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Sheila Casey on Finding Balance in the Military

Military spousePlease welcome guest blogger, veteran military spouse and BSF Advisory Board member, Sheila Casey.

I have been a military spouse for 39 years. During that time I have experienced all the same things each one of you have…raising a family, moving, deployments, reintegration, children changing schools, volunteering and making lifelong friendships. It has not always been easy but I would not change a moment of it. I say that now although there were days when I thought differently. When military life became difficult it was easy to think “enough” but then I would figure my way through it and get on with life.

What I realized is that I needed something that was mine. I could not live my life through my husband and I needed something in addition to the Army. I knew that one day my husband would retire and that the military part of my life would end. I needed something that would continue. The big question was what. Continue reading


BSF Weekly News Round-Up for September 1

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


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.

Pennsylvania BSF Meets with Shinseki and Sestak

SestakPlease welcome guest blogger, BSF, Veterans Co-Coordinator, Jim White.

There are over 6,000 Penna guard members returning home from long tours in the Middle East.  Today in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, BSF had the opportunity to discuss the health care available to our Active Duty, Pa. National Guard and Reserve members with the Secretary of the VA., General Shinseki, and Congressman Joe Sestak.

It’s clear to this advocate their dedication to these matters are most important.   Gen. Shinseki asked BSF to send him a copy of BSF’s national survey of military families to review with his committees. And I will send it out to his office and Congressman Sestak’s office today.

ShinsekiRep. Sestak’s office handled over 2,000 cases this year alone from family members of military service members, three times the national average. Both Rep. Sestak and Gen. Shinseki leaders are in tune with the needs of family members and both want to hear from us. I believe this as both looked me direct in the eyes and made it a point to let me know I should connect with them if BSF ever needs assistance in Pennsylvania, or across the nation.

Jim WhiteBSF family also assisted with the second annual veterans transition stand down this past Saturday. Assisting over 200 plus transitions of veterans, Guard and Reserves. Pictured is the wing commander and Sr. Jag officer at the 911 air wing outside Pittsburgh who volunteered on this 90 degree day. Already today I got call from the Base MWR officer wanting to know how they can help with our Books on Bases, Smiles on Faces in Western Pa.

Building bridges, and sharing the pride of service in the BSF traditions in Pa.,

I remain, VR. Jim white-BSF-Pittsburgh, Pa.

Darrell “Shifty” Powers

605_band_of_brothers_468I saw this wonderful story about Darrell “Shifty” Powers, who passed away in June, and wanted to share it. He was an original “Band of Brothers” as written by Stephen Ambrose. My husband forwarded the email to me about him and I forwarded it on realizing that too many people have forgotten about World War II.

I was pleasantly surprised by the story because like the original writer, I thought that the email would only be passed around the military community. Many need to be reminded that 16 million people just like “Shifty” served in World War II. I would encourage all to read “Band of Brothers” because it truly is an inspiring story of heroism and sacrifice in the face of unspeakable odds.

Have a wonderful day!


Beyond Tribute Launches!

Many moons ago I thought my first BSF post would be about my hysterically funny misadventure at the Fredricksburg, VA pre-election Obama/Biden Rally. But that post will have to be patient. It’s been waiting a few months, so what’s a little longer?

Yesterday I had the distinct honor of being in attendance at the launch of Beyond Tribute. As I walked into the room, I was happy to see a familiar face, Sue Hoppin, immediate Past President of the Bolling OWC. Score! I had someone to sit with, which was important since Stephanie’s car was rear-ended on I-95 and she was unable to meet me at the event as planned. (Stephanie is okay! Thankfully no one was seriously injured!)

One thing you must know about me, is I am no fan of formality. I understand it and respect it, but if faced with the knowledge of a receiving line, I will hide in the ladies room until it is over. My avoidant behavior didn’t begin with my husband’s military career, it began at weddings. I just never know quite what to say in that 5 second spurt of handshaking. So as I looked around at the folks in the room, I contemplated whether I needed to go hide out for a bit, but decided to risk remaining seated. Turned out to be the right decision.

