Tagged: military family support

Study: Military Suicides Caused by Emotional Distress

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

military depressionEmotional distress is a leading factor in suicides among military members, concluded a crack team of researchers without apparent irony. Demonstrating an uncanny grasp of the obvious, the researchers from the University of Utah’s National Center for Veterans Studies, who had interviewed some 72 military members at Fort Carson, Colorado why they attempted to commit suicide stated that theirs was the first study to provide actual data that documents that suicides among military members was related to emotional distress, and a desire to end it.

The study has not yet been published, but the authors have already received their grant money from the taxpayer. Taxpayers have already committed at least $50 million to research and study of the problem of military suicides. That’s the size of the pot of money entrusted to Colonel Carl Castro.

The study comes on the heals of relevations that it takes veterans an average of 41 days just to get an appointment to see a VA health care professional. In some areas, including Tacoma, Washington, that waiting period lasts as long as 80 days, on average.

High Correlation with Divorces or Separations

Although the scintillating conclusions reached by the University of Utah’s researchers have somewhat, umm, truncated immediate utility, we do have data that ties suicide risk with recent separation or divorce. Suicide rates among this population of servicemembers reached 19 per 100,000 – a rate that is 24 percent higher than single troops. The suicide rate among young adults age 20 to 24 is 12.7 per 100,000, according to the National Institute for Mental Health. So it does appear that Houston, we do have a problem, with military members at higher risk than the population of young adults at large.


Call this toll-free number, available 24 hours a day, every day: 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You will reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a service available to anyone. You may call for yourself or for someone you care about. All calls are confidential.

Cookie Monster Wants YOU

Posted by Kelli McKinney

GU0 AdditionalResourcesForget generation X, Y, Z – I’m a proud part of generation Sesame Street. I grew up singing along with Big Bird, thought Super Grover was an underappreciated superhero, and was one of Mister Snuffalupagus’s most ardent believers.

Those moppy-headed critters were a huge part of my childhood. They taught me to read and count before I was out of preschool. When I couldn’t stomach the thought of sharing my after school snack with my little brother, it was Bert who showed me the error of my ways. Suffice it to say that I love the show with a passion, and couldn’t wait until my son was old enough and I could watch it again through his eyes.

My passion for Sesame Street and the educators behind the show grew tenfold when I learned that the amazing people at Sesame Street Workshop produced a series: Just. For. Military. Families.

As part of their mission to use educational media to help children reach their fullest potential, they’ve created an outreach program called Talk, Listen, Connect. TLC is designed to guide children through the murky emotional waters of deployments, combat-related injuries, distance, homecomings and even the death of a parent or loved one. As you would expect, their material does a brilliant job of speaking about tough topics in plain language, comforting and reassuring an often forgotten group.

They’ve produced two award-winning television specials, developed an educational kit (available on their website) and have held live performances on bases. The program helps kids manage difficult emotions by modeling how other parents, children, and familiar furry critters deal with similar circumstances. The program has so far distributed more than two and a half million kits to military families and Sesame reports nearly 3/4 of the families say they feel the program helped their child cope.

Check out this clip about the TLC program.

And if that weren’t enough, they also travel across the country with a FREE Sesame Street USO show.  *insert huge hug here.*  Our child is older now, but I’m hoping I can persuade him to go see the USO Sesame Street show for old times’ sake. They still have tour dates in Washington, California, Nevada, Arizona, Texas, Oklahoma and Alabama left this year.

Sesame is casting for their next project, which focuses on resilience, and they’re looking for military families to help. The episode they’re casting now is going to tackle the very challenging topic of divorce. Details are on their Facebook page, but it’s worth mentioning that their requirements are very specific.

If you’re a parent or family member of a preschooler or young elementary child, you know how important it is to have resources you trust and a community that supports you. For a lot of us, the Sesame Street characters became fixtures in our household and offered consistency and certainty through some very uncertain times. If there’s anyone who deserves the TLC (pun intended) that the Sesame Workshop is providing through their efforts, it’s the young children of our service members.

If you’re looking for more family life or parenting resources, visit the Military Authority Parenting & Family Life discussion page.

Have you or someone you love seen the Sesame Street show already? We’d love for you to share your thoughts about it with us here.

