BSF Weekly News Round-Up for September 1

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

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Weekly News Round-Up

All the Latest in Everything Blue Star Families

Welcome!  Things are buzzing in North Carolina as we, along with K.I.D.S., prepare to welcome Governor Perdue to help us donate more than 4,000 children’s books to 37 DODEA and military impacted schools on September 10th.  Read all about it, and many other cool things happening in the BSF world below.

We are working hard on the creation of our new Blue Star Families website and online community which will be launching very soon!  Check out below how YOU can help make connecting together even easier and more exciting.

Remember, if you want BSF info and links to articles and events more than once a week, join us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and check out our Blue Star Families Blog.

If you received our Weekly News Round-Up from a friend or co-worker, please join us today.  Blue Star Families is an exciting new way for military family members from all ranks and services (and our supporters!) to Connect, Support, and Empower one another.  Just go to the JOIN US page on our site www.BlueStarFam.org.

There’s a lot of excitement about Blue Star Families and the best way to make sure you are in the middle of it all is to join your local chapter.  Just shoot Vivian a note at members@bluestarfam.org, and she’ll get you connected.

Enjoy! Heidi & the Blue Star Families Team


NC Governor Beverly Perdue to Help BSF Kick-off Books on Bases

Blue Star Families and our program partner, K.I.D.S. believe in the healing power of books and are excited to kick off our national Books on Bases, Smiles on Faces literacy event for military children at Ft. Bragg on September 10th.  We are especially honored to have North Carolina Governor, Beverly Perdue joining us and we’d like to invite BSF members too!

This event will include the distribution of approximately 4,000 children’s books to all 17 DODEA schools in the state of NC and 20 military impacted public schools in the local area. Children with parents serving in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard will benefit from this significant donation to their schools and libraries. Base libraries from Camp Lejeune, Pope Air Force Base, and Ft. Bragg will also be included.

Please check out the details here and be sure to RSVP to programs@bluestarfam.org by September 7.  We will have approximately 100 seats reserved for BSF members so RSVP TODAY!

Priority will be given to event volunteers, and we still need plenty of them!  If you are interested in helping before and/or during the event, please contact us at programs@bluestarfam.org today.


DOD’s First Joint Family Readiness Conference in a Decade & BSF Will Be There!

The Defense Department’s first joint family readiness conference in nearly a decade will take place next week in Chicago, and Danette Hayes, BSF’s Director of National Guard and Reserve Programs and Pamela Stokes-Eggleston, BSF’s Director of Development will be on hand to spread the word about Blue Star Families’ mission to Support, Connect and Empower military families.

The conference is expected to draw about 1,500 helping professionals from throughout the world and will offer information and resources as well as the latest research affecting military family care.  Read more about the conference here.


Frustrated by Having to Register to VOTE Every Time You Move?  Tell Us All About It!

Blue Star Families wants to identify the special challenges that military members and their families face when struggling to vote and fully participate in our government. Help us by completing the BSF Voter Registration survey. We are interested in knowing:

  • How often you have had to register to vote?
  • What kinds of problems you have had voting – either in person or via absentee?
  • Why aren’t you registered to vote?

We want to share our military family stories with key policy makers and we need your assistance. It will take fewer than 10 minutes for you to complete the online survey TODAY!

DOD Announces New Suicide Prevention Task Force

The Department of Defense will launch a 14-member Task Force on the Prevention of Suicide by Members of the Armed Forces. The congressionally directed task force will address trends and causal factors, methods to update prevention and education programs, suicide assessment by occupation, suicide incident investigations, and protective measures for confidential information derived from investigations for the department.  Read more about the task force here.


Think You Have To Pay To Check Your Bags? Check This List Before You Fly

Most airlines are now charging to check bags these days, but before you take off on your next flight, check out this list to see your carriers’ policies regarding military personnel.  Most exceptions are for those traveling on orders, but it’s worth a look!


VA Playwright Needs Military Family Stories

Virginia Stage Company has hired a playwright to write a play to be produced locally about military families. If you would be interested in helping her shape this play – she is in the research stage – about military families, please contact Barbara Lipskis, Director Development, at blipskis@vastage.com. The playwright will be in town for chats with families on Sept 19-21. Please be sure to let he know you’re a Blue Star Families member!

