color: SOME SOLDIER'S MOM: September 2008

Monday, September 29, 2008

VA to Raise TBI Benefits

VA to Raise Traumatic Brain Injury ( TBI) Benefits

The Dept. of Veterans Affairs announced last week changes to its schedule for rating disabilities for Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), the "signature wound" of Iraq and Afghanistan.

A VA press release noted, "Traumatic brain injuries result in immediate effects such as loss or alteration of consciousness, amnesia and sometimes neurological impairments." In some cases "prolonged or even permanent problems with a wide range of impairment in such areas as physical, mental and emotional/behavioral functioning may occur." People with TBI may experience headache, sleep difficulties, decreased memory and attention, slower thinking, irritability, and depression.

22,000 veterans presently are being compensated for TBI, including 5,800 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. Those already receiving compensation for TBI injuries can be reevaluated under the new rating schedule criteria. The VA stressed, however, that veterans with the "most severe" forms of TBI would not receive much, if any, extra compensation because the current rating schedule provides adequate compensation in such cases. The rating schedule change mainly has the potential to affect those with mild or relatively moderate TBI who may have been assigned low or modest ratings in the past.

Under the new rules, TBI ratings will be based on the degree of "cognitive impairment" and other "residuals" of TBI. These may include mild to severe loss of memory, attention, concentration, judgment, motor activity, visual spatial orientation, ability to communicate and other functions. The rating schedule goes into effect in late October. Because of the complexity of each individual evaluation, it's not possible to assert that a particular person or particular condition would receive a particular rating increase.

Courtesy of MOAA
and the Veterans Administration

Note: Some news coverage indicates that all veterans presently being compensated for mild/moderate TBI will automatically receive increased compensation (my combat-wounded veteran said, "Mom, the VA doesn't give you anything without you having to ask for it in double triplicate first.") He's right.

According to the Final Rule published in Federal Register* the amendment applies to all applications [for benefits] received by the VA on or after the effective date of the new rule, and the old criteria will apply to applications received prior.

However, a veteran whose residuals of TBI were rated by the VA under a prior version of the rule will be permitted to request a review under the new criteria, irrespective of whether his or her disability has worsened since the last review or whether the VA receives any additional evidence.

Note, however, that the effective date of any increase in disability compensation based solely on the new criteria will not be retroactive to the original disability but no earlier than the date of the new criteria (estimated to be late October 2008). Also note that the rate of compensation will not be reduced based solely on the new rating criteria [see pp 1-2]. However, note that in response to many comments on the effective date of the new criteria and suggestions that making veterans apply for a review is burdensome and suggestions that the VA conduct its own reviews for (at least) all post 9/11/01 TBIs, the VA declined to make changes to those provisions and said, "however, consistent with 38 U.S.C. 1155, any review under the new criteria will not result in a reduction in a veteran's disability rating unless the veteran's disability is shown to have improved." [p. 52] So, yes, there is apparently a risk of reduction of disability compensation on some other grounds if you apply for a review.

* pages 1-60 of the document is a discussion of comments and change/no change to the draft rule published back in August; pages 61-71 contain rating criteria, discussion and notes for evaluators.

Finally, I spent a career reading the Federal Register and the United States Code and the Code of Federal Regulations (along with a myriad of states' laws and rules and regulations), and it never ceases to amaze me: 71 pages (OK, double spaced, I'll grant) for a mere AMENDMENT to a diagnostic code. The entire "Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America" (also known as the Declaration of Independence) is less than 6 pages (double spaced)... 1,317 words including the title. No wonder people give up trying to get benefits they've earned.
Publish Post

Labels: , ,

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Summary of FY09 Defense Authorization Act

Summary of FY09 Defense Authorization Act

Active Duty Issues

- Pay Raise: 3.9% pay raise effective Jan 1, 2009

- End Strength: Army +7K USMC +5K Navy -2.8K USAF -12.5K (did not restore previously proposed cut for USAF, even though SecDef has stated that the planned USAF cut will not be imposed)

- Paternity leave: 10 days authorized for new military fathers, in addition to normal leave

- Maximum reenlistment period: Raised to 8 years vs. 6

- Warrant Officer mandatory retirement: Change to 30 years as WO vs 30 yrs (applies to Army WOs only)

- Sabbatical Program: Authorizes 20 officers and 20 enlisted members per service per year to take up to 3 years off from active duty to pursue personal/professional goals (participants to be paid 2 days’ basic pay per month and keep TRICARE eligibility, but will receive no retirement credit for sabbatical time and will owe 2 months’ active duty upon return for every month of sabbatical)

