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.


Reintegration – Phase 11 (excerpt from 400 Days)

400 DaysDanette Hayes is the BSF Co-Director for National Guard and Reserve Outreach and the author of 400 Days, a book about her National Guard family’s deployment journey.

Rich and I have immersed ourselves into civilian lives once again. I wish I could say it’s been easy, but the reality is, it has not.  We renewed our wedding vows on August 30, 2008.  Our best man eighteen years ago was Rich’s brother, John, so we found it quite fitting that he officiate our renewal.  It was a casual affair on the deck, surrounded by our family, who each did a reading.  Unlike the church wedding we had before, this was all our doing, words that we chose, readings and music that didn’t have to be approved by the church. It was a true representation of our life together.

Our best friends, Greg and Shari Merritt, assisted John as officiates of the ceremony, and we loved having them stand with us. We’ve all been through this separation, and this almost felt like we all renewed a vow to continue being there for each other.  We bought each of the children an Irish wedding band and exchanged them during the ceremony.  David and Susan read from Lord of the Rings about change. Makayla read from the Velveteen Rabbit about how growing old and being real doesn’t hurt, it just happens. Kelly sang “What a Wonderful World.” She practiced for weeks with our friend Jimmy who played guitar for us and sang Led Zeppelin’s “Thank You,” something that never would’ve been approved in our Catholic ceremony eighteen years ago. This was the most memorable wedding I’ve ever been a part of, and I wish I had videotaped it. Shari and Meredith, being the crazy ladies they are, made us a heart-shaped cake with a Barbie and Ken dressed in Parrothead attire. They even cut Barbie’s hair to resemble my haircut and shaved Ken’s head to reflect Rich’s crew cut. True to form, my crazy ladies brought my favorite tequila, Patrón, and the evening ended on a happy note.

I’ve spoken about ceremony before, the military need to preserve these worthwhile celebrations. Renewing our vows brought closure to the separation the last year brought us and allowed us to renew our commitment to each other and our children for a bright future, no matter what may come. My, how I’ve grown!

I’m still searching for employment, but feel lucky that I can be home during this time of transition. After the welcome home celebrations end and we try to pick up the pieces, it’s then that I see and understand how hard it is to feel good about what he’s done as a soldier. Rich returned to work in August, but there was no one there to welcome him back. He had no office, no phone, no computer to return to—it was as if he had never been there. He had to track down facilities for assistance. He had notified his boss he’d be returning thirty days before his arrival back at the office, yet he wasn’t there to welcome him back.  To the contrary, when he did see Rich, he seemed surprised he had returned to work at all.

I’m dumbfounded that his boss would think he wouldn’t return to his civilian job. Just what do employers think the Guardsmen or Reservists do that enable them to walk away from their futures when they return from war? From the stories I’ve heard at the reintegration meetings, this is common for the Guardsmen.  He’s still struggling to get his employer to honor USERRA. To some, it’s just enough to sign up to be an employer who supports the Guard and Reserve soldiers. It’s an entirely different matter to actually follow through with that commitment.

Let’s face it—life moved on without them. I don’t think Rich ever received an e-mail from anyone at his office, except maybe at the holiday time. It’s not that people don’t mean well. They’re just caught up in their own lives. No one knows what to expect or how to act around someone who’s sacrificing a year of their own life so that others back home can get on with theirs. It shouldn’t be a thankless job.

Rich is one of the lucky ones.  He came home to a family.  I’ve met so many who didn’t have a family to come home to. At the meeting this past weekend, during one point in the schedule, they asked married couples to stay in one room for “dialogue,” and those whose spouses or significant others had left because of the deployment to adjourn into another room.  Almost one-third of the room left.  It left me sad and angry.  The cost to military families is taking its toll, and I search for answers to end this cycle.   Seventy-five percent of the suicides in the military are due to relationship troubles.   It’s so hard to put my fingers around such numbers, but seeing the room split as I did, it’s hard not to recognize how it happens.