Great Article about Military Children by BSF Member

The concerns about the effect of deployments on our military children are real and gaining more and more attention in local media.  If you have a piece pertaining to military families published, like our own Jennifer Taylor’s The Effects of Deployment Stress in Military Children published in The Flagship, please be sure to let us know!  We’ll help spread the word!


Free Tickets for Vets, Active Duty & Their Families

Veterans Tickets Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to saying thanks to veterans, active duty service members and their families by giving tickets to concerts and sporting events as a tangible way of saying thanks.  Check out their website for more info.

Great Information on the Emotional Aspects of Deployment

Need a good pre-deployment check list and some tips to help your kids cope with Dad’s or Mom’s separation?  Check out the great information available on the Families tab at Real Warriors , an initiative launched by the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE) to promote the processes of building resilience, facilitating recovery and supporting reintegration of returning service members, veterans and their families.

There’s also an insightful article about the Emotional Cycle of Deployment that’s worth checking out!

Free Grills from ConAgra & AAFES

Just in time for football season, ConAgra and the Army & Air Force Exchange Service have cooked up plans to give away nearly $25,000 in grills before the end of September.  Now through Sept. 18, approximately 236 exchanges are giving shoppers a chance to win a grill valued up to $100 as part of the ConAgra Free Grill Sweepstakes. For more info, check out their press release

Check Out MSCCN’s Latest Newsletter

If you’re getting back into the work force, or interested in changing careers, take a minute and check out the Military Spouse Career Corporate Network’s latest newsletter. It’s full of great tips and encouragement!

Calling All Professional and Serious Amateur Photographers

Blue Star Families is an amazing group created BY military families FOR military families.  So, who better to take fabulous photos of all aspects of military family life than our members?

If you are a professional or serious amateur photographer, we’d love to have you capture some great images of the military family experience (homecomings, send-offs, weddings, graduations, BSF events, parades etc.) and we’ll give you photo credit on our new site.  If you are interested and want more information email Stephanie at stephanie@bluestarfam.org

EXCITING NEWS! New BSF Website and On-Line Community in the Works

We’ve been busy behind the scenes creating a new on-line community for BSF members and we expect to have it up shortly.  But to build the best site we can, we need YOUR help!

VIDEOS: We want to hear AND see all our fantastic BSF members and give families with deployed service members a chance to shout out a special greeting to their loved one. Grab your video camera and record a 30 second max video, and get it ready to upload to YouTube.  We really want to hear how BSF connects, supports and empowers you as a military family.  For more details, email stephanie@bluestarfam.org.

PHOTOS: Send us 3 or 4 photos of you and your family at key military lifestyle points ~ weddings, deployments, homecomings etc…, and you might see them up on the new site.  High resolution is always best and no camera phone photos please (except iPhones).  Send your photos to
stephanie@bluestarfam.org today!

BLOGGERS & WRITERS We’re going to be highlighting all the great stuff the BSF family does everyday, both as local chapters and as individuals.  Here’s your chance to jump in and help share these stories, both as a blogger and as an interviewer.  If you would like to be a guest blogger and can write from your own experience about the following lifestyles, please let Stephanie know by emailing her at stephanie@bluestarfam.org.

  • National Guard & Reserve
  • New to Military Life
  • Little Ones In Tow
  • In the Work Force
  • In For The Long Haul (military spouses of about 10 years or more)
  • When HE is the Spouse
  • Military Moms, Dads & Family
  • Veterans & Mentor Spouses
  • Civilians Who Support Us

This Newsletter contains links to other sites and references to third party service providers, resources or similar entities. These links and references are provided to help you identify and locate other Internet resources that may be of interest. These other sites were independently developed by parties other than Blue Star Families, Inc. and Blue Star Families, Inc. does not assume responsibility for the accuracy or appropriateness of the information contained at, or endorse the viewpoints expressed at, such sites. In providing links to other sites, Blue Star Families is in no way acting as a publisher of the material contained on those other sites and does not seek to control the content of, or maintain any type of editorial control over such sites. A link to another site should not be construed to imply that Blue Star Families, Inc. is affiliated or associated with, or is legally authorized to use any trade mark, trade name, logo or copyrighted symbol that may be reflected in the link or the description of the link to such other sites. The mention of another party or its product or service in the Newsletter should not be construed as an endorsement of that party or its product or service.


