Veterans – have parents too. Updated.

Those of us who have had our child leave the military after serving, either in a war zone or not, are now VetParents.  And Parents Zone is here for us too.  I’ve been watching, with a great deal of pride, my own son and daughter in law navigate the difficult waters called “The VA” and persevere.  I watched them both go through the frustration of medical and psychological evaluations and the appeals process.  I’m watching them heal, watching my son take classes and work full time and take care of their adorable daughter, watching my daughter in law work full time and then some, take care of said wonderful child, while they both deal with their deployments and what they brought back with them.

Some Soldier’s Mom, in her previous post, listed a group of websites to assist Vets.  I’d like to add to that, and I’m asking you for help.  If you know a site, an organization, a group, that helps Vets, list them here.  We’ll set up a page for them as well (right, Tech Mama??)

The American Veteran video site

IAVA Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America

American Women Veterans ( this is a FaceBook based group)

LAW

Update: March 2013

A lot of attention lately has been focused on the health and adjustment process faced by vets returning for the last time from deployments in the Middle East. Not much time has been spent considering the way in which parents have to cross this hurdle. Many will tell our staff at PZ that the dread leading up to a deployment is the hardest part of the process, but the period in which we are needed most is oftentimes the return. Family play an enormous role in easing the homecoming experience of a soldier, and we need to be both supportive and open minded. A pervasive reluctance to seek support for PTSD and other psychological problems can hinder the recovery of a loved one. We encourage readers to be open and frank in the interest of their families, including if necessary, the willingness to broach difficult subjects such as wellbeing.

 

Stop Loss Pay – give me your input!!!!

November 18, 2009 · Filed Under LAW · 2 Comments 

I will be on the phone for this: so let me know what you want me to ask

Maj. Roy Whitley, the Army’s Project Manager for Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay, will provide a status update on the Army’s first month of processing claims for this new benefit. The Department of Defense introduced Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay last month when it announced that service members, veterans and survivors are eligible to receive $500 for every month they served under Stop Loss between September 11, 2001 and September 30, 2008. Maj. Whitley will explain the Army’s system for processing the estimated 120,000 eligible claims, as well as answer questions about receiving the pay.

LET ME KNOW YOUR QUESTIONS! I’ll be definitely asking about lack of responsiveness, how to check on the status, any deadlines (or lack thereof).

Gold Star Sunday

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Today is the day we remember the Gold Star Families, those who have lost their service member in combat.

These families now have a new way to stay intouch, both with each other and with others, including the military family that has become so important to them.

As a story from Defenselink News reported,
a new Virtual Installation, such as the Army Strong Community Center that opened in Rochester NY in September, is a way for these families to maintain ties to the military. As three families who met with Army Reserve Chief Lt. Gen. Jack C. Stultz made clear to him :

What they said they’re lacking now is a way to stay tied to the military their sons died serving, and to get information and help when they need it.

These families have had difficulties with finding counseling who could help, in one case helping the fiancee of the fallen servicemember receive benefits for the daughter he never saw, and in assisting the siblings who were suffering with the death of their brother. This installation could be of service, could help this group of families who need to feel that we haven’t forgotten them.

I have a blog friend, who lost her son 5 years ago. I visit Ken at Arlington periodically, and think of his mother often. As a former Blue Star Mother, and a current Blue Star Wife, I honour her service and her loss, I honour the Gold Star Families around the country who grieve the loss of their servicemember, their son or daughter, who miss their brother or sister, the father or mother they will never see again. Our country needs to remember these families, we need to make sure that their sacrifice is never ever forgotten.

General Casey remembered these families Saturday at the 4th Annual Time of Remembrance at the US Capitol, spent time talking to them, especially the children. The White House Commission on Remembrance proclaimed that the purpose of this day is

To unite our citizens in remembrance, honoring all those who died in service to our country with a special tribute to America’s fallen in Afghanistan and Iraq and the families they left behind. To demonstrate to these families that in addition to their family and friends, their fellow Americans care about their loss.

We must never forget that each one of the names on the roll of the fallen have a family that will never be the same again, that have sacrificed so much.

LAW

A Real Hero- His True Story

September 3, 2009 · Filed Under Honor Their Service, LAW · Comment 

There are heroes everywhere – at least if you read the paper or watch the news.  Here – thanks to Donna Miles  of the American Forces Press Service and with her permission – is a REAL one.  warning – Kleenex should be at your fingertips.

