Wednesday, when the theft occurred.

The concrete piece was encased in a heavy plastic protective covering, which the thieves broke to remove it. The theft was later discovered by a security guard and reported to police. A local anti-crime group in Napperville has offered a $1,000 for the return of the piece of concrete.

The memorial in Napperville was built to honor the men and women who were victims of the 9/11 attacks, including a Napperville native, Navy Commander Dan Shanower, who died at the Pentagon.

Star Tribune, Minneapolis-St. Paul

WHSV TV, Harrisburg, Va

Wounded Warriors To Receive New Homes During National Conventions

August 25, 2008

While the Democratic and Republican parties disagree on almost every topic you can think of, this year at their National Conventions, prior to the upcoming elections, they will be sharing something in common. Both parties have set aside their differences, to do something that will benefit two wounded warriors during their conventions. During each party’s convention this year, Homes For Our Troops will be presenting the keys to a new specially adapted home to two wounded warriors in each city. The presentation of keys to the homes was something that was carefully planned between Homes For Our Troops and representatives of the Republican and Democrat National Committees.

“The RNC and the DNC, that’s one of their things that they do,” said Dawn Teixeira, Homes for Our Troops vice president and chief communication officer. “They converge hundreds of people into these cities, [and] they like to leave something nice behind. That’s why the conventions are involved.”1

The recipients of the new homes have already been chosen, they are, Travis Strong and Marcus Kuboy. In fact, they were told several months ago. Each home was built from scratch, but the wait for these two wounded warriors will soon be over, when they’re handed the keys to their new homes. Strong will receive the keys to his new home on Aug. 27 in conjunction with the Democratic convention in Denver and Kuboy will receive the keys to his on Sept. 1 in St. Paul, Minn. The Republican convention takes place that week in Minneapolis.

Strong was on a patrol during his second tour in Iraq when the Stryker armored combat vehicle he was riding in was hit by a roadside bomb. He lost both of his legs because of the incident.

When he, his wife, Misty, and their children, Sean and Brianna, get the keys to their new home in Denver, they will be moving into the 30th home that Homes for Our Troops has completed since October 2005.2

Kuboy was injured in a Humvee explosion while serving in Iraq last year. Both of his legs were severely damaged. He also suffered a traumatic brain injury, a broken arm, back and jaw.

After months of recovery at Walter Reed Army Medical Center here, he continues rehabilitation at the Veterans Affairs Rehabilitation Center in St. Paul.3

Both political parties released a joint advertisement announcing the joint project, which is pictured here.

“There’s not much Democrats and Republicans agree on, but we all agree on supporting our troops,” reads a joint Democratic and Republican advertisement. “That’s why the Democratic and Republican National Conventions are proud to join … Homes for Our Troops in building specially adapted new homes in Denver and Minneapolis-St. Paul for a seriously wounded servicemember and their family from each of these communities.”4

I think it’s great that both political parties have chosen to participate in this endeavor and that, during a time in which they’re differences are forefront in the media, they’re able to set aside those differences to ensure that these two, well deserving wounded warriors receive a home that is specifically adapted to meet their needs. In the end, Strong and Kuboy will be able to continue to recover from their injuries in a home that they might not have otherwise been able to afford to purchase. For once, I can honestly say that I’m impressed with something this country’s politicians have done. If you’re interested in how you might be able to take part in the projects that Homes For Our Troops have in progress or perhaps making a contribution, please visit their website, by following the link below.

Homes For Our Troops

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Military Olympians Represent

August 23, 2008

While not all of the 13 military members who competed in the Olympic games walked away with medals, they all represented our country in typical military fashion; professionalism, confidence and dedication. Of the 13 who competed, two walked away with medals, Gold medals as they won their event. Both men were members of the US Army Marksmanship Unit based at Fort Benning, Georgia. Army SPC Walton “Glenn” Eller won the first Gold medal in the Double Trap. Army PFC won the second Gold medal in Skeet. Both men performed tremendously and showed the world why they are the best of the best. Below is a list of the 13 military olympians, the sport they competed in and the results of their competition.

Air Force Reserve Lt. Col. Dominic Grazioli competed in Trap and walked away with 23rd Place.
Air Force Reserve Captain Weston “Seth” Kelsey competed in Fencing and didn’t medal.
Army SFC Jason Parker competed in 10m Air Rifle and took 23rd Place.
Army SFC Daryl Szarenski competed in 50m Pistol and took 14th Place.
Army SPC Walton “Glenn” Eller competed in Double Trap and won 1st Place.
Army SPC Jeffrey Holguin competed in Double Trap and took 4th Place.
Army Reserve SSG Elizabeth “Libby” Calahan competed in 25m Pistol and took 25th Place.
Army SSG Dremiel Byers competed in Greco-Roman Wrestling and didn’t medal.
Army Major Michael Anti competed in 50m Rigle Prone and took 9th Place.
Army SSG Keith Sanderson competed in Rapid Fire Pistol and took 5th Place.
Army PFC Vincent Hancock competed in Skeet and won 1st Place.
Air Force Captain Kevin Eastler competed in the 20km Race Walk and took 43rd Place.
Air Force Reserve Captain Eli Bremer competed in the Modern Pentathlon and took 22nd Place.1

Regardless of the place they finished, each should be extremely proud of their performance. Each of these men and women trained for years to get to the level they are, yet they all continued to serve our Country with pride, dedication and professionalism. I’m proud of each and every one of them and would like to commend them all on a fantastic job and extend my gratitude for their service to our country.

