Nominating Military Families as Time’s “Person of the Year”

December 2010 homecoming for soldiers from the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 124th Infantry Regiment with Florida National Guard's 53rd Brigade based in Pinellas Park. Photo by: Army SPC Christopher Vann.

There’s a grassroots campaign to encourage Time Magazine editors to name “Military Families” as the 2011 “Person of the Year.”

Those supporting the idea do so not to “put military families on a pedestal” but instead to “recognize the indisputable impact they’ve had, and the resilience they’ve shown and continue to show, after a decade of dealing with their own effects of war and deployments.”

There’s a March 4th Letter  writing campaign that provides a form letter and prize incentives. For a copy of the form letter, should you want one, click here.

Or use your own words and mail the letter to this address: TIME Magazine Letters / Time & Life Building / Rockefeller Center / New York, NY 10020.

My appreciation to milblogging.com  for highlighting this campaign and for providing the following links on how to participate.

Military Family – Time’s Next Person of the Year? – explains how the military family fit’s TIME’s Person of the Year criteria.

I Have a Confession – explains why the movement and the upcoming letter-writing campaign are important.

March 4th is Mail Your Letter to TIME Day – explains the letter writing campaign (coming soon – March 4th [or, March forth! – it seemed appropriate]).

And this is just a fascinating and evocative pictorial timeline of the military family from 1917 – present day.

Supporters say “snail mail” letters are important and hope to generate a big impact by rallying folks to write and mail a letter this Friday, March 4th.

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You Know You Are a Military Spouse When …

Jackie Dorr with her daughters, Paisley and Anastin.

You know you’re a military spouse when: You’ve mowed more lawns than your husband because he’s never there to do it himself.

You use an “L” shaped flashlight with the red lens during power outages because it’s the only one you can ever find in the house.

You know that it’s normal to set fire to shoe polish or use a heat gun and that the best way to spit-shine boots is with cotton balls.

Your husband is a land nav expert, but takes a GPS for a trip to the mall.

You only write in pencil because EVERYTHING can and will change.

You need a translator to talk to your civilian friends, only because they have no idea what DFAS, AER, TDY, ACS, NPD, PCS, and ETS mean.*

You never put curtains up because by the time you do it is time to move.

You track time in duty stations and deployments, not years.

You know that “back home” doesn’t mean at the house you live in now, it refers to your last duty station.

You know that a two month separation IS short, no matter what your civilian friends say.

You know better than to go to the PX or commissary between 11:30 and 13:00, or on payday unless it’s a life or death emergency (seriously).

You know that any reference to “sand” or a “box” describes NTC at Ft. Irwin, Iraq, or Afghanistan, not your kid’s backyard toys.

You have a stock in flat rate shipping boxes, in varying sizes.

You don’t have to think about what time 21:30 is.

You’ve spent more time apart than you have together.

You’ve ever been referred to as “Household 6.”

You know his friends and people he works with only by their last names.

You stand for the National Anthem at a movie theater.

You carry shipping tape, sharpies, and customs forms (already filled out) in your vehicle.

It only costs you $30 to have a child.

You can spot a soldier in civilian clothes a mile away by their posture, haircut and that certain “air about them.”

You pick apart uniforms on TV and in the movies, even though you used to yell at your husband for doing the same thing.

You know your husbands SSN better than your phone number.

You have “we moved!” cards on hand.

You run for the phone,every time it rings.

You spell everything using the phonetic alphabet, Alpha, Bravo …

*DFAS – Defense Finance Accounting System; AER – Army Emergency Relief; TDY – Temporary Duty; ACS – Army Community Service (among others for ACS); NPE – Non-Proliferation and Disarmament (Fund); PCS – Permanent Change of Station; ETS – Estimated Time of Separation.

After reading several different blog entries on the theme – You Know You’re Military When … – I asked Jackie Dorr, President of the MacDill Enlisted Spouses Club, to write about her experiences. I invite any readers, military or civilian, to contribute their personal insights or spins such as – You Know You’re a Civilian When … – I look forward to reading your humorous, thoughtful and creative responses.

Care Packages for Cadets: The Citadel Heroes Project

Care packages being prepared for Citadel Cadets prior to Christmas.

Parents at The Citadel are like parents at any school or university. We care deeply for our children and their well being. Some of the Citadel cadets have obligations to the military which may require them to be deployed while they are still students.  When one mother learned about this, she leapt into action and started The Citadel Heroes project. That mom’s son is now a graduate and serves in the Air Force, but the work continues through parent volunteers and staff support.

Started about four years ago, The Citadel Heroes Project is an all volunteer program.  Volunteers donate money and items to be sent in care packages to the deployed cadets and recent graduates. The staff of the Health, Exercise & Sport Science Department coordinate sending the boxes several times a year.

