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Archive for June, 2011

(By Allison Perkins) Moving is daunting. For a kid, transferring schools can be downright traumatic, even for those who have PCS’d multiple times. In our house, with two children enrolled in special education programs for medical reasons, a PCS can mean extra challenges. Will they have the classes necessary to meet our daughter’s needs? Will they have staff members that understand her medical condition? Will they care?

As you pack for your upcoming PCS, don’t forget to set aside the documents necessary for a smooth school transition.

The Military Child Education Coalition’s website has a great checklist of items that parents should not only make sure the school they just left sends, but that the school they are entering receives. Check out their list below or visit their website at www.militarychild.org.

Sending School Checklist

  • Course Description Book
  • School Profile
  • Attendance and Tardy Records
  • Report Card
  • Current Schedule
  • Withdrawal Grades
  • Transcript/Course History (with grading system)
  • Class Rank
  • Cumulative Folder
  • Testing Information – Standardized Test Scores, End of Course Test Scores, Competency Test Scores
  • Health Records (including Shot Records)
  • Birth Certificate
  • Social Security Number
  • Activities Record (such as co/extracurricular)
  • IEP/504/Gifted Records
  • JROTC Records
  • Guardianship/Custody Papers
  • Fees Owed
  • Alternative Schools Records
  • Letters of Recommendations (especially for senior students)
  • Writing Samples (if available)
  • At-Risk or Action Plans for classroom modifications (if available)
  • Portfolios (if available)
  • Accelerated Reader Points (if available)
  • Service Learning Hours (if available)

Receiving School Checklist

  • Course Description Book
  • School Profile
  • Attendance and Tardy Records
  • Report Card Current Schedule
  • Withdrawal Grades
  • Transcript/Course History (with grading system, and Class Rank)
  • Cumulative Folder
  • Testing Information – Standardized Test Scores, End of Course Test Scores, Competency Test Scores
  • Health Records (including Shot Records and Birth Certificate)
  • Social Security Number
  • Activities Record (such as co/extracurricular)
  • IEP/504/Gifted Records
  • JROTC Records
  • Guardianship/Custody Papers
  • Fees Owed
  • Alternative Schools Records
  • Letters of Recommendations (especially for senior students)
  • Writing Samples (if available)
  • At-Risk or Action Plans for classroom modifications (if available)
  • Portfolios (if available)
  • Accelerated Reader Points (if available)
  • Service Learning Hours (if available)
  • Proof of Residency/Military Orders

Cathy, a previous sub wife and one of our amazing social media team, related a story about what she referred to as “The Binder.” When PCSing from Washington, she made multiple copies of important documents and organized them in color-coded sections of the binder. “Even the moving crew and extended family came to joke about The Binder,” said Cathy. “It was our first major move with a school-aged child, and I felt clueless. It brought order to a chaotic time. I didn’t have to wonder where I stuck something or worry that papers would be damaged or lost in the move.” She said registering for school at their new duty station was a snap. “They would say ‘You wouldn’t happen to have a copy of …’ and I would flip through my binder and whip it out. I would bet I am still referred to as “The Binder Lady.”

Have you had some challenges registering your child after a PCS or been surprised by a request for a document?  Share your experiences with us and help other military families have a smoother time.

Also, as you are preparing for that ever important first day of school, qualifying families can sign up to receive free school supplies from Operation Homefront as part of the annual Back-to-School Brigade. Find your local chapter at www.operationhomefront.net and watch for more information in July!

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“My husband was wounded down range. He suffered from numerous injuries – traumatic brain injury, PTSD. He finally … could no longer serve in the military. It was rough.” These are the words of Betty Easley as she speaks about her husband Army Spec. Greg Easley.

It’s a sad but real truth. When it comes to injuries of war, the Army has been hit the hardest. In fact, the Army has sustained 70 percent of the total injuries of our current war. Every wounded warrior deserves the care that he or she needs, but there are always going to be gaps between needs and what the government can provide.

Senior military leaders have recognized that military support nonprofits will have to increase their efforts as defense budgets decline. And so, a first-of-its-kind relationship has been established between Operation Homefront and the U.S. Army. In conjunction with a memo of understanding with the Army’s Warrior Transition Command, Operation Homefront has created and is administering the Army Homefront Fund (AHF).