Join BSF & NC Gov. Perdue in Fayetteville NC Sept. 10 for Books On Bases

We are thrilled to announce the national launch of

Books On Bases logo

Presented by

Blue Star Families

and our program partner

KIDS-Logo

North Carolina Governor Beverly Perdue will join us in presenting the healing power of books to military children.

At WT Brown Elementary School in Fayetteville, NC on September 10th at 1 pm, Blue Star Families, along with out program partner K.I.D.S. in Distress will launch the National Books on Bases, Smiles on Faces literacy program for military children.  We have reserved approximately 100 seats for Blue Star Families members.    Light refreshments will be served.  Please RSVP to programs@bluestarfam.org by September 7th.  Please include your name and phone number and note that you are a BSF member.  You will receive an email confirmation and your name will be on a list at the door.  Priority will be given to event volunteers.

North Carolina’s Governor Beverly Perdue will share a book with the children, and will join us in distributing books to the selected schools. A Nascar driver will also be on hand to bring a smile to our military children.

This event will include the distribution of approximately 4,000 children’s books to all 17 DODEA schools in the state of NC and 20 military impacted public schools in the local area.  Children with parents serving in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard will benefit from this significant donation to their schools and libraries.  Base libraries from Camp Lejeune, Pope Air Force Base, and Ft. Bragg will also be included.

The educational impact of library donation is far greater than direct donation of books to children.  These books will provide on-going support in the effort to promote literacy in America’s children, and provide the healing power of books to our smallest heroes.  We look forward to seeing you!

Where:

WT Brown Elementary

When:

Thursday, September 10th at 1pm

Frustrated by Having to Register to VOTE Every Time You Move? Tell Us All About It!

vote04Frustrated by Having to Register to VOTE Every Time You Move?  Tell Us All About It!

Blue Star Families wants to identify the special challenges that military members and their families face when struggling to vote and fully participate in our government.  Help us by completing the BSF Voter Registration survey.  We are interested in knowing:

  • How often you have had to register to vote?
  • What kinds of problems you have had voting – either in person or via absentee?
  • Why aren’t you registered to vote?

We want to share our military family stories with key policy makers and we need your help.

It will take fewer than 10 minutes for you to complete the online survey.  PLEASE DO IT TODAY!

Spouse Speak: Recently Deployed

This post originally appeared in the August 19, 2009 edition of The Flagship.

By Vivian Greentree

My husband recently deployed (I say recently because my donut of misery still has too much green on it to say anything else … still it feels like forever!) and I have been doing all the typical stuff for trying to keep my kids connected with their dad through our normal routines.

For instance, we are on a care package schedule now, wherein my oldest, MJ, practices his writing skills in telling dad what he’s done and the youngest, Walker, displays his ability to draw circles and color them in. There is always a golf magazine that my oldest saves from the mail with a reverence that is almost comical – “I get to be the one who puts it in the box,” he says. And, I think the only sacred box of cookies in the house, the only box that isn’t in danger of being raided by grubby little hands on the sly, is the one that has been earmarked for dad. Always Chips-Ahoy (not enough chocolate to melt but enough to make a good cookie). Oh, and his special hair gel. My military man knows how to look good even in the desert thank you very much!

So, thinking about what to put in our care packages has become a running point of interest with me and the boys – “NO! Daddy does not want you to send him that frog. NO! Not even if you put it in water on the way over!” We also read We Serve Too! (www.weservetoo.com) before bedtime a lot. I found that particular book when an organization I’m a part of, Blue Star Families, held a Books on Bases, Smiles on Faces program here in Virginia Beach for our local military families. The National Guard representative who came had a slew of books aimed at helping military children cope with the challenges of having a deployed parent. I have found it to be invaluable in starting conversations with MJ, who’s 5, about his feelings of missing his dad. And, it shows him that he and his brother are serving in their own way – as children in a military family – which allows him to replace some of that anger he has towards missing his dad with the pride of being a military child who is working hard in his own special way.

And now, I have just added another tactic for getting through this deployment (while retaining my sanity!) which has proven to be quite the hit in our house. A few weeks ago, I was introduced to an idea by a military spouse friend in Florida who told me she has a friend who has been carrying her deployed boyfriend’s picture around on a stick. I know, sounds odd. Like a warped version of a blow up doll date. However, she has been taking pictures of herself with her “flat Stanley” at all the fun places she goes and then puts them up on her blog for her friends and family, and most importantly, Stanley, to see. Flat Stanley has been to baseball games, a friend’s baby shower (probably glad he actually wasn’t there in person for that particular one!), out to dinner, and to the pool. I decided to try it out for myself. So, MJ and I picked a picture of my husband and enlarged it. Given my lack of craftiness (though surely I must be given points for ingenuity) we used what would otherwise be known as a barbecue skewer to tape his picture to. Oh yeah, and given our tendencies towards water play, we laminated it.

