Wanted: Student Veterans with Kids for a Survey

Credit: USF Coming Home Project.

Credit: USF Coming Home Project.

The number of veterans using the Post-9/11 GI Bill passed 1 million in November according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. And the number of student veterans is expected to swell as another million service members transition out of the military over the next five years.

It raises the challenge of how to best help those Iraq and Afghanistan veterans transition into an educational setting.

So, a team of University of South Florida graduate students created the Coming Home research project. They had noticed there was very little research that followed the children of veterans after they returned from deployment and as they transitioned out of the military.

So the researchers designed a 20-minute survey to identify the physical and mental stresses experienced by student veterans and their children.

“According to literature, it has been shown that veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are experiencing more post-traumatic stress, depression, suicide,” said Esther Davila, a doctoral student with the USF Psychology Program. “So if we can kind of start pinpointing those, I think it will help streamline treatment for veterans a little better.”

The Coming Home team needs 100 student veterans to participate. The criteria are pretty straightforward:

  • Must be a veteran of Iraq or Afghanistan
  • Must be a student at any of the USF campuses or Hillsborough Community College Dale Mabry Campus
  • Must have at least one child between 6 and 18 years old

Active-duty service members who fit those qualifications can also participate

The Coming Home project offers a $15 incentive for student veterans who complete the survey and they can be entered into a drawing for $100. But the true payoff could be their survey findings.

To participate, you can email vetreintigraton@gmail.com or call 813-974-9222 and ask to speak to a member of the Coming Home team to set up an appointment.


142,000 Wreaths Placed at Arlington National Cemetery

Apparently, my personal sentiment of wanting a wreath placed on the grave of my father, a World War II Navy veteran, is held by many. Here’s a video from Arlington National Cemetery of the folks who participated this year. An estimated 25,000 volunteers came out to help place the wreaths after the Wreaths Across America organization put a call out on Facebook worried that they had too many requests for wreaths and not enough volunteers.

It bolsters one’s faith in our neighbors, friends and strangers to see this kind of response and to see the number of children participating in the tradition.

In full disclosure, one of those wreaths was placed at the grave of my father-in-law, Col. Rene O. Quenneville, retired from the Army Corps of Engineers, he served in WWI and WWII. My mother-in-law is buried with him. She always placed a Christmas wreath on her front door during the holidays.

On A Personal Note: Merry Christmas Daddy!

My father's grave at Dayton National Cemetery, December 2014.

My father’s grave at Dayton National Cemetery, December 2014.

I am warmed this Christmas season knowing my father has a wreath on his grave. The Dayton National Cemetery Wreaths Across America volunteer who took the time to place it and send me a photo, Norman Spurling, has my undying gratitude. He is caring for my father’s grave. That’s a comfort since I live in Florida and don’t have ready access.

So a huge thank you to Mr. Spurling and to the volunteer who placed the wreath at my father-in-law’s grave at Arlington National Cemetery. May the families of all veterans rest easier knowing there are such good people who care for those who have served.

Watch: Wreaths Across America Honors Those Lost at Sea

Sgt. Steven Thibodeau, police officer from the town of Scarborough, Maine, renders honors after placing a wreath at the grave marker during Wreaths Across America at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., Dec. 14, 2013. DOD photo by Sebastian Sciotti Jr.

Sgt. Steven Thibodeau, police officer from the town of Scarborough, Maine, renders honors after placing a wreath at the grave marker during Wreaths Across America at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., Dec. 14, 2013. DOD photo by Sebastian Sciotti Jr.

Veterans, families and organizations turned out Saturday for the annual Wreaths Across America celebration,  the placing of wreaths on veterans’ graves at hundreds of cemeteries locally, nationally and internationally.

A special ceremony was held in Ft. Myers for those lost at sea and never to be recovered. Here’s a video tribute from former WUSF Public Media intern and video photographer Alex Cook, a veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, who is now working at WINK-TV in Ft. Myers.

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New Sexual Assault Prevention Director Named


Maj. Gen. Jeffrey J. Snow

Maj. Gen. Jeffrey J. Snow

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel named Maj. Gen. Jeffrey J. Snow as the new director of the Department of Defense Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO).

Snow will take over the job in January 2014 as the current director, Maj. Gen. Gary S. Patton, retires after serving for nearly 35 years in the U.S. Army.

