4 Things You Can Do for Military Children this Month

Photo by Cpl. Theodore Ritchie (courtesy of Real Warriors campaign)

Children growing up in military families also serve by having a parent who could be deployed at any time and a family unit that likely has to move every few years to a new PCS (Permanent Change of Station).

So, the Real Warriors campaign, established by the Defense Centers of Excellence, has some suggestions on how you can acknowledge a Military Child you may know or all Military Children:

  1. Volunteer to write letters or do activities together – Flags Across the Nation brings military families together to write letters to deployed service members, make blankets for wounded warriors and create art using Flags Across the Nation’s free online coloring pages to send to warriors.
  2. Color in story books specially designed for military children – Download and print the coloring sheets Goodbyes are Hard [PDF 812KB], I Can Do That! [PDF 792KB] and Coloring Book Pages for Kids [PDF 2.2MB], or ask your family readiness group or military family life consultant how to find additional coloring books.
  3. Create and populate a family page – Military Families Near and Far encourages families to work together to develop a family page within the website. Families can create artwork, write stories or record messages and add them to the family scrapbook on your family page. The  Sesame Workshop online tool can help  family stay connected during deployment.
  4. Learn about a parent’s deployment – “Where are You Going?” on MilitaryKidsConnect.org helps children explore the country where a deployed parent is located and learn about cultural elements such as typical foods, traditional clothing and language. The interactive map can help families cope with separation.

More tips on how to honor and celebrate the Month of the Military Child are available HERE.

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Traumatic Brain Injury: Advances in TBI Evaluations

Sgt. Eric Mattos, D Company, 1st Battaltion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, calls back to three other soldiers taking part in the final day of the Military Functional Assessment Program at Fort Campbell. (Photo by Nondice Thurman, Fort Campbell Courier)

Pen and paper tests or computer assessments are currently how most soldiers get checked for possible Traumatic Brain Injury or TBI. But, a more comprehensive TBI assessment is being used at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

Soldiers are tested in simulated combat-situations, timed on their decision-making and observed on camera. An expert non-commissioned officer then helps evaluate if the soldier is able to perform tasks to established Army standards.

Kathy Helmick, deputy director for traumatic brain injury for the Defense Centers of Excellence, wrote about Fort Campbell’s advanced TBI assessment program which is part of a 12-week program that treats soldiers with TBI.

I was also impressed with how this program focused on function; instead of clicking a dot on a computer test or circling a multiple choice question, service members with TBI are put in an environment to test their performance and capabilities. Some service members may perform well in a controlled rehabilitation environment, but may not be able to perform as well when multitasking during a high-pressure combat scenario. It was clear that the service members appreciated this type of evaluation and gained more confidence, whether they transitioned back to duty, or out of the military into civilian life.

You can read the full article HERE. Additional information on Traumatic Brain Injury is available on the DCoE website.

Decreasing Deployment Stress – 4 Tips for Military Couples

U.S. Navy Electronics Technician 2nd Class (SW) William Boyd kisses his wife, Marie, before boarding the Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44), Jan. 2010, at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story in Virginia Beach, Va. Gunston Hall Sailors were deploying to Haiti to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster response in the aftermath of Haiti's devastating earthquake. (DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class John Suits, U.S. Navy/Released)

Military couples have challenges beyond those of typical relationships. That additional stress of multiple deployments and multiple moves can erode a couples’ relationship.

Yet, there are ways to build resiliency in a relationship according to Dr. Kate McGraw, a clinical psychologist with the Defense Centers of Excellence.

McGraw contributed an entry for the DCoE blog: Success before Stress: Keeping Relationships Healthy. Here are her four tips from that column:

  • Ask your partner what they need. Also, you should both be able to identify what you need and how your needs can be met. If you both develop empathy for each other’s needs, than you will both be very satisfied with what you can create together in your relationship.
  • Eliminate all sarcasm, name calling, belittling or other types of verbal and emotional abuse, and make a pact to not tolerate displays of temper such as slamming objects or doors. These behaviors cause significant damage to the trust and safety between you and may lead to physical abuse. If you’re able to say at least five positive comments to every negative one you say to your partner, your relationship will feel much more loving and supportive.
  • Nurture the bond between you. One way is to foster and keep open regular communication about the important things in your life, as well as the small daily matters.
  • Develop a homecoming ritual upon your partner’s return from deployment. This ritual can serve as a line of demarcation for both of you, a dividing point from their being away at war, to being here, at peace.

McGraw added it’s important to take time after returning from a deployment to adjust. “The non-military partner can play an important role in the stress management of the relationship by lovingly encouraging their military partner to seek help if it appears they are experiencing severe post-deployment problems.”

Here’s another DCoE article: Couple Tidbits: Dealing with Conflict.

Veterans Share Personal Stories for Suicide Prevention

Photo courtesy of DCoE website.

Personal stories are an effective way to illustrate an issue. September is “Suicide Prevention Awareness Month” and the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs made a call for veterans to tell their stories.

From the Defense Centers of Excellence, the following story is shared by Army veteran Micheal K. Strong. In May, he participated in the 2011 Warrior Games on the U.S. Paralympic Team.

My name is Micheal K. Strong, and I survived.

I don’t ever remember wanting to hurt myself. Although, looking back on everything, it was kind of hard to ignore the warning signs. I was even trained as the company suicide prevention NCO. I was always the soldier that had the “Suck it up, and drive on” mentality. That doesn’t always work or fit everyone.

I was becoming more reclusive and withdrawn. I had sought help through the chaplain, and I was feeling better. I remember feeling hopeless and not seeing anything in my future. On July 15, 2009 I shot myself through the face. I don’t remember doing it, but I can remember every detail when I came to from being knocked out, until they put me to sleep in the Emergency Room.

Looking back on everything now, I would have to say the most important thing in my life is perception. Life brings all different types of up and downs, but it is how we perceive situations. No matter how bad or how grim something seems, there is always a small sliver of hope… it is how we perceive the situation that makes it all seem hopeless.

I was a helicopter mechanic, and it shouldn’t have happened to me. I should have been more willing to seek the help I needed, the same help I was afraid would ruin my career or “black-ball” me. I realize now, life has countless things to offer and experience.

I was ultimately diagnosed with PTSD and severe depression. During my recovery and transition to medical retirement I discovered that I had a unique perspective on this issue, and I have since devoted myself to helping others get help and trying to break down the overwhelming stigma surrounding mental health that prevents so many from seeking help. Military members are expected to shoulder many hard and difficult things, and many sometimes haven’t yet learned how to deal with some of those things… just knowing that it is acceptable to ask for help or to open up and talk about it is very important.

Not every story will be published, however the Defense Centers of Excellence is accepting submissions through the end of September.  Click here to submit your story.

Submissions should be:

  • Free of personal identifiable information (please do not include real names in the story)
  • Written in a clear, conversational tone
  • Between 300 and 700 words in length
  • Comply with the DCoE comment policy

If you or someone you know are currently having thoughts of suicide, call 1-800-273-TALK, military community option 1.

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