USAA, Navy Federal Credit Union Offer Assistance to Disaster Victims

Posted by Debi Teter

FtCollins fire by Kerry WebsterWhile financial institutions that cater to service members, veterans and their families aren’t always angels, both USAA and Navy Federal Credit Union have historically done a good job at coming through with some extra services when military families are most in need.

Today, a large number of military families are being affected by the terrible fires in Waldo Canyon and the outskirts of Colorado Springs – home to thousands of families that support Fort Collins and the Army’s 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment as well as the Air Force Academy (photo credit: Kerry Webster).

Less than a week before, thousands of military families near CENTCOM and Joint Special Operations Command and MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Eglin Air Force Base, Pensacola Naval Air Station, Camp Blanding and Jacksonville were struck by severe flooding, courtesy of Tropical Storm Debby, which ravaged northern Florida and the Panhandle area earlier this June.

Insurance and Claims Response Centers

USAA is a major player in the home insurance market for military families. As of this writing, the Colorado Springs wildfire has destroyed more than 300 homes, with many more at risk. The company has established a number of on-site response teams. If you have experienced a loss, and need to speak with a USAA representative to file a claim, visit this website for a listing Colorado Springs response team locations around the community.

Navy Federal Credit Union Disaster Relief Assistance

Meanwhile, Navy Federal Credit Union has established a formal program to help their members affected by disasters to get back on their feet. If you are located within a federally-declared disaster area, you may be eligible for the Navy Federal Credit Union’s program.
Specifically, NFCU is offering qualifying members up to $15,000 in emergency loans. The interest rate on these loans is 6 percent, with payments deferrable for up to 90 days (though interest will still accrue). The loans can be repaid over 60 months, or five years. This may help homeowners and business owners affected by the disasters to get back on their feet, following the loss of a home, vehicle, job or — in the very worst cases — a loved one, as a result of the disaster.

Additionally, if you are experiencing a financial hardship as a result of a disaster, NFCU is also giving out increases in credit card limits and payment deferrals in certain circumstances. You may have to provide some documentation, and you generally must provide some documentation verifying your hardship.

You must also apply for the loan within 45 days of the day on which the Federal Emergency Management declared your home a disaster area. Generally you can qualify for the loan if you live in a federally-declared disaster area, or if you own property in one. You don’t, however, necessarily be an existing Navy Federal Credit Union member. You can get the loan if you meet the eligibility requirements set forth above. However, you must set up a direct debit account with Navy Federal Credit Union, or your rate will increase to the regular personal credit interest rate.

For immediate assistance or to apply for an Emergency Relief Loan, call the Navy Federal Credit Union at 1-888-842-6328.

A number of charities also provide emergency relief to military families undergoing financial hardship – often providing loans on little more than the say-so of the company commander.
Examples include, the American Red Cross, Army Emergency Relief Fund, Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, the Air Force Aid Society and Operation Home Front. This is in addition to the many food-banks, family support group organizations and other church, synagogue and charity organizations in these communities.

Fires Impacting Logistics

Both USAA and Armed Forces Bank of America, another company that provides insurance, banking and financial services to military families, also have significant operations in Colorado Springs, which has been affected by this week’s wildfires. USAA actually opened a large service center in Colorado Springs as recently as 2010. These companies are still providing services even though many of their own employees have been forced to evacuate from their homes. AFSA is reporting that their call center has been affected as some workers have been unable to report to work. You may be experiencing longer wait times on the phone than usual.

Armed Forces Recreation Centers

Posted by S.E. Davidson Parker

military recreation centersThirty days of leave per year: sounds great in comparison to the civilian world of two weeks.

However, it doesn’t take into account two things:

  • This includes sick pay, and
  • You’re usually stationed far away from your family.

I don’t know about you, but although it’s great to visit back home, running around to see everyone you possibly can does not a vacation make.

On top of it all, vacations are expensive. With approximately 26% of all military spouses unemployed, not counting the large percentage that are underemployed, cost is even more of a factor than for civilians. So what’s a family to do? Take advantage of the military resorts.

Sponsored by the Morale, Welfare and Recreation Division of the U.S. Army, the four Armed Forces Recreation Centers are set in the United States (2), Germany (1), and South Korea (1). The U.S. Naval Joint Services Activities sponsors one in Japan. All five locations are much less expensive than the stereotypical resort/hotel but don’t skimp whatsoever on the amenities. In order to provide vacation opportunities across the entire military, room rates are adjusted by rank; an E-3 will pay much less than an O-3 for the same room.