I think Rich saw himself in the meetings. They gave a presentation/film on battle fatigue and the symptoms.  I’m grateful he saw himself so that I wouldn’t have to start at ground zero.  Invalidation they call it. “They” meaning psychiatrists and the VA dealing with Post Combat Stress and Battle Fatigue.  It’s a subtle symptom that, left untreated, can lead to alcoholism, drug abuse, withdrawal, seclusion, and ultimately suicide.  The soldiers feel so disconnected from their prior lives as civilians and unappreciated for their commitment that they start to question their own ability to provide a future for themselves or for their families.  We’re learning more and more about post combat stress, but we’re not reacting fast enough as a society. They describe invalidation as mocking, ignoring, judging, or minimizing a soldier’s feelings.  Sounds simple, right?  And it shouldn’t be a big deal, right? Wrong.  Invalidation goes beyond mere rejection by implying not only that our feelings are disapproved of, but that we are fundamentally abnormal. This implies that there is something wrong with us because we aren’t like everyone else; we are strange; we are different; we are weird.  Psychological invalidation is one of the most lethal forms of emotional abuse.  It kills confidence, something sorely needed by returning civilian soldiers.  When we tell a soldier who has just returned from deployment, “Oh, don’t worry, it’s okay, you’ll feel better soon,” we’re minimizing their emotions. After days or even weeks of this minimizing behavior, the soldier eventually becomes more depressed and capable of self-harm.  These situations do not go away on their own.  Soldiers learn to isolate themselves because they’re not “normal” and turn to alcohol or drugs.  I find myself guilty of this same invalidation and quickly redress how I phrase the emotions Rich is going through. After all, who am I to say he’ll feel better soon?  I have no real idea what he’s going through.

The Guardsman or Reservist isn’t benefiting from active duty life, and they are different from their civilian counterparts.  The businessman behind the desk can’t relate to putting his life on the line for his cubicle mate while a soldier spends 24/7 ready to sacrifice his life for his fellow soldier.
The law reads they can take up to 90 days off before returning to work. Generous it sounds, but totally unrealistic.  The Army won’t pay them for 90 days, and I don’t know anyone who’s been deployed for over a year who can financially afford not to return to work within 30 days of return. The business partner can’t relate to the transition issues the civilian soldier has to deal with daily.  The recourse is to isolate themselves because no one knows what to do with the soldier who just returned.  Soldiers pick up on this quite fast, and it feeds the feeling that they are not “normal.”

Of course the VA will say services are available to the Guard and Reserve, and they are.  But at what cost?  What officer is going to risk their military career because of depression? And what becomes of their civilian career if labeled “unfit” for duty?  It’s a risk that too many Guardsmen and Reservists are not willing to take.  So the families try to manage on their own, treading carefully, yet all the while realizing that what they thought would be a return to normal life is starting to look like a bad dream that won’t end.

Books on Bases Event in Wilmington, NC

Books on Bases, Blue Star FamiliesWelcome guest blogger, Gabrielle Lowe.

Last weekend we had the pleasure of being invited to Wilmington’s National Guard base to meet with guard families. I was joined by the Gabriel family and Claire Woodward, our BSF Executive Director. We passed out books from our “Books on Bases, Smiles on Faces” program to all the children in attendance.

We met with the spouses of guard members and told them about Blue Star Families. We put temporary tattoos on the kids, passed out books, and even got to dance to a live bluegrass band during lunch. I almost forgot, we even got to meet with the McGruff crime dog in the flesh …err fur?

While the children were there they also learned about what the Army National Guard is and what their parents do in the guard. There were mini classes given to each age group to explain what different jobs there are and to explain military life. We got the pleasure of meeting each child and give them a book from their age group. We also got a chance to talk to them and tell them a little about us and who we are.

Blue Star Families in conjunction K.I.D.S., United Concordia, and Lifetime Television’s Army Wives gives books to children of military parents. We also provide books to DoD schools, libraries, and public schools that have military children in attendance. We’re always looking for volunteers and we have many events coming soon. We encourage you to go to www.BlueStarFam.org to join us. It’s completely free and a great way to help better the lives of military families.

Cheers,

Gaby

400 Days by Danette Hayes

400 DaysBlue Star Families’ Director of National Guard/Reserve Outreach, Danette Hayes, has written a book about her National Guard family’s experience with activation and deployment.  We asked Danette to tell us about the publishing experience and how the book came about. You can purchase 400 Days now and 5% of the proceeds will go to support military families.

I was approached by a local newpaper columnist to do an interview shortly before September 11, 2009, based off a letter I sent to the editor. Turns out the letter was too long to publish as a letter but they wanted to do an interview.

The day after the article appeared my blog received thousands of hits. It was then the columnist suggested I turn my blog into a book. I didn’t have a publisher, nor did I have an agent. Publishing has changed so drastically from the days of old when a publisher and agent were needed. Today, Amazon.com offers publishing on demand or (POD). I enlisted the assistance of a qualified and experienced editor, Tammy Barley, who helped me take the blog and weave a personal story through the blog entries so that any reader could find themselves entrenched in my story as if they were also there.

My story isn’t typical but no military families story is typical. The book highlights the everyday life of any family but also shares the personal feeling of loss and separation through deployment. The final chapters deal with reintegration, this “new” normal that’s been coined by professional staff to define what military families are now experiencing. It’s funny but at the same time raw. It doesn’t matter where our soldiers serve, whether it’s Iraq, Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa, Korea or stateside. All deployments bring uncertainty and families are learning how to maneuver this ever changing landscape we now call “new normal.” Not all families can have an adventure like I was offered, but for my husband this was a way for us to deal with our separation, looking forward.

