The National Guard Looking for 1 Million Facebook Fans

National Guard Photo: MG Maria Britt, commanding general, Georgia National Guard, looks through the sights of an M119A2 howitzer during a visit to the 1-118th Field Artillery Annual Training.

A nod to Milblogging.com for passing the word along. The National Guard is closing in on 1 million fans on its Facebook Page.

When the Marines were nearing 1 million, I posted it on this blog to encourage those so inclined to sign on and hit the Like button.

Now, here’s an opportunity to help the National Guard hit that magic mark. As of Sunday evening, the Guard’s Facebook page had more than 956,000 fans. Milblogging.com estimated it would take until September to hit 1 million. Obviously that will come sooner if you respond and get your friends, family, work colleagues and others to do the same.

“Always ready, always there” is the mission of this nation’s oldest military branch that serves states and the federal government. The Guard has played a key role in both Afghanistan and Iraq and suffered losses. Becoming a fan on their Facebook page is one small way to acknowledge their sacrifice.

You can follow the popularity of each military branch on Facebook Pages Leaderboard.

Debt Ceiling, Budget Debate Concerns Troops in Afghanistan

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen addresses troops Kandahar Air Field, Afghanistan, July 28, 2011. DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley/Released)

Marines and soldiers at Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan and in Kandahar this week got a chance to ask questions of Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as he visited bases throughout the country.

Did they ask about operations, tactics or policy? No. The chairman was peppered with questions about the Congressional debate on raising the debt ceiling and forcing deep budget cuts.

The U.S. Treasury delivers service members’ pay checks, and sends them to veterans and Social Security recipients. “That’s something that the government leadership will have to figure out,” Mullen told the troops. “I honestly hope we don’t get there. But I don’t expect it will affect — certainly in the short-term — operations here and operations around the world.”

So, even in a combat area, U.S. troops are worried about getting paid in the short-term and concerned about cuts in veterans’ benefits in the long-term. To read the full story by By Jim Garamone of the American Forces Press Service, click HERE.

The U.S. Troops in Afghanistan aren’t the only worried ones. The following is from a U.S. Army Veteran who posted on Vantage Point, a VA guest blog for Veterans and others.

Lawrence Fox

By Lawrence Fox

As the debt debate goes on, my greatest fear is that all Veterans will suffer because of the lack of action and/or compassion we are receiving from Washington.

After watching the President’s address and the Republican response on July 25, 2011 I am relieved. You may ask why a Veteran fighting cancer would feel relief from the confusion and parasitism going on in Washington as the government threatens to reduce Veteran benefits and entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare which so many Americans require to exist from day-to-day.

To read Fox’s full blog entry, click HERE.

And the website MilSpouse.com has a special page set up for military spouses with tips from USAA on what they can do should the debt ceiling not be raised in time.

A Report from Afghanistan: Reconstruction Continues

On the right is Lt. Mark Graff, also known as Backcounry. He's sporting a deployment mustache which he reports lasted about 8 days.

Their nicknames are Backcountry and Slick. They are the public information officers newly assigned to a Forward Operating Base (FOB) in Western Afghanistan.

I talked with “Backcountry” today. He’s deployed Air Force Lt. Mark Graff, formerly stationed at MacDill Air Force Base, Tampa, Florida. Graff loves to hunt and fish in his native Illinois woods – thus his nickname given by a U.S. State Department representative in his blog Afghan Plan. “Slick” is Graff’s counter part, a Navy officer and from Texas.

Graff’s team is taking over missions started by others such as road building, clinic reconstruction and medical missions to outlying villages. He’s been out on a couple of medical missions. The team has been in country five to six weeks and Graff has yet to see rain or much green for that matter.

Lt. Graff captured this photo while out on a mission - supplies being delivered via airdrops to a combat outpost.

We chatted via Skype. I will produce a radio story giving folks in the Tampa Bay area an update on a familiar voice and face – Graff handled the local news media for the 6th Air Mobility Wing while stationed at MacDill AFB).

We had a good talk. But, unlike my yearlong series with SMSgt. Rex Temple, now retired, our chats will not be weekly nor will we try to recreate what Temple brought to WUSF listeners in our series My Last Tour. That series was a culmination of Temple’s 10 overseas deployments where he brought insights from a long and distinguished career in the Air Force.

This is Graff’s first deployment and he’s just beginning his military career only a couple of years out of university.

But with so many military personnel and civilian members in Afghanistan and so much treasure spent in lives and resources, it’s important to have a perspective from someone on the ground there. Graff agreed to check in on occasion.

There’s also a reality of Afghanistan, people are still being killed. Afghans are blown-up or beheaded by the Taliban if they appear to cooperate with U.S. and International Forces. And, there’s the growing list of Marines, Soldiers, Airmen and Seamen who have lost their lives.

