July 14, 2008
Even when our Troops are deployed, they have downtime, in which they’re not at work. To pass the time, they try to fill the time with something that they enjoy. That may be reading or perhaps watching a movie or playing a video game. Movies and video games have been popular among the deployed Troops to help them fill in that downtime. Recognizing this, Blockbuster stores across the United States have partnered with the USO to make it easier to Americans to donate video games and DVDs deployed Troops.
“The DVD and game drive is a way for Blockbuster stores and the American public to make life a little better for US servicemen and women when they’re so far away from home,” Larcine Bland, Blockbuster’s vice president for community affairs said.
Customers are able to purchase a new or previously viewed DVD or games at participating Blockbuster stores. They then drop the movies or games into a USO drop box that is provided. Because of security reasons, the USO can only accept DVDs and games that originate from participating Blockbuster stores. Blockbuster will then match donations made at the store, up to 20,000 DVDs. They will work closely with the USO to ensure that the movies and games are distributed to Troops around the world.
“We are excited to work with Blockbuster, to continue to boost the morale of our men and women in uniform and their families around the world,” said Edward A. Powell, USO president and chief executive officer.
Movies, video games and music are things that I always suggest to someone who asks what would be the best thing for them to send our deployed Troops. These items allow them the opportunity to unwind a little bit when they have the time away from the harsh realities of life during deployment.
This is a great opportunity for people who want to do something tangible to show their support for our Troops. Please take the time to visit your local Blockbuster Store and see if they’re participating in this program and do your part in sending some support to our deployed Troops. If they’re not, don’t hesitate to let them know how you feel about them not participating.
Troops In Iraq Reenlist On 4th of July
July 5, 2008
For around 1,215 Soldiers, Marines and Airmen in Iraq, their July 4th this year was a special one, as they took part in the largest reenlistment ceremony held. General David Petraeus administered the oath in Saddam Hussein’s former Al-Faw palace as John Phillip Sousa’s marches played in the background. Also heard were a chorus of “Freedom, Hooah and Oorah” from the men and women as they extended their service in their respective branches of the military. Some reenlisted because of enlistment bonuses, while others said that their belief in the job they’re doing in Iraq was also an important factor in their decision. For some, they were on their second and third tours in the country.
“There’s no place I’d rather be to celebrate America’s birthday than here in Iraq ,” said Petraeus, who described the troops as “America’s new ‘Greatest Generation.” The troops’ commitment and sacrifice, he added, have given the Iraqi people “the most precious gift…freedom.”
One Army Master Sergeant who reenlisted, MSG Debra Bradshaw said that while the money isn’t bad, her motive is also that she’d rather deal with the enemy in Iraq than here at home. At least two husband-and-wife teams were sworn in at the ceremony. Sgt. Ryan Lowe , a military policeman from the 18th MP Brigade, and his wife, Sgt. Erika Lowe , also a military police officer, said they reenlisted with their next duty station being Brussels, Belgium. Ryan is currently in his 23rd month in Iraq, because he volunteered to extend his tour, so that he’d be there with his wife.
Following the ceremony, the newly reenlisted Troops feasted on pizza, chocolate cake and had gatorade to drink. Across the country, Troops celebrated the birth of our country, with barbecues and special meals in the DFACS. You can bet that the meaning of today wasn’t lost on them. Just like the brave men taking part in the American Revolution, 232 years ago, these men and women were well aware that freedom and liberty was and still is worth fighting for.
June 20, 2008
Most of the time, when we think of military spouses, we think of the wives of Soldiers left at home, taking care of the household and the children and keeping the flame burning, while they wait for their Soldier to return. It’s not often that we hear anything about the Military Dad’s who remain at home while their wives deploy and take over the duties and responsibilities of “mom” in the household. Yet their numbers are ever increasing, as more and more women chose the military as a career and are deployed, and they are just as integral part of the military, as female spouses are. Currently there is no system in place to track the number of husbands whose wives are deployed. However, according to Paul Boyce, Army public affairs specialist at the Pentagon, more than 20,000 registered Soldiers in the Army alone are in the married couple program. About 60% of the Soldiers enlisted in the Army are married. At Fort Bragg, there is an ample number of husbands with deployed wives.