MJ calls it ‘dad on a stick.’ And, since his creation, DOAS has been biking with us, on a picnic, and to the pool. He’s peered over MJ’s shoulder while MJ was working on his letters, gone to Habachi with us, and he’s even tagged along to “George Washington DC” on our trip to the Smithsonian (he was the only one in the car who didn’t complain during the six hour trip home, when we got stuck in traffic).

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The pictures we take I send to Mike. It gives him a pictorial of what we are doing and allows him a window into our world. He says it is bittersweet – obviously it makes him wish it was he who was actually here helping MJ with his school work or even here being trapped in the car with us during horrible traffic instead of a paper version of himself. Still, he says he enjoys the whole process and seeing what we are doing, even telling me new places he wants DOAS to go (to a Pearl Jam concert is one that has been mentioned). And, MJ and Walker are all about finding outrageous new scenarios for DOAS to be involved with, especially as they try to show dad what they want to do with him when he gets home. Last week, when I had class, MJ asked our babysitter if DOAS could help make Mac and Cheese with them. Accordingly, in this most recent care package, there is a picture of MJ holding DOAS while he helps stir the macaroni with the carefully printed message of, “We’ll eat Mac and Cheese when you get home! You can use my Spiderman bowl!”

So, if you have a deployed spouse and are looking for a fun summer project to do with your kids, why not make a DOAS (or a MOAS)? While he doesn’t compare with his living, breathing counterpart, at least he’ll be able to invoke some of the comical, yet poignant moments that help get us through these long separations. Plus, unlike his real-life counterpart, my DOAS agrees with everything I say!

Vivian Greentree lives in Chesapeake, VA and is the Membership Director of Blue Star Families. She is also on the Governor’s Commission for Nation and Community Service. If you’d like to get involved with BSF, contact Vivian at vgreentree@bluestarfam.org.

Weekly News Round-Up for August 18

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Right-click here to download pictures. To help protect your privacy, Outlook prevented automatic download of this picture from the Internet. smallestbluestarfamilylogo.jpgBlue Star Families Weekly News Round-Up

All the Latest in Everything Blue Star Families

Summer is wrapping up, but the opportunities for Blue Star Families members to get more involved in their local chapter are ramping up!   It’s also a great time to start brushing up on professional skills to take advantage of the recent news of preferential hiring of military spouses for federal jobs.  Read all about these opportunities and much more below.

Right-click here to download pictures. To help protect your privacy, Outlook prevented automatic download of this picture from the Internet. BSF-logoFINAL71509.jpgWe are working hard on the creation of our new Blue Star Families website and online community which is expected to launch this month.  Check out below how YOU can help make connecting together even easier and more exciting.

Remember, if you want BSF info and links to articles and events more than once a week with our Weekly News & Info Roundup, join us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and check out our Blue Star Families Blog.

If you received our Weekly News Round-Up from a friend or co-worker, please join us today.  Blue Star Families is an exciting new way for all types of military family members from all ranks and services (and our supporters!) to Support, Connect and Empower one another.  Just go to the JOIN US page on our site www.BlueStarFam.org.

There’s a lot of excitement about Blue Star Families and the best way to make sure you are in the middle of it all is to join your local chapter.  Just shoot Vivian a note at members@bluestarfam.org, and she’ll get you connected.

Enjoy! Heidi & the Blue Star Families Team


Federal Jobs Preference for Military Spouses

Federal agencies will soon have the option to hire military spouses without having them compete through traditional hiring methods. Under new guidelines issued by the Office of Professional Management (OPM), military spouses will be able to request that recruiters use non-traditional hiring methods in reviewing their applications.

These new guidelines affect military spouses who move because of a new assignment, some physically disabled spouses, and widows and widowers whose spouses were killed in the line of duty and remain unmarried. The guidelines become effective September 11, 2009.  Read more about it on our blog.


BSF Fayetteville NC Chapter Hosting Books on Bases and Needs YOUR Help!

