The Military Child’s Experience: Part Two

Sailor and daughter
USS Anzio sailors depart Norfolk (Photo by: Petty Officer 2nd Class Rafael Martie) CC BY 2.0

Recently the MFLN Family Development Early Intervention team published Part One of an interview  with Kellie, a young woman who grew up in a military family.  You can read Part One of that interview here.  Today we bring you the final thoughts of our guest.  This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Did you move frequently? If so, what strategies did you use to get used to your new “home” and make new friends? What recommendations do you have for adults to help military children through these transitions?

I moved every 2-4 years depending on my dad’s job at the time. I have moved a total of seven times since I was born. I think the best strategy I used to adjust to my new home when I was younger was just getting involved in activities and not being shy. One thing a lot of kids don’t realize is that everyone truly wants to be friends with the new kid!

As I got older it got harder. I was in the same place for all of middle school and I got very comfortable with that place. I was on a dance team, I had a set group of friends, and activities I was involved in. I then found out I was moving to a new school, in a new state, at the beginning of my freshman year of high school. That was devastating news for a teenager. I focused on a goal: I was going to make the high school dance team, no matter what I had to do. I started emailing my new school’s dance coach; I set up a video audition, and ended up making the team. I met my team the summer before school started, which meant I had thirteen friends on that first day of school. It made the transition so much easier.

I did this again when I moved to Florida the summer before my junior year. This time, my parents drove me from Missouri to Florida in order to try out for my new dance team in person after months of contact with my new coach. Once again, I made the team, gained new friends, and even lived with a girl on my team for a month because my dad couldn’t leave work yet, and I had to be in Florida for dance practices. Having friends before school helped me so much, and I will forever be grateful for them because they made my transitions so much easier!

My advice for a child before moving is to make goals and get involved in things you love. Just because you move does not mean you cannot do your favorite things. There are ways for you to meet new people when you move finding something in common with them makes this easier. For parents, support you children, push them to be involved, and go above and beyond for them. My parents worked so hard to make sure my adjustment was as easy as it could possibly be.

If you could talk to your “young” self today, what would you tell him or her about concerns or anxieties you might have had as a young child with military parents?

  • I would tell myself not to worry and that everything truly does happen for a reason. I would tell myself that because of what I am going through, I am becoming a stronger person and gaining leadership qualities that most kids do not have.
  • I would tell myself to push for my goals and do anything I can to reach them.
  • And finally, I would tell myself that as much as it feels like your world may be crashing down around you, it is going to be okay, you just have to stay strong and be positive.

What are some of the things you can remember that your teachers did for you at school that helped you adjust/cope with military family life?

I was blessed with amazing teachers who cared about where I was from, what I was learning before, and what my interests were.

  • They helped to facilitate friendships.
  • They cared when I was behind and took extra time to get me to where I needed to be.
  • If I was ahead, they continued to challenge me.

Teachers should build relationships with their students; that is the greatest gift they can give a child. I know it really seems simple, but I remember those teachers because of their relationship with me and how much they cared for me. Those are the things that matter, because teachers will establish trust with a student, who is then able to look to that teacher for help when they need it.

From your own experience growing up in a military family, what one piece of advice would you give to:

  • Military parents who currently have young children?
    • Get them involved. What they are involved in when they are young is what they will grow to love and set goals for when they are older.
    • Support them in everything they want to do. Do not ever tell a child that they cannot do something. Parents are their child’s lifeline and should do everything they can for them.
  • Other children military or civilian?
    • Follow your dreams and set goals for yourself. No matter what boundaries you may run into, you can beat them and achieve your goals.
    • Do not be afraid to dive into something new.
    • Think of the positives about being a military kid, not the negatives, and learn from your experiences. Be proud of yourself and where you came from, because you live a much cooler life then most kids!
  • Other adults about military children?
    • Be open-minded and try to understand what the child is going through before you make assumptions. So often military children get ignored or pushed to the side. Do not be the person who lets that happen, especially if you are a teacher. As a teacher, you are their go-to person to make them feel comfortable, and you can truly be the person who makes their experience a more positive one. I may be just a little bit biased, as I am a future teacher, but it is so obvious how powerful a teacher is in a child’s life, so use that power!

This post was edited by Robyn DiPietro-Wells & Amy Santos, PhD, members of the MFLN FD Early Intervention team, which aims to support the development of professionals working with military families. Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network FD concentration on our website, on Facebook, on Twitter, and YouTube.