- Increase in Service Academy Enrollment: Authorizes up to 4,400/yr per academy starting 2008/09 academic year

- Meal Charges in Hospitals: Permanently bans charging hospitalized troops

- Temporary Lodging Expense Allowance: Raises maximum daily amt per family on CONUS PCS from $180 to $290

- Family Separation Allowance: Authorizes payment to both member spouses with dependents if both are assigned remotely

Military Family Issues

- Spouse PCS Weight Allowance: Authorizes 500 lbs for professional items

- Spouse Education: Authorizes programs to help spouses with degrees/credentials/licenses to pursue portable careers

- Impact Aid: Authorizes $35M to assist schools with high proportion of military children, with additional $15M for schools in BRAC/unit movement areas and $5M for schools attended by severely disabled military children

Guard/Reserve Issues

- Education: Requires honorable discharge for Guard/Reserve members to use education benefits resulting from active duty (effective 1/28/08 for members who haven't used any of their entitlement)

- TRICARE Reserve Select Premiums: DoD must recalculate (and presumably reduce) premiums for 2009 and beyond and base them on actual costs for previous year (2009 costs to be based on costs for 2006 + 2007) (GAO previously estimated that Guard/Reserve participants were overcharged by 45%-72%)

- G/R Medical/Dental Readiness: Services may provide free health/dental care to any SelRes/IRR (if subject to involuntary recall) they deem appropriate and may waive dental copays for Guard/Reserve personnel to facilitate/ensure readiness

- Transition TRICARE: DoD may temporarily continue active duty TRICARE coverage for separatees who enter SelRes (continue for 60 days if less than 6YOS; 120 days if 6+YOS)

Health Care Issues

- TRICARE Fees: Bar increases in pharmacy copays or retiree fees for FY09

- Preventive Care:
(1) Waive TRICARE copays/deductibles for beneficiaries under 65 for colorectal/prostate/breast/cervical screening, annual physical, vaccinations and other services authorized by SecDef (those over age 65 to be reimbursed for copays rather than waived due to budget technicality);
(2) establish TRICARE Prime pilot project in three geographic areas to test monetary and nonmonetary incentives to encourage healthy behaviors;
(3) Establish smoking cessation program for all under-65s (refund copays for over-65s);
(4) Test a “preventive health services allowance” payable to up to 1500 active duty members in each service ($500/yr single, $1000 family to purchase preventive services); (5) Authorize SecDef discretion to pursue other innovative programs (e.g., G/R medical/dental readiness and/or stipend for G/R families to continue employer care for families when activated)

- ECHO Payments: Raise TRICARE payment cap for active duty children with special needs from $2500/mo to $36K per year, allowing carryover month-to-month

- ECHO for Retiree Children: Require Sec Def report on providing limited temporary transition coverage upon retirement

Retiree/Survivor Issues

- Concurrent receipt: No provisions

- SBP: Authorize inclusion survivors of members who died on active duty among eligibles for modest new special survivor allowance

Wounded Warrior Issues

- DoD/VA Senior Oversight Committee (SOC): Extend SOC authority for 1 yr, with SecDef report by Aug 31 with recommendation on continuation

- Disability Determinations: Disqualifying condition is to be deemed service-connected unless there is "clear and unmistakable" evidence it existed before service entry and wasn't aggravated by service

- Centers of Excellence: Establish centers for hearing loss/auditory injuries and for traumatic extremity injuries/amputations

- Bonus Treatment: Bars recoupment of any paid amount and requires full repayment of unpaid balance within 90 days for member who dies or is separated/retired for combat-related injury/illness

Other Issues

- Decorations: Requires SecDef to replace decorations on one-time basis upon request by recipient or next of kin

- Salute: Authorizes military/vets not in uniform to salute flag during national anthem

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Friday, September 26, 2008



Gold Star Mother's Day, 2008

- - - - - - -

by the President of the United States of America

A Proclamation

Throughout our history, the men and women of the Armed Forces have put our Nation's security before their own, doing their duty in the face of grave danger.

On Gold Star Mother's Day, we pay solemn tribute to the mothers of the patriots lost serving this great Nation.

Gold Star Mothers inspire our Nation with their deep devotion to family and country. These extraordinary women serve their communities, dedicate their time to helping members of our Armed Forces and veterans, and bring comfort and hope to families whose loved ones laid down their lives in the defense of our liberty. Nothing can compensate for their sacrifice and loss, yet Gold Star Mothers demonstrate tremendous courage and resolve while working to preserve the memory and legacy of all our fallen heroes.

