Reaching Women Veterans Is A Challenge

 Female Veterans in Iraq. A New Resource for Female Vet on VA health care and benefits: 1-855-VA-WOMEN. Credit Department of Veterans Affairs


Female Veterans in Iraq. A New Resource for Female Vet on VA health care and benefits: 1-855-VA-WOMEN.
Credit Department of Veterans Affairs

What happens if you plan an event to honor women veterans and none of them come? That’s a real concern at the Disabled American Veterans Chapter 97 in Sarasota. The organization is planning a free event August 30th for the area’s women veterans, but so far, they’re having a tough time generating interest.

The Honoring Women Veterans in Sarasota event is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the DAV Chapter building, 7177 Bee Ridge Road, Sarasota. Veteran women from the Sarasota region can register for the event and day care by calling 941-580-0999.

“Our response, so far, has been lackluster,” said Michael Lannan, commander of DAV Chapter 97. “I’ll be honest with you, we’ve had only one person RSVP and we put out flyers and posters. The team that’s been putting this together has been going around to the different colleges. They’ve gone to the Vet Center. They’ve pretty much hit everywhere where there’s going to be women veterans.”

The chapter’s treasurer, Iris Johnson, is part of that team. She said a church group offering free school supplies to children of women veterans had the same problem.

“And they couldn’t find one single veteran woman with children and they had 25 slots that they couldn’t fill,” Johnson said. “They (women veterans) have to be somewhere. Somehow, we have to identify them.”

The Sarasota Disabled American Veterans Chapter 97 building on Bee Ridge Road.

The Sarasota Disabled American Veterans Chapter 97 building on Bee Ridge Road.

The chapter commander is adjusting to reach the younger, female veterans. They recently started a Facebook page and are learning about social media.

Getting messages out to veterans is the job of Karen Collins, communications director at Tampa’s James A. Haley Veterans Hospital.

“You have to use social media. You have to come at them in multiple avenues,” Collins said.

The Haley VA has a Facebook page, a Twitter account, a Youtube channel and Collins routinely posts photos on Flickr.

But there are other issues at work too. Capturing the attention of women veterans is one of the biggest challenges for Pam Smith-Beatty, the women’s program manager at Haley.

“Part of the problem is that women don’t often think of themselves as veterans,” Smith-Beatty said. “I served for 22 years in the Air Force. But when I think of a veteran, I think of my dad, a Korean War Vet. I don’t necessarily think of myself.”

National statistics show that women make up 15 percent of active-duty and 18 percent of the Guard and Reserves but only 6 percent of the VA population.

“We’re finding that for the OEF/OIF/OND veterans, they’re actually doing a good job at capturing them. About 68% of those veterans are actually using the VA,” Smith-Beatty said.

Yet overall, she said the VA is serving only about 40 percent of eligible women veterans.

“So how do you get the other 60 percent? We look at any kind of  recognition event,” Smith-Beatty said.

She started up educational sessions every other month called Pink Bag Lunch and Learns.  Only 17 attended the first Pink Bag event, but as many as 120 have attended. So Smith-Beatty offered some advice to the Sarasota chapter of the DAV.

“If you only get 15 people, then be happy because you’re reaching that 15 people,” Smith-Beatty said.

You can listen to the story on WUSF 89.7 FM Public Radio.

New Twitter Hashtag – #VetQ – for Veterans’ Questions

vetq1Do you want to learn more about veteran benefits or are you curious about adaptive sports?

If you can ask your question in 140 characters or less, tweet it to #VetQ on Twitter.

The new social media campaign is a collaborative effort between the Department of Veterans Affairs and seven Veteran Service Organizations which includes  Paralyzed Veterans of America.

The hashtag – #VetQ – will identify the question and allow the VA and partner organizations to answer it and promote their services. The idea is that more than one of the veteran service organizations will answer questions giving veterans a range of possible answers for their individual needs.

“I am excited at the prospect of using social networking to educate veterans, dependents, and caregivers on VA benefits,” Sherman Gillums, Jr., associate executive director of veterans benefits for Paralyzed Veterans of America, stated in the VA blog. “The #VetQ initiative will provide a dynamic forum to engage stakeholders in real time, which will help VA deliver timelier services. Additionally, it gives veterans service organizations like Paralyzed Veterans of America an opportunity to partner with VA in the effort to close transition gaps for Post-9/11 service members and their families.”

