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Archive for April, 2010

Sara’s Headed South

Congratulations to Sara, our Orlando vacation winner! Her entry:

“2 kids, husband injured April 29th, 2006. Never had a family vacation.”

And yes, I count the date as one word.

Sara’s husband was injured by an IED blast during a bridge demolition mission. He doesn’t remember many details of the explosion, but he couldn’t hear for about a month afterward. Then he started having problems with his memory and balance. He’s since been diagnosed with PTSD and TBI, which causes periodic paralysis, nightmares and debilitating headaches.

They’ve got two young kids; a 4-year-old daughter and a 4-month-old son. Here’s hopin’ they all have a wonderful time.

We’re thrilled that we can send them on their first family vacation.

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We All Need a Vacation

Thanks so much to everyone who commented about why you should win a week in Florida. I truly wish I had a getaway to give to each of you. I know you all deserve a fabulous getaway.

We’ll be working to bring in more vacation donations. If you have ideas of people or vendors we might beg for vacation goodies, please e-mail me at Kerry.McGinley@operationhomefront.net. I love giving away good times.

We’re waiting to verify some info before we announce the winner of our trip to Kissimmee, Fla. Stay tuned.

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After a snow day last Friday and snow on the ground yesterday, my spring fever is about to fry my brain.

So I’m thrilled we can offer a week in sunny Florida to one military family. A generous supporter donated the use of a one-bedroom condo in Kissimmee, Fla., from May 10 to May 17 at the Liki Tiki Resorts. It’s accommodations for up to four people. We also have airfare for three. So it’s the makings of a good getaway.

To get in the running, answer this question in the comments section of this blog in 10 words or fewer: Why do you deserve this trip?

I’ll accept comments through Thursday, April 29 at 3 p.m. MT. I’ll award the prize to my favorite answer Friday, April 30.

To collect this or any other prize from Operation Homefront, you have to be enrolled in DEERS or a recently separated wounded warrior/WW dependent; we’ll ask for proof of status. Prizes are awarded at our sole discretion.

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Eva Marie and Jospeh Briseno are utterly devoted to their son Jay. For the past seven years, they’ve cared for the man whose active life ended with a sniper shot to his spinal cord. The Reservist was just 20 when he answered the call to duty; three months later, he was paralyzed from the neck down.

Doctors say he’s the most critically injured soldier to survive. The family converted their living room into an ICU. Jay is fully conscious, but unable to speak. He communicates with his parents through blinks. Eva is so consumed with caring for Jay, she wouldn’t even leave his bedside for a phone call to congratulate her for making the top 5 finalists for our Military Motherhood Award.

The Brisenos got more good news last week. Both the House and the Senate unanimously passed the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act.

The bill provides for a range of programs and aid to families caring for injured vets, including payment for modifications made to the home to accommodate the wounded service member, eliminating co-pays for the catastrophically injured and other forms of support for caregivers. It also paves the way for studies on suicide, TBI, female veterans, loans to pay for health care education and more.

Once the troops have withdrawn from Iraq and Afghanistan, once the wars are declared over, once the sacrifices of our wounded warriors fade from the popular conscience, Eva and Joseph will still be by Jay’s side. They’ll keep turning him throughout the day to prevent bedsores, they’ll keep watch over the tangle of machines that keep him alive, and they’ll continue to pray for one more day with their beloved son.

They need and deserve help to get through each day; this bill will supply at least a little. It’s an encouraging start to creating a stronger structure for the long-term care of wounded warriors.

Eva Marie Briseno with her son Jay.

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I live in a pop culture vacuum. I have two preschoolers who rule our remote with iron fists. So while I can recount in detail the latest throw-down between Dora the Explorer and the Grumpy Old Troll Who Lives Under the Bridge, I’m woefully behind on my celebrity news.

But I do know that Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt seem to get ripped in the press a lot.  And that people refer to them as “Speidi,” which I think is fun.

But back to the ripping. I have to counter some of that. I don’t know the pair personally, but I’m very grateful to them. Last week, we asked them and everyone else we know to help us in the #AmericaWants campaign on Twitter. We were vying for a free, full-page ad in USA TODAY. To win, we needed to bring in the highest number of tweets.

Every time we asked, Heidi and Spencer quickly and enthusiastically helped out. We still don’t know the results, but we know that with each tweet Heidi and Spencer sent out on our behalf, retweets from their almost 2 million followers echoed through the twitterverse.

They did this even at the risk of alienating some followers, most of whom are young people who probably don’t have to think much about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. So they not only helped us in our push for the ad we so desperately need, they turned the attention of almost 2 million people to the war, even if it was just for a few seconds.

Every second counts, as far as I’m concerned.

The Hollywood Hills are metaphorically millions of miles away from the fight in Afghanistan and Iraq; Heidi and Spencer helped bridge that distance. So I very sincerely thank them and everyone else who helped us out last week. We deeply appreciate the support.

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We need to capitalize on the kindness of friends and strangers. Operation Homefront could really use a free full-page ad in USA TODAY. That would help us get the word out on how we help military families and wounded veterans.

But there’s a trick. Actually, a tweet. We need help from the Twitterverse. To win the free ad through the Kindness Community’s contest, we have to have the most tweets by Friday, April 16. You could really help us out by tweeting any of the following messages:

Help military families with a retweet: #AmericaWants Operation Homefront to get a full-page ad in USA TODAY.

Please retweet: #AmericaWants Operation Homefront to get a full-page ad in USA TODAY.

Support our troops with a retweet: #AmericaWants Operation Homefront to get a full-page ad in USA TODAY.

According to contest rules, each tweet must include “#AmericaWants Operation Homefront to get a full-page ad in USA TODAY.”