As Rex reminded me more than once, “Bobbie – it’s a war… You’ve just got to suck it up.”

That was brought home tonight when I read an email from the Military Families Ministry – co-founded by Off the Base contributor Tracie Ciambotti – which posted the following video.

The Mission Continues for Wounded and Disabled War Vets

Eric Greitens in Fallujah. After he returned from Iraq, Greitens founded the nonprofit group, The Mission Continues. He is author of the new book, The Heart and the Fist. Photo courtesy of the author.

After the United States entry into WWI, there was a song that focused on returning veterans. The refrain: “How are you going to keep them down on the farm after they’ve seen Paris?”

A century later there’s a different refrain being repeated by many of the wounded or disabled war veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan: ” .. an unwavering desire to continue serving (their) country, even if (they can) no longer do so in the military.”

That’s a void being filled in part by Eric Greitens, author of  the new book, The Heart and the Fist: The Education of a Humanitarian, the Making of a Navy SEAL.

Greitens talked with NPR’s Scott Simon on why the author believes humanitarianism and military missions need each other and that knowledge of local cultures is a key to the effectiveness of any operation.

A former U.S. Navy SEAL who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, Greitens founded a group called The Mission Continues, which works with wounded or disabled war veterans to contribute to their communities at home.

An Army Mom Transitions from The Citadel to Ft. Benning

The Citadel Georgia Class of 2015. Photo by Dorie Griggs.

I’m living in the in-between times of being the mom of a cadet at The Citadel and being the mom of a newly commissioned second lieutenant in Armor branch training at Ft. Benning, GA.

My son graduated in May of this year. With his graduation, I passed off my volunteer parent baton to a new coordinator of the Georgia Citadel Parents Group and the Area Rep coordinator position I held with the Citadel Family Association.  Fortunately, the Atlanta Citadel Club has made it clear just because my son has graduated doesn’t mean I can’t attend their functions as the parent of a graduate. The new coordinator of the Georgia Parents Group has also included me in her parent orientation meeting which helped ease me out of my role as coordinator and into the role of coordinator emeriti.

Dorie Grigg's son, Nelson, is in the top row second from the left. The photo is from the Facebook Page of Lightning Troop 2-16 CAV.

It is fun to know he is there with about 20 other 2011 graduates. I jokingly call Ft. Benning The Citadel west since the guys all live in the same apartment complex in Columbus while they are going through training.

To help me move into the role of support person in Georgia, I attended the Cadet Send off Event, hosted by the Atlanta Citadel Club, one last time. The event held at a local restaurant was well attended.  Like my son’s year, the summer of 2007, the new families were anxious to learn all they could to be prepared for Matriculation Day. I gave the new families a card with links to my blog entries for Off the Base so they could access the helpful links to the Nice to Have List and the Survival tips located under CFA benefits on the CFA home page.

Thanks to the Citadel Alumni Association Facebook page administrator, the entry titled, A Letter to the Class of 2015, has been widely read and circulated. In writing these entries, it is my hope that the new parents will feel a bit more comfortable and prepared with the process of getting a child ready to report to The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina.

Georgia Citadel parents and Knobs gather for dinner at Dorie Grigg's home. Photo by Stanley Leary.

In an effort to ease my transition further, we hosted a potluck dinner recently for the Georgia families. It was a great opportunity to see everyone in a relaxed environment without worrying about the hectic on campus schedule or the anxiety of dropping your cadet off for Matriculation Day. About 35 people came to the house. I invited some incoming cadets, or knobs as they will be known their first year, and their families.  We spent a few hours catching up or meeting friends we’ve only seen on Facebook. The new families learned that when your child attends The Citadel you enter a group of supportive families. Many of the people I’ve come to know the past four years I know will be friends for life.

The Citadel Bravo Moms Marie Dopson sitting, Dorie Griggs (left) standing and Anita Mag (right) standing. All of their sons are, or have been, company clerks for Bravo Company. Nelson was the senior mentor to Marie’s son, Brian.

Now that the two send off events have taken place, I’ve settled back into the wait and watch stage of begin the mom of a second lieutenant in training. Fortunately, the U.S. Army has embraced social media. I’ve found the Facebook groups for my sons training unit and for the Ft. Benning Family Readiness Group. Reading these sites I’ve learned quite a bit. I’ve even gotten to see photos of my son and his unit while they train.

Ft. Benning is only a couple of hours from our house, but Nelson doesn’t get home much. When he’s been home, it’s to attend a Braves game or go out with friends. Phone calls have been a bit more frequent, but they are short and matter of fact calls.

