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??)
American Women Veterans ( this is a FaceBook based group)
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.
A few weeks back, PBS re-launched its Regarding War site and invited a number of bloggers to blog on experiences of reintegration of soldiers to the civilian world. I am fortunate to be one of the bloggers. In my third post (and in the fourth next week) I am addressing some misconceptions on PTSD (next week on some resources).
PTSD looks to be the diagnosis of the decade. Seems everyone has it, or wants to claim it. In the 80s the diagnosis was ADHD… In the 90s, was it narcissism? And now, PTSD: apparently you can get it soon after watching a movie, or years after some bad act. It’s all the rage in the news, and a convenient excuse for bad behavior. Even if someone has never personally experienced the trauma, it seems like they only have to hear about someone else’s trauma, and POOF — they have PTSD! Worse still are those who point to combat stress as proof that service members are the victims of some nefarious plot. If you believe the media and some politicians, every bad act by someone who happens to be a veteran is the result of some neglect or refusal to identify and treat this condition.
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.
Since beginning a new chapter of Blue Star Moms in February of this year, I have learned a lot. We have, as a group, done quite a bit, accomplished more in the past six months then some people do in a year. The support from local communities has been steadily advancing and I am amazed at the generousity of so many.
We recently had our second shipment of Care Packages go out. This time, we were able to send 55 packages to the deployed. The first time is was 22 to deployed Troops and 2 large boxes to the hospital overseas for our wounded. It may not seem like much in comparison to other groups who have been around longer but we are slowly spreading the word that there are needs that we, here at home, take for granted, that are not available to our Troops who are away from home.
Many are aware of our Troops being “down the road” but are unaware that many are still in the “sandbox” and that amazes me. I even had one woman ask me why we would send care packages to the sandbox when none of our Troops were there? Hello….Does no one watch the news or read the newspapers any more? I explained our mission and our goal so that she finally understood and she has now volunteered her services and that of several friends to help with our next packaging. YEA!!
So let me share what happened with our last packaging. One of our Moms has a son serving down the road and he had emailed her with an emergency listing of his Unit’s needs. Just 9 young men, not a tall order for us at all. Basically they were sharing deoderant, as many had run out, had several who never receive anything from home and their room was smelling a bit gamey (I won’t write what he said it actually smelled like-it was very much a guy comment though). smile….
We ended up putting out a call to those who are affiliated with us and the items began pouring in! Soap, toothpaste, Febreze, snacks, shampoo, body wash, M&M’s (a special request), amongst other items. We had calendars donated from a local Hooter’s, DVDs, CDs, books, games and postcards written by many attendees of different events that we collect as we attend. Those items were sent over the day after the packaging but not soon enough. Two of the men in his Unit were unable to enjoy these small bits of home as they did not make it back from a firefight. Another, the M&M requestor, grabbed the extra large bag of M&M’s, went to a corner, sat back and ate the entire bag by himself. He couldn’t get enough of home and the memories this small candy snack brought to him. This made me laugh and cry at the same time. He is only 18 years old and does not receive much, this was the least we could do. He is younger then my youngest son….
The smiles we were able to help create will be a part of us forever, the tears we shed when we receive the pictures back of them smiling with their packages, for the looks on their faces, fall silently and they will never see them rolling down our cheeks.
I sent my son homemade chocolate chip cookies and promised some to another soldier serving in the sandbox. I sent her those as a special treat, from me, Mamaw. I also sent over Cracker Jacks and sunscreen, she looked a little red in her recent photos. When she sent me the pictures of her and her unit with the cookies and the other items they received (we also sent them some care packages), I laughed out loud. Mind you, I was alone, at home, reading emails and posting updates and when I saw those pictures, I was in awe of how much this meant to our soldiers. It only took me a small portion of my day to bake those cookies and a little bit of my lunch hour to send them over to her. Since they were from me to her there was a bit of extra caring put into those cookies and a little bit more of the white chocolate chips too! The pictures of one young female soldier reading a card that was in a care package made me cry. The look on her face, the writing on the card, is visible and moving. The stillness of her composure impacted me in such a way that I have to hold back the tears thinking of her. It is a childs writing, with little flowers drawn on the border, completed with care, respect in the way that only a child can do, with innocence and love, completed without knowing who would be the recipient.
Another portion of our packages were given to a Chaplain as one young man that we had mailed them to did not really understand that he was to hand them out to those who would need them the most. His buddies were laughing when he kept coming back from the post office on base with more and more packages. He thought about it and came up with the idea to take them to the Chaplain so that those young men and women who were in dire need of a little bit of home, in need of an outpouring of love, and needing comfort, in need of knowing that they are indeed supported and thought of, would receive it.
These pictures and notes are not required for us to know that the packages are appreciated, we know, as Moms, that they are. Just like the items sent for the wounded, we knew what they needed because we asked for a list. These items are stored by the Chaplain at the hospital and for those who are in need (and ALL there are in need) can go to the locker area and “go shopping” for their sweats, t-shirts, shoes, flip flops, phone cards, what ever it is that is sent over and kept there for them. We send only new items for them (in all of our packages), they don’t deserve used, they have volunteered to put their lives on the line and we want them to know that we appreciate them.
It’s not about how much you spend or are able to spend, one trip to the Dollar Store can benefit several soldiers. It’s not about receiving kudos for what is sent, it’s knowing in your heart that you helped send a little bit of home and comfort to a Soldier who misses his family as much as they miss him. It’s what you do to show you are thinking of them and that you care.