The next mailing will go out after the annual Corps Day weekend, March 17 – 20. During the weekend events, visitors will be asked to sign cards and drop off donations for the care packages. Money is also needed to cover the postage to mail the boxes.

Family and volunteers continue to support Citadel Cadets with hundreds of care packages as they deploy.

If you would like to help this effort, you can send a check made out to The Citadel Heroes Project and mail it to: The Citadel Heroes, c/o Col. John Carter, Dept of HESS, 171 Moultrie St., Charleston, SC 29409.

If you would like to be added to the email list for future announcements, contact Gwen Christ, The Citadel Heroes Project Manager: fpgwen@aol.com.

A Fallen Hero Comes Home

A photo from a prior Fallen Heroes escort along Bayshore Boulevard. Photo courtesy of Barbara Wright Brown Guzzon.

This morning shortly before 10, women wearing their bright red, MacDill AFB Enlisted Spouses Club shirts will assemble along Florida Keys Avenue, near the base theater.

Some will carry flags, some will bring their children not yet school age. They will be joined by active duty personnel, veterans and civilian staff who work on base. Hundreds will come together to pay tribute to a fallen airman who is coming home for a final time through MacDill Air Force Base.

It’s a sobering moment, a mixture of pride, tears and reflection on those currently deployed. Off the Base contributor Jackie Dorr, president of the MacDill ESC, describes what it’s like for her to attend such tributes in her recent blog: A Reality Check: Fallen Heroes.

An honor escort from the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s office will accompany Airman First Class Christoffer Johnson, 20, from MacDill to Bushnell National Cemetery.

Airman Johnson lived in Clarksville, Tenn. He was supporting Operation New Dawn and died Feb. 17 due to a non-combat related incident in Southwest Asia.  Johnson was assigned to the 423rd Security Forces Squadron, Royal Air Force Alconbury, England. His parents live in Florida.

Outside the MacDill gates, dozens of citizens will join the tribute, taking a moment to pay respect. The Lutz Patriots and the Troop Support Alliance plan to meet at The Colonnade Restaurant for the Honor Escort according to Shelly Vail. They’ll come with flags and banners to watch as the escort drives north on Bayshore to Platt St., Florida Ave., Scott St. to I-275 northbound.

The Citadel: Recognition Day and Ring Weekend

Bravo Company cadets retake the Cadet Oath on Marion Square the historic site of The Citadel.

Cadets at The Citadel don’t show much emotion. There are two times in the last four years that I’ve seen my son and his classmates show shear joy, Recognition Day and Ring Weekend.

Recognition Day is the biggest day in the life of a first year cadet, or Knob as they are called. This day is the official end of the Fourth Class System. They cease being Knobs and are full members of the Corps of Cadets. The freshmen are recognized by the upperclassmen, being called by their first names for the first time since they arrived at The Citadel.  They no longer have to address the upperclassmen as Mr. or Ms. (although this can take some getting used to.)

Cadet Nelson Lalli After being Recognized with his mother, Dorie Griggs and sister, Chelle.

On the designated morning, the first year cadets and the upperclassmen get up early and do a series of tough physical training exercises.  The morning ends with each company in the barracks. The Knobs do a series of push ups then crawl to the company Guidon and repeat the cadet prayer together. They then stand together and hear the announcement over the loud speakers that ends with “The Fourth Class System is no longer in effect.” 

I’m told the emotions run very high and many cadets have tears of joy, relief and pride streaming down their faces. After a BBQ lunch in the barracks, they get ready for their march to Marion Square, the site of the original building of The Citadel to repeat the Cadet Oath.

My son’s Knob year my daughter and I went to Charleston to watch the march into Marion Square. We arrived on campus just in time to peer through the sally port, the gateway entrance in to the barracks, to hear the announcement. Some parents and family members had been there all morning watching from a distance. As we got ready to leave for Marion Square, we caught a glimpse of Nelson and other Bravo Company cadets practicing with the Guidon. As one of the new company clerks he would carry the Guidon in front of the company during parades.

Senior Cadet Nelson Lalli receives his ring. Photo by Stanley Leary.

He actually had a minute to run out and take photos with us, which we were extremely surprised (and happy) about since we were told that the cadets would have little if any time with their family this day. A huge grin across his face.

Three years later I saw that joy in his face again as he and the other senior cadets received their rings. Unlike other colleges, cadets at The Citadel earn the right to wear the ring. They must meet the strict guidelines for grades, discipline, etc. before they can get their ring. To understand the significance of the ring you really need to spend time with the cadets. You can get a glimpse of the significance of the Band of Gold to the graduates by reading Pat Conroy’s commencement address from 2001. I can’t read this speech without tearing up.