Personal Finance Ethics Webinar

Dr. Michael Gutter and financial practitioner Jerry Buchko are presently a highly-anticipated webinar on ethical issues for financial professionals on Tuesday, August 2. Register now for Personal Finance Professional Ethics & Standards of Practice  – A Professional Dialogue.

Image by Mark Morgan
Image by Mark Morgan

This webinar training will be offered and conducted as a facilitated professional discussion and participation in the discussion will be encouraged. Participants will be expected to review the professional ethics and standards of practice for their respective certification bodies ahead of the discussion session. A high level introduction to the subject of ethics will be offered as a primer for understanding the basics of ethics (for those who may not have had any previous formal education or training in ethics) and this will, along with the pre-session readings, help to serve as a framework for approaching the discussion of case studies. A number of brief case studies will be presented, and participants will be given an opportunity to respond in text to questions posed about each case study, including how they might respond in these situations. We will then consider and discuss the case study scenario and our various responses.

This webinar is approved for 1.5 CEUs for AFC-credentialed and CPFC-credentialed participants.

From our evaluation surveys, we know many of you have been requesting a session on ethics we anticipate a highly engaged audience for this webinar. Join us on Aug. 2 for this great session.

Cybershopping Saving Strategies

 By Jennifer Hunter, Ph.D., University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service

Online shopping has a lot of appeal because it is fast, easy, and convenient. Last year, consumers spent $2 billion online on Cyber Monday, the Monday following Thanksgiving. As more and more purchases are made online, consider these tips to score the best deals:

  • Before you buy, look for coupon codes. Coupon codes are normally a series of letters or numbers that you enter when checking out online. If you are a member of the website’s mailing list, you probably regularly receive coupon codes via email. If not, simply type the name of the online merchant and the words “coupon code” into an internet search engine. Typically, the coupon code will be for free shipping, upgraded shipping, or a percent off merchandise purchased. Be certain to check the expiration date and details of the coupon code; you may be required to spend a certain dollar amount to receive the benefit.
  • When checking out at the mall, are you consistently asked to provide your email
    Join us in saving this month by making small daily deposits July 1-30 to save $100 in 30 days.
    Join us in saving this month by making small daily deposits July 1-30 to save $100 in 30 days.

    address after the purchase? Although the idea of receiving extra coupons to stores where you shop is appealing, the idea of filling up your in-box with spam is often enough to make you pass. Consider setting up a free email account that you can use only for retailers. You will not need to check the account often, but when you are ready to make an online purchase, you can search the account for recent coupons.

  • If you are not in a hurry for your purchase, consider leaving your virtual shopping cart hanging for a few days. If you have created an online account with a merchant, place your items in the shopping cart but do not complete the purchase. After a day or two in limbo, a merchant will often email a coupon to encourage you to complete the transaction.
  • Daily deal websites are growing in popularity. Daily deal sites offer products and/or services at discounted prices, often 50% or more off retail. Typically someone who has signed up for daily deals will receive either email or social media alerts to the “deal of the day.” There is no doubt that daily deals offer the opportunity to grab some great items at significant discounts; however, you may also be tempted to buy an item or service that you don’t really need or hadn’t planned on purchasing. Normally, daily deals are offered for a limited amount of time and have limited quantities available, often encouraging the buyer to make an impulsive decision in an attempt to avoid missing the big savings. If the daily deal is for a product or service that you use often, it may make sense to snatch the item quickly, but be cautious not to just click buy because it is such a great deal. Be certain that it is an item or service that you need and will use.
  • Remember to safeguard your personal information when online shopping. You are entering a tremendous amount of personal information (your name, phone number, address, etc., not to mention your credit card information). Always make certain that you are using a personal/home computer for online shopping. Public computers, such as those at work or the public library, may store your information that someone could access later. Be certain that the website you are using is secure. Once you enter into the shopping cart phase of a website, the web address should have a “s” after the http. The “s” indicates that your data will be transmitted securely. Also, be certain that you are on a legitimate retailer’s site. Knock-off websites do exist and at times it may be difficult to tell the difference from the real thing.
  • Use a credit card, as opposed to a debit card, when shopping online. When you pay with a credit card there is a period of time between when you make the purchase and when you pay your credit card bill. This gives you time to dispute a charge if something goes wrong with the transaction. When you pay with a debit card, you are authorizing the retailer to go ahead and debit your account. Most likely you will still be able to successfully dispute a charge, but the money will be missing from your account until the dispute is settled.