One such “Mr Military Mom” Major Keith Vollert with US Army Reserve 391st Engineer Battalion is home caring for his child while his wife Kathy is deployed to Iraq. Vollert takes care of the cooking, cleaning and making arrangements for is son to have play dates with other children.
“I have a much better appreciation of all the single parents out there,” he said. “And I’m only a single parent for a year.”
Each military family deals with deployments in a different way. Some like the Vollerts, leave the father in charge with backups in place. In their case, Keith’s parents, who are caring for their grandchild while Vollert attends extended combat training in Fort McCoy, Wisconsin for 21 days. Others like field grade officers Sydney Smith and Tim Gilhool, hired a live-in nanny to help care for their two young children.
“You do your best,” said Gilhool, whose wife has been deployed right at a year. “You can’t be the mom. Like planning birthday parties, combing Molly’s hair, putting in the braids, shopping for girlie stuff. You do the best you can, you get advice.”
One “Mr. Military Mom”, Charles DeVito-Cromwell, who is retired from the 187th Infantry Regiment in Fort Campbell, Ky felt that he needed to have contact with the other men during their wives deployments in 2007. He reached out to them and helped to form the Army Community Services program called “Rear D Dads” at Fort Bragg. The group is a run by volunteers and meets monthly. It is designed to help men with deployed wives get information about various things; such as finding jobs to social events that are upcoming.
It’s great to hear about the husbands and how they are dealing with the deployment of their spouses. Those who are in the military themselves, I’m sure, come to appreciate what their wives deal with when they’re deployed and how difficult, yet rewarding it can be, to be the parent who stays behind and handles the everyday things and keeps things running smoothly at home. Just like the wives who are left behind when their Soldier deploys, they face the ups and downs that come along with news reports of an attack in the area where their loved one is at and the worry that goes along with it, until they know their spouse is safe. It’s good to see that the husbands at some bases are forming their own support groups to help them deal with the challenges they face as “Mr Military Mom.”
June 19, 2008
It’s a well known fact that the Military powers that be haven’t always been very fond of Military members publishing personal blogs. Especially if those military members are blogging from the war zone. Just a few days ago, our good friend CJ with A Soldier’s Perspective, posted here and here when he discovered that his blog wasn’t accessible from Military computers in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as on bases here in the United States. Like, CJ I’m not sure how the military determines which blogs are acceptable to be accessed from military computers and which ones aren’t. I know that up until last November, ASM was accessible from military computers and now it’s not. I also don’t know if which ones are allowed and which ones aren’t, vary from installation to installation, though it does appear that it does. So, when I read on Army Times that the Chief of SouthCom encourages military members to blog, it caught my eye.
The Chief of the US Southern Command, a 4 star urged military members recently, to become published writers and bloggers. He did so at a 3 day conference that was held at the US Naval Institute that began on Tuesday in Virginia Beach, Va. Admiral James Stavridis, is himself an author of several guides and books that pertain to the Navy. He said that he feels it’s important for members of the military, military contractors, civilians and retirees to read, think, write and publish. He says that the process of reading and writing is very important, because our nation faces an “innovative” enemy like the attackers involved in the September 11, 2001 attacks.
“The most important reason is that the people who want to do harm to this country are doing so,” he said. “They are thinkers.”
Admiral Stavridis feels that by publishing works through blogs, journals, books, etc, people are able to ensure the ideal of sharing and exchanging ideas, knowledge and information. Hopefully, by Admiral Stavridis being vocal about his thoughts on blogging and other methods of getting out information, the military will eventually start relaxing their stance on military blogs. Like CJ, our goal is to provide information to our readers and the general public about our Troops and their accomplishments. At the same time, like CJ, we don’t have a problem pointing out mistakes and screw ups made by the military, when we hear about them or see them occur.