Bravo Company seniors show off their new rings. Photo by Stanley Leary.

Just a few months ago, we prepared to travel to Charleston to watch as our cadet and his classmates received their rings on a Friday afternoon. Since my husband, Stanley, is a photographer, Nelson asked if he’d  take photos as the cadets ran back into the barracks with their rings to toast each other in front of the company letter. Stanley was given permission to be in the Battalion from the 1St Battalion TAC officer, the staff person who oversees the each company and the barracks. My daughter and I watched from the side gates.

Cadet Nelson Lalli escorts his mother, Dorie Griggs and his date, Leslie Manzano. Photo by Stanley Leary.

Up until a few years ago, the cadets received their rings in the Summerall Chapel. The shear number of people attending led the ceremony to be moved to the McAlister Field House.  Once the cadets get their rings and are dismissed, they run out of the field house, across the parade field to the Chapel, then back to their Battalion to toast each other. They then emerge from the Battalion grinning ear to ear with their right hand held to display their new class ring. It is the first time I’d really seen so many cadets exude shear joy.  That joy lasted throughout the weekend.

One last tradition around Parents/Ring Weekend is the Ring Ceremony that takes place Friday evening. The cadets escort their mother and a date or other family member through a giant replica of the Ring and through the Junior Sword Arch as the name of the cadet and the people being escort are announced. As a Mom, it was one of those moments where I was grinning ear to ear, very proud of my son and his accomplishments.

Dorie Griggs and her father, L.M. Griggs in 1980 at her Junior Ring Dance.

That evening I was brought back memories for me of an evening thirty years before at my Junior Ring Dance. I was escorted by my father down the grand staircase of the Jefferson Hotel as the Class of 1981 of Westhampton College of the University of Richmond was presented.  My mother died when I was pregnant with Nelson and my father died a few years later.  They would have been so proud of their grandson.  In a very real way, I felt that I represented our whole family that evening last fall.

It’s so fun to look through the photos from that weekend.  The shear joy of the cadets, their families and friends come shining through. One photo struck me as I reviewed the scores Stanley had taken.  After they toasted each other and threw the glasses at the company letter and then took a photo in front of the Bravo Company letter, the seniors of Bravo Company gathered in a tight circle with their right hands in front of them, bowed their heads and repeated the cadet prayer, like they had done three years before on Recognition Day.

Bravo Company seniors gather together to recite the Cadet Prayer. Photo by Stanley Leary

video: The Citadel, Golf Company Recognition Day 2009

Previous entries by Dorie Griggs:

The Making of a Military Mom

Mom Readies for Son’s Military College

The Citadel: Year One a No Fly Zone for Hovering Parents

How The Citadel “Ya-Yas” Came to Be

Learning Leadership and Ethics at The Citadel

The Citadel Trained Me as Well as My Son

The Citadel: BVA’s and  Summerall Guards

Bittersweet Goodbyes: “You Know How to Do This”

A father captures a few more moments with his twin toddlers before deploying.

A friend of mine, Rachel, asked me to take pictures of her husband leaving.  Her request was nice actually; she stated she knew it might be difficult for me emotionally as my husband is still gone.  I told her not to worry and that I would be happy to oblige.  I met them at the terminal on base early Sunday morning and started snapping away from the distance.  Catching pictures of them candidly.

Dale played with his twins, Jacob and Olivia, knowing that in 6 months they will have grown and changed so much.    It was interesting to watch the phases of a day as an “outsider” and not the one saying goodbye.  At first, they are okay. They both knew what was coming, but the two of them played with Jacob and Olivia to distract themselves and keep the babies happy.

As the time passed, I could see the pain settling in on both of their faces.  As I snapped pictures, tears flowed down my cheeks. I knew the pain they were feeling all too well.  This was a bittersweet moment; Dales group would be relieving my husband’s. So while goodbye is never easy, it means my husband is coming home soon.  Memories of saying goodbye to Brian welled up inside me.

A family holds on tight before having to let go.

Dale embraced Rachel as they both whispered to each other, kissed each other and kissed their beautiful children.  Dale wiped tears away from Rachel’s face and then away from his own.   In the same room, there was an airman telling her son that she wanted him to write her every day and have his Daddy mail it to her.  It seems unreal, parents having to say goodbye for extended periods of time.

“We need everyone in the terminal we are leaving in 5,” a voice said loudly.  Dale looked at Rachel gathered up his bags, he thanked us for coming and being with her, as he knew she needed it.  Then we walked to the other room.

They called names one by one (very different than Brian’s they left as a large group).  I took more pictures while they held each other, knots building in their stomachs, as it got closer to his spot in the alphabet.