It’s been a nine month process but the CreateSpace website makes it easy and professional. The book cover was illustrated for me by a family artist who was able to take a photo of my husband and his troops as they canvassed the mountains in Kosovo for drugs and human trafickers and draw it for the cover. Because CreateSpace is a division of Amazon.com, the book will also be available through Amazon.com and featured for 30 days.

I was approached by a local newpaper columnist to do an interview
shortly before September 11, 2009 based off a letter I sent to the
editor.  Turns out the letter was too long to publish as a letter but
they wanted to do an interview.

The day after the article appeared my blog received thousands of hits.
It was then the columnist suggested I turn my blog into a book.  I
didn’t have a publisher, nor did I have an agent.  Publishing has
changed so drastically from the days of old when a publisher and agent
were needed.  Today, Amazon.com offers publishing on demand or (POD).
I enlisted the assistance of a qualified and experienced editor, Tammy
Barley,  who helped me take the blog and weave a personal story
through the blog entries so that any reader could find themselves
entrenched in my story as if they were also there.

My story isn’t typical but no military families story is typical.  The
book highlights the everyday life of any family but also shares the
personal feeling of loss and separation through deployment.  The final
chapters deal with reintegration, this “new” normal that’s been coined
by professional staff to define what military families are now
experiencing.  It’s funny but at the same time raw.  It doesn’t matter
where our soldiers serve, whether it’s Iraq, Afghanistan, the Horn of
Africa, Korea or stateside.  All deployments bring uncertainty and
families are learning how to maneuver this ever changing landscape we
now call “new normal.”  Not all families can have an adventure like I
was offered, but for my husband this was a way for us to deal with our
separation, looking forward.

It’s been a nine month process but the CreateSpace website makes it
easy and professional.  The book cover was illustrated for me by a
family artist who was able to take a photo of my husband and his
troops as they canvassed the mountains in Kosovo for drugs and human
trafickers and draw it for the cover.

Because CreateSpace is a division of Amazon.com, the book will also be
available through Amazon.com and featured for 30 days.

The Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program

yellow ribbonThe Yellow Ribbon Reintegration program was established under the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act . 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.

Because most civilian soldiers (NG/Reserve) return to their private lives after deployment, it’s essential that the soldiers have an opportunity to reconnect with their fellow comrades and families to talk out their experiences. The Yellow Ribbon program has a 30, 60 and 90 day connect point where soldiers and families are guided through dialogues, counseling sessions and also informational sessions on what to expect, how to handle PCS, and other issues that may come up after deployment.

Since its inception, the “face” of the program has not changed but the outreach is now geographically positioned and not “unit” focused. Due to the fact that soldiers are deploying outside of their regular training units, the program tries to keep the deployed soldiers together as much as possible but if geography prevents a soldier or family from attending, each state or region is prepared to engage that family closer to its home base.

My husband and I participated in our first Yellow Ribbon event last September. It was a weekend where the soldiers after 45 days of downtime were glad to see the people they served with and talk about their deployment, their dwell time and their futures. We were introduced to various vendors; the VA for starters, TriCare and HealthNet also attended to help families understand the TAP program and the benefits available to them now that the “active” period was over. Military Life Counselors were prepared to help couples find their way back or help children disengage from the uncertainty deployment caused for them. Military Chaplains were on hand to walk us through a “counseling” session. It was here that I saw how much couples had suffered. Omnubundsmen were available to educate and discuss USERRA which applies to National Guard and Reservists. There were also vendors available to discuss legal issues, the USO, VFW and American Legions.

The sessions also gave spouses an opportunity to meet the person or persons our soldier worked with over the 400 days. I also heard stories from the “at home” member who showed such courage and weathered life events alone such as laying a parent or child to rest, putting a parent into nursing care or handling the floods of their farmland. These women prevailed and together they brought their soldier home. As sad as it was to see the number of couples who didn’t survive deployment together, it was also humbling and encouraging to hear of the success stories. It was probably the most powerful take away from the weekend event for me. Other than the film on Post Combat Stress it was a necessary weekend.

Yellow Ribbon events are NOT mandatory but they’re highly recommended. For an event in your area please contact your Family Program coordinator or Family Readiness Coordinator for up to date information.

DoD Briefing on National Guard Deployments

BSF Director of Development, Pamela Stokes-Eggleston recently participated in a Department of Defense briefing regarding mobilization of National Guard troops.  Read the excerpt below from the remarks of General Craig McKinley, Chief of the National Guard Bureau for the Air Force:

Q Yes, Pamela Stokes Eggleston with Blue Star Families.