June 14, 2008
Today, 233 years ago, the United States Army was established to defend our great nation. We have stood Army Strong and committed to our mission, our nation, and its people from the time of the Revolutionary War to the Global War on Terror. This celebration stands to commemorate the Soldiers, Families and Civilians that have served with distinction and honor for the last 233 years. Their willingness to sacrifice to build a better future for others and preserve our way of life is without a doubt, the Strength of our Nation.
The United States and the Army, in comparison to other nations, has only been established for a very short time. However, much has been accomplished in such a short period. In just 233 years the nation has become a world leader in economics, technology and politics. Without the Army, none of these accomplishments would have been possible.
June 12, 2008
On Tuesday, the US House of Representatives passed legislation that would authorize a commemorative silver dollar to honor US Army Infantry. The bill would also help to fund the National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center at Fort Benning, Georgia. The bill was introduced by Representative Lynn Westmoreland and co-sponsored by Representative Sanford Bishop. The bill will still need approval from the Senate. It also faces competition from other commemorative coin proposals.
The coin will be sold for $10 and some of the proceeds will go to create an endowment fund for the Fort Benning Museum that is currently under construction. Fort Benning is known as the home of the Infantry and is one of the Army’s major infantry training bases. Fort Benning is typically home to around 33,000 Soldiers. The National Infantry Foundation is currently in the process of raising $70 million for the new museum, which has been designed to educate the public about the role that the Army Infantry has played throughout US history.
“For more than 200 years, our infantry has defended our lives and our freedom, and no tribute can repay what these Soldiers have given their fellow Americans,” Westmoreland said.
Congress limits itself to the authorization of two commemorative coins each year that in some way honors the nation’s history and culture. These coins typically raise money for historical sites and other monuments, such as the Vietnam Memorial. The program began in 1982 and since that time, the US Mint has raised more than $400 million for thse causes, after the Treasury costs are covered.
In the past, coins such as one celebrating Civil War battlefields, various Olympic games and the Statue of Liberty have been minted. Last year, the Mint started selling a coin that marked the 50th anniversary of the desegregation of the Central High School in Little Rock, Ark.
This is a great idea and one way that funds for worthy causes, such as the Infantry Museum, can be raised. It’s my hope that Congress will authorize coins to be created to honor ALL branches of the military and the different MOS’s that our Troops serve. What better way to honor the men and women who sacrifice so much for our country. It’s too bad that Congress limits themselves to authorizing only 2 of these coins per year.
June 2, 2008
Anytime you turn on the television nowdays, we’re deluged with various game shows and reality shows. The producers of ABC’s newest game show is looking for military families to become contestants on the pilot episode of their show, which according to reports, will offer a huge cash prize. Families who wish to apply must submit their requests by July 3rd.
There hasn’t been a lot of information released about the show, such as the name of the show, the amount of the prizes and what kind of game show it will be, due to proprietary reasons, according to Victor Hurtado, who is the head of Martenvee Media which specializes in military casting. He did say however, that the show will be family friendly and it will involve general knowledge questions. The contestants that the shows’ producers are looking for are families who are “outgoing and fun” and who have children between the ages of 7 and 21. The idea is to have the entire family participate in the show, where the show will come to the family’s home.
According to Hurtado, the show is produced by the same producers of “Extreme Makeover, Home Edition” and “Oprah’s Big Give.” Hurtado said that the producers understand the sacrifices made by military families and that they would like to reach out to this community. Because it’s difficult for them to get onto military bases, they’ve decided to reach out publicly to military families who would like to apply to be contestants.
The following information is required of families who want to be contestants on the show. They need to email the information to .
Pictures of your family and your home
Brief biography of each family member and their ages
Any challenge you’d like to include
Wish list of home improvements
A statement of why you want to be on the show
Families are invited to send as much or as little information, as they’re comfortable with. If their entry sparks the producers interest, they will contact the family to get more information through their local military installation’s PAO office.
This sounds like it could be fun for military families and definately a way to highlight to the world, what our military families sometimes have to deal with, especially during deployments. I’ll be checking into this further and will update the information as I get it.