Hagel praised Patton for his 18-month tenure as head of th SAPRO and for tackling tough assignments. A fact sheet detailing his initiatives is available at www.sapr.mil .

Maj. Gen. Snow comes to the position with 30 years of dedicated service, to include command at various levels and multiple combat tours in Iraq.  He is currently the Army’s director of Strategy, Plans and Policy.  He was competitively selected for this position from a field of multi-service nominees.


8 Things to Know About the Afghanistan Withdrawl

After 31 years as a Marine Corps officer, Scott Anderson took a civilian job. He now serves as director of Logistics and Engineering for U.S. Central Command.

After 31 years as a Marine Corps officer, Scott Anderson took a civilian job. He now serves as director of Logistics and Engineering for U.S. Central Command.

It’s a delicate balance keeping troops supplied while downsizing in Afghanistan. Then, add the mandate to do it in the most economical and efficient way.

That’s why troops in Afghanistan, including the commander Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, are eating an MRE for one of their three daily meals. There are a lot of prepackaged Meals Ready to Eat stored in Afghanistan and they are not worth the cost to ship home.

Despite the uncertainty over how many U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan at the end of 2014, logistics experts at U.S. Central Command are already closing bases and moving out equipment and troops.

Retired Marine officer Scott Anderson is the civilian in charge of logistics and engineering for CENTCOM.

The time differential between Afghanistan and Tampa, FL is 9.5 hours during Daily Savings Time. That means Anderson comes to work very early in the morning, more like late at night, to coordinate with his military counterparts in theater.

A digital board displaying several time zones is mounted above a large flat-screen TV in his office at U.S. Central Command on MacDill Air Force Base.

And the clock is ticking for Anderson and his logistician counterparts from the Pentagon to the Pakistan’s Port of Karachi. They have just over a year to ship, transfer or destroy tons of equipment originally sent to Afghanistan to support troops.

Here are some details Anderson shared on their progress:

  • They are 60 percent complete with base closures in Afghanistan.
  • At the peak, there were 360 bases in Afghanistan, now; there are fewer than 44 bases.
  • Afghan Security Forces identified the bases they wanted and asked the U.S. to build some new ones.
  • U.S. engineers are training Afghans on base operations like the electrical grid and water systems.
  • A snapshot of how much equipment is coming home: for the period of Sept. 10, 2013 to Jan. 31, 2014, 7500 vehicles and about 1500 shipping containers will be moved out.
  • Troops are eating a prepackaged MRE (Meal Ready to Eat) for one of their three daily meals to use up stores that are too expensive to ship home.
  • The cheapest way to ship equipment out of Afghanistan is to truck it to the Port of Karachi in Pakistan and sail it home. Currently, 70 percent is coming out that way.
  • There are two options for equipment too old or too expensive to ship home: transfer it to the Afghan Security Forces or destroy it if it is deemed it the equipment would only be a burden to the Afghans.

Anderson said his biggest challenge is to not draw-down too quickly. He does not want a scenario where a soldier doesn’t have a meal or enough fuel in his vehicle.

NPR Report on ‘Other Than Honorable Discharge’

NPR correspondent Quil Lawrence.

NPR correspondent Quil Lawrence.

This week, NPR’s Quil Lawrence is reporting on veterans who did not receive an honorable discharge after service in the military.

Eric Highfill spent five years in the Navy, fixing airplanes for special-operations forces. His discharge papers show an Iraq campaign medal and an Afghanistan campaign medal, a good conduct medal, and that he’s a marksman with a pistol and sharpshooter with a rifle.

None of that matters, because at the bottom of the page it reads “Discharged: under other than honorable conditions.”

The “other-than-honorable discharged” have been turned away from medical care at the Department of Veterans Affairs and from programs offered by other veterans’ organizations.

… more than 100,000 other troops left the armed services with “bad paper” over the past decade of war. Many went to war, saw combat, even earned medals before they broke the rules of military discipline or in some cases committed serious crimes. The bad discharge means no VA assistance, no disability compensation, no GI Bill, and it’s a red flag on any job application.

Yet, many with a bad discharge said it is due to post traumatic stress and other conditions directly tied to their military service.

You can read the full story and listen to the report here.

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