On this day, we honor our country's Gold Star Mothers and remember their sons' and daughters' noble service and great sacrifice. We offer them our deepest gratitude and our most profound respect, and we ask for God's blessings to be upon them and their families.

The Congress, by Senate Joint Resolution 115 of June 23, 1936 (49 Stat. 1895 as amended), has designated the last Sunday in September as "Gold Star Mother's Day" and has authorized and requested the President to issue a proclamation in its observance.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim Sunday, September 28, 2008, as Gold Star Mother's Day. I call upon all Government officials to display the flag of the United States over Government buildings on this special day. I also encourage the American people to display the flag and hold appropriate ceremonies as a public expression of our Nation's sympathy and respect for our Gold Star Mothers.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-fourth day of September, in the year of our Lord two thousand eight, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-third.


God Bless Our Gold Star Mothers... and the families of those who have perished in the service of our country.

Labels: ,

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Milbloggies... Update and Thank You


First, we had the best time early last week hosting two of the nicest and most intelligent and fun people -- ever... the Greyhawks GO there for pics and other info...

Next, had an OK time in Las Vegas... Sahara Hotel is 55 years old... and the rooms haven't been improved or refurbished in the 55 years. We have stayed in seedier hotels, but we think it may have been back in college (which was long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away.) NOT recommended (the Sahara).

We attended this year's Blog World & New Media Expo and 3rd Milblog Conference. Those milbloggers sure are a great group of people... and you can check out some of the coverage and pics over at
Mudville Gazette ArmyWifeToddlerMom Blackfive Soldiers Angels/Holly Aho Honor Duty Email and Doc's...

Next, I'd like to thank those of you who voted for me in the Milbloggie competition. My 3rd consecutive Milbloggie. Here's what I said (more or less... not verbatim) when I accepted the award for Military (Parent):

Thank you all very much. I am truly honored. I started my blog to tell my story, but somewhere along the way -- and just like most of you [other milbloggers], it morphed to trying to make it [fill in the blank] just a little better. And I would like to close by thanking my wonderful and supportive husband who, when I am pacing up and down the kitchen floor demanding, "What is this crap?" he says, "Don't be bitchin' to me... go write a blog post!"

Thank you all. Sincerely. Hope to see all (or more) of you at next year's conference!

I can't believe I forgot to post a list of the other winners (links to their blogs can be found on the side bar!) CONGRATS to all!

Navy: Sean Dustman, Doc in the Box
Veteran: Blackfive
Spouse: ArmyWifeToddlerMom
Army: Toby Nunn, Briefing Room
Marines: Major Pain, One Marine's View
Supporter: LL, Chromed Curses
Air Force: OpFor

Labels: ,

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Dear Governor Palin, Army Mom

The Governor of Alaska and (in case you didn't know) the Republican nominee for Vice President of the United States, put on another hat on Thursday... She was a mom saying goodbye to her son as he deployed to Iraq. Been there...

So, just in case Mom Palin stops by, I have some advice:


I have had a number of emails from parents asking for advice about their child being deployed and what can they expect? (and most of this goes for spouses, too!) If you have other things to share, feel free to put them in the comments!

Well, here’s what we learned and pass on to those of you with recently deployed or about-to-be deployed soldiers (marines, sailors, airmen):

Get paperwork. Get multiple copies of their power of attorney. Make sure it covers the types of transactions you’ve agreed to be responsible for – banking, insurance, property transactions. Get separate POAs that cover different situations if you need. Make sure you either have or know where all the rest of his/her papers are (car title? lease? Will?) Oh -- and a copy of their deployment orders... some vendors require these to discontinue service without a penalty (cell phone companies, for example) or to cancel a lease. Be sure to remove ALL of the social security numbers from the copy you send to anyone (I put a piece of paper over that column when I copied the orders.)

Take nothing for granted. So you think your child knows you love them? Tell them anyway and every chance you get. They’ll get miffed and frustrated at times telling you, “I know [Ma] [Dad]!” Ignore them. Tell them anyway. No one has ever said, “Gosh I think I told him/her how much I loved them too often.”

Deployment is one big roller coaster ride. Hang on – it’s going to be one hell of a ride! They’re leaving. They’re delayed. They’re leaving. They call. They don’t call. They’re in Kuwait. They’re leaving for the AO (area of operations). They arrived. They email. They get internet. You get a pc camera. The internet is down. The phones are down. Everything’s down. They’re going on a week’s mission. They’re back. They’re getting R&R. It’s not for 6 more months. UpDownUpDownUpDown. It's a long year.