I felt like I was almost intruding on such a personal moment, but knew they wanted these captured.  They cried, smiled, whispered and kissed softly soaking in every moment, knowing how long it will be till they can do this again.

They called his name, one final embrace and kiss and he walks away.

As I took pictures of him walking away from her, I knew how she felt. I remember it all to well, wanting to shout, “No don’t go! Don’t leave me here!” knowing that you can’t. I stepped up and held her, as she cried.It is funny my husband has left so many times and I still couldn’t tell you the right thing to say to someone as they watch their spouse leave.

I heard some whimpering from the stroller, and knelt down to see that it was Olivia. I thought to myself they are lucky and unlucky all at the same time. They are lucky that they have no idea what is going on, but that makes them unlucky as well.We walked out of the terminal to watch the buses take the troops to the plane, and waved goodbye as the four buses drove off.

I looked at Rachel and told her something a friend told me once “You know how to do this”.

Jackie Dorr is an Army spouse, mother of two, president of the MacDill Enlisted Spouses Club and contributor to Off the Base.  Her other entries include:

Five Years, Two Kids and Four Deployments Later

“I Love You the Mostest!” an Army Spouse Goodbye

The Day I Saw My Future Husband Cry

Computer Kisses Keep Daddy Close

An Army Wife Thing: Giving Birth Over the Phone

 

Yoga Helps Many Living with PTSD

Contributor Cheyenne Forsythe (CF) shares his “Facebook conversation” with a high school buddy (NF) who knew nothing about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Their exchange started after Cheyenne posted a comment about this article: How Transcendental Meditation May Alleviate PTSD by Jerry Chautin.

Cheyenne Forsythe participated in the Ride 2 Recovery from Tampa to Jacksonville. He finds physical exercise helps him handle symptoms of PTSD.

NF: What’s PTSD? Forgive my ignorance…

CF: We’re doing a better job of getting the word out. It’s Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Rape victims, combat veterans, and anyone else who’s ever experienced anything where they thought their lives were in danger, are all highly susceptible to suffering from this disorder. Signs of it include a hyper-aroused flight or fight response, flash backs, trouble sleeping, irritability, substance abuse, isolating, homicidal or suicidal ideations, and/or depression that lasts for more than a month and negatively impacts an individual’s daily life.

It leads to a lot of acting out if not treated aggressively. Soldiers from these wars are coming back with it by the thousands. We’ve seen the effects on military families for the last five or six years. We’re talking homicides, suicides, domestic violence, substance abuse, and a whole host of other self destructive behaviors.

What we’ve found with yoga; it gives the individual back a sense of humanity that combat strips away. The destructive behaviors of combat find a way to slip into normal life and individuals living with PTSD can find themselves divorced, alone, in jail, unemployed, or even homeless.

Most of the homeless veterans on the street started out with simple PTSD that should have been treated. I get a lot of thanks from Vietnam veterans who see what we’re doing to make sure this generation of soldiers do not go through what they experienced. That’s the goal. We’re going to make sure we take better care of those that look after us.

Yoga has been accepted as legitimate treatment by the VA. So, we’re telling anyone who will listen to get to a yoga class, or one of my favorites, acupuncture.

I’ve learned first hand exactly how the two mesh. Acupuncture forces the body to stay still and breath, otherwise those needles get uncomfortable. You learn how to be still; learn to trust someone putting needles in you; learn to take time out to just be. Trust is a major issue with veterans. We’ve seen human beings at their worst, so it’s understandable, but it can be managed.

Yoga is a follow-up to acupuncture, allowing you to become comfortable with your humanity, once you’ve calmed down. The hyper-aroused state is intense and can last a whole day causing havoc in an individual’s life. If you aren’t aware of your condition, this can lead to panic attacks, which have put me in a fetal position on the floor on more than one occasion.

Later on, with more yoga, you get to explore your own renewed, refreshed, almost reborn, mind, body, and spirit. For veterans, this can be a matter of life and death. Dwelling on the horrors of war can put someone in a very unhealthy state of mind. We’re close to a “cure” here if there were such a thing.

Spread the word.

NF: Wow, great info. Thanks, Cheyenne.

Contributor Cheyenne Forsythe is a University of South Florida student and a 6-year Army veteran who served with the 85th Medical Detachment. He was on one of the first Combat Stress Control Teams sent to Iraq’s frontlines in 2003 to help soldiers with combat stress symptoms while still “in country.” After surviving two IED attacks, Cheyenne now lives with PTSD as well.  Speaking out on veterans’ issues has become his self-ascribed mission because as he puts it: “It’s just the right thing to do.”  His other contributions include:

Learning to Take a Break

Serving on a Combat Stress Control Team

Dissipating My PTSD: Working on Large Crowds

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