Thankfully there wasn’t a receiving line, but that isn’t to say I did not experience a 5 second handshake which I found to be thoroughly engaging.
As I was awaiting the start of the program, a blond woman sat down in the row in front of me. She immediately turned around, stuck out her hand and smiled at me as she enthusiastically said, “Hi! I’m Jill Biden!” Yes, that Jill Biden, AKA Dr. Biden. And because I didn’t feel the pressure to perform in a receiving line, I was actually able to tell her my name and organization with comfort and ease. We didn’t have time for me to gush and act the fool much else, because the program was seconds away from beginning and the once empty chair to her left, directly in front of me, now was chock full of, none other than,General Wesley Clark.  Yes, that Wesley Clark.   Lucky me, being all of Not Even 5 Feet, Gen Clark isn’t freakishly tall and  didn’t block my view.  Although I do wonder what would have happened had I tapped him on the shoulder and asked him to “scrunch down.”  Instead I found my self somewhat fixated on the back of his head. It’s nicely shaped, his haircut was very even, although I momentarily wondered if he uses hairspray or gel to keep his coif. (BTW,Congratulations, you are now just as distracted as me from the purpose of this post)

The launch of “Beyond Tribute”. What a fabulous concept  that American’s can still shop the Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day sales and at the same time be supporting Veteran’s Service organizations.  I think Bob Balaban put it just the right way when he said, “This isn’t just a call to action, it’s a call to conscience.”  And yeah, it’s a wonderful way to remind retailers and the public that the best way to capitalize on these holidays is to pay back the veterans for everything they have done for our country.

So in the words of Pamela Eggleston, go “hit the sales, shop at the stores” which have taken the pledge, take the pledge yourself and have safe holiday weekend.   Particularly as we go into the 101 Critical Days.

Our day at the Beyond Tribute Press Event

On Thursday, May 21st, my husband Charles and I attended the Beyond Tribute Press Event. We were among many dignitaries, including Gen. (Ret.) Wesley Clark and Dr. Jill Biden. The room was filled with veterans and military service organizations that included Blue Star Families, MOAA, American Women Veterans, U. S. Vets, the McCormack Foundation, and others. The program was supposed to commence at 12 noon, but due to all of the excitement in the room, along with the networking, it began a little behind time at about 12:30pm. What a great event!

Beyond Tribute is a not-for-profit organization that has brought together leaders from business, the arts, veterans and civic groups, and ordinary citizens to change how they celebrate Memorial Day and Veterans Day by transforming holiday sales promotions into fundraising entities that actually help our wounded veterans and their families. Their mission is to “redefine our Memorial Day and Veterans Day holidays by engaging the American business community and its customers in a national campaign that will raise charitable dollars to benefit those who are struggling with the wounds of war, including the invisible wounds: PTSD, traumatic brain injury and combat-induced anxiety and depression. Funds raised go directly to top rated charities that help veterans in need throughout the USA.”

Actor and director Bob Balaban emceed the event and gave introductions to the speakers.
The speakers were Gold Star Mothers of America President Georgie Carter Krell, who was very personable (and took a liking to Charles), General (Ret.) Wesley Clark, Carmella LaSpada from the White House Commission on Remembrance (www.remember.gov), and finally, me and my husband. We spoke on our experiences of his two deployments and subsequent combat injuries, his three years at Walter Reed and our involvement with the scandal, and I mentioned Blue Star families. We received a standing ovation!

Please see the following news article for more information about how you can get involved with Beyond Tribute at , and go to the Beyond Tribute website at http://www.beyondtribute.org to sign the pledge.

Go Beyond Tribute for Veterans

This moving email is circulating the internet right now and I wanted to share it with everyone.  Particularly since it involves BSF members Pamela Stokes Eggleston and her husband Charles.  Beyond Tribute is a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to making Memorial Day and Veterans Day about more than just shopping.  It’s about teaching Americans to see the days for what they are and to give back to the community even if shopping is involved.

From: Sgt. Charles Eggleston (Ret.) and Pamela Stokes Eggleston
Subject: Go Beyond Tribute for Veterans

Each Memorial Day and Veterans Day, many of us take time to recognize the sacrifices of those men and women who have served in uniform. But around the country, these solemn holidays often end up meaning little more than a chance to buy things on sale.

As a veteran injured in the war in Iraq, I find this so disheartening, as does my family.