If you don’t already have one, get a passport. We will all pray you will never need it except for vacations, but it can save you a day or two in travel time while someone tries to arrange this for you if you need it later. Be aware, that very few families have to travel outside the U.S. even when their child is injured. It is only the rarest of circumstances in which you might need to travel.

Communication is key to their mental survival. Send mail. Get their friends to send mail. Aunts, Uncles, cousins. Send postcards. Send cards. Send pictures. Send newspapers. Send their high school or college newspaper. Email. They might not respond as frequently as you write (or as often as you’d like) – but don’t let that stop you (after all, they are fighting a war). Your letters and cards take a measly first class cent stamp. Include pre-addressed post cards and envelopes to make it easier for them to write you (they do not need stamps -- they mail letters and cards for free). And remember, if there are breaks in communications (no email or IM suddenly) repeat after me:


And since you’re reading this, you have a computer, but if you don’t have it yet – get one or more instant messenger programs (download them free from AOL AIM, MSN, Yahoo...) and learn to use it! Your soldier will have access to computers and most have a number of instant messenger programs (a real-time conversation via typing.) It’s the way you and the soldier will most often communicate more than any other. You can program sounds to signal whenever he (or his buddies) are online. Even if you don’t want to jump up and have a conversation in the middle of the night (you say that now…), you will be able to determine that they were online while you were asleep or out and it will give you some peace of mind (really). And you can forward it to your cell phone or other wireless device (like a Blackberry). You never have to be out of touch with your soldier.

From Melinda and Stacy: absolutely invest in a WEBCAM for you and your soldier (they really aren't that expensive). Stacy says it's absolutely priceless to see your soldier's smiling face -- LIVE! and Melinda also says that's a must (and these are two women I would absolutely believe!) Melinda further says "a mini-tape recorder with the micro cassettes are small & easy to pack as well as durable" because there is nothing like a soldier hearing voices from home and for those at home to hear their daddy's (or son's or hubby's) voice... and she says making movies of the family and sending are fun for all the soldiers and not just your soldier.

Send STUFF. Send packages. Send their favorite food. Send books, comic books, magazines, DVDs, music, games, and their favorite things. Ask what they need, but even when they say they don’t need anything, send something. Send happy stuff -- you know whatever makes them laugh or feel good. [We recorded our son's favorite television shows (with commercials -- they love the commercials!) and those DVDs got passed around to everyone -- it was a part of home.] Be sure to learn the mailing rules – no porn, no pork, no alcohol. Don’t worry about sending too much – unfortunately, they have brother soldiers who rarely get any mail and your soldier will share. Go to your Post Office and ask for FLAT RATE BOXES and CUSTOMS FORMS. Get to know your postal clerks -- they are on their third or fourth deployments and they are a wealth of information!

NOTE: If you order things to be sent to your soldier, DO NOT HAVE THEM SENT DIRECTLY TO THE SOLDIER. You will have no way of knowing whether they were ever sent or received (happened a few times). After the first few months, we learned to have things (gloves, goggles, clothing) shipped to us and then we re-packaged it in flat rate boxes to him. And it's my understanding that you CAN get tracking receipts to most of the postal facilities in the "093" zip codes.

Support their efforts. No matter what you read elsewhere or what your feelings about the war are, support their efforts. It isn’t about you. They need to hear that you appreciate their sacrifice and efforts. If you can’t say something nice, say nothing. BE PROUD of your son/daughter. Be VERY proud ‘cause damn they’re good!

If they're not telling, Don’t ask. There are some things your soldier can’t talk about. There are things your soldier doesn’t want to talk about. Don’t push it. When they want to talk, they will. If he’s in the listening mood, you talk. If he’s in the talking mood, listen. Try not to add to their stress. Don’t argue with them. Let them blow off steam – they aren’t angry at you most of the time. If a conversation seems to upset them – get off the subject, change it or agree with them. They have plenty else on their minds and they shouldn’t have to worry about you. You can smack them up side the head for being disrespectful when they get home.

Educate yourself. Don’t believe everything the mainstream media tells you. In addition to reading the news sites and these milblogs, look for specific information from the Army (or Marines or Navy). Most units have an official website while soldiers are deployed with mailing addresses, contact information for the Rear Detachment, the FRG (Family Readiness Group), etc. The sites also usually include newsletters from the unit commanders in the field and the Brigade and Battalion through the course of the deployment. The letters won’t give you detailed information on operations, but they make you feel connected to your soldier and they will tell you generally about their camp (or Forward Operating Base (FOB)) and what they are doing promotions, births, etc. And they usually have some pictures! It will do you a world of good. Really.