Last night I sent a text asking how the weekend training exercise went.  His response was short and to the point. “Good. Blew stuff up.” They are learning to drive and operate the tanks. I found a video from their media day to give me an idea of what he was talking about.

The text was followed by a short phone call. The call I was told to expect. He was in the middle of filling out forms, one of which is for death benefits distribution. He needed some personal information from me about the family. While I didn’t struggle with the call, it struck me then that we are all in the real Army now. We’ve completed the training at The Citadel and this is the real thing.

An Army Spouse on “Dusting Off My Perspective”

Anastin Dorr showing off one of Mom's hair ribbons.

I spent a good few hours this morning making ribbon and fabric rosettes for a headband for a dear friend of mines soon to be born daughter. I logged into Facebook to post the pictures for her, so I could pack them up for their long journey to Europe.

Just as I posted them to her profile, a title of a recent note she posted caught my eye, “New Perspective”. Hmmmm, I know she has had a high-risk pregnancy so I anticipated this had something to do with it, and clicked on the link to read her note:

“Just had my whole day put into perspective. As I was waddling down the hospital hall just a bit ago, I was about to open my mouth and complain about some minor pregnancy ache. I turned and looked right and saw a soldier still in ACU (Army Combat Uniform) pants fresh from the battlefield missing most of his right arm. He wasn’t complaining, or sad-looking. He was smiling and having a nice conversation with his nurse. I am gong to make it a point from here on out to live like that young man, to smile and laugh even when faced with hurt and sadness.”

Paisley Dorr wears a patriotic hair rosette for her father's homecoming in March.

My heart almost stopped beating, my eyes filled with tears. What a brief note yet so touching. While it does in fact give you a new perspective, it gives you insight into the daily life of military families and members. It got me to thinking of the many families who sent a loved one to war, not knowing what situation would return.

When I lived in Texas, the clinic I was assigned to was BAMC (Brooke Army Medical Center). BAMC is home to the burn unit, and is a stop that many wounded warriors make on their long road to recovery. I remember being sick with a cold wishing I would just die, as to not feel the misery that was the virus infecting my body, and it never failed I would have a wake up call much like my dear friends.

I would round a corner and see a young soldier (no more than 19 years of age) missing a leg and burned very badly. They never looked sad, more often than not they were joking with the hospital staff, that no doubt they know very well by the end of their stay. I always took it as God giving me a sign showing me to be appreciative, and that while even if it feels like the cards are stacked against you, you can always see the beauty in life.

Thank you dear friend, thank you for sprucing up my perspective.

Deployment’s Emotional Cycles: Stage 1 for an Army Wife

 

Alison during pre-deployment photos. Photo by Carolyn Cummins, http://www.shootinforfun.com.

Anticipation of Departure for the service member and spouse is different from what I experience as a military mom.  The first stage of the emotional cycle of deployment is a very busy time for the soldier and his or her family and brings mixed emotions.

The service member is away from home frequently due to extensive training and preparation which touts the reality of the looming separation for the whole family.  The bond between unit members grows immensely as they are completely focused on the impending mission.  In addition to preparing for the work side of deployments, there are many personal items that need tended to: wills and power of attorneys, house and auto repairs, decisions and arrangements about where spouse will spend the deployment, final visits with family, medical and dental visits–these are just a few.  This stage can be stressful for the soldier as he juggles the final preparations for work and home while trying to spend quality time with family.

My daughter-in-law, Alison, shared her thoughts and experiences with this stage:

Josh and Alison during pre-deployment photos. Photo by Carolyn Cummins, http://www.shootinforfun.com.

“The anxiety prior to deployment is overwhelming because I feel such pressure to make the most of every moment I have left with Josh while I’m constantly fighting emotions for the loss I am about to experience when I have to say good-bye.  Josh and I created a wish list (similar to a bucket list) of things to do before he deployed and we accomplished everything.  We truly lived like we were dying and savored every outing and relaxing moment together.  I treasure the dinners, movies, walks, fishing trips, hugs, and we had intimate conversations that we struggle with during deployments.  We learned a lot about each other and our relationship as husband and wife during the month prior to his leaving.   

Our fun trip prior to deployment was a hog hunting excursion in Oklahoma which Josh picked.  It was both satisfying and sad; I know how much he enjoyed it, but the reality is he wanted the experience in case he doesn’t get another chance.  

We have professional photos done prior to every deployment; it is very important to me to have fresh photos to treasure if they are the last ones of us together.  This may sound morbid but I never know when such opportunities are the last.”

I commend Alison for her strength and willingness to share her innermost feelings.  She is a loving and supportive wife to my son and an amazing example and mentor to other Army wives.

Josh and Alison on their hog-hunting trip prior to his third deployment.

 

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