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

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Blue Star Families Weekly News Round-Up for August 11

Blue Star Families, Blue Star VoicesBlue Star Families Weekly News Round-Up

All the Latest in Everything Blue Star Families

What a week!  From invitations by national and local news, talk shows and The Military Channel to tell our military family stories, to being recognized by Senator Warner of Virginia with a Senate Resolution, to free ACT/SAT study guides, this week’s news round-up is chalk full of useful info.  Be sure to check it ALL out!

Blue Star FamiliesWe 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


Senator Warner Recognizes Blue Star Families with a Senate Resolution

We are THRILLED to have Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) introduce a Senate Resolution commending Blue Star Families for supporting military families and increasing awareness of the unique challenges of military life.  Read the full text of Senate Resolution 237 and more about the honor on the Blue Star Families blog.  Also, check out a great blog about our meeting with Senator Warner from the perspective of a BSF daughter, Sophie.

Want to be Featured on National and Local News, Talk Shows or The Military Channel?

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!

A national, non-profit group in California, the Entertainment Industry Foundation, is looking for real-life stories that would be fabulous for news or talk shows, both national and local stations.  These stories would be distributed among the news media for possible use during a week in October when the entertainment and news industry will highlight the issue of service.  The real-life stories should feature individuals who would be comfortable speaking about their service experiences.

Interested?  Here are more details-

These stories should be about current or recent service experience and there should be a person or persons who could be interviewed.  Stories can focus on a person whose service has had a profound effect on them, individuals or groups who have overcome barriers to service, people or programs that include particularly creative or interesting service activities, or service efforts that have had an extraordinary impact.  The story may be about a single person’s service or the efforts of a large group. It may feature an organized program or an informal action that has had a big impact.

For more information, email Rosemary BY AUGUST 15 at rosemaryjfreitas@aol.com

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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

Encourage All Your Friends & Family to Join BSF with Our New Video

Blue Star Families is about Supporting, Connecting and Empowering military families. Take a look at this moving video, pass it along to all your friends and family and ask them to join us TODAY!

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 Fayeteville 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 Brittany TODAY at brittanyawilliams@gmail.com.

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

UPDATE: BSF’s Michelle Galvez’s Blog Hits PBS’ Patchwork Nation Home Page & Check Out BSF’s Vivian Greentree’s Military Spouse Magazine Article

Last week, we highlighted the First Lady’s visit to Norfolk and her mention of BSF and our Military Families Lifestyle Survey.  Our own Michelle Galvez wrote an amazing blog post about her meeting with Mrs. Obama, which we are THRILLED to report, was highlighted on PBS’ Patchwork Nation home page.  Awesome job Michelle!

We’re also excited to have BSF’s Director of Membership Vivian Greentree share her experiences at the event in a terrific article in Military Spouse Magazine

Military Spouse Residency Relief Act Coalition Update

The folks at the Military Spouse Residency Relief Act Coalition are excited to pass along the great news regarding the progress of the S475 and HR1182, The Military Spouses Residency Relief Act.  Senator Richard Burr’s (R-NC) offered the MSRRA as an amendment to the Department of Defense Authorization bill currently under consideration in the Senate.  The amendment, which was approved by voice on the Senate floor, would allow military spouses to maintain residency in their home state regardless of military placement of their families.

For more information, check out the press release on the Senator’s website and the MSRRA Facebook page.

FREE ACT/SAT Study Materials for Military Families!

YES, you read that right!  Check out our blog for more details!  And while you’re there, see what Michelle Gross writes about Flexible Spending Accounts

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

Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts Means Up To $6,000 of Financial Assistance!

The Department of Defense is expanding the Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts – MyCAA – for military spouses of active duty and activated Guard and Reserve Service members worldwide.

MyCAA is currently completing an extensive testing period with the help of volunteer spouses, schools and other payees. Final administrative processes are now being put into place. MyCAA is preparing to officially open its doors for eligible military spouses worldwide to receive up to $6,000 of financial assistance to help pay for licenses, certifications and education in high growth, high demand portable career fields.

