The Home Sweet Home Campaign

T-Shirts 4 SoldiersPlease welcome guest poster Beth VanHoose from the Home Sweet Home Campaign. Be sure to read below the fold for a special discount for military families!

The Home Sweet Home Campaign was born from a genuine motivation, inspired by Tim and Nicole Little, who reside in Queen Creek AZ.  Tim, an Army reservist, has served two tours in this war, touring in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Like many soldiers returning home, he found himself unable to return to his pre-deployment job, due to his Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI).

These injuries are the ones we cannot see, but are very real and are affecting thousands of our soldiers who have served in the Iraq war.  For months Tim and his wife struggled, working their way through the VA system to get the appropriate help. It took over a year for Tim to be evaluated and rated for his disability. Enduring countless doctor’s visits and forms, this became a full time job without pay.

As a reservist, Tim was no longer receiving an income from the military and they had to rely on Nicole, who is a full time student at Arizona State University.  Needless to say, they had to make some tough financial decisions on how to pay their monthly bills; they fell 4 months behind in their mortgage.  Desperate to not lose their home, they looked for other avenues to help them get by.  They found USA Cares, a nonprofit organization that provided them with a grant to cover their past due mortgage payments.  Helping them to keep their home and focus on the future. Continue reading

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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.

Senator Warner Introduces Resolution Commending BSF

Capitol BuildingOn August4, 2009, Senator Mark Warner of Virginia introduced S. Res.  237, commending Blue Star Families for supporting military families and increasing awareness of the unique challenges of military life.

We had the opportunity to meet with Senator Warner in his office in D.C. earlier this year to discuss some of those unique challenges. Senator Warner was moved by the dedication of military families and we could not be prouder of every member of the Blue Star Families.  You all deserve every word:

111th CONGRESS 1st Session

S. RES. 237

Commending Blue Star Families for supporting military families and increasing awareness of the unique challenges of military life.

IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES

August 4, 2009

Mr. WARNER submitted the following resolution; which was referred to the Committee on Armed Services


RESOLUTION

Commending Blue Star Families for supporting military families and increasing awareness of the unique challenges of military life.

Whereas more than 1,000,000 United States troops have served in ongoing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, including members of the National Guard and Reserve;

Whereas the millions of immediate family members of United States servicemembers, including spouses, children, and parents, have contributed and sacrificed as well;

Whereas the families of each servicemember contribute vitally to the strength of the United States Armed Forces;

Whereas military families, often facing significant challenges such as long separations from loved ones and frequent household moves, are civilians who serve in support of United States servicemembers;

Whereas Blue Star Families is an organization of family members of active duty, National Guard, and Reserve members of the Armed Forces serving during war time, and connects military families with civilian communities, increases awareness of the unique challenges of military life, and provides morale and support for military families; and

Whereas, in order for military families to continue to support servicemembers during this extended period of conflict, the Senate and people of the United States should support military families: Now, therefore, be it
Resolved, That the Senate–

(1) recognizes the sacrifices made by Blue Star Families as members of military families and as an organization dedicated to all military families and improving the welfare of the United States;

(2) commends the patriotic efforts of Blue Star Families;

(3) commends, and offers sincere thanks to, all servicemembers and military families; and

(4) urges the people of the United States to acknowledge the inspirational sacrifices of military families.

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

Thank You: The Gratitude Campaign

Have you heard of The Gratitude Campaign?  Check out this video:

The next time you see a military service member, give them a sign.  My kids could sign “thank you” by the time they were one.  We should all learn it!

A Hero’s Journey Home

CrossesKilled in action the week before, the body of Sergeant First Class John C. Beale was returned to Falcon Field in Peachtree City , Georgia , just south of Atlanta , on June 11, 2009 . The Henry County Police Department escorted the procession to the funeral home in McDonough , Georgia.  A simple notice in local papers indicated the road route to be taken and the approximate time.

The link below is a short travelogue of that day’s remarkable and painful journey.

Sergeant First Class John Beale

BBQ Honoring Wounded Soldiers at the Japanese Embassy

Pam & Charles at Japanese Embassy with General and Mrs ShinsekiI attended a barbeque party with my sister and husband, hosted by Ambassador of Japan and Mrs. Ichiro this past Sunday. It was held at the Japanese Embassy; the gathering honored General Eric Shinseki, Secretary of the VA, and his wife, Mrs. Shinseki, as special guests. Other honored guests included OIF and OEF veterans and wounded warriors.

My husband and I spoke with the Shinsekis about his VA experiences (which have been very good so far), his trials and tribulations at Walter Reed, and my work with Blue Star Families. Mrs. Shinseki mentioned in our conversation that she met with Kathy Roth-Douquet, BSF Founder and Senior Advisor, several days ago and that it went well. Mrs. Shinseki mentioned that she saw Blue Star Families as the 21st century answer to military families! I told her that I thought this was a good description of what Blue Star Families stands for. We actually spoke with them for about fifteen minutes before other attendees realized who we were speaking with. Everyone was running for the food lines at the beginning (and the food was worth the running and the wait), while Charles and I decided to speak with the Secretary before he got tied up. It turns out that this was a good plan.

On Monday morning, Claire Woodward, our Executive Director, received a “very nice note” from Mrs. Shinseki mentioning that she met us. It is nice to be recognized and it is wonderful for Blue Star Families!