Our Fayetteville NC Chapter will proudly be presenting Books On Bases, Smiles On Faces, presented by Blue Star Families and K.I.D.S. on September 10.  This important event will be the kick-off for our national effort to host similar events with chapters EVERY quarter.

Here’s how YOU can get involved:

If you live in or around Fayetteville and want to help plan the event, can lend space to store the 4,000 books we’ll be giving away in the weeks leading up to the event and/or be on hand to help the day of the event, just shoot a note to Vivian TODAY at vgreentree@bluestarfam.org.

If you’re not close to the Fayetteville area and want more information about hosting your own event, send an email to
programs@bluestarfam.org

Want to be Featured on The Military Channel or The Virginian Pilot?

Blue Star Families is THE place for military families and folks in the national media are coming to us to help them tell our stories.  Here are two exciting opportunities, but you must email us NOW if you are interested!

The Military Channel’s
“Return Salute” is like Make-A-Wish for service members and their families. The show will tell the human side of the current conflicts and will profile service members who have returned from deployment within in the past year, or have a very compelling story.  We are looking for stories along the lines of multiple deployments, missing births, or similar moving scenarios. Each service member profiled would be granted a wish at the end of each episode.

For more information, email AnnaMaria TODAY at amwhite@bluestarfam.org

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Make Room for Baby: What’s involved, challenges, best tips, your experience, etc. We want to hear YOUR story if you live in Southeastern Virginia and are expecting or recently had a little one. Tell us about your experience–from challenges and 
anticipation to failures and/or successes along the way. Are you a professional or seasoned military parent who may have something to contribute?  If so, email AnnaMaria TODAY at amwhite@bluestarfam.org

Touching Story about the Effect of Multiple Deployments on Kids

Blue Star Families’ Allison Buckholtz is the author of Standing By: The Making of an American Military Family in a Time of War, proud mother of Ethan (6) and concerned about the effect of multiple deployments on our military kids.  Check out her blog “A Peace Sign”

“What are you drawing?” I asked my son Ethan, as he swirled paint on paper one quiet afternoon at our house.

“A welcome home sign,” he answered.

“For who?”

“For Daddy.”

Ethan is 6 years old, and though he has a sly sense of humor, he doesn’t yet appreciate irony. So I couldn’t laugh, even though my husband Scott, an active-duty Navy pilot, left for a year-long assignment in Iraq just two days ago. With training and travel, Scott will be away close to 14 months, so Ethan’s welcome home sign comes about 410 days too early. I didn’t tell him that, of course. If he can find solace through art, or anything constructive, I’m thrilled. It’s better than crying for four hours straight, as he did the night Scott left.

Read the rest of her touching story on our blog. Originally published at Alison’s Deployment Diary on Double X.

Free Virtual Job Training Series for Military Spouses & Vets

Military Spouse Career Corporate Network, a non-profit corporate direct hire program, is offering a free virtual job training series starting with Tuesday, September 1 with “Developing your Elevator Speech and Networking”, and then followed on Tuesday, September 15 with “Desperate is NOT a Job Title”.  If you would like more info or to sign up for either or both of the seminars, check out this flyer or MSCCN’s website.


Pentagon Says: “We Want to Hear From You” & Launches http://www.Defense.gov

The Defense Department is proud to announce the launch of  www.Defense.gov , the redesigned the Defense Department Web site which now uses social networking tools to engage the American public — particularly 18- to 24-year-olds. To read the whole story, check out this DefenseLink News article.

Special Invitation for BSF Members around Ft.Knox & Louisville, Kentucky

The American Legion is hosting a Military Families Forum, a Town Hall style even near Ft. Knox.  They and other Military Family advocates, want to hear from YOU and your family about what military families are going through and how they can help.

They are also looking for a military family member near Louisville to speak briefly to their new team of AmeriCorps VISTA members on August 24 at 10:00 am

If you would like more info or are interested in attending, please email Vivian at vgreentree@bluestarfam.org today!

VFW Free Calls Home Surpasses 3 Million!

Veterans of Foreign Wars provides free calls home from deployed service members via their “VFW Operation Uplink” Free Call Days.  To read more about this terrific program, check out their website.

Elmo to the Rescue!

Sesame Workshop is thrilled to announce the launch Sesame Rooms, their latest effort to help military families in ways that only Muppets can.   The campaign is designed to brighten up military spaces for kids with Sesame cheer.  The flagship Sesame Room makeover was at the PAX Family Lounge at McGuire Air Force Base.  Check out the before and after photos and more info about this terrific program here.