The Army Homefront Fund’s purpose is to help wounded Soldiers return to duty, or to transition successfully back to civilian life.  In other, words to support Wounded Warriors to fill the gaps between needs and government capabilities.  It’s a way for those who want to support the Army or Wounded Soldiers to know exactly how their support is being used.
“Working closely with the Army, Operation Homefront will be able to leverage its resources, expertise, and extensive network of nonprofit partners to help identify needs earlier and get Soldiers and their families to help they need more quickly,” said Jim Knotts, CEO of Operation Homefront and the Army Homefront Fund.  “Our Wounded Warriors deserve nothing less, and with the support of many nonprofits dedicated to helping our military and the generous support of our donors, we will give them all they deserve.”

The Fund will assist soldiers in a variety of ways – medical care, rent, utilities, auto and home repair, transitional housing, relocation, child care and more. Essentially it can step in at a critical moment to help a soldier, and his or her family, get the support they need to make it through an emergency. Those who have given so much for their country deserve support through rough times.

Operation Homefront was able to help the Easleys get back on their feet. Now, the Army Homefront Fund, will ensure that more Soldiers and their families can receive the same assistance. For more information, to donate to the fund or to request assistance, go to www.armyhomefrontfund.org or call (877) 264-3968.

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Deployed Grandma

(By Allison Perkins) Debbie Nichols was proud of her Air Force daughter, though she admits she didn’t know much about her life in uniform.

The moment her daughter received orders to deploy to Afghanistan, that changed. The recent divorcee called home with good news, and bad. She was visiting for Christmas and leaving for the Middle East on Jan. 1. Her parents needed to make arrangements to pick up her two young daughters from their father and keep them, for six months.

Nichols went from seeing her granddaughters, Ivie and Bailey, twice a year, to becoming the full-time caretaker of a 9- and 6-year-old and carefully guiding them through the emotional battlefield of dealing with deployment. (The picture at right shows Nichols with her granddaughters on a special excursion.)

“I was stunned,” Nichols said. “I didn’t know what to think. So much went through my head.”

As Nichols and her husband enrolled the girls in school, changed their work schedules, redecorated bedrooms and tried to explain deployment to their very non-military town, Nichols began looking for advice – and found none.

“There was nothing to say what to do to take care of grandchildren, during deployment or not,” she said. “A lot of it that we needed was how to deal with the emotional turmoil inside of you.”

Nichols said she thinks that there isn’t much discussion among deployment guardians because they simply don’t have time.

“They’re probably squirreled away in their house, just like I was, trying to take care of those kids,” she said.

When her daughter left, the family didn’t hear from her again for over two weeks. They were officially on their own.

“That first beginning was very difficult,” Nichols said.

Soon, she was explaining the situation to her friends, who empathized, though did not fully understand. Then, she registered the girls at the local school where the administration had never dealt with military children before. Nichols said teachers were quick to try to help.

“It was like lack of knowledge. They didn’t know how to help,” she said. “The number one problem within the community is that they wanted to support, but they didn’t know what to do.”

Then, there was the transition for the girls to a new house and new rules. There were wars over vegetables. “We weren’t allowed to leave the dinner table unless we were done eating everything,” said her oldest granddaughter Ivie, now 14. “I’m not used to eating vegetables at every meal. It was really tough.”

Ivie said the kids at school also didn’t understand why she couldn’t call her mom every night. “Their moms were gone on business trips but it wasn’t the same,” Ivie said. “They couldn’t relate.”

After the six months of adjustments and quick learning, Nichols couldn’t shake the feeling that she was meant to keep helping military families like hers – left in a tough position, with little support. So she created the website, Deployed Grandma, to reach out to other grandparents left behind when their children headed to battle. “I felt I had to get this out,” she said.

Now, Nichols speaks at yellow ribbon events, homecomings and deployment briefings. She is welcomed with hugs and tears from families who are thankful for her insight and willingness to share. “I just started writing about things I experienced and hoped it would give those people in that situation some type of information to fall back on,” she said. “Now they come up to me to say thank you.”

Nichols has written a book about her deployment experiences, “Deployed Grandparents Being Parents.” And her granddaughters, now ages 14 and 10, have kicked off their own website, Deployed Kids, to help other military kids. “It’s fun,” Ivie said. “We write stuff and the other kids tell us what they’re going through.”

Talking it through is Ivie’s top advice for other military kids, especially those left with relatives in a non-military town. “When you talk to people who don’t understand, they don’t know how to reply,” Ivie said. “But your guardians are going through the same thing you are.”

As her granddaughters prepare to say goodbye to their mother again this summer for a year-long deployment, Nichols is preparing to help them with the separation. This time, however, the girls will spend the year with their stepfather. “As we go forth with this next deployment, I’ll be able to help them and we can reach out to other kids too who are dealing with it,” Nichols said.

“I’ve been inspired to do this. I can’t move away from it,” she said.

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