Contact Jennifer at jhunter@uky.edu

 

 

Military Caregiving Webinar Reminder

TRICARE ECHO blog imgDon’t forget to join us next week at 11:00 a.m. ET on Wednesday, July 27 as we provide a special healthcare needs webinar for military service providers on the TRICARE® Extended Care Health Options (ECHO) program.

Presenters from the Defense Health Agency (DHA) will provide participants with an overview of the ECHO program, which provides supplemental services to active duty family members with qualifying mental or physical disabilities, and highlight services beyond those offered by the basic TRICARE® health benefits program. Learning objectives include:

  • Understanding conditions to qualify for ECHO coverage
  • Identifying benefits to program
  • Review ECHO Home Health Care services
  • Determine how ECHO and the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) work together
  • Understand ECHO and the Autism Care Demonstration (ACD)

You can register for this free professional development opportunity by going to learn.extension.org/events/2680. Continuing education (CE) credit will be provided to credentialed participants from the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), as well as certificates of completion for those interested in receiving training hours.

For more information about this webinar including the speakers, continuing education credits and how to join, please visit our announcement blog from June entitled Upcoming Webinar – TRICARE® Extended Care Health Option (ECHO).

This MFLN-Military Caregiving concentration blog post was published on July 22, 2016.

 

Service Members, Families & Communities Benefit from Outdoor Recreation

 

The benefits of using nature contact or outdoor recreation with Service members are well documented, including contemplative, recreational, and hands-on habitat restoration activities.  Stacy Bare pic

In December 2015 MFLN Family Transitions hosted a webinar, Returning Warriors: Using Outdoor Recreation for Restoration & Resilience https://learn.extension.org/events/2307 that engaged military service providers to identify the value of transitioning service members’ participation in outdoor recreation;  analyze research related to using outdoor recreation; become familiar with formal and informal opportunities; and prepare to refer Service members to  recreational/outdoor opportunities. Facilitators for the webinar included Stacy Bare, Director of Sierra Club Outdoors and Keith Tidball, Department of Natural Resources, Cornell University. Both are Veterans.

Following the webinar MFLN Family Transitions connected with Stacy to learn more about the value of interacting with the outdoors and to seek advice for military service providers.

MFLN Family Transitions (MFLN-FT): When you talk about ‘outdoor recreation’ what does that all involve?

 Stacy Bare (SB): Anything outdoors. Stop and take a look out your window into the backyard, take a walk around the block, cast a fly in your driveway or spend four months hiking the Appalachian Trail, a couple of days attempting to summit the Grand Teton or car camping with your family.

MFLN-FT: Tell us about your favorite outdoor recreational activities and how you became involved.

 SB: I’m lucky enough to do a lot outdoors and have a lot of very kind friends who invite me on some really cool trips. Climbing saved my life and skiing sustains it, but what makes an activity great is the people you are with—and sometimes solo trips. My wife just gave birth to a beautiful baby girl and I’ve spent the last month doing a lot of cross country skiing because I’ve enjoyed the exercise and the easy nature of getting out into nature and on skis with a far shorter drive and far more spontaneously then I could go ski touring for example—so right now that’s my favorite.

MFLN-FT: What are the benefits for service members and their families who participate in outdoor recreation?

SB: The benefits are many, I’ll give you a short list here:

  • Experiencing awe, which we’re learning through our partnership with the Greater Good Science Center at Cal-Berkeley and the Great Outdoors Lab has real physical and mental health benefits
  • Camaraderie and connecting with your friends and family, we also are learning it improves overall mental and family health resilience
  • Seeing the country you fought for—the actual physical country
  • Learning a new skill can be a benefit
  • Often times a lot of laughter
  • Creating a sense of purpose

MFLN-FT: How might communities benefit when individuals become involved in outdoor recreation? 

SB: People who spend time outdoors we know are typically more empathetic and more curious, more willing to seek help and more willing to engage with strangers. That means if you have a community full of people who are engaging in outdoor recreation, they’re interested in meeting people, solving community problems, and they put themselves in the shoes of other folks. Who doesn’t want to live in an empathetic, caring community that’s working to help each other and find solutions to problems?

MFLN-FT: Describe the Sierra Outdoors Program. 