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America’s Heroes At Work

August 22, 2008

With the number of wounded warriors who are medically discharged because their injuries prevent them from continuing their career in the military, the dilemma arises about how those veterans are going to be able to support themselves and their families. Several non-profit agencies, the VA and others have come forward with programs that help these veterans obtain education and employment, so that they’re able to rejoin the workforce. The government has also stepped up to the plate with different educational and employment initiatives, to help our wounded warriors in this transition. A new program, called Americas Heroes At Work is one such program.

One veteran, who exemplifies the America’s Heroes At Work, is former SSG Michael Bradley. Bradley was medically retired last year as a result of the signature wounds of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq …. PTSD and TBI. Bradley was a 6 year veteran of the Army, serving as a medic with 4th Infantry Division when he was injured, as a result of a blast from a roadside bomb, while serving in Baqubah, Iraq.

“I was driving a high-profile individual,” recalled Bradley, a former staff sergeant with the Army’s 4th Infantry Division. “All I remember is that I saw the flash, and I pulled him to get him out of the way of the blast. That’s all I remember.”1

Moments after he saw the flash, a 155 mm mortar, where Bradley had been sitting. The blast knocked him unconscious, which caused him to slump out of his seat, probably saving his life. Though he escaped without any major physical injuries, the memory of the event, has haunted him since then. So much so, that even the sound of a door slamming, puts him on edge.

“I went to Disneyland, and the cannons starting firing off the ship,” Bradley recalled. “And here I am low-crawling across the ground, knowing full well that I’m in Disneyland, but my body’s reacting.

“My mind is saying, ‘Get up you fool.’ But my body’s saying, ‘No. I’m not going to do it,’” he said.2

Because of his involvement with America’s Heroes At Work, Bradley was hired as an analyst with Halfacre and Associates in February. That job has proved to be pivotal in not only his transition from the Army to the civilian sector, but in his recovery as well. It’s helped him to realize that the skills he learned in the Army would transfer into the civilian world and provided him with the incentive to continue to work towards his recovery. He truly exemplifies the America’s Heroes At Work program.

“To get back into the work force and be able to see that I can succeed [and that] what I wrote down on my resume is true, and that I can do it, and I have a lot to offer … has really decreased stress,” he said. “To overcome those obstacles, and being able to be out in the work force, has really helped emphasize that I can do it and I can succeed.”3

From the America’s Heroes At Work website, a little about the program and their extremely worthwhile mission.

About America’s Heroes at Work
America’s Heroes at Work is a U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) project that focuses on the employment challenges of returning service members living with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and/or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The project equips employers and the workforce development system with the tools they need to help returning service members affected by TBI and/or PTSD succeed in the workplace - particularly service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

A Collaborative Effort
America’s Heroes at Work is managed jointly by DOL’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) and Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS) in collaboration with other federal agencies engaged in TBI and PTSD programs, including the Departments of Defense, Veterans Affairs, Health and Human Services and Education, the Small Business Administration, the Social Security Administration and others.

Leading Injuries, Significant Challenges
Due to advances in military medicine and protective equipment, increased numbers of service members are surviving the injuries they sustain on the battlefield. However, the changing combat landscape has caused a sharp increase in TBI and PTSD, which are increasingly recognized as leading injuries of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Hundreds of thousands of brave men and women will be coping with the challenges of TBI and PTSD as they reenter civilian life, today and for many years to come.

Although their injuries may not be visible, service members with TBI or PTSD may face difficulties, especially with respect to employment. These individuals may suffer from headaches, vertigo, balance problems, anxiety and sleep disturbance, among other symptoms. They also may have cognitive symptoms including short-term memory deficits, poor concentration and decision-making difficulties. All of these can interfere with everyday activities, inside and outside of the workplace.

Answering the Call
For wounded and injured veterans, employment can play a significant role in the road the recovery. So to help our returning service members succeed in the workplace, America’s Heroes at Work is engaging in a targeted education campaign designed to increase awareness of TBI and PTSD issues among the workforce system and to educate employers on workplace accommodations they can make for these employees.

The project offers a variety of educational resources devoted to improving employment-related outcomes for returning service members with TBI and/or PTSD. Materials include fact sheets, Web-based training tools, educational presentations and more - all designed for employers, workforce development professionals, service branches, key military support systems, veterans’ service organizations and One-Stop Career Centers.4

I’m really impressed with what I’ve read about the program and extremely excited to see the government take such an active role in ensuring our wounded warriors are able to transition into good jobs, by ensuring they have the appropriate education and training and working closely with the employers to ensure the workplace is one that can be supportive of them. It’s awesome to see companies such as Halfacre and Associates taking part in these programs. That tells me that they recognize the valuable asset that a veteran can be to their company.