Yellow Ribbon Program Helps Reintegration

The Yellow Ribbon Reintegration program was established under the 2008 National Defense Authorization . The program’s goal is to prepare service members and their families for deployment, sustain the family and service member through deployment and help reintegrate them back into their civilian communities when they return.  Read more about this fantastic program on our blog and in a recent DefenseLink News article.

Calling All Professional and Serious Amateur Photographers

Blue Star Families is an amazing group created BY military families FOR military families.  So, who better to take fabulous photos of all aspects of military family life than our members?!?

If you are a professional or serious amateur photographer, we’d love to have you capture some great images of the military family experience (homecomings, send-offs, weddings, graduations, BSF events, parades etc.) and we’ll give you photo credit on our new site.  If you are interested and want more information email Stephanie at stephanie@bluestarfam.org


EXCITING NEWS! New BSF Website and On-Line Community in the Works

We’ve been busy behind the scenes creating a new on-line community for BSF members and we expect to have it up in August.  But to build the best site we can, we need YOUR help!

VIDEOS: We want to hear AND see all our fantastic BSF members and give families with deployed service members a chance to shout out a special greeting to their loved one. Grab your video camera and record a 30 second max video, and get it ready to upload to YouTube.  We really want to hear how BSF connects, supports and empowers you as a military family.  For more details, email stephanie@bluestarfam.org.

PHOTOS: Send us 3 or 4 photos of you and your family at key military lifestyle points ~ weddings, deployments, homecomings etc…, and you might see them up on the new site.  High resolution is always best and no camera phone photos please (except iPhones).  Send your photos to
stephanie@bluestarfam.org today!

BLOGGERS & WRITERS We’re going to be highlighting all the great stuff the BSF family does everyday, both as local chapters and as individuals.  Here’s your chance to jump in and help share these stories, both as a blogger and as an interviewer.  If you would like to be a guest blogger and can write from your own experience about the following lifestyles, please let Stephanie know by emailing her at stephanie@bluestarfam.org.

  • National Guard & Reserve
  • New to Military Life
  • Little Ones In Tow
  • In the Work Force
  • In For The Long Haul (military spouses of about 10 years or more)
  • When HE is the Spouse
  • Military Moms, Dads & Family
  • Veterans & Mentor Spouses
  • Civilians Who Support Us

War’s Silent Stress: The Family at Home

depressionWar’s Silent Stress: The Family at Home originally appeared on the Opinion page of the Virginian Pilot on August 9, 2009.

MUCH LIKE the news of servicemen killed in action in Iraq and Afghanistan, last month’s news of the death of a military spouse at Ft. Bragg made only local headlines.

A 40-year-old Army wife, who was four months pregnant, was found dead of what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The woman had called 911 with threats of hurting herself, but the police arrived too late. Her husband is an Army sergeant who worked in Civil Affairs and had been deployed multiple times.

When the news broke, there was a short burst of e-mail traffic among the leadership of Blue Star Families, a nonprofit, nonpartisan group of military spouses working to promote awareness of the myriad issues facing today’s military families.

“I don’t know why I find this so surprising but the story says she was 40,” wrote the wife of a Special Forces NCO. “I guess I assumed that someone in that state of despair would be younger — like maybe she’d have better coping skills at 40.”

The majority of the Blue Star Families members are veterans of three, four and five deployments, and at least one member has endured eight deployments in the past seven years. Often these deployments last well beyond a year, as anniversaries, holidays, births and birthdays tick by, never to be celebrated together.

My husband, a recently retired Marine Corps officer, deployed only once in the five years we have been married. A difficult seven months, but it was, after all, only one deployment.

Post-conflict disorder and depression are being addressed by our military for the service members who return from Iraq and Afghanistan. But the effects of these deployments on spouses and families are just beginning to get some attention. While statistics on depression and mental illness among military spouses are not available, some Blue Star members are openly surprised that suicide among the spouses of deployed troops is not more prevalent. In fact, the stereotypical overwhelmed military spouse is 19 to 22 years old, the wife of a junior enlisted service member, whose ranks make up almost 44 percent of our active duty military. Many of these spouses have very young children, are far removed from extended family, are on a limited and usually single income — approximately $1,500 per month for a family of four — and few have the coping skills that come with age and experience. But mental health experts remind us that depression knows no boundaries — not age, income level or military rank.

