Women Serving Aboard Submarines: “Very Successful”

WASHINGTON (May 28, 2012) President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama greet the U.S. Navy’s first contingent of women submariners in the Blue Room of the White House. The 24 women serve on ballistic and guided-missile submarines throughout the Navy. Also attending are Adm. Mark Ferguson, Vice Chief of Naval Operations (VCNO), left, Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) Ray Mabus and Secretary of Defense (SECDEF) Leon Panetta. (White House Photo by Pete Souza/Released)

The status of the U.S. submarine fleet since bringing women aboard got its first public review Thursday during a roundtable held at the Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C.,  just months after women began serving on U.S. submarines. The Stars and Stripes:

Vice Adm. John Richardson, commander of submarine forces, said the integration process has been “very successful.” Twenty-four women have already reported to guided missile and fleet ballistic missile submarines and about 20 more will report each year. Fast-attack submarines, which are smaller and would require more modifications to allow women aboard, are still men-only.

One of the first women aboard was Lt. Rebecca Dremann, an openly gay naval officer and a smoker – two other adjustments made in the past year. In 2011, smoking aboard submarines was banned and the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy was dropped allowing gays to serve opening.

“I’m a total culture shock to the submarine force and they handled me just fine,” Dremann said Thursday after a roundtable hosted by the Navy to discuss the integration of women into the submarine force.

You can read more coverage of the roundtable discussion on the integration of women in Stars and Stripes.

The 24 women submariners visited the White House on Wednesday meeting with President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and top brass.

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A “Former” Wounded Warrior and Silver Star Banner Day

Silver Star Families of America photographer Shawn Johnson.

May 1st is Silver Star Banner Day – a day set aside to honor combat wounded military members and their families.

The Silver Star Families of America was formed to recognize, remember, honor and assist those combat wounded, ill and dying armed forces members.

The organization has several projects listed on its website such as collecting used sports equipment and MP3 players for  injured service members and a free prayer blanket for wounded warriors in Hospice care.

How do you “define” a Wounded Warrior?

For most, it is a military service member injured during combat. The wounds can be visible or invisible, but the service member is changed.

But, is it fair to label that warrior as “wounded” – forever – despite visible wounds? One soldier doesn’t think so and is redefining how civilians and his fellow soldiers should think about those injured in combat. The Stars and Stripes has his profile:

Is Army Capt. D.J. Skelton a wounded warrior?

It sounds like a trick question. Insurgents attacked him in Iraq with a rocket-propelled grenade in 2004. His face and body were permanently damaged. The loss of his left eye is Skelton’s most visible injury, but in many ways it’s the least of his physical concerns. He’ll be going to hospitals and doctors for the rest of his life. His scars will always form part of new acquaintances’ first impressions.

“So I spend the rest of my life bumping into things on my left,” he said. “So what.”

It’s an accomplishment just that Skelton is still on active duty. He returned to the infantry last year after more than six years away. He served as a company commander in the 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment in Panjouway district, Afghanistan.

He was selected for promotion to major last month and will head to China this fall as a foreign-area officer.

You can read the full profile of Army Capt. D.J. Skelton HERE.

A Military Wife’s Letter to Her Deploying Soldier

Photo courtesy of United States American Flags.com.

The following letter was written by the wife to her husband, a Georgia National Guardsman preparing to deploy.

However, it’s significance reaches well beyond her family.

Jennifer Chaloux’s letter to her husband, Spc. Matthew Chalou was sent to me by another military wife a day after her husband deployed for a fifth time in their six years of marriage.

Jennifer’s Letter

It was published in Stars and Stripes February 3, 2010 for her husband who was deploying to Afghanistan for a year.

The man you share your life with is leaving, and there is no guarantee he will come home. Days fly by quicker than you have ever known. They are consumed with nonstop picture and video-taking, hugs, kisses and sighs because reality is too close. We try to finish projects around the house and get a quick lesson on using power tools.

It’s days on end trying not to cry too hard so you don’t make him feel bad … laying your head on his chest trying to memorize the sound of his heartbeat, the way he holds you, kisses you on the head, his laughter and his cologne. Holding his hand and not wanting to let go, not even for a second. A million kisses and hugs. Saying I love you 50 times a day and still questioning whether you have said it enough.