America’s Heroes At Work Website

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2008 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award

August 20, 2008

Having a son serving in the National Guard, I’m well aware of how hard it can be on companies who employ National Guard and Reserve Soldiers, when those “citizen soldiers” are activated and have to deploy. It can make it difficult, especially for small companies to continue their business, when their employees are suddenly activated and have to deploy for a year or more. Some employers take this in stride and are proud of the jobs that their “citizen soldier” employee does, serving their country. In recognition of the sacrifice these companies make and the support they provide to their “citizen soldier” employee, the Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award was created. I’m always pleased to read of some of the things these employers are doing in support of these men and women, and this year, one really stands out to me. With so many Reserve and National Guard Soldiers being activated to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan, more and more companies are being affected.

The Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award is the highest recognition given by the U.S. Government to employers for their support of their employees who serve in the National Guard and Reserve.

Nominations must come from a Guard or Reserve member who is employed by the organization they are nominating, or from a family member.

The award was created to publicly recognize employers who provide exceptional support to their National Guard and Reserve employees. It is the highest in a series of employer recognition awards given by the Department of Defense.

Almost one-half of the U.S. military is comprised of the National Guard and Reserve. The Department of Defense shares these citizen warriors with their civilian employers, many of whom provide significant support to their employees who serve in the Guard and Reserve. This award recognizes employers who provide the most outstanding support for their National Guard and Reserve employees and is presented annually by the Secretary of Defense.1

One such company is Union Pacific Railroad. The heritage of the company is one with strong ties to the military. After the Civil War, thousands of Civil War Veterans helped to build the very first transcontinental railroad, in the 1800s. The railway was considered to be a vital part of the national defense at that time. During World War I and World War II, a railroad canteen located in North Platte, Ne was a resting place for Soldiers on their way overseas.

Because of this history, Union Pacific has always had a strong working relationship with the military. That strong working relationship continues today. Currently the company has over 50,000 employees. More than 7300 of them serve or have served in the military. Since the beginning of the Global War on Terrorism, 530 of those employees have been deployed at some point.

Because of this, Union Pacific works to ensure that their deployed employes are taken care of. They ensure that they balance their work around their training and work in the Guards and Reserves. The company also has a policy that has been in place for many years, before 9/11, in which they offer differential pay to National Guard and Reserve employees during their deployments and other times that they might be activated. All of their health benefits for themselves and their family are continued and each of the employees are assigned a care coordinator who assists with benefits and other needs that the family might have during the deployment.

Union Pacific employees also ensure that their fellow employees who are deployed receive a “personal touch” by sending care packages, writing letters, ensuring that local news media has information about their Soldiers and helping out their families with home repairs and other things that might arise during the year long deployments.

Because of the awesome support of Union Pacific while he was deployed, Iowa National Guardsman and Union Pacific employee, Jesse Swanger nominated them for the Freedom Award. Among his fellow guardsmen were 5 others who were also employees of Union Pacific. They all got to talking and realized just how much Union Pacific did for them during their deployments and felt that this was the least they could do. Union Pacific also recognizes that their Soldier/Employees may suffer from things such as TBI and PTSD upon their return and took steps to establish a program to help identify and promptly treat PTSD. Their idea was to make the transition from Soldier back into being a civilian as easy as possible.

According to Union Pacific’s assistant vice president of human resources, Roy Schroer, the company feels that addressing PTSD is important for not only the employees and their health but for the entire company.

“Many of these people just need some assistance and understanding on our part, so that they can move back into normal physical and mental capabilities and work safely,” he said. “We need everyone to feel confident in everyone else’s abilities to focus on their tasks and be safe. Supporting the military is part of Union Pacific’s culture and heritage and is something that the entire company gets involved with,” Schroer said. Thousands of employees turn out to sign Christmas cards or contribute to care packages for deployed employees. It’s a great morale sustainer across the entire company,” he said. “It’s something that employees show a lot of pride in.”

Schroer said that the company feels that not only do the soldier/employees benefit from the treatment given to them by Union Pacific, but the entire company benefits from the experience, training, service and dedication of their deployed employees when they return to their jobs following their deployments. When told about the Freedom Award that they would be receiving, Schroer said Union Pacific’s leaders were ecstatic

The Freedom Award will be presented to Union Pacific, along with other companies 15 total, chosen for the award, at a ceremony to be held on September 18th at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington DC. The Freedom Award was began in 1996 under the auspices of the National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserves, in order to recognize the outstanding support and contribution made by the employers of these “citizen” soldiers.2

It sounds like Union Pacific has a great program to support their National Guard and Reserve employees and it’s fantastic that they’ve recognized how difficult it can be for these men and women when they return and are struggling with PTSD. It amazes me that they’ve created their own PTSD program to help their employees cope and be able to continue being productive members of their team. I applaud them for their efforts and hope that more employers will look at their program and begin similar ones in their companies. I plan to email their corporate offices and let them know how much programs such as theirs are appreciated.

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