Sadly, last month’s tragedy was not an isolated incident, though news stories about suicides can be hard to find because many media outlets honor an old journalism standard of not reporting suicides. On Nov. 28, 2006, police in Fayetteville, N.C., discovered a 39-year-old mother and her two children dead inside the family car. The mother had killed herself and her two young children with carbon monoxide poisoning. Although no one knows what went through her mind when she climbed inside the vehicle and strapped her two children into their car seats, the military wife had a history of postpartum depression. Nonetheless, she was described as a positive and upbeat woman who mostly kept to herself. Her husband, a lieutenant colonel in the Army, had been deployed to Iraq just two months before, just after the birth of the couple’s daughter.

A few members of Blue Star Families’ leadership have admitted to being treated for depression. One member said that the combination of her husband’s three recent heavy-combat tours to the dangerous Helmand Province of Afghanistan and the stress of taking care of two young children led her to deep despair, thoughts of suicide and hopelessness and, eventually, to a depression diagnosis and a prescription for Wellbutrin.

She described how military spouses get addicted to news reports during deployments, despite knowing the information will make them miserable. The Internet allows the family to catch every bit of reporting on the area where their soldier, Marine, airman or sailor is deployed. This has the effect of almost putting the spouse into combat with them. “There is nothing as intense as doing a Google search to find out if the love of your life, the father of your children, is dead or alive,” she said. While the family member can be literally paralyzed with worry, she also must raise kids, work, pay bills and deal with the sometimes infuriating and insensitive comments of civilians around her.

Officers and senior NCO’s are trained to detect Combat Stress Disorder in their men and women serving in combat. Often a precursor to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, a crippling mental state, the men or women who show signs of combat stress are given rest, a good hot meal, a DVD or book and a strong verbal reminder that they are going back into the fight after their short break. Unlike the military, their spouses are not trained to detect symptoms of depression, burn-out or what another generation called “combat fatigue” — in themselves or each other.

Thankfully, much already is being done to help military families. There is a push for more mental health counselors on bases. Teams of Military Family Life Consultants funded by the Department of Defense are available to all services. They provide counseling to service members and their families, and there is no chain of command notification and no paperwork. Nonetheless, many spouses — even in the Blue Star leadership — have never heard of these services.

In addition, studies are beginning to surface about Secondary PTSD — a mental health issue that has been lurking around in this country since at least the Vietnam War. Secondary PTSD has shown up when the spouse and/or family respond to their changed environment with anger, substance abuse or violence, replacing a peaceful and loving home life. Repeatedly, Blue Star Families have found with so many of the good programs out there, the challenge is letting families know what is available.

Now more than ever, communication is key. As media reports query the long range effects of multiple deployments on children, and with the increased awareness for detecting and treating PTSD in our military, it is time to close the loop on mental health and our military families and begin talking about the potentially harmful effects of repeated longterm deployments on the spouses of our service members.

Civilian or military, the first step to help for depression is talking about it.

Rosemary Freitas Williams is a director of communications for Alexandria-based Blue Star Families, whose members on 70 military bases work to educate those who make decisions about military life and its unique challenges.

Federal Jobs Preference for Military Spouses

Federal agencies will soon have the option to hire military spouses without having them compete through traditional hiring methods. Under new guidelines issued by the Office of Professional Management (OPM), military spouses will be able to request that recruiters use non-traditional hiring methods in reviewing their applications.

These new guidelines affect military spouses who move because of a new assignment, some physically disabled spouses, and widows and widowers whose spouses were killed in the line of duty and remain unmarried. The guidelines become effective September 11, 2009.

OPM Director John Berry said:

This family-friendly policy provides employment opportunities from individuals and a measure of economic stability to military families who must deal with a multitude of issues arising from one spouse serving their country.

Approximately 400,000 to 500,000 of the active duty servicemembers relocated every year are married, and active duty servicemembers move on average every three years. Seeking employment is difficult for many military spouses because of these continuous moves. Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Les Melnyk said:

There is a desire out there, and we know that if we can meet the spouses’ desires and keep them happy, then we’ll keep them in the service.

He also noted that 70% of military spouses want to work according to military surveys.

Federal jobs can be found at USA Jobs and on several other sites around the web depending on the area of work. Military OneSource can help military spouses with employment questions.

This measure is a certainly welcomed by this military spouse!

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