Our Story


I recently retired from the U.S. Army. I was an active Army soldier, served two tours in Iraq, and was a Warrior in Transition (WIT) at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC), where I’ve received treatment for the past three years. I received several duty related injuries during both tours in Iraq, most recently in Mosul, Iraq in 2005. I am a Purple Heart and Bronze Star recipient. The other six soldiers in my unit didn’t make it; and I know just how blessed I am to be here today.


During Charles’ tours, I gained weight and I couldn’t sleep. Although I tried to stay busy working, caring for the house and gardening, I constantly worried about Charles. Unfortunately, the U.S. Army did not have a comprehensive outreach program in place to help me or to reach out to the thousands of spouses, families, and friends left behind to deal with long deployments. When my husband returned to Iraq from his R&R (rest and relaxation), I felt like my heart had been ripped from my chest.

Shortly after Charles returned to Iraq, he was hit by an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) blast.  Charles suffered from PTSD and had a mild to moderate TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury).  I quickly became Charles’ caregiver.  I didn’t have any experience with these invisible wounds of war and had no support from the Army.  I quickly learned what I needed to know through the internet and in searching out other military families to get us through the tough times.

Due to the trials and tribulations that Walter Reed put my husband through, he has become an advocate for his fellow soldiers, utilizing his time, listening to the call of his heart, and fostering his strong desire to help his wounded comrades in any way possible. We had to fight for so much during Charles’ three-year tenure at Walter Reed, including the right to be respected and the right to receive fair and adequate medical ratings and benefits. I became an unwitting advocate for my husband, writing numerous letters to Congressmen and Senators. We helped bring the many problems at Walter Reed to light.


Pamela and I are now both advocates for the military and its families.  It galls us that stores treat the military as simply an advertising hook to get people into stores for Memorial Day sales.  It’s time for those stores to give something back to the military.

There are many veterans and military organizations that are truly vested in helping military families and veterans.  Organizations like the Wounded Warriors Project and other veterans service organizations are vital to filling the gaps in caring for soldiers and their families, particularly when a soldier returns wounded and cannot work for extended periods of time. The burden for this, and many of our military families, is unfair and unjust.  This is where Beyond Tribute can help.

Beyond Tribute

Pamela and I recently became involved with a non-partisan, non-profit group called Beyond Tribute that’s mobilizing people around Memorial Day to convince stores to donate a portion of their holiday weekend proceeds to medical treatment for veterans.  By Veterans Day, we hope to be able to raise significant money for veterans in need from the very businesses that usually capitalize on these solemn holidays.

But before businesses will sign on, they need to see that people are committed to truly honoring former service members. Sign the Memorial Day pledge to shop at Beyond Tribute businesses today and together we can do a lot of good for some people who really need it, starting with this Memorial Day:


As an active duty soldier, I believed in my service.  I was doing the right thing, regardless of political maneuvering back home.  I was serving my fellow soldiers. I was serving America.  I was trying to make a difference.

By signing the pledge to shop at Beyond Tribute businesses on weekends honoring veterans, you’re doing more than committing to making a difference. You’re also showing businesses that their customers will reward them if they do the right thing. Sign the pledge now:


Anyone who has served, or has a loved one who’s served, knows how important this help is.

That’s why people like Walter Cronkite, General Wesley Clark, philanthropist Jerome Kohlberg, and Kim Cattrall (Sex and the City’s Samantha) have joined Beyond Tribute with me and Pamela and pledged to do their shopping at participating businesses, too.

Join us in signing the pledge to do your Veterans Day shopping at Beyond Tribute businesses. Then ask your friends and family to do it, too:


The troops we honor are real people, many of whom have very real injuries. This is something we can all do that will really help them.

Thank you for your support,

Charles and Pamela Eggleston


Body:  Memorial Day and Veterans Day should be about more than honoring veterans, they should be about helping those who have sacrificed their health and well-being in the line of duty.

I pledge to support services for veterans suffering wounds of war by shopping at Beyond Tribute businesses over Veterans Day weekend.

[First Name] [Last Name]
[email] [zip]

*** In the interests of full disclosure:  I am a paid new media consultant for Beyond Tribute.  I’m not paid that much, but hey, it’s a nonprofit and a great cause that I believe in.  Steph