Commentary: Wounded Warrior Offers Real Story

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 2, 2009 – Two days ago, I and six other reporters accompanied Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates to Texas to see two high-tech operations under way: the F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter Lockheed Martin is building in Fort Worth, and the retrofitting of the MC-12 Liberty turboprop at the L3 Communications plant in Greenville.Both efforts have important military implications. The F-35 is a revolutionary next-generation fighter aircraft that the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps, as well as eight partner nations, will share. The MC-12 is being outfitted with state-of-the-art gear – 41,000 pieces of it, to be exact – and already is delivering new intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities in Iraq. It soon will do the same for warfighters in Afghanistan as more come off the line.

Getting to see both operations firsthand was impressive, to say the least. It was gratifying to see the energy, and frankly, the money, being poured into programs that directly support our troops on the front lines.

But almost 48 hours after the return flight to Andrews Air Force Base, Md., these stops aren’t the ones lingering in my mind.

What replays over and over in my head, and that I find myself sharing with just about everyone I talk with, is the third stop on the Texas trip, where Gates helped to present a wounded warrior with keys to a brand new, all-expenses-paid house near Houston.

Only two other Pentagon reporters and I opted to cover that stop, which most of us hadn’t known about until just days before the trip.

The two factory visits, which included a news conference at the Lockheed Martin plant, had delivered solid, hard-news stories about the F-35, the MC-12 and the situation on Afghanistan that couldn’t wait. Editors wanted their stories. Time was of the essence. That’s how the news business works.

Yet that additional side trip to Cypress, just outside Houston, yielded what to me was the most eye-opening and inspiring story of the day, maybe of the year.

A community came together and raised enough money to buy a brand-new, 3,300-square-foot home for a severely wounded Marine captain and his family. They presented it with no strings attached, calling him a hero and telling him it was part of the debt they owed him for his sacrifices and service.

I admit I’m a bit of a sap. But our motorcade approached the house, I was moved by the outpouring of genuine support. Hundreds of wildly cheering people lined the street and the sidewalk leading up to the front door: Boy Scouts in uniforms, schoolchildren hoisting hand-painted banners, neighbors holding American flags, Marines in their dress blues.

The house itself was packed with well-wishers crammed into every nook and cranny, all focused on a makeshift podium set up in the middle of the living room.

The luminaries made their speeches. Before Secretary Gates spoke, the onlookers heard from Houston Astros legend Craig Biggio, Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurt, U.S. Rep Todd Tiahrt from Kansas, and Meredith Iler, national chairwoman for the Helping a Hero organization that made the donation possible.

But it was Capt. Dan Moran, the medically retired Marine they were honoring, who left the group spellbound.

Moran has sacrificed a lot since an enemy attack left him with excruciating third-degree burns over his body, a fractured vertebra and mild traumatic brain injury. He’s undergone more than 30 surgeries and spent two and a half years recovering at the burn center at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio.

To this day, he can’t control his body temperature and has to stay in a 68-degree environment. He can’t go outside in the sunshine, where his body will overheat and his burns will fester. His face is red and swollen, a testament to his wounds.

But as he stood at the podium in his new living room, he harbored no anger, no blame, no sense of being owed something.

“What do I say to people who have given me so much?” he asked. “Words don’t do justice. So let me tell you right now. It is going to be the way that I live my life. And the way I am going to live my life is by honor, courage and commitment.”

At this point, a tear started rolling down my cheek. Bad form for a reporter, even one who works for the Defense Department. But then another tear followed. I felt self-conscious — until I saw tears rolling down the faces of many others crowding the room. How could anyone not feel the raw emotion of this?

“You can rest assured,” Moran continued. “You made an investment in me and other wounded warriors, and I promise you, you will get a return on your investment in me. … This is how I am going to pay you back: by how I live my life and the impact I will have.”

I looked across the room at Secretary Gates, and it was obvious that he, too, had been touched by the captain. Flying on the plane back to Washington, Gates told reporters that he had jokingly told Moran, “Remind me to never speak after you.”

Moran would have been a tough act for anyone to follow.

As I reflect on the Texas trip, I feel edified by the experience. I’m further amazed at the technology that goes into making our warfighters the world’s best. I’m impressed by the American industrial base – where workers I met expressed genuine pride in the fact that their everyday work is saving lives on the battlefield.

But the image I can’t shake is of Captain Moran at that podium, so eloquently expressing humble thanks and committing himself to a life of example and service.

That’s a news story.

(Donna Miles can be reached for comment at donna.miles@osd.mil.)

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