The VA digital team said over time, common questions and answers will likely be categorized on a frequently asked questions page.

The other VSOs collaborating on #VetQ are Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans, the Home Depot Foundation, Student Veterans of America, Team Red, White & Blue, and the American Legion.

Thank You U.S. Air Force Band for Your Flash Mob Concert

The cellist kicks off the concert by the U.S. Air Force Band Holiday Flash Mob at the National Air and Space Museum.

The cellist kicks off the concert by the U.S. Air Force Band Holiday Flash Mob at the National Air and Space Museum.

Okay, I’ll be the first to admit the “Bah! Humbug!” came out in me when I saw my first Christmas decorations at a retail store two weeks before Halloween. It’s kind of hard to “get in the spirit” when that “holidays” are commercially “in your face” for months at a time.

But, my joy of the season is restored thanks to the U.S. Air Force Band.

I wasn’t there for their Holiday Flash Mob concert at the National Air and Space Museum. Luckily, someone shot a video and put it on You Tube.

It’s worth the six minutes to watch. especially if you’re a little jaded by all the “holiday shopping” messages over the Thanksgiving Day weekend.

I can’t think of a better present to share than the joy of music. And I will admit, the fact that the Flash Mob started with a cello (my favorite instrument) certainly added to my new found happiness. Yet, what is truly mesmerizing are the photos of the children’s faces and even the adults as they watch the concert unfold. Give it a watch.

Honza Bear Is Asking for Your Vote to Become a “Hero Dog”

Honza wearing his doggie goggles or "doggles."

Honza wearing his doggie goggles or “doggles.”

There’s still time to vote in the 2013 American Humane Association’s annual “Hero Dog” competition.

I confess. I have a bias in the military dog category for Honza “Bear.” I fell in love with Honza and his story the first time I read about him on Kevin Hanrahan’s blog which was long before the Labrador was up for this award.

If you need incentive, know that Honza completed over 250 combat missions in Afghanistan with 14 confirmed finds of explosives weighing over 400lbs.He is credited with saving the life of his handler and many others numerous times. But, Honza didn’t stop there. If he wasn’t taking the lead on combat missions, he was visiting wounded troops and lifting morale among all the soldiers.

honza-dog-bronze-star

Moments after receiving the Bronze Star, SGT Nolan knelt down and pinned the medal on Honza.

You can vote for Honaz “Bear” to be the 2013 Military Hero Dog here.

If you need some convincing, here’s what Hanrahan wrote after having lunch with Honza’s handler, SGT Nolan:

U.S. Army Sergeant John Nolan told me a great story. When he received his bronze star right before redeploying from Afghanistan he ripped it off his own chest and placed it on his military working dog, Specialized Search Dog Honza “Bear”.

He told me that Honza Bear had done all the work, he’s the one that found all those Improvised Explosives…….Honza Bear is the reason John Nolan and many of the Green Beret Team members are alive today.

Since military working dogs cannot receive military awards, Hanrahan and Nolan hope Honza Bear will receive the American Humane Society Hero Dog Award.

Linkedin Connects Transitioning Military to Civilian Careers

Transitioning into civilian life and a civilian career can require some major changes for military members.

linked inSome are connecting to new jobs and career opportunities in the civilian world through LinkedIn, an online social media used primarily by professionals and business people.

“Wow!” was Julie McAdoo’s reaction when she first learned about LinkedIn at a South Tampa Chamber of Commerce presentation.

“LinkedIn is a very smart way to figure out who it is you need to talk to and what you can offer them versus walking into a room cold to a sea of faces you don’t know,” McAdoo said. Continue reading

Honza Needs Your Vote to Become the 2013 Hero Dog

Moments after receiving the Bronze Star, SGT Nolan knelt down and pinned the medal on Honza.

Moments after receiving the Bronze Star, SGT Nolan knelt down and pinned the medal on Honza.

Military dog advocate and author Kevin Hanrahan has shared his military dog of the week photos and blog entries with Off the Base readers. Now, he’s asking for your help.

