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

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

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

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

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

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

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Weekly Round-Up for August 25, 2009

blue-star-family-logo3Weekly News Round-Up

All the Latest in Everything Blue Star Families

Welcome!  We’ve had another busy week with our new Military Families Voter Registration survey, ideas for helping kids during deployments and involvement in some powerful articles.  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.

Blue Star FamiliesIf 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


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!


Have a Deployed Daddy or Mommy?  Try This!

Our Director of Membership Vivian Greentree recently tried something novel to help her young son cope with missing his deployed daddy so much.  They created a “Daddy On A Stick” by grabbing a picture of her husband, enlarging and laminating it, and taping it on what would otherwise be known as a barbecue skewer.  Her son takes it everywhere and they are amassing quite a collection of pictures of their DOAS coming along on all their summer adventures, plus just being there in their daily lives.

Read more about Vivian’s adventures here.   And if you want to send us your photos with your Daddy or Mommy On A Stick, we’d LOVE to put it up on our new website, launching soon!  Just send your photos to Rebekah at rebekahsanderlin@hotmail.com


War’s Silent Stress: The Family at Home

Rosemary Freitas Willams, a communications director for BSF, asked some tough questions about depression in military spouses in a powerful piece that appeared on the Opinion Page of the Virginian Pilot on August 9, 2009.  Please take a minute and read her piece, War’s Silent Stress: The Family at Home


Ft. Hood’s General Lynch Works to Aid in the Well Being Of Soldiers & Families

Army Lt. Gen. Rick Lynch, Commanding General at Ft Hood, is working hard to “create a more balanced Army, with full attention paid to mind, body and spirit, not just warfare.”  The Austin Statesman’s Denise Gamino, wrote an amazing piece outlining the all the General’s accomplishments and initiatives.  Blue Star Families’ Laura Dempsey appears in the article too!


Newman’s Own Products Support Military Families

When you buy Newman’s Own salad dressings, sauces, popcorn, cereals etc. at your local commissary, a portion of the after-tax proceeds come back to the military through Fisher House Foundation and the Newman’s Own Awards program.  In 2008 those profits translated into $75,000.00 in grants awarded to 15 volunteer organizations, in all corners of the country and abroad.  Over the nine-year course of the program the foundation has donated more than half a million dollars to more than 114 initiatives that improve the quality of life of military families.  Outstanding!


Effects of Deployments and Military Life in the News

We’ve seen two stories this week dealing about military family separation and sacrifice.  First, is a Military Spouse Magazine interview with Alison Buckholtz, author of Standing By: The Making of a Military Family in a Time Of War.  Also, don’t miss  When a Parent Goes To War, Military Kids Grow Up Fast from CNN.


Care for Returning Vets

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has recently announced the roll out of  “Care for Returning Veterans” as a first step to assist pastors, caregivers, and any who want to put out the welcome mat for our returning veterans and their families.  For more information, please check out the ELCA webiste.

Thank you to Emma C., a BSF member in South Carolina for this info.


Free Military Job Seeker Resources

Bill Scott of Bradley Morris Inc. wanted to make sure all Blue Star Families members know about these free military job seeker resources.

CivilianJobs.com is where America’s Military Connects with Civilian Careers ~ a job board, job fairs and military base publication (Civilian Job News)

MilitarytoCivilian.com is a blog with advice for military-experienced job seekers

Bradley-Morris.com is a specialized placement service for military backgrounds in engineering, management, technician and maintenance roles, as well as former military with an interest and aptitude for sales/business development.

Military Spouse Corporate Career Network is a great resource for spouses who are looking to change jobs or jump back into the paid and volunteer working world.  MSCCN is a non-profit corporate direct hire program that provides a whole host of job opportunities and networking programs for military families

MyVetwork is an inclusive online community for active duty service members, their families, and veterans and offers both professional and personal networking.

Calling All Professional and Serious Amateur Photographers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

You Are a Seller in a Buyer’s Market: A Resume Can Be a Viable Tool to Secure an Interview

soldBy Christine Brugman, MAOM
MSCCN European Applicant & Military Installations’ Liaison

A Résumé Can Be a Viable Marketing Tool to Secure an Interview

No one likes writing their résumé. It catalogs and records what we’ve done, how we’ve done it, and what the results were from doing it, not from a purely historical perspective but rather an indicator of what we can bring to a new employer. Sound easy? Not particularly, but it can viewed as the single most important vehicle to securing your next job interview, and as such, a great opportunity for you to sell or market yourself to potential employers. To do this successfully, attention to detail is imperative when drafting and assembling your résumé as well as focusing on writing for your audience and not for yourself.