Join support groups. Get on the FRG email list. If you are local to your soldier’s duty station, involve yourself with the FRG. [Look at sites like,,, etc.] There are also private support group websites started and maintained by family members during the deployment. Find them – they are a wealth of information and rumor/myth busting and a hand to hold and shoulder to cry on when you’re down. Keep yourself busy with other things. That will be hard as keeping track of your soldier and trying to communicate with your soldier will consume a lot of your non-working (and in some cases working) time. You will think about them night and day. All perfectly normal, but they want you to have a life. As Noah said, “That’s why we’re here – so you can live normally there.” So do it.

Stacy also reminds us to do a scrapbook... The Society for the 3rd ID had commemorative "Back to Iraq 2005" t-shirts that they sold... and bumper stickers, pins, etc. so I ordered some of those and put them away for him. I have also printed and saved news articles, my blog entries, the battalion and unit newsletters and put them all in 3-ring binders (there are Volumes I, II and III). They may not appreciate it now, but they will (a) when they have children, and/or (b) they write their memoirs (wink). They will have tangible reminders that they made history...


Try to insist that your soldiers give someone’s name to the FRG so that they have someone getting the emails.

Put out a newsletter (not just occasionally). Yes, we know you’re running a war over there – but these newsletters are a precious link to our soldier and we count on that information. We LIVE for any information about their situation we can get our hands on (and it goes a long way to stopping the rumor mill back home.)

Please show parents the same respect and involvement that you show to spouses. Be sure your FRG includes parents and girlfriends and be sure your single soldiers know they can be included!


Call, write or email often -- but at least every once in a while. Yes, dammmit, we know you’re busy and Yes, dammmmit, we know you’re tired. But we are sitting back here worrying night and day. No, you telling us a thousand times, “Don’t worry” will not make us not worry. Believe it or not, not only do we worry about you, but we are actually interested in how you are and what you’re doing, what you need... We’re not asking for a body count, but we would like to know what you’re experiencing. A simple, “Hi all! We’re doing fine. We’re safe and thinking of you. Going to get some sleep now. Love you all… [insert name here} will do.

Get used to the fact that we (your parents) will cry. We will cry when you leave. Cry when you come home on R&R. Cry when you leave after R&R. And we’ll cry when you get home. Get used to it. It just is. It's liquid love and it runs from our hearts to our eyes...

Be sure to check out the comments to the original post - there are a lot of experienced voices talking there!

Copyright Some Soldier's Mom 2005 and 2008. All rights reserved.

Labels: , , , , ,

Friday, September 12, 2008

Milbloggies Voting is Now Open

Go HERE to to Vote for Your Favorite Milblogs. If you're not already registered (shame on you!!) all it takes is a simple registration of your email address. Don't worry, they don't sell it... Thank you to those that nominated this blog... and thank you to those who take the time and make the effort to vote. I really do appreciate you!

-- Carla
Some Soldier's Mom

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The Week of 9-11... In a Time of War

For the first time in many moons, I have actually watched some television in the evenings. This evening I watched "Battle 360" on the History Channel... the episodes about the USS Enterprise in WWII -- the realistic graphics and animations and the interviews with survivors are inspiring. Fascinating.

You can't help but notice the number of commercials for upcoming programs and specials commemorating the 7th anniversary of 9-11-01. There is one show that I would like to see -- the compilation of New Yorkers' photos and film taken on that day.... 102 Minutes That Changed America. I find it somewhat quizzical (think of Mr. Spock's raised eyebrow) that the two Presidential candidates are making a joint appearance at Ground Zero... I have heard John McCain speak candidly about his thoughts and reactions that day... I have never heard Barrack Obama speak of his. The anniversary and thoughts of that day still -- and I suppose will always -- make my chest tighten when I am forced to think about it. I scheduled a medical appointment and other mundane tasks for most of the day more as a distraction than an attempt to make it a normal day. 9-11 will never be a normal day. Our flags will be flown at half staff (in the case of the stationary flags that don't lower, with a black streamer) this Patriot Day.

People tell me all the time how 9-11 changed them. I remember my email to a dear high school friend living in Colorado as the events of that day unfolded... he had emailed to ask if I was ok and was there anything he could do for me or my family. I was, at that moment, ensconced in my midtown Manhattan office in the relative safety (relative being a relative term in those hours immediately following the attacks) 26th floors above the Grand Central complex. I remember telling him some of what we were experiencing and finished my email response with "The world as we know it has changed forever..." How prescient but how little I really knew!!

