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.

12 Days of Christmas Lyrics by Military-Missions

Photo credit: Jackie Dorr

Photo credit: Jackie Dorr

The volunteer group, Military Missions Inc., has a Facebook challenge. It’s seeking suggestions to revise the lyrics of the 12 Days of Christmas.

The Facebook page is up to Day 10, but changes to the previous suggestions are welcomed too.

The reworded lyrics so far: On the ninth day of Christmas my true love gave to me… Continue reading

Military-Missions Volunteers Set July 4th Goal

If you’re a member of Facebook – the volunteer organization Military-Missions based in Lexington, Kentucky is working on a goal to get 2,500 “Likes” prior to July 4th.

Here’s a photo posted as incentive to get folks to hit the “Like” button:

Photo courtesy of Military-Missions Facebook page.


Operation Hug-A-Hero Reaches Out to a Gold Star Family


Photo courtesy of Operation Hug-A-Hero.

Operation Hug-A-Hero, a non-profit organization that provides “Daddy Dolls” to children of deploying troops, offered free “Daddy Dolls” to the three children of Staff Sgt. Brown. He was killed earlier this month a week after arriving in Afghanistan on his fourth deployment.

Hug-A-Hero executive director Lisa Berg reached out after hearing Ariell Taylor-Brown learned on Facebook that her husband had been killed two hours before Army officers arrives with official notice.

Lisa  wrote in the comments:

Operation Hug-A-Hero would like to help this family by providing dolls to her children. This is so sad and devastating. It should have never happened this way.

Operation Hug-A-Hero holds fund-raisers to cover the cost of providing the dolls to military children.

Military Spouse Learns of Husband’s Death on Facebook

Ariell Taylor-Brown (Photo courtesy NBC4i.com)

It’s happening more often with the growth of social media – a military family learns of the death of a loved one before official notice.

This time it was Ariell Taylor-Brown who learned of the death of her husband, Staff Sgt. Christopher Brown, two hours before Army soldiers arrived at her home with the official notice according to Columbus, Ohio station NBC4:

“I was told via Facebook,” said Taylor-Brown. “It was a girl in his platoon. She wrote to me and told me to call her immediately,” Taylor-Brown said.

Taylor-Brown called her, and the soldier told her of the death. Taylor-Brown, who has two children and is pregnant with the couple’s third was at home alone with the kids.

She told me over the phone, right in front of my kids and I completely had a meltdown. She wasn’t supposed to but I guess she took it on her own power to do it,” she said.

Staff Sgt. Brown had been in Afghanistan just a week, starting his fourth deployment, when he  was killed. Brown, was killed April 3 in Afghanistan after he died of wounds suffered in an IED attack according to milblogging.com.

VA Social Media Directory: An Online Single Source

All the major social media is there: Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, blogs and YouTube. The Department of Veterans Affairs has compiled a resource page of all of its VA Social Media.

Three VA Administrations

It’s clearly written broken down by the Department, the three separate administrations: Veterans Health, Veterans Benefits and National Cemetery Administration.

VA Medical Centers

There’s also a geographic listing of all VA Medical Centers. The directory is set up so you can check which location has an active Twitter account or blog. All appear to have their own Facebook page. You can click on the social media icon for that location and be taken directly the source.

Returning Service Members

And for OEF/OIF/OND Veterans (Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation New Dawn) there’s a VA website to locate support for returning service members  including links for military families, National Guard and Reservists and active duty.

Army Mom Uses Websites, YouTube, Facebook to Learn

Graduation from the Armor Basic Officer Leader Course at Fort Benning. Dorie Griggs with her son Nelson and family. Photo by Stanley Leary.

I’m on the steep learning curve on how to become the mom of a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army. After four years of being the mom of an Army ROTC cadet at The Citadel, I thought I was pretty aware of the real military process.

I was wrong.

Over the years I have learned how to navigate various military related web sites. In my previous professional positions, I honed my Internet research skills. Those research skills and my drive to learn are coming in handy now.

The past few months, I’ve heard from other mothers of soldiers that they too are learning a lot. We learn more from our own research than from what our sons or daughters tell us directly.

I found great support from other mothers in particular about the various processes. Our children are busy starting their new careers. Many of them are in training that requires them to turn in their cell phones and don’t allow for computer access. It is during these periods, when we can’t hear directly from our own sons or daughters, that we as parents and spouses reach out to each other.

Armor school Basic Officer Leader Course graduating class. Photo by Stanley Leary.

The Army’s Family Readiness Groups (FRG) appears to be most helpful to spouses of military members. So far, I’ve not found them to be particularly helpful to family who do not live near the base. My son is scheduled to be deployed in the fall. I wonder if the FRG will be more helpful at that time.

I’ve found the base websites to be very helpful with back ground information.  During Armor BOLC both the website and the Facebook groups posted updates. The same was true when I researched Ranger School, Reconnaissance Surveillance Leader Course (RSLC), and Airborne School.

I found I could get lost in research on these sites. I also found answers to many of my questions on the various Facebook groups. To find more information on the particular training your soldier is going through, I have had  great success using the search window on the main base website. I used the search window to find the links to the various training pages and Facebook groups listed above.

Airborne soldiers during an exercise. Photo by Stanley Leary.

To find the Facebook group for my sons battalion and regiment, I put 3-69 Facebook in the search window on the main Fort Stewart website.

At Fort Stewart, they have an extensive website and also a variety of Facebook groups. Fort Benning does as well. Through these sites I’ve come to “meet” other parents and staffers who were more than willing to answer my questions.

If you want to find the group for your soldier, enter the base name in the Facebook search window. Once you find a site, you can also check the “Likes” section on the right side of the page to see what other related groups are listed.

YouTube is another source of information that I believe is under utilized by parents. I also know that sometimes you can have too much information. The videos in particular may not be very comforting if you are worried about the training your loved one is going through.

If you’d like find videos about the training or unit your soldier is in just enter the name in the search window of YouTube. I try to watch the videos posted by an official source like this one about the U.S. Army Basic Training.

Airborne graduation. Photo by Stanley Leary.

While my son was in college, he was involved in learning Modern Army Combatives. I found some training videos that helped me understand that discipline. One website gave me the background and another link showed a series of training videos. Now that he is active duty, the other videos I’ve found about the Rangers training, and the U.S. Army Special Forces are ones you need to be ready to watch. I wouldn’t recommend them to someone struggling to come to terms with this extremely challenging career choice.

The greatest gift I have received is the many new friendships, most virtual, that I have formed. Our children are on a path most of us haven’t traveled. The parents with military background help those of us without that experience.

The training we go through as family members isn’t physically grueling, but it is tough emotionally. We have peaks and valleys. The best you can hope for is that the peaks out weigh the valleys. Reaching out to others who understand this dynamic may not literally save your life, but the military family community can ease the stress.

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