So please post this to Facebook, LinkedIn, your personal websites and where ever else you connect in addition to Twitter. We deeply appreciate anything you can do to help.

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The new season of “Army Wives” starts up this Sunday. The drama that follows a group of military families at a fictional South Carolina post is more than just a fun TV escape. Here’s why:

1. This show has lifted the war from headlines and into popular culture. “Army Wives” is the highest-rated show Lifetime has ever produced. It’s definitely more soap opera than documentary. But maybe the folks who’ve tuned out the war through conventional news are still catching a glimpse of some of the realities of military life. Maybe it’s helping them care a little more than they would if they weren’t following the show.

2. The show gives back. Catherine Bell did a public service announcement for us. Lifetime hosted a group of real wives who had a day of beauty with several cast members. Sterling K. Brown and his hilarious wife Ryan Michelle Bathe attended an Operation Homefront reception. Once we all rolled our tongues back in and could speak (he’s even more magically delicious in real life), we really enjoyed visiting with them. Lifetime also ran a Remarkable Women series that showcased standout women. OK, I’m kinda biased because among the many other stellar ladies they featured, they included Operation Homefront’s chief operating officer, Amy Palmer.

3. This show is bringing women together. Real military wives are getting together for “Army Wives” viewing parties. Our Georgia and Missouri chapters will be hosting viewing parties for the premier. And on OH Online, we’ll have a live, pre-show chat on Sunday at 9 p.m. EST.

4. The show is based on book by a real Army wife/brat. Tanya Biank, a frequent contributor to OH Online, wrote “Army Wives” to chronicle the struggles of real military families. Tanya is a talented writer, a consummate professional, a wonderful mom and a joy to work with. I’m proud of her success.

So here’s hoping the show continues to do well. Good things have come from it, and I hope the trend continues.

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The votes are in. Out of the amazing top 20 nominees for Operation Homefront’s Third Annual Military Motherhood Award, here are the finalists in no particular order:

1. Sophia Malone

2. Eva Marie Briseno

3. Robin Schoolfield

4. Misty Gersley

5. Tracy Curran

Congratulations to these ladies as well as the other 15 extraordinary women who made it to the semi-finals. I’ve really been impressed and humbled by the inspiring women in our military community.

From here, a panel of judges will review the top five and select the final winner. We’ll announce her on April 19. She’ll win $5,000 and a trip to Washington, D.C. for a special ceremony in her honor.

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Courting Disaster

I understand deadlines. I’m a journalist. I was once suspended without pay for missing 6 p.m. by less than 15 seconds.

In that situation, it was the anchor who looked bad because I didn’t get my story done on time. In my news director’s mind, this was about the worst sin I could commit — right up there with an error of fact. I was mad and humiliated but otherwise unscathed. No one lost a home or medical benefits because of my mistake.

Unfortunately, the court system is holding disabled veterans and everyone else to a much stricter standard, according to the New York Times. A Supreme Court ruling set a precedent that no matter the extenuating circumstances or the medical/mental condition of the people involved, deadlines must be met. That means lawyers for David L. Henderson, a paranoid schizophrenic Korean War veteran who didn’t get his VA claim in on time, have had to take their case all the way to the Supreme Court to win their client the care he needs.

I’m angry and concerned about how the current ruling will affect wounded warriors from our current wars. We’ve watched PTSD rates climb from one in every eight soldiers back in 2004 to one in five in 2008. Last year, the Air Force Times reported that more than 44 percent of soldiers seeking treatment from the VA were diagnosed with one or more mental disorders.

As the wars rage on and troops continue to deploy, those numbers will only go up. Men and women who need and deserve proper care will continue to slog through a bureaucratic process that’s already mired in red tape.

courtesy of flickr user hexodus

When the Supreme Court considers Henderson’s case, the justices will have a chance to set a new standard. Here’s hoping they do what’s right rather than what’s been done before.

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Month of Meaning

April is the Month of the Military Child. But what does that really mean? Hallmark has yet to claim or commercialize it. I think the same can be said of the general population. As a civilian working for an organization filled with former military members/spouses who work to serve military families need, the disconnect between my personal and professional worlds is glaring.

I live in Colorado Springs, a town with five military bases. Many of my neighbors are military even though my home isn’t near any of our local installations. My daughter is all set for kindergarten next year; many of her friends are in limbo as their parents patiently await PCS orders to any of several locations.

I’m not sure even they know April is the Month of the Military Child. I’m also not sure how this month is supposed to be celebrated. As an organization, Operation Homefront is presenting the Military Child Award April 8 in Washington, D.C. From our online community, OH Online, and Facebook page, we’ll be giving away a tricycle each week in a fun photo contest. We’re also covering issues that affect military children: drug abuse, autism, the state of military marriage and staying connected to grandparents.

But what should I, Kerry McGinley, do? What can each of us do as individuals to say thanks or support these kids and their families? Here are a few ideas:

1. Thank a stranger in uniform, especially if his/her/your kids are there. You’re not just offering kind words, you’re setting an example for the little people watching.

2. Do one small thing to bridge that civilian/military disconnect. For me, that means I’ll remind my Air Force wife pal from preschool that it’s been too long since she and her girls came over to make cookies. If you’re military, reach out to a civilian pal to strengthen that connection. To the general public, our wars are only as real as the people who are fighting them.

3. Give of yourself. It doesn’t have to be money, but there are plenty of wonderful nonprofits that could use it. Maybe your FRG could host a story time for members’ kids, or your church could adopt a local military family with a deployed service member to perform chores. Just something simple that says “thanks” more eloquently than words.

We all benefit when we think and act with deliberate kindness and gratitude.

So what will you do?

Last April, Tyler Mizell, then 4, joined his family to pick up a free computer from Operation Homefront and CDW-G at Fort Carson, Colo.

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