In telling my son's and my story, I have said that Noah had always wanted to be a soldier... and that 9-11 wasn't the point of his decision, but it did mightily strengthen his resolve. While on 9-11-01 we had one son who had already served in the Navy and another that was then serving (and is still serving), we couldn't begin to imagine how it would change our sons' lives -- and ours. Just watch a pebble as it washes down a stream or over a waterfall... we have been washed along, carried along and tumbled along the way.

One day I'd like to go back to Ground Zero... be there when the new Freedom Tower is dedicated. I'd feel the circle closing. I'd like to still be around when they rebuild the rest and the memorial and the museum. I like to occasionally log on and
watch the rebuilding at Ground Zero from the live cameras (Cam 1, 2 & 3...)

9-11-01 changed virtually everyone -- some for better and some not. Sometimes we can be distracted from just how much one event can affect peoples' lives... but it's occasionally good to be reminded.

I recently received an email from Bill Murphy, Jr. who said,
Several years ago, I first learned the story of the U.S. Military Academy's class of 2002, the first cadets in a generation to graduate from West Point in wartime. Theirs is a story of service and sacrifice, inspiration and honor, heroism and heartbreak---and it is a story I absolutely had to tell.

After 42 months of work, more than 600 interviews, and reporting that took me across the United States and to Iraq, my new book---“In a Time of War: the Proud & Perilous Journey of West Point’s Class of 2002”---is set for release on September 16.

The video is touching (and they are working on getting a download of Jeff Himmelman's awesome version of the Army song you hear on the video)...

I am looking forward to reading the book... We lived for a number of years very near to West Point and loved to wander the grounds there... sit on the great lawns and read... Watch the fireworks at Trophy Point and listen to the cannons roar at the conclusion of "The 1812 Overture" (though it was a nightmare getting in/out and parking -- it was worth the effort!) We had tea and attended receptions at the Thayer Hotel... we have pictures of each of the children sitting on the cannons... and while they could not officially walk down Flirtation Walk, after hearing the story on a family visit to "the Point", our [now] son-in-law actually got down on one knee and proposed (for the second time) to the beautiful H. and somewhere I have a picture of him doing so in front of the marker... We attended many concerts and functions at Eisenhower Hall... ate many a meal at the O Club there, as well. Shopped at the Commisary and PX (Post Exchange). Noah crewed (rowed) on the Hudson River there. My friend, Thomas Martin (KIA 10/07) was an '05 graduate of the Academy. I have a very personal connection to West Point and the fine men and women who accept the honor and the responsibility of attending and graduating from there. As I said, I am looking forward to reading this book... although I know it will be another "hard read".

There is a website for In a Time of War where you can read about the book and even read the first chapter for free. There are a number of events and appearances already planned so be sure to check out the "Appearances" tab on the site. You can also pre-order the book from any number of sellers -- the links are on the site. The burden of this war on terror has been borne by an inordinately small percentage of the American populace... and the story of USMA '02 reminds us how great the burden -- and how remarkable those that bear it.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Third Annual Milbloggies Begins!

Third Annual Milbloggies Begins! Place Your Nominations!

Rules and Instructions

The Milbloggies Award recognizes military bloggers for their contribution to blogging, news and information, and to the military over the past year.

Nomination and Voting Overview

1. A military blog can be nominated ONLY once by the same registered user. However, a user can nominate as many military blogs as they wish.

All nominations must be submitted online through by 11:59 pm EST on Wednesday, September 10th, 2008.

2. The top five nominees in each branch category will be announced on Thursday, September 11th, 2008 and those nominees will move into the Voting Phase beginning September 11th, 2008.

3. Nomi nees may be military blogs that belong to the following branch categories in the database:

U.S. Air Force
U.S. Army
U.S. Marine Corps
U.S. Military (Parent)
U.S. Military (Spouse)
U.S. Military (Veteran)
U.S. Military (Supporter)
U.S. Navy

4. To nominate and/or vote for a military blog, you must be signed in to the website. Registration is quick and free and you will not receive any SPAM. This helps maintain the integrity of voting by reducing possible click fraud. To place your nomination, simply click on the listing in the database, and click the Nominate button that appears at the top of the military blog profile.

5. To vote for a military blog (once the nomination phase is over), a chart will be published that includes the top nominees in each category, along with the ability to vote.

The Voting will close on Sunday, September 14th at 11:59 PM EST.

6. Winners will be presented awards at the 2008 Milblog Conference in Las Vegas on September 20th at the Blog World Expo. Winners are not required to attend the conference in order to receive their awards.