Check out the Military One Source website for more details.

We Want to Hear About the Ups & Downs of Your Military Marriage

Has your marriage made it through PCS’s, ETS’s, deployments, cruises, financial hardships and the other struggles that go with military life? Share your success story with others. Send an email to rebekahsanderlin@hotmail.com and you could be featured on the Blue Star Families website.

CA Looking for Women Veteran of the Year Nominations

Beginning with the September 2009 CalVet Women Veterans Conference, the California Department of Veterans Affairs (CalVet) will recognize two women veterans, one from Northern and one from Southern California, during its annual CalVet Women Veterans Conferences.

The California Woman Veteran of the Year Awards recognizes women veterans who have compiled a record of exemplary service as a military service member, as veterans, and as outstanding members of the community.  Nominate your favorite California Woman Veteran here

400 Days Featured in Chicago’s Daily Herald

The buzz is growing about BSF National Guard Director Danette Hayes’ new book, 400 Days.  Check out this great article in the  Daily Herald

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

My Visit with Senator Warner

ASYMCA posterPlease welcome guest poster and BSF daughter, Sophie. Sophie attended our meeting with Senator Mark Warner of Virginia in D.C. earlier this year. Sophie is a proud Marine Daughter and about to enter 6th grade.

Sophie drew the award winning piece to the left and it was displayed in the U.S. Capitol building earlier this year.

On May 13, 2009, my mother and I visited Senator Warner. We were there with about 8 other people. The reason for our presence was because we were part of a group called Blue Star Families. We were talking to Senator Warner because he was going to visit troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and wanted to talk to military families first to learn about our issues.

I was very excited (as you can guess) to be meeting a Senator. When we got there we waited for Senator Warner and other members of our group. When he came I was surprised for I didn’t expect a Senator to be so energetic and full of sympathy.   He kept saying he couldn’t believe how people haven’t done more to help military families all ready. Then we started talking.

We went around the table and everybody shared their experiences. There were stories about how the children thought that their dads lived on the training field, and stories about how Blue Star Families helped one of the ladies whose husband was in the reserves, and didn’t know any other military families before she joined it.  I told a story about how my little brother, when he was three years old and my dad was deployed would go searching around the house at night for my dad.  But the thing that helped him the most was the candy –people would send us letters and candy in the mail.

Senator_Warner_w_BSF_DSC_5734Warner was extremely supportive and was a very good listener.  He added bits in every now and then of sympathy or to encourage us.  I told my mom that one day it would be nice to see him again.

I got to see Senator Warner by coincidence.  I happened to be in town because I won a contest that the Armed Services YMCA held for military children.  I made a poster of my family, and it won!  I got to go to a lunch at Congress and I won a $500 savings bond.  I know there are hard things about being a military child (like moving a lot – I’m going to go to my 7th school next year, and I’m going into 6th grade).  But there are good things too, like contests you can enter, and interesting people who will talk to you.  My mom is part of Blue Star Families, so when we heard that Senator Warner wanted to meet some Blue Star Family members in DC, and we would be in DC the same time, I was lucky and was able to go.

Michelle Obama Cites BSF Survey and Meets with Members in Norfolk

Blue Star Families members in Norfolk

Blue Star Families members in Norfolk

Today, Mrs. Obama spoke to families of the Comfort and Eisenhower Groups at Norfolk Naval Station in Virginia.  A few lucky BSF members were there and had the opportunity to speak with Mrs. Obama.  Keep checking back for more on that.  In the meantime….

The Virginian Pilot has an article about Mrs. Obama’s visit as does The Caucus, the political blog of The New York Times.  In fact, The Caucus, shows an excellent photo of BSF Membership Director, Vivian Greentree, with Michelle Obama and a photo of Mike Greentree on a stick!
In her speech, Mrs. Obama mentioned us, stating:

According to a recent survey by Blue Star Families, 94 percent of our military families don’t feel like their communities know of their struggles.