He’s campaigning to make Specialized Search Dog (SSD) Honza – affectionally known as Honza “Bear” – the American Humane Society Hero Dog for 2013. To do that, he needs your support and that of your friends, family and followers on Facebook and Twitter.

One of the photos from SSD Honza's Facebook page campaigning to make him the Hero Dog for 2013.

One of the photos from SSD Honza’s Facebook page campaigning to make him the Hero Dog for 2013.

If you need convincing, here’s the lowdown on SSD Honza.

The yellow lab recently completed his first deployment to Afghanistan. While deployed, SSD Honza located 14 Improvised Explosive Devices weighing more than 400lbs.

Honza and SGT Nolan led over 250 combat patrols ensuring the safety of countless American and Coalition Troops following in his paw prints.

He has saved the lives of countless service members.

Hanrahan writes that he recently had lunch with Honza’s handler:

U.S. Army Sergeant John Nolan told me a great story. When he received his bronze star right before redeploying from Afghanistan he ripped it off his own chest and placed it on his military working dog, Specialized Search Dog Honza “Bear”.

He told me that Honza Bear had done all the work, he’s the one that found all those Improvised Explosives…….Honza Bear is the reason John Nolan and many of the Green Beret Team members are alive today.

Since military working dogs cannot receive military awards, Hanrahan and Nolan hope Honza Bear will receive the American Humane Society Hero Dog Award.

Here’s how you can help. You can support Honza by going to his Facebook Page and “Liking” the page. SGT John Nolan is going to post updates on Honza Bear as much as he can on this page.

Can you really turn down a face like the one below?

Honza sporting a pair of "doggles."

Honza sporting a pair of “doggles.”

 

A Veteran’s Writing Earns a Journalism Award

Sgt. Thomas James Brennan from the First Battallion Eighth Marines Alpha (Photo courtesy of the Dart Center)

Sgt. Thomas James Brennan from the First Battallion Eighth Marines Alpha (Photo courtesy of the Dart Center)

It’s awards’ season and stories from a Marine recovering from a traumatic brain injury (TBI) suffered while in Afghanistan and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have earned an Honorable Mention Dart Award from the Dart Center for Journalism.

Congratulations to writer Thomas James Brennan and James Dao, editor, for their work on the New York Times At War Blog:

Driving home, I am greeted by the sun as it sets across the farmland. I park my truck and then open the door to my house. Unbuttoning my uniform and slowly taking it off, the facade I wore all day fades away and relief washes over me. “Daddy, Daddy, you’re home!” my daughter yells. Most parents feel a sensation of happiness when greeted by their children. At this moment I am sad, empty. I give her a hug, but she feels far away. I lie on the couch, feeling lost.

There are 1.7 million Veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, and at least a third of them suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, or P.T.S.D., according to the National Center for P.T.S.D.

I am one of them.

The award noted that Brennan offers a uniquely personal and clear-eyed account of military culture and life as a veteran.

Free Linkedin Lessons for Military, Veterans, and Family

linked inA navigator is ready to guide interested veterans and military in the Tampa Bay area in setting up an effective profile, networking and job hunting all on the social media tool Linkedin.

Julie McAdoo, former Air Force Officer and Navigator ( www.Linkedin.com/in/juliemcadoo76 ), and Nancy Laine, an independent LinkedIN Trainer ( www.Linkedin.com/in/nancylaine ), are offering a Project Transition USA Linkedin workshop this Thursday (April 4, 2013).

Their mission is to show veterans and military who are looking for a job how to use Linkedin in their search. The workshop is scheduled from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Insurance Office of America (IOA),, 2nd Floor, 4915 West Cypress St., Tampa.

It is free for all military members, veterans and immediate family members. Topics to be covered include:

  • How to showcase the skills employers want
  • Building a network that will get you hired
  • Job searching techniques on LinkedIN.com
  • How to connect with influential people who share your interests

Space is limited to 30, so pre-registration is required. Email Julie Mcadoo as soon as possible at julie.mcadoo76@gmail.com or call 813-362-0600 to register. The team has conducted the same workshop for transitioning military at MacDill Air Force Base and at a recent veterans job fair.