June 1, 2008
Geraldine Marquez was a retired Air Force Sergeant and serving in Afghanistan as a civilian contractor with Lockheed Martin Corporation, when she was killed in a suicide bombing attack February 27, 2007. On Friday, Marquez’s family received a posthumous award of the Defense of Freedom Medal from the Department of Defense.
“It doesn’t replace her departure, but it does recognize her commitment,” said her sister Jeanette Marquez at the ceremony. “It’s comforting to know her sacrifice did not go unrecognized.”
Marquez worked as a civilian military-operations analyst for Lockheed Martin and was serving at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan. The medal that was awarded to Marquez’s family, is the civilian equilivant of the Purple Heart.
The bombing in which Marquez was killed, was believed to have been targeting Vice President Dick Cheney, who was visiting the base at the time of the bombing. Twenty-three people were killed in the blast. According to information provided about the bombing, Marquez had escorted several Afghan trucks inside the main gate of the base, when the bomb exploded, only 30 feet away from her. According to officials from Lockheed Martin, the death of Marquez was the first for the company in two years overseas.
Prior to the ceremony, the Defense of Freedom Medal was displayed on a table next to the certificate that was signed by Army Secretary Pete Geren. Also displayed was the American Flag that was flown at Bagram Air Base in honor of Marquez. Rev. Jim Parris of Calvary Chapel Golden Valley Church spoke, before the ceremony in honor of Marquez.
“God bless all the Soldiers like Geraldine, who fight so we have the right to have freedom,” Parris said to the crowd of more than 50 family and friends of Geraldine Marquez.
It’s important to recognize the service and sacrifice of the civilian workers, who alongside our Troops, put themselves in harms way, in order to ensure our freedom and the freedoms of those in other countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq. It only makes sense to honor Geraldine Marquez and other civilian workers who lose their lives as they provide vital support to our Troops in the warzones.
May 31, 2008
On Thursday afternoon, I had the pleasure of participating in the Bloggers Roundtable discussion on Behavioral Health & Suicide Prevention. Speakers for the discussion were Lt. Co. Thomas E. Languirand, Chief of Command Policies and Programs Division, Chaplain (Col) Charles D. Reese, Office of the Chief of Chaplains and Col. Elspeth Ritchie, Psychiatric consultant to the Army Surgeon General.
LTC Languirand opened the discussion by saying that the Army values the well-being of it’s Soldiers and their Families. He emphasized that the Army is committed to them by ensuring that they can learn to increase their coping skills. The Army is committed to addressing the risk factors and to remove the stigma that is associated with seeking mental health care for problems. LTC Languirand stressed that the Army feels that even one suicide is one suicide too many and the Army is actively pursuing educational means and interventions that they hope will decrease the number of suicides in the military. Things that are being used, such as the Army’s Battlemind Training, are being utilized prior to and following deployments. That training as well is being offered to family members. The training is designed to teach Soldiers and their family members to recognize signs of problems, so that they can encourage each other and their family members to seek help when necessary. I’ve reviewed the Battlemind Training for Soldiers as well as the training for Family members and it’s definately a step in the right direction. The hope is that by teaching Soldiers what to look out for in each other and teaching Family members what to look for with their Soldiers returning from downrange, they can help in the prevention of suicides and other mental health problems. It’s great training and I encourage anyone who has contact with Soldiers to go to the Army Battlemind Training Website and utilize the information that is provided there.
Chaplain (Col) Reese then explained the role of Chaplains in suicide prevention and mental health care, saying that they offer religious and spiritual support for Soldiers and their Families. Chaplains also provide Soldiers and their Family members assistance with learning coping skills both during and after deployments. When units deploy downrange, Chaplains deploy with them, to offer their support with the myriad of difficulties that can arise during the deployment. Chaplains are also an essential piece in dealing with routine and crisis situations and they are the primary trainers in the Army for suicide prevention.