The letter goes on describing her feelings and thoughts that are shared by many wives, parents, children and friends for their deployed loved ones.

Jennifer ends her letter by asking that all families never forget and “support our troops” by displaying the American flag.

You can read Jennifer’s full letter on the Stars and Stripes website.

Marine Video: Taliban Uses Questionable Images to Recruit

YouTube image.

The video of four Marines appearing to urinate on the bodies of slain enemy combatants is being used by the Taliban as a recruiting tool according to The Stars and Stripes.

Taliban leaders have already begun using the video for propaganda. In an emailed statement to the Associated Press, group spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said that “During these 10 years American soldiers have tortured our people in various ways, they have shown disrespect to the holy Quran and other holy books, they have burned our bodies, they have killed and tortured our women and children and … have committed other hateful actions.”

To read the full Stars and Stripes article by Leo Shane II HERE.

Military Commissaries See Food Stamp Usage Almost Triple

Nearly $88 million worth of groceries were purchased using food stamps at military commissaries in 2011, more than double the amount spent in 2008, according to the Defense Commissary Agency Laura Rauch/Stars and Stripes. Photo courtesy of Laura Rauch/Stars and Stripes

The Stars and Stripes reports that food stamp purchases at military commissaries have nearly tripled during the last four years, according to Defense Commissary Agency figures.

The agency reports that nearly $88 million worth of food stamps were used at commissaries nationwide in 2011, up from $31 million in 2008.

There is little information about who is using the food stamps, officially called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program by the Department of Agriculture, because DeCA and the Defense Department do not keep data on individuals who purchase items at commissaries. But Joyce Raezer, the executive director of the National Military Family Association, suspects that the majority of food stamp users are veterans who separated before retirement and members of the National Guard or reserve forces.

You can read Seth Robbins’ full article in the Stars and Stripes HERE.

The Anatomy of an Army Veteran’s Suicide

Statistics from 2010 estimated that about 18 veterans commit suicide every day. Of those 18, only five were receiving care from the VA.

Below is a portion of a compelling story that offers vivid insight into a solider’s suicide. The article is written by Bill Murphy Jr. for Stars and Stripes published 7 June 2011.

He had plenty to think about on the 30-hour trip from Fort Drum, N.Y.

There were the alcohol-fueled mistakes that had led to the end of his military career, and the memories of good friends who had been killed the year before in Afghanistan. There was, in particular, his horrific discovery of the body of one friend who had been crushed to death in a Humvee accident.

There was the night back at Fort Drum when he’d tried to commit suicide.

Friends and family members say the Army was more than happy to take Andrews when it needed new soldiers for an unpopular war, but that it punished and abandoned him when he returned from Afghanistan, despite clear signs of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and possible traumatic brain injury.

Those actions, they charge, put Andrews on the path to his tragic demise. In April, as the government hounded him for repayment of his re-enlistment bonus, and after he was incorrectly denied the educational benefits he’d counted on to help make a new start, Andrews, 22, hanged himself in a wooded area near his parents’ home in Kansas City.

“He tried. The kid asked for help,” said Andrews’ mother, Lauri Turner. “But to them, he was just a number.”

Courtesy of Lauri Turner, the photo of her son Jacob Andrews was posted by him on Facebook just days before he committed suicide. You can read Jacob Andrews’ full story here.

If you know a veteran considering suicide – 24 hour help is available at 800-273-8255.

More than 500 Military Spouses Are Blogging

Anne Marie, creator of the military spouse blog Household 6 Diva.

I was introduced to serious blogging by Air Force SMSgt Rex Temple. He blogged almost daily while deployed in Afghanistan. His blog: Afghanistan: My Last Tour.

Blogging is a trend that’s grown to involve the whole military family.

To get an idea of the extent of blogging in the military, check out the following article.

The “Stars and Stripes” features a story on military spouse blogs. The article highlights an Army wife, Anne Marie, currently stationed in Germany, and her blog Household 6 Diva. Her blog includes sections on cooking, gardening, military life and military spouses. And, she’s compiled a list of spouse blogs covering all branches: Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, National Guard.

The site  Milblogging.com has more than 500 military spouse blogs registered.

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