A VA Psychiatrist Bids Farewell to His Patient, His Friend

There has been a lot of criticism in the halls of Congress and elsewhere about the VA backlog of veterans’ claims for benefits. It is a huge problem that must be addressed. It is an issue exacerbated by the VA expanding eligibility for veterans, but I’m not writing to discuss any of that now.

Instead, I want for just a moment to bring up another side – the people who work at the VA. 

In particular, I want you to meet VA psychiatrist Rod Deaton who serves at the Richard L. Roudebush Veterans Administration Medical Center in Indianapolis, Indiana. He writes the blog: Paving the Road Back. He’s given me permission to share his work in the past. I do so now because it’s important for all to understand the heart of one man serving those who served in combat.

Escuela MilitarGoodbye, My Friend

Mere hours ago, one of my patients died, not by his own hand, but suddenly, unexpectedly, far too young, far too soon.

Words fail me. Yet at the same time, I cannot let this night pass without my having typed at least a few such words onto a screen, into cyberspace, for him, whose smile I will never again see.

My God, never again.

Goodbye, my friend. For indeed we were not just “doctor and patient,” were we? It matters not that in another few hours, in the very next daylight I will see, I will write my final note in your chart, does it, for you were never just another note, never just words under federal protection.

These very words that I type, at this very moment: God, I wish you could see them.  I wish I could see you seeing them. I wish we could laugh about them.  I wish I could hear you say, “Jesus, Doc, lighten up, why don’t you.”

I promise, my friend, that one day I will.  The memory of your smile will help me do just that.

But for now, I have to ask you to give me a few hours, a few days, as long as it will take.

May somewhere, somehow, not just my memory of you, but you—you—know: it was never just a job.

At this very moment, you cannot know how glad I am that I can write that.

But then on second thought: maybe you always did know that.

Ergo, your smile.

Goodbye, my friend. Goodbye.

You can read other entries by Rod Deaton at Paving the Road Back.

Celebrating One Year of Military Working Dogs in Photos

Here’s a shout out to fellow blogger Kevin Hanrahan. His blog is one year old this week and to help him mark the occasion, he shared some of his readers’ favorite photographs published during his first year.

Three military working dogs ready for action.From Kevin Hanrahan's Military Working Dogs best photos of the year.

Three military working dogs ready for action.
From Kevin Hanrahan’s Military Working Dogs best photos of the year.

There’s possibly no closer companion for dog handlers than their work companions. And possibly no better motivation than sharing some “loving” after a job well done.

A Marine kissing his military working dog. Photo courtesy of Kevin Hanrahan.

A Marine kissing his military working dog. Photo courtesy of Kevin Hanrahan.

A long day of work means there a well earned time to rest. Who better to bed down with at night than your military working dog?

Photo courtesy of Kevin Hanrahan.

Photo courtesy of Kevin Hanrahan.

One thing for certain, while others rest there is always someone on watch.

U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Brandon Mann, a dog handler with Alpha Company, 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, and native of Arlington, Texas, sights in with his infantry automatic rifle while providing security with Ty, an improvised explosive device detection dog, during a patrol here, Feb. 16. Marines and sailors with 1st LAR and India Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, conducted clearing and disrupting operations in and around the villages of Sre Kala and Paygel during Operation Highland Thunder. Marines with 1st LAR led the operation on foot, sweeping for enemy weapons and drug caches through 324 square kilometers of rough, previously unoccupied desert and marshland terrain. Mobile units with1st LAR set up blocking positions and vehicle check points while India Company, 3/3 conducted helicopter inserts to disrupt insurgent freedom of movement.

U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Brandon Mann, a dog handler with Alpha Company, 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, and native of Arlington, Texas, sights in with his infantry automatic rifle while providing security with Ty, an improvised explosive device detection dog, during a patrol here, Feb. 16. Marines and sailors with 1st LAR and India Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, conducted clearing and disrupting operations in and around the villages of Sre Kala and Paygel during Operation Highland Thunder. Marines with 1st LAR led the operation on foot, sweeping for enemy weapons and drug caches through 324 square kilometers of rough, previously unoccupied desert and marshland terrain. Mobile units with1st LAR set up blocking positions and vehicle check points while India Company, 3/3 conducted helicopter inserts to disrupt insurgent freedom of movement.

Congratulations Kevin for raising awareness for the Military Working Dogs and sharing their stories and those of their handlers.

 

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