The last speaker, Col. Ritchie spoke in length about the ways in which the Army is working to expand their intensive out-patient programs, in order to ensure that Soldiers and their Family members have the assistance available to them that is necessary. She went on to mention the Holistic approaches that are beginning to be utilized in the treatment of PTSD, in suicide prevention and the treatment of TBI’s. There are several pilot programs in place, such as the Restoration and Resilience Center in Fort Bliss that I’ve reported about in the past. As you may recall, the program at Fort Bliss, utilizes alternative medicine, such as yoga, meditation, martial arts, qigong, reiki and accupuncture, to name a few. A similar program is in place at Walter Reed. Col. Ritchie stated that at this time, the programs are in the research stages and that they’re watching closely to monitor their results in the programs. Col. Ritchie also mentioned programs being conducted utilizing Virtual Reality in Fort Sill, Ok., Ft. Lewis, Wash. and at Walter Reed. Having read extensively about these programs and the successes they’ve had so far, I’m pretty impressed and feel that both of the programs bear watching, as programs that may prove extremely successful in treating Soldiers suffering from PTSD and TBI’s.
Col. Ritchie stressed that the Army is actively looking to expand the number of mental health providers. They are also looking at increasing the number of Tricare providers and are working to help educate civilian providers and expand their knowledge base to better treat Soldiers suffering from PTSD. Efforts are also underway to educate primary care providers on how to treat PTSD.
The floor was open for discussion and many great questions were asked and answered. One participant had concerns about a Soldier seeking mental health help and staff at emergency rooms not picking up on signs of depression. Col. Ritchie responded by saying that Soldiers who are exhibiting signs of mental health problems are seen in the military emergency rooms by mental health workers and those problems are being addressed in the emergency rooms. She did admit that no system is perfect and that occasionally someone who may not vocalize that they’re experiencing depression or looking to harm themselves, may not be recognized, that they are working hard to ensure that no one needing mental health care falls through the cracks.
Mental Health care in Iraq and Afghanistan were addressed as well, with the participant asking if Soldiers were being prescribed anti-depressants downrange without being fully diagnosed with depression. Col. Ritchie assurred that mental health providers are in theater and are thoroughly evaluating patients to ensure that they receive the appropriate care. Evaluations used in theater are the same as evaluations utilized in the states. She stressed that providers understand the importance of correct diagnosis prior to prescribing medication.
The last question addressed the stigma of a Soldier seeking mental health help and how the Army was addressing that to ensure that Soldiers aren’t stigmatized when asking for help. Col. Ritchie stated that the military as a whole is dedicated to ensuring that the stigma is removed and the DoD has taken the lead to ensure that by revising the questionnaire for national security positions, patrticulary question 21. The revised question, she said, now excludes non-court-ordered counseling related to marital, family or grief issues, or counseling for issues related to military service in a combat zone. Another step is educating Soldiers and leadership on the importance of seeking help that the Army is actively pursuing. They are also working to ensure that leadership encourages Soldiers who need help with mental health issues, such as PTSD or depression, to seek that help and not stigmatize the Soldier when they do seek help.
This roundtable discussion was very informative and highlighted the many avenues the Army is actively taking to ensure that our Soldiers and their Family members receive the best care possible as quickly as possible.
May 30, 2008
When Soldiers are deployed, one thing that helps to make their deployment easier is being able to connect with their families and friends back home. Morale is very important to Troops in the warzone and having that connection with loved ones, helps to improve their morale, making it much easier for them to continue in their mission. A partnership between AT&T and Cell Phones For Soldiers understands that importance and are doing something about it.
Recently, AT&T, The Navy Exchange and Cell Phones For Soldiers celebrated Fleet Week 2008, with members of the Navy, Marines and Coast Guard in New York City. Working together, they donated 7,000 land and sea based prepaid phone cards to the members of the Armed Forces who were in New York City last Thursday for Fleet Week 2008. Other efforts that the partnership have going is the Earth Day Challenge, where AT&T and Cell Phones For Soldiers have pledged to work together and collect more than 1.8 million recycled cell phones by Earth Day 2009.