You can find more about our Military Families survey on the Blue Star Families website, or you can link directly to the BSF Survey Powerpoint and BSF Survey PDF as well.
Mrs. Obama’s remarks are, in full, below the fold.  Or you can watch the video.
***************************************************************************************************
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the First Lady
________________________________________________________________________________
For Immediate Release                                                                   July 31, 2009

REMARKS BY THE FIRST LADY
UPON THE RETURN OF THE USNS COMFORT AND USS EISENHOWER

Norfolk Naval Base
Norfolk, Virginia
12:42 P.M. EDT
MRS. OBAMA: Thank you so much. Good afternoon.
AUDIENCE: Good afternoon.
MRS. OBAMA: I am delighted to be here in Norfolk today to welcome home so many heroes. Welcome home! (Applause.)
Thank you Admiral Tidd and Captain Negus for your kind words. And even more importantly, thank you for your service and leadership as commanders of the Carrier Strike Group 8 and the Continuing Promise 2009 mission.
I had the pleasure of meeting Captain Negus’s wife Afifi, just now in the photo line, beautiful red dress — and I know that she represents all of the military spouses who are thrilled to have their husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, and grandchildren back home. Isn’t that right? (Applause.)
I would also like to thank Admiral Harvey, Commander of the U.S. Fleet Forces Command, and Vice Admiral Williams, Commander of the U.S. Second Fleet. You are role models for all of us in our commitment to excellence and your dedication to your country and to your sailors. Continue reading

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

BSF, Bi-Coastal by Anna Maria White

filmJune has been a great month for Blue Star Families, and chock full of events for military families. Last week was the pinnacle, with three exciting happenings at once! Claire, Vivian, and Casey kicked off the action with the kid-friendly, mom-approved Books on Bases, Smiles on Faces fair in Virginia Beach. Claire and Stephanie both gave great recaps.

While BSF-East Coast was making a difference through face-paint and story times, BSF-West Coast attended the ServiceNation lunch at the 2009 National Conference on Volunteering and Service in San Francisco. With a key note address by none other than the First Lady herself, this conference was incredibly inspiring. And let me tell you, as military family members, we’re pretty popular at events like this.

The ServiceNation lunch brought together some heavy hitters from the entertainment, business, government and service sectors who are all focused on making service part of our nation’s culture. The overall affect of service and how it benefits all involved was a big topic of discussion at the lunch. One of the speakers told a story about her five year old daughter who was dragged along to help out at a shelter, only to later that day volunteer to donate all of her birthday presents to the little girl whose whole birthday was one cupcake.

As a BSF member and military spouse, I’m already a part of the culture of service, but sometimes it’s hard to remember that and to remember that I’m not alone in this life. Being surrounded by so many people whose lives are dedicated to service was a great reminder though, and a truly great experience. One of the best parts about it was that they all wanted to know how they can help military families. Thanks in no small part to the attention the First Lady has given military families, and to the efforts of BSF members nationwide, the challenges of military family life are becoming better known and our civilian neighbors are looking to help.

The ServiceNation lunch was the most recent step in an ongoing effort to bring service to pop culture. Over the next few months, BSF will be taking part in that effort, and working with many different organizations, including the Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF) toward an unprecedented event this fall. Led by the EIF in October, all Americans will be asked to donate their service to a cause important to them. The EIF will also focus on the great service and sacrifice of our service members and their families.

As a BSF member, you are a vital part of this effort. The EIF is counting on BSF to help them develop story lines and ideas that will effectively communicate the impact of service, not just on the people being served, but on the ones who are serving. And who better to talk about the positive impacts of service on those who serve than military family members?

Reading, Roller Coasters & Resolutions!

Monday morning, my husband and I loaded up our 4 kids and headed out on a Blue Star adventure…

Reading:

Our first part of the journey took us to Virginia Beach, Va to attend the kickoff of Blue Star Families, Books on Bases, Smiles on Faces event.  The kids were a bit restless after 3 hours in the car, but were a huge help in setting up.  Casey Spurr put my husband Joe right to work putting together the Blue Star Families banner, and my kids helped set up the craft tables and entertain the children of all our fabulous BSF volunteers.