Florida — Shades of Green supplies golf, swimming, and restaurants under the Orlando, Florida sunshine. The resort sells a variety of amusement park tickets at a discount (Walt Disney World Resorts, Universal Studios and Sea World are just a few), saving you even more money! A complementary shuttle takes you to any of the Walt Disney World Parks. Military rates are available at the two golf courses that surround the resort. Summer 2012 rates start at $95. Hello Mickey!

Hawaii — The Hale Koa Hotel on the beach at Waikiki can’t be beat. Hawaii has an excellent transportation system known as TheBus, which you can hop on right outside of the hotel and explore the rest of the island of O’ahu. Relax on the beach, take surfing lessons, or eat traditional Hawaiian food at the daily luau! Summer 2012 rates start at $91. Toes in sand, frilly umbrella-laden drink in hand…

Japan — The New Sanno Hotel offers restaurants, shops, a pool, hot tub, and sauna smack dab in the middle of downtown Tokyo for very reasonable rates; even more a bonus since Tokyo is the most expensive city in the entire world! It is minutes away from Tokyo’s extensive subway system, linking you to a multitude of cultural and tourist attractions. Summer 2012 rates start at $50. Banzai!

Germany — The Edelweiss Lodge and Resort provides in house luxuries such as a spa, salon, pool, hot tub, and multiple restaurants. Located in the Bavarian Alps of southern Germany, sports opportunities abound; skiing, hiking, and kayaking are just a few to get you started. Those who are more interested in “roughing it” can camp in cabins or pitch a tent. Being so centrally located, the Lodge provides guided tours of not just places of interest in Germany but also Austria, Switzerland, and Lichtenstein. Summer 2012 rates start at $86. Sehr gut!

South Korea — Sightseeing in Seoul (South Korea’s capital) is a breeze when you stay at the Dragon Hill Lodge. Centrally located, the hotel helps you discover South Korea in all its aspects. Go on a food stall tour; visit the Demilitarized Zone; participate in the Boryeong Mud Festival and fling dirt like a local! When you’re done for the day, take advantage of the pool, hot tub, and fitness center. Summer 2012 rates begin at $64. Yeo-haeng jal da-neo-o-se-yo!

All five resorts occasionally offer specials and packages; sign up to be notified and updated by email. Many local merchants and restaurants, dependent on the military dollar and word-of-mouth referral, will offer a discount if you ask; speak up and take advantage of it! You’ve worked hard protecting our country and/or keeping the home fire lit for your military spouse; relax and enjoy the vacation you have earned and deserved, while saving money at the same time.

Operation Purple

Posted by S.E. Davidson Parker

Operation Purple creates memorable experiences in a traditional summer camp setting for children of service members. Dubbed “purple” for its joint-operations commitment (any member of any branch of the military are eligible, as well employees of the Coast Guard, U.S Public Health Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), kids can experience the outdoors with peers who are in many of the same familial situations as they are. Operating since 2004, Operation has served over 45,000 children and their families.

Operation Purple camps last approximately one week and are geared toward children from ages 7 to 17 (age and time are dependent on the camp location). Camps are located across the United States and are free; there is a $25 deposit check that is taken to hold your camper’s spot, but that check is returned to you once camp starts.

First priority in registration is given to children who have a deployed parent. Next priority is for children whose parent has been or will soon be deployed; then registration is open to all military children, regardless of parent location. Registration fills up quickly. There are always many more campers applying than spots available.

Operation Purple Healing Adventures provides Wounded Warriors and their families the opportunity to heal, relax, and have fun. Working with the USO, Operation Purple is able to offer three camps in the summer of 2012. Families must have an active duty or medically retired service member who sustained injuries, trauma, or illness during Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation Enduring Freedom.

Operation Purple also sponsors family retreats in conjunction with FOCUS (Families OverComing Under Stress). These four-day camps held in National Parks and Forests across the country are for families who have experienced a recent deployment (within the past 15 months). Developed to help assist with family reintegration, outdoor activities are balanced with independent family time. This program is free and also provides a $200 stipend to assist in travel costs to the outing location.

Unfortunately, the economic downturn has hit Operation Purple hard; its Summer 2012 program had to be scaled down because of resources, even though demand (seen through registration applications) is as high as ever. Donations can be made here at National Military Family Association, OP’s organizational founder.