USAA sponsored the Second Annual Milbloggies. Last year`s awards included: a digital camera, plaque, and a $1000 donation to Project Valour-IT. USAA will also be sponsoring the Third Annual Milbloggies.


Questions? Comments? Concerns? Feel free to leave your comments below or send an email to

You can also discuss and chat about this year`s Milbloggies with other members in the
Discussion Boards.

Stay updated on the Third Annual Milbloggies, by visiting the Milbloggies Home Page.

Current Standings (Third Annual Milbloggies)

View Branch Nomination Standings

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Family, Army & the Single (Unmarried) Soldier

The Army is celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the creation of the Army Family Action Plan. The Army Family Action Plan was created in response to quality of life issues Army families were experiencing in the all volunteer Army -- with a realization that a Soldier’s family plays a key role in career decision making, Soldier readiness and retention.

It's always been a bit of a burr under my saddle -- and also of other military parents -- that military-sponsored support activities for families of soldiers is focused almost without exception on soldiers' spouses, so I agreed to participate in a Bloggers' Roundtable discussion earlier today to see what the Army was doing for the other half of the Army, i.e., the almost 50% of soldiers who are single. It's a favorite saying of mine: Not every soldier has a spouse, but every soldier has a mother. One of the reasons I named my blog: when I complained to a Sgt. in my son's unit that the deployment (sendoff) ceremony (which I discovered in a newspaper article just days before) hadn't been communicated very effectively, he said something along the lines that the effort wasn't warranted because I was JUST "some soldier's mom" and my attendance wasn't core to the mission. (I believe I responded with some humor I didn't really feel -- knowing he would make my son's life hell otherwise, "Gosh, does your mother know she's that unimportant?) but I digress... (And let's keep in mind here that the next Vice President of the United States could very well be some other soldier's mom!) Don't get me wrong -- I do so love the milspouses (being the wife a retired career mil-guy) -- but resent how parents are (for the most part) completely ignored by the services (otherwise, how do you explain the proliferation of all the private parent (read: Mom) forums here here here here here here here here. And, of course, right here where you're reading.

I listened while Secretary of the Army Pete Geren and the Director of Family Programs for the Family Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) Command and the spouses of a Major General, a Command Sgt Major, a First Sgt. and of an Army Deputy Chief of Staff); each gave a brief personal biography of their experiences with AFAP -- principally with Family Readiness Groups (FRGs).

My experience and exposure as an Army mom? Noah did put in my name for his unit's FRG when he deployed in 2005, but I had to make repeated attempts to receive any type of confirmation that they knew I was here. Over the course of the 12 months his unit was deployed, I believe I had exactly 3 emails from the FRG: "Welcome to the FRG", "Here's a Change of Address" when the units re-aligned mid-tour, and "Here is the link to track homecoming flights". After I saw references to a number of FRG meetings for Noah's FRG on a private forum, I emailed the FRG Leader and asked if she could forward after action notes to the spouses and parents who did not live close to the base and couldn't attend those meetings. She responded a few WEEKS later that it was an excellent suggestion and she would. Never happened.

And while I was happy to hear that these spouses in the roundtable had wonderfully positive experiences with their FRGs, I can't say that the opinion is shared by other members on any of the message boards and forums to which I subscribe or read. I know that there must be decent and engaging FRGs out there -- and, because they are principally the ONLY source of official information for spouses when their spouses are deployed they enjoy a high level of participation at military installations.

Now in defense of FRGs: FRGs are principally staffed and managed entirely by VOLUNTEERS whose spouses are now deployed -- suddenly single parents with jobs, children and households to manage. I think this may improve since one of the most recent improvements involve paid FRG assistants.
Additionally, the Army has a FRG "portal" called the vFRG (virtual FRG) that allows soldiers and family members to register for a unit's FRG (note: you will need the last four of the soldier/sponsor's social security number to register.) GO HERE for info and to register. (Army Families Online might also be useful.)

The first question at today's roundtable was regarding serving the needs of those with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) who lived remotely from military installations. Mrs. Pillsbury noted that they are making efforts to reach out to those and noted the formation of Still Serving Soldiers which is dedicated to assisting soldiers with disabilities 30% or greater (I was unclear whether this was the VA rating or the Army rating and didn't have a chance to ask for clarification... but did want to ask whether they knew that less than 10% of soldiers received a disability rating that high from the Army?)