AT&T and Cell Phones for Soldiers Launch Earth Day Challenge: Double Cell Phone Recycling by Next Earth Day to Support the Environment and Military Families
Recycling Program That Sends Phone Cards to Troops Has Helped Avoid 125 Tons of E-Waste; AT&T’s Support for Program Expands to Add ‘Helping Hands’ From a Network of more than 300,000 AT&T Volunteers
San Antonio, Texas, April 21, 2008
AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T) announced today that the company will work with Cell Phones for Soldiers (CPFS) to drive recycling and reduce e-waste through the next year with a goal of doubling the number of cell phones the charity recycles by next Earth Day. CPFS collects and recycles mobile phones and uses the proceeds to buy free phone cards for U.S. military members and their families.
Since Earth Day 2007, CPFS has collected more than 900,000 cell phones for recycling. AT&T and CPFS have pledged to work together to help the charity collect more than 1.8 million devices by Earth Day 2009. AT&T currently supports the charity’s recycling through more than 2,000 AT&T stores in more than 1,100 cities across the U.S. AT&T is expanding that support to include a network of more than 300,000 community volunteers, a national donation drive running through July 2008 and a new online starter kit for donations.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, e-waste is accumulating three times faster than household trash. Since 2004, CPFS has collected more than 1.25 million mobile phones. The charity’s recycling partner, ReCellular, estimates that this has prevented more than 125 tons of e-waste from entering landfills, including the environmental equivalents of:
Saving enough energy to power nearly 4,000 U.S. households for a year. Avoiding the same amount of greenhouse gas emissions as removing more than 2,800 passenger cars from the roads for a year. Keeping more than two tons of toxic materials out of landfills. “With Earth Day and Cell Phones for Soldiers, we’re turning up the volume on cell phone recycling,” said Paul Roth, president of Marketing and Sales for AT&T’s wireless unit. “So far this year, our weekly in-store recycling averages are five times what they were in 2007 and 28 times more than the same time in 2006. AT&T is proud to support both of these worthwhile programs.”
AT&T Adds New People Power: The AT&T Pioneers
One way AT&T is supporting the recycling challenge is through the added support of the AT&T Pioneers. Beginning Earth Day on April 22, a network of more than 300,000 volunteers will begin helping expand the charity’s cell phone donation drives into communities across the U.S. Roughly 100 new donation locations will be established, and volunteers will work to collect phones in corporate offices and community locations from the days surrounding Earth Day through July 4 to support the environment and to help keep military families connected with free phone cards.
New Free Online Donation Drive Tool Kit
AT&T and CPFS are also launching a new online tool designed to support community groups and help individuals launch and conduct their own donation drives with a new electronic “starter kit,” available at AT&T Recycle Wireless. The tool is available to anyone who would like to run a donation drive with CPFS, and it includes environmental tips, planning tools, camera-ready artwork for recycling bins and other relevant materials.
“We’re excited to have the support of the AT&T Pioneers and a new free tool to offer our supporters,” said CPFS co-founder Brittany Bergquist. “We run our charity from home, and we rely on volunteer support to collect phones for recycling. Having more helping hands to drive our mission to recycle for the troops â€” and reduce e-waste â€” is something that makes a huge impact on our ability to reach people and, in the end, send more free calls to the troops. Having a new free tool that anyone can use is one more way we’re making it simple for people to join us.”
Since AT&T launched its support, the company has also donated more than 60,000 prepaid phone cards â€” valued at more than $500,000 â€” to CPFS to help the charity connect more military families. In the past two years, AT&T has donated more than $4 million worth of prepaid phone cards to help support U.S. military members and their families. These donations include direct distributions to troops serving in Iraq, Kuwait, Afghanistan, South Korea, Japan and Europe. The company also has built 70 calling centers in Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan.
Both of these programs are great initiatives to provide our Troops a way to keep in touch with their families and friends during their deployment and goes a long way towards showing our Troops how much corporations such as AT&T and citizens support them, while they continue their jobs in the Global War on Terror. If you’d like to participate in the programs or perhaps read more about ways that AT&T supports the Troops, please visit their website, via the link provided below.
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