SB: I like to think of us as the heart and soul of the Sierra Club. John Muir’s original vision of the Sierra Club was to get people outdoors to experience the beauty and joy of outdoor spaces. We still do that. We get out more than 250,000 people each year through three broad programs: Local Outings, which operate out of our 63 chapters nationwide, there are 400 plus groups doing everything from family picnics to movie nights to ski mountaineering, white water paddling, international trips, day hikes, etc. Inspiring Connections Outdoors works in 50+ communities nationwide to get people outside who otherwise may not have the opportunity. Finally, our newest program, started in 2006, is the Military Outdoors program which connects service members, veterans, and their families to the outdoors. I came to the Sierra Club in 2011 to redesign and relaunch the Military Outdoors program, which as a veteran of the war in Iraq, remains very close to my heart.

MFLN-FT: How can military service providers connect service members & their families with your program or similar programs in their community?

SB: Call us (385-209-5681), connect with us on Facebook, Twitter @SierraOutdoors, Instagram (stacyabare), or email stacy.bare@sierraclub.org. One of the things that is unique to our programs and that I’m most proud about is our volunteer leadership training. If we’re not doing something in your area or something you want to be doing, come get trained as a leader and we’ll have you leading a trip soon after that training. The thing to remember is that we don’t care what your background is or your current state of health—we will work with you so you can enjoy the outdoors how you want to under human power. There’s something for everyone outside.

MFLN-FT: What advice do you have for service members who don’t want to participate in a formal program, but just want informal experiences? 

SB: We really hope that our program isn’t just getting people outside, but is inspiring folks to go out and do more and that people will leave our program and keep getting outside—so that’s a long way to say that I think most people get outside informally. You don’t have to use a lot of fancy gear, for most things jeans and good sneakers will work fine—

Look first in your immediate community, where are the parks? If you’re active duty call the MWR office, see if you can rent gear, go talk to someone at your local outdoor store about where to go and what activities are available in the area and how to access them. Buy a guide book or watch a YouTube video about what you want to do, take a day class, go for a walk—just get outside!

MFLN-FT: What is your vision related to military service members and their families related to outdoor recreation?

SB: Long term I want every service member to be able to use at least a week of permissive TDY to get outside throughout the year. I’d love to see all mental health resiliency programs include an outdoor recreation component and outdoor recreation be a part of all mental health treatment programs vs. an alternative or elective treatment program.

MFLN-FT: Please share any final thoughts (if any).

SB: Go outside!

 

Stacy Bare  is a climber and skier, the Director of Sierra Club Outdoors (SCO), a brand ambassador for The North Face, Keen Shoes, and a veteran of the war in Iraq. SCO gets out 250,000+ people each year. Under his direction, SCO launched the Great Outdoors Lab with the University of California-Berkeley in 2014 to put scientifically defensible data behind the power of the outdoors to support improved mental, physical, and thereby public health with an emphasis on youth and military veterans. He is also the 2015 SHIFT Festival Adventure Athlete of the Year and a 2014 National Geographic Adventurer of the Year. He, his wife, and their new daughter live in Salt Lake City, UT.

 

Off the Shelf: Conversations with Authors of Children’s Books

The Family Development Early Intervention team is always on the look-out for quality children’s books that help address some of the unique needs of military children.

Seth Kastle Used with subject's permission
Seth Kastle Used with subject’s permission

The following is an interview with Seth Kastle, author of two popular children’s books, Why Is Dad So Mad? and Why Is Mom So Mad?, both dealing specifically with PTSD in parents.  This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

What if any experiences do you have with the military?

I retired from the Army Reserve in 2014, after 16 years in service. During my career I served as a Logistician, Infantryman, a Drill Sergeant, and a Company First Sergeant. I deployed in February 2002 to Qatar, and then in April to Mazar-E-Sharif Afghanistan until September of that year. I deployed for the initial invasion of Iraq in January of 2003 until April of 2004; I spent the majority of this tour in Mosul. I had to have a pacemaker implanted in 2010, which made me ineligible to continue my military career.

What made you decide to write this book? Was there some incident or experience with the military that inspired you?

I wish I could say that I was a completely benevolent person, and I simply wrote this book because I knew there was a greater need, but that is not the case. I wrote this book because of personal need. I was looking for a way to explain who I am now to my children and I could not find resources that achieved this purpose. I sat down and wrote the book along with illustration notes after a bad day at work. It took me about 30 minutes. I then did what a lot people who write do…I filed it away on my computer, never to be seen again. I had a friend who had just published a book on succeeding as a foster child who kept prodding me to take the steps to make publication a reality.

Opening up and talking about my journey with PTSD has been extremely