In response to whether the military is prepared for the number of wounded still to come, Sec. Geren noted that the Army and the Veterans Administration have made great strides in this area (I concur that they have made progress) but, he said, it is clear that serving the population of those with TBI and/or PTSD will mean reliance on grass roots organizations. He noted the advent of the Army's Chain Teaching program, Military One Source, the new medical care & records tracking system, Army's Wounded Warrior (AW2) Program, Army Community-Based Health Care Initiative, and Warrior Transition Units.

Mrs. Pillsbury noted that service members with PTSD or other problems can receive six face-to-face counseling sessions FREE and without any entry on official military records. GO HERE for additional information.

I closed out the question and answer portion of the program asking that the Army address communications with the families of single soldiers because in my experience -- and based on communications via email and comments to my blog -- it was an unmet need. I noted that it was the parents and other family members of the single soldiers who are NOT getting the information in how to identify the symptoms of TBI and PTSD nor do they have access to or information on the resources available to these soldiers and how to access them on the soldier's behalf... that these soldiers come home to these families and into these communities and we're just expected to "deal" with it.

I acknowledged Secretary Geren's concern for the difficulty involved in facilitating the contact given the number of single soldiers from broken homes (as if divorced, widowed or single parents cared less than spouses... I know that was not his intent by any means -- he was most knowledgeable and sincere, but it crossed my mind), but told him that we could make that easier on him because I would bet that at least 1/2 those soldiers DO have parents who wish to be involved (if not informed)... and reminded him that, in any event, every unmarried soldier was required to name a Next of Kin (NOK) -- whether that was a parent, a brother or sister, aunt or uncle -- and perhaps the contact could start there??

I also asked if someone could tell me what the participation level in the Army's Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers (BOSS) was? and the answer was "very good" and that soldiers love the opportunity to help." Unfortunately, there wasn't enough time to explore this further during the roundtable. However, in advance of the roundtable, I spoke with Noah and a few other soldiers and asked about BOSS. They said, "BOSS?? Never heard of it." I described what I was referring to and each said, "Oh, MWR?" I said, well, yes... but specifically for unmarried soldiers. Nope. They did say that they occasionally heard about trips but that the good ones were too expensive, they usually heard about them too late or after the fact, but mostly they said they [the activities] were "lame". I asked how they heard about MWR events and they said mostly word of mouth... but they never saw posters or advertisements except every once in a while.

I did look on the BOSS site and noted at one Army base the lists of upcoming activites were not segregated by "family" and "single". Of the 10 newest releases, one is for the Ultimate Fighting Championship (Sep.) at the base Brew Pub ("Why would I want to go there, Ma?? Most of us are underage and at least we can get beers in the barracks."), one for the BOSS Blue Jeans Banquet honoring volunteers (Oct.) and one is a trip to an Aquarium in the closest large city 2 hours away (Sep). ("You're sh*tng me, right Ma? Sorry Ma. [for the language]. The other listings are for Bingo, re-registration at the base golf course, Treat the Family to Brunch, a Community Campout (even I know that's the last thing soldiers just back from the field training are interested in.) I note in the older news that there is also a concert by a 1970's band (mmm... one of MY favorite bands) at the baseball field.

Who the heck is suggesting these activities for 18, 19, 20 year old soldiers?
(You only need to visit the barracks at some of these installations on Friday or Saturday nights to know what these guy do when there is nothing else to do.) And, yes, I have been... a number of times. It aint pretty... normal... but not pretty. I did cruise around a few of the other MWR calendars at a few other bases -- some had Texas Hold 'Em Tournaments, a Wii Tournament, a rodeo, a talent search...
(Texas Hold'em was the only one that got an "eh... ok.") There is a wide range of style to the various base calendars... none seemed to have a specific site for BOSS activities nor did any calendars list BOSS events separately. Teenagers are lazy... if you make young soldiers go LOOKING for stuff, they won't.

My soldiers tell me these are the things they'd do if organized: Skydiving (1/2 of 'em are already airborne trained), snowmobiling, quad'ing & offroading (have you seen the videos on these guys driving Humvees and Bradleys in Iraq??), hunting trips (heck, they already know how to shoot!), NASCAR, stock car, motorcycle or motocross racing (as participants or spectators, as appropriate)... basically, anything involving adrenaline. (I know. (sigh). I'm a mom. I have 3 sons. What can I say?)

I know this post may sound terribly critical, but I really did (do) appreciate the opportunity to address these topics with Secretary Geren and others who take the issues seriously because we share the aim to in some way make it better.

I'll put up a link to the full transcript when it's available. Here's the audio.

x-posted at ParentsZone

Labels: , , , , ,