GEN. MCKINLEY: Hello.

Q What specific types of outreach are you focusing on with the military spouses and military families with regard to the current conflicts, the OIF and OEF.

GEN. MCKINLEY: Well, you raise probably the most important issue for me and for senior leadership in the Pentagon, is what do we do with the families, for the families? How do we support a soldier, sailor, airman, or Marine, Coast Guardsman or member of the National Guard throughout their entire life, especially if they’re disabled or injured?

We believe that because we’re a state-based organization, that we have the support of the governors, and that our adjutants general and their state headquarters, their joint-force headquarters, have the responsibility to reintegrate Army National Guard and Air National Guard members back into their states after they’ve deployed.

We’ve pushed out a lot of resources. We’ve been very well supported by members on the Hill to have the kinds of reintegration team members, fully funded by Congress and by the Army and the Air Force so that they have that reception committee when they get home, to include psychological resources for people, without fear of having to have attribution, can go to these folks, can get referrals, and we can track these members throughout their career.

We don’t just depend on the VA, even though I know General Shinseki will do a lot to help our wounded warriors. But it’s really about command and leadership that will take these members through their careers and to watch their families. We really believe that our family program coordinators, of which there are full-time members in every one of our organizations, have really taken the mantle and are doing an excellent job with each unit formation, each wing. And they’re watching the families, caring for the families during deployments.

This has become something that is not a by-product anymore. This is not an afterthought. This is thought up right up front, and leadership is strongly advocating for it. And the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration, family support coordinators, psychological counseling — those things are all now built into our budget, into our system, and we care for our airmen and our soldiers from start to finish. We’re actually going to have a conference in July in Dearborn, Michigan, where we’ll have about 2,000 family support coordinators, volunteers and full-time members, who will come. We believe that Dr. Jill Biden will be our keynote speaker. Dr. Biden and Mrs. Obama have pledged their support to military families, and I can’t tell you how much that means to us, to show that support from the White House.

So — essential, critical. It means whether a member will stay or leave the service. You recruit the member. You retain the family. It’s a big deal for us.

So we hope we get it right, and if we don’t have it right, we’re here to learn from other organizations how to make it right.

Q Thank you.

MODERATOR: Thanks for your question. Thank you for being here.

Q Yes, Pamela Stokes Eggleston with Blue Star Families.

GEN. MCKINLEY: Hello.

Q What specific types of outreach are you focusing on with the military spouses and military families with regard to the current conflicts, the OIF and OEF.

GEN. MCKINLEY: Well, you raise probably the most important issue for me and for senior leadership in the Pentagon, is what do we do with the families, for the families? How do we support a soldier, sailor, airman, or Marine, Coast Guardsman or member of the National Guard throughout their entire life, especially if they’re disabled or injured?

We believe that because we’re a state-based organization, that we have the support of the governors, and that our adjutants general and their state headquarters, their joint-force headquarters, have the responsibility to reintegrate Army National Guard and Air National Guard members back into their states after they’ve deployed.

We’ve pushed out a lot of resources. We’ve been very well supported by members on the Hill to have the kinds of reintegration team members, fully funded by Congress and by the Army and the Air Force so that they have that reception committee when they get home, to include psychological resources for people, without fear of having to have attribution, can go to these folks, can get referrals, and we can track these members throughout their career.

We don’t just depend on the VA, even though I know General Shinseki will do a lot to help our wounded warriors. But it’s really about command and leadership that will take these members through their careers and to watch their families. We really believe that our family program coordinators, of which there are full-time members in every one of our organizations, have really taken the mantle and are doing an excellent job with each unit formation, each wing. And they’re watching the families, caring for the families during deployments.

This has become something that is not a by-product anymore. This is not an afterthought. This is thought up right up front, and leadership is strongly advocating for it. And the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration, family support coordinators, psychological counseling — those things are all now built into our budget, into our system, and we care for our airmen and our soldiers from start to finish. We’re actually going to have a conference in July in Dearborn, Michigan, where we’ll have about 2,000 family support coordinators, volunteers and full-time members, who will come. We believe that Dr. Jill Biden will be our keynote speaker. Dr. Biden and Mrs. Obama have pledged their support to military families, and I can’t tell you how much that means to us, to show that support from the White House.

So — essential, critical. It means whether a member will stay or leave the service. You recruit the member. You retain the family. It’s a big deal for us.

So we hope we get it right, and if we don’t have it right, we’re here to learn from other organizations how to make it right.

Q Thank you.

MODERATOR: Thanks for your question. Thank you for being here.

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