The first quarter of the first page of your résumé is the most important space in the document. This is the area that attracts the reader’s initial eye contact and interest. An individual will spend 10‐20 seconds reading this section and will eventually make a premature decision as to whether the candidate is worthy of being scheduled for an interview. Therefore, it’s essential to make yourself visible to and win the additional attention from the reader by presenting your most powerful and unique parts while also covering what a recruiter is looking for in a candidate. Make your readers’ eyes stop by giving them something that catches their attention!

Your name is important. Don’t allot the same font size to your name as you do with your contact information. Some writers suggest that this may give a frail or feeble impression to the reader when they are looking for a sharp and powerful presentation of you. Making your name the most visible part of your résumé links your name with all of the accomplishments and achievements that follow.

“LadysMan75 ” is not considered a professional email user name. Use a variation of your full name to display on your résumé such as “Jane.Doe@email.com”. Most email servers provide the ability to have more than one email address. If you lack a professional email address, it would be wise to create one to present to a prospective employer.

Don’t just list your skills; get the reader interested by getting specific. Details ring true. Justify your skills mentioned in your powerful profile by providing specific achievements and elaborating on your skill sets within your Professional Experience or Employment areas. You have already listed your strengths in your profile, now you have to detail what the benefits of those strengths are while aiming to avoid clichés and overused phrases within your descriptions. Recruiters almost always count on candidates putting an enormous spin on their credentials to make themselves look good, so justify all.

Your work experience has to fulfill the expectations of the profile. Review the posted job description that you are applying for, find key qualifications, and then decide which of them most clearly resembles your strongest competencies. Key word use is vital especially when the organization uses talent management software to digitally scan applicant résumés. Using key words can increase the chances of your résumé being assigned the right level of desirability or even come to the attention of the right person.

Market your performance and professional achievements. You don’t have to be in a position of authority to achieve something in the workplace worth being proud of and discussed. This could incorporate an Employee of the Month status, exceeding your performance goals, diffusing an irate customer, saving the company money, or making a tough sale. Your achievements, in conjunction with your employment details, should also fulfill and incorporate the expectations of your profile.

Sell yourself with action words to show just how capable and qualified you are. Stay away from use of passive statements like “responsible for” or “duties included”. Action words can enhance an otherwise bland resume by vibrantly demonstrating your competencies and skill set. Steer clear of overusing these “action” words in your descriptions.

Before submitting your resume, review and make any necessary changes to deal‐breaker elements
such as grammar, spelling, and punctuation consistency. As this is a given to those seeking résumé assistance, it is also one of the most frequent deal breakers when it comes to the applicant’s demonstration of accuracy and attention to detail. Know the difference between “their”, “there”, and “they’re”; add periods to the end of each bullet point or don’t – just make sure it is consistent within the document; ensure tense agreement, and have someone else proofread it before you hit “send”. An extra pair of eyes doesn’t hurt.

Keep in mind that the recruiter is not looking at your resume to hire a professional résumé writer, so the résumé is not going to win you the position of your dreams… you are. Take the time to take active steps in finding the position that you are looking for ‐Network, make some phone calls, research prospective employers, ask questions, volunteer. These activities, along with using your résumé as a marketing tool, will open up new opportunities for you to find a company who will want you for exactly who you are and what you have to offer. Your task is to get out there and find it!

The Military Spouse Corporate Career Network (MSCCN) is a private sector designated 501(C)(3) public charity in good standing with the IRS. MSCCN specializes in creative employment solutions and vocational training for all military spouses, Veterans, War Wounded and primary Caregivers to War Wounded. MSCCN holds MOUs with the  Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard. The MSCCN operates at no cost to military spouses, Veterans, War Wounded and Caregivers to War Wounded.

If At First You Don’t Succeed…REVAMP, REVAMP, REVAMP!

resumeby Cachet B. Prescott, MA, Applied Psychology, MA, Sociology, Adjunct Faculty Member, Park University and MSCCN Education Liaison.

From our friends at MSCCN.

For those in job search mode, the process can sometimes prove to be daunting and even downright disheartening at times. You send out what seems like a million cover letters and resumes for jobs that you know you are qualified to do but get no responses. Please realize that you are not alone. I’ve been in that place way more times than I can count, and it’s not fun.