Our program partner KIDS sent HUNDREDS of wonderful children’s books.  Nice, brand new books that any child would be thrilled to receive.  Janice Weinman, President of KIDS, flew down from New York for the event, and was a delightful addition to the day!  It was really gratifying to see so many smiling faces in the crowd.

We had the most amazing balloon animal maker.  He truly dazzled the crowd with his spectacular creations…Senator Warner’s representative even had him make one for her to take back to DC!  The children listened attentively to our terrific readers who shared children’s stories that focused on deployment.  At one point, during Col. Dennis Cunniffe’s reading, a small boy…maybe 2 years old, snuck up and sat next to him on the edge of the stage.  Perhaps his Daddy is deployed, and he was just needing to be close to a man in uniform.

We asked other non profits to come to the event and share what they do for military families.  Fleet and Family Services, the USO, and United Through Reading were there among others.  It was great to see that we made an impact on the families that attended.  On the way out, I spoke to a Mom and her 3 kids.  I asked the children, “Did you all have fun?”  They all smiled and said yes.  But more gratifying was the Mother’s response.  She said, “I had fun too.  And Happy Moms = Happy Kids!”  Indeed!

Roller Coasters:

We drove straight to Vienna, Va that night to sleep at a friend’s house.  He allowed us to treat his house like a hotel…in at 11pm, out at 8am!  We made it to Hershey Park by 10:30 and commenced “Operation Roller Coaster!”   My children are at the age where terrifying roller coasters are their favorite thing.  I have to admit that I enjoy them too.  In a moment of true “knuckle-head-ery” (as my husband calls it) I thought it would be fine to ride one of those crazy, twisty, 100mph, spleen in your throat roller coasters with my cell phone in my skirt pocket.   I was so dizzy after the ride, that it was an hour before I realized I no longer had my phone.  It was then that my darling aviator husband explained G-forces to me…in a not so kind way. I filled out a lost and found report, and began plotting my way out of the dog house.

Hershey Park (pretty good military discount, by the way) has a water park built in the middle, and it requires no extra admission, so we cooled off during the heat of the day with a ride on a water roller coaster (imagine water shooting at you from all directions!) and a float on the lazy river.   Ahhhhh.  On our way out, I figured I’d check with lost and found hoping to at least recover my cell phone chip.  Much to my surprise, they had my phone…intact!  It had a few mysterious dings, but other than that it was 100%.  I celebrated with a Hershey bar!

Resolutions:

Blue Star FamiliesWednesday morning, Joe took me into Harrisburg to meet up with Vivian and other Blue Star Families members at the Pennsylvania State Capitol to witness the passing of a resolution declaring June as Military Families Month in PA.  It was put forth by one of our PA BSF members, and supported by Representative Lentz.

We were meeting early for breakfast at the 3rd street deli across from the capitol.  Joe entered it into the GPS and off we went.  When we arrived at our “destination” according to the GPS, we were in the middle of a not so great neighborhood and no capitol in sight.  Now, my husband refuses to believe that the GPS is EVER wrong, so it was sweet justice to have it screw up in his presence!  We finally found our way there, and I was thrilled to meet our PA chapter director, Cindy Smalls, whose son, husband and son in law are all currently deployed to Iraq with the Pa National Guard.  She is truly an inspiration, and a very motivated Blue Star volunteer.  Carole Singer, Carol Greentree (double blue star mom) Hal Donahue, and Jim White (BSFs Veterans guy) also joined us.

The House chambers are amazingly ornate.  It was wonderful to be there and watch government in action.  When our resolution came up for vote, the entire house stood, turned to face us, and applauded.  It brought tears to my eyes, and I know I was not alone!  Blue Star Members:  make this happen in your state.  Check out the “Take Action” section of our website to find out how.  It is a great way to elevate military family issues in your state!

On the way home we stopped by Gettysburg for a quick visit.  My husband had been many times, but it was the first visit for the children and me.  It was so moving to be on such hallowed ground, and the first time we had to pry our kids away from a museum.  And a great way to end our Blue Star adventure.