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Archive for the ‘Blue Star Families’ Category

She got married recently. And if you are looking for a pageantry filled military wedding – look no further. The bride wore an amazing wedding gown to walk up a very long historic aisle to her handsome soldier/pilot husband, who looked resplendent in his full dress uniform. This is one uniform that outshines the Marine Dress Uniform.

A few days later, he was headed back to work, piloting rescue helicopters and she went back to their home, went grocery shopping and started planning a big trip.  That trip took the couple to Canada, where they enjoyed canoeing, attended a big Canada  Day celebration, met lots of fun folks and ended up at the Calgary Stampede.  She packed carefully, and even recycled some of the clothes she already had, including her fave jeans and those really comfy heels for when she had to be on her feet for a long time.

The trip ended in the US, where they went to a huge party, he played some sports, they did some art and fun stuff; then they went to a military support activity and packed some care packages.

Sounds like a fun trip, huh?  Well, I think HRH the Duchess of Cambridge had some fun, but she was also working hard.  Working hard as a representative of the Queen; working hard as a representative of her new family; working hard as a new wife.

She met thousands of people, from Governor General and elected officials, to homeless teens; from Green Gable re-enactors to cancer patients; from survivors of fires, to members of the tribes of the First Peoples, from stars of stage, screen and TV, to children on Skid Row. The last appearance was at a Joining Forces, Service Nation/Mission Serve event.  As her husband said:

This is the last event on our tour of North America, but to my mind, it is one of the seriouslyt most important. This is because it is about men and women who – of their own freewill – choose to put their life on the line for their Country. They are the front line of a remarkable relationship between the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada, which has safe-guarded our freedoms for a century.

But Mission Serve is about something more than just men and women in uniform. It is about our other halves. The half that makes the loved one’s duty and sacrifices possible and worthwhile. It is about you: families, partners and friends.

When HRH talked to some members of Blue Star Families, she mentioned wanting to help the military spouses in  her own country. Clarence House/St. James’  has made it clear that she and the Duke are going to maintain a lower profile while he studies for flight captaincy and she mulls over which of the thousands of charities she will become a patron of.  I can only hope that she will choose a group that works with military families.  We may not hear as much on this side of the Atlantic, but our military family over there are struggling with the same issues we have; deployment after deployment; reintegration problems; PTS and TBI; dealing with the military bureaucracy.  While she cannot influence the government, she and Prince William can take the work they saw during their LA trip and extend that.  The Prince William and Prince Harry Foundation are already working with military families and Prince Harry has made helping wounded warriors a priority for him.  As the Duke said:

I am delighted, therefore, that our Foundation – and in that I include my low-flying Apache very average brother – is a partner in today’s event. We have much to learn from you.

It was wonderful to see the attention being paid to our issues by the mainstream press, even though some of them were more interested in the Duchess’ dress.  I could hope they continue to spend some time on them, without the dazzle of royalty.  We’ll see!

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Great News!  For all of us who enjoy museums and spending time with great works of art, or a fun place to spend a day with kids where they learn something!  It’s back!!!  the Blues Star Families Museum program that has worked with the National Endowment for the Arts to create –

a partnership with more than 1,300 museums across America to offer free admission to all active duty military personnel and their families from Memorial Day through Labor Day 2011.

Yes, Free Admission!  Here’s the link to the list of museums.  Last year, Chief and I used it for a great day at Colonial Williamsburg, for a Show of Louis Comfort Tiffany glass and other works.  This year, I’m heading to Hillwood – all that lovely Faberge!   Take a look – I’ll bet you will find a wonderful place to spend some time this summer with the whole family, doing something fun, and (sshhhh, don’t tell the kids)… educational even!

KSF

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As I stood in the reception area of Ward 58 at Walter Reed Medical Center waiting for a friend – I thought about all the new milspouses I’ve met this year, all the changes in the lives of my longtime friends… and was stunned, again, at our resilience.

My friend has gone through the tension of pre deployment and the unbelievable stress of another deployment; then 17 days before he was due home, received the phone call that has changed her life forever. Her husband lost part of his left leg in Afghanistan, and has severe injuries to the other. He’s gone through surgery after surgery, and she’s been there sleeping next to his bed on those bad days and nights. She’s dealt with telling two little kids under 5 that Daddy is hurt, and with a 10 year old in an entirely different conversation. She’s dealt with doctors and therapists, relatives, well-meaning friends and demands that would dent the resolve of anyone. And she’s still standing. She hasn’t broken, she’s had a couple bad hours, but she’s still standing, still making jokes, still helping her friends when they need it. She’s absolutely stunning.

The friend who came with her to Walter Reed, a 19 year old bubbly young woman– is taking on tasks that no one that age should have to. Her husband is still downrange, and she keeps helping everyone else around her; and just applied to go to Nursing School, after what she’s seen at Walter Reed. When I think of what the word friend means – she really qualifies. After all, she’s dropped her life to help another spouse, being her gatekeeper, taking shifts to give the exhausted spouse a break to sleep or shower or meditate, running errands and being the shoulder everyone needs.  Pretty stunning.