If the job search is not going the way you hoped it would, it may be time to re-evaluate and see if there is something that may need to be tweaked on your end. Start with your cover letters and resumes. Though we put great effort into drafting these pieces, our information is not always as up to par as we may think it is. Speaking from personal experience, I have learned that you have to treat the cover letter and resume writing process as if they were research papers being submitted for a grade. I learned this lesson the hard way, and here’s my story…

Two years ago, there was an opening for a Director position at a university on the base where we were stationed. With my background in higher education, serving as an adjunct instructor for that school, and having learned about the job from the current Director herself (who was PCSing with her husband), I thought I was at least a shoo-in for an interview (if not the job itself). I quickly whipped up my resume, made a few applicable changes here and there, and submitted it to the contact person. Days went by, and I hadn’t heard a word. Normally, I would not have been too concerned but I knew the school was trying to fill the position immediately so I e-mailed the contact person to see where things were. I received a generic e-mail back saying that she had received my e-mail and if my qualifications matched what they were looking for, she would call me for an interview. I knew I was qualified so I waited. Well, after a few weeks had gone by, I found out that the new Director had been hired because she contacted adjunct instructors about our Fall courses. All I could think was, “How did I not even get an interview?!?!  I know I can do that job!”

A year later, the current Director informed me that she and her husband were PCSing, and her position would be vacant. I took the cover letter and resume that I had submitted before, made a few more changes and updates, and submitted my information for consideration once again. Just as before, they were trying to fill this position as soon as possible so I thought it would only be a matter of time before I was called for an interview. And just as before, I ended up e-mailing and then calling the contact person for the position. I received yet another generic e-mail and the run-of-the-mill response when I spoke with her:  we received your information and will call you if we’re interested. I never got that call.

After my second rejection, that very same position opened up for the third time in three years. The current Director told me about it, and the other staff members asked me if I was going to apply again. I gave them a resounding “No” and went about my business. I simply could not take the rejection again.

My family and I ended up PSCing two months later. When we arrived at our current base, I was on the job hunt once again. After almost two months of searching, a friend told me that the Director position at the same institution would be opening at this base. What are the odds? I figured I might as well apply; I had nothing to lose. This time, though, I handled the application process a bit differently. I researched cover letters and resumes for similar positions on the Internet. I followed my research with an “Extreme Makeover:  Cover Letter and Resume Edition” by doing a total overhaul on my information including changing the font, adding and eliminating information, switching to a more appropriate resume format, and shortening my cover letter to a great degree. After my revisions, I e-mailed it to a friend who was the last person to hold the Director position at the same institution at our last base. I figured that she landed the position before so she could give me helpful tips on what the contact person will be looking for in a cover letter and resume. I included her suggestions in my information, had her look over everything once more, and finally, applied for the job. I got an e-mail the very next day requesting an interview (from the very same person who did not give me a second thought the first two times I applied for the position) and started the job only five days later! The friend who told me about the job also applied for the other open position in the same office. I was able to help her by editing her resume and sharing my interview tips. Lo and behold, she also got the job and started six days after I did.

The bottom line is that no matter how much faith you have in your abilities to do a job, both your cover letter and resume must positively reflect what you’re bringing to the table. In my case, my cover letter was overrun with unnecessary information and probably served as a deterrent for consideration for the position. I was trying to put everything in it to show that I was qualified and did not allow it to simply serve as an intriguing preview to my resume (which is where my qualifications should show). Refreshing my resume made my information easier to read and showed why I was the right person for the job. Using my friendship network as a resource also proved extremely beneficial. If it weren’t for one friend, I would have never known about the opening, and using another friend as a second set of eyes allowed me to see things that I hadn’t considered. Though it may require more time on your part, doing these simple things can be the difference between hoping for an interview and actually getting one.

The Military Spouse Corporate Career Network (MSCCN) is a private sector designated 501(C)(3) public charity in good standing with the IRS.  MSCCN specializes in creative employment solutions and vocational training for all military spouses, Veterans, War Wounded and primary Caregivers to War Wounded.  MSCCN holds MOUs with the  Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard.  The MSCCN operates at no cost to military spouses, Veterans, War Wounded and Caregivers to War Wounded.

Spouse Speak: Recently Deployed

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

By Vivian Greentree

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Weekly News Round-Up for August 18

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

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

All the Latest in Everything Blue Star Families

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy! Heidi & the Blue Star Families Team


Federal Jobs Preference for Military Spouses

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

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


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

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

Here’s how YOU can get involved:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Touching Story about the Effect of Multiple Deployments on Kids

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

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

“A welcome home sign,” he answered.

“For who?”

“For Daddy.”

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

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

Free Virtual Job Training Series for Military Spouses & Vets

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

VFW Free Calls Home Surpasses 3 Million!

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

Elmo to the Rescue!

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

Yellow Ribbon Program Helps Reintegration

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

Calling All Professional and Serious Amateur Photographers

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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.