There’s Jessica – who is has managed to drag herself from the depths that she fell into, and she’s writing again – trying to help the other milspouses who are down and depressed – trying to show them that it’s not the way out. Instead of retreating and healing by herself, she’s reaching out. On her latest post, another spouse talked about “going through some stuff”; too many talk about having problems too; but they are TALKING to each other.

Another spouse, dealing with a husband with TBI, PTS, and physical injuries that leave him severely incapacitated; another who was set adrift by her spouse and is being treated shabbily is finding strength to get up and defend herself and her kids; another’s home town was partially obliterated by tornadoes and is setting out from her deployment home to go down and help others; others have books coming out, or have successfully restarted their careers or reinvented their professional lives.

Its Military Spouse Appreciation Day – go appreciate a Milspouse; if you are one you know that a “great job” from a fellow milspouse feels pretty good – so tell your battle buddy you appreciate her (or him); tell your FRG leader you appreciate what they are doing and what can you do to help; find that new milspouse and be her (or his) battle buddy.

If you aren’t a Milspouse but know of one in your neighbourhood, reach out. Say hi, if the family is going through deployment, help out. Mow a lawn, take the kids for a couple hours, invite them to dinner. If you don’t know of any – here are a few places to show your appreciation.

LIFT

Blue Star Families
USO

Donate, make a link. Reach out and say thanks.

KSF

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Deborah Mullen, one of the best advocates for military families, has a blog post on the Family Matters Blog at DoD. Here’s one of her points.

But as I meet with military families across the country, it is clear to me that a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan has challenged them, stretched them, and tested their resilience and strength in unprecedented ways.

She goes on to talk about how she and the Chairman both feel that the connection between the military families and the rest of the country.  As she says:

It is evident to me that people care and want to help. Often, they just don’t know what to do to support our military families in the ways they need it most, particularly as they transition back to their communities and to civilian life.

This month is Military Appreciation Month. I hope that civilians use this opportunity to connect with a military family, to connect with groups that are supporting the families.  There are a lot of groups, but what I’d like to see; would be a family in the neighborhood who is going through deployment being cared for by others in the neighborhood.  I’d like to see employers giving a military spouse a break when he or she needs to get time off to say farewell or hello to their servicemember.  I’d like to see a church or other place of worship do more than pray for the family in their midst, and pitch in to help them.

KSF

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The new program/continuation of prior work “Joining Forces”  that was announced at the White House yesterday is, I hope, an indication that we as military families, aren’t going to be shoved under the rug again. In the past, we’ve been used as window dressing, as props on a stage. In the past two years, Mrs. Obama and Dr. Biden have been pretty vocal in their support, have started programs and pushed for changes.  Of course, there are the folks who wonder why they don’t “initiate” **legislation to keep our pay safe; or make the President give us all a raise; or stop the wars; or work on longer dwell time; or whatever other issue they are having. There is a little thing called the Constitution that prevents them from doing much more than they are doing now.

They are using what Teddy Roosevelt called his “bully pulpit” – they use their name recognition, they use their ability to get a bunch of cameras together, a bunch of reporters, the pomp and circumstance – and some judicious arm twisting.   For example -as reported by USA Today

Among the commitments announced Tuesday:

Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club will guarantee a job at a nearby store for military family members who have been transferred to another part of the country. Military spouses often have a hard time finding work because employers are reluctant to hire employees they know will be moving on in a couple of years.

•The U.S. Chamber of Commerce will hold 100 hiring fairs around the country to help 50,000 veterans and military spouses find jobs outside government.

•The YMCA, National Military Family Association and Sierra Club Foundation will offer free summer camp to 7,000 military kids at camps in 35 states this summer.

Is this everything we wanted?  NO.  but is it a start?  YES.  The push to get other Departments of the government involved – the push to make sure we aren’t just dependent on the Department of Defense – getting the rest of the country to realize that after a decade of wars and multiple deployments – we are STILL OUT HERE! I’m going to hope, I’m going to be positive – because I think we need to be.  We have a lot of work to do – to remind the rest of the country that while they sit in their Barcalounger watching Dancing with the Stars or worry about what Katherine Middleton is wearing – another soldier died yesterday in Afghanistan, a sailor died the day before, and Marines gave their lives the day before that.

I’m ready to step up too, how about you? will you at least send a Link – at LIFT?  here’s a link for you to head over to, and show some support

KSF

** yes – some one on Facebook actually wanted to know why Mrs. O didn’t initiate a bill in Congress.

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Blue Star Families gave some linking love to LIFT – Like It For TIME – the push to persuade TIME Magazine to realize that Military Families deserve to be TIME’s Person of the Year for 2011.  The new project – LIFT, LINK, LOVE! asks for everyone to send a link – one of those paper chain links that we all use to count down deployments.  The address is at the site – go take a look.

The BSF link reminds us that the Week of the Military Family is approaching – April 4-10.  So – what are YOU doing to bring attention to Military Families and their issues?  sending a link would be a great start.

Please, make some links, and send the idea to all your non military friends – because that’s the real idea here.  NOT to be a project FROM military families – but a project FOR military families.

Grab the scissors, the markers – get the kids involved (Cub Scout Project?  School Project?)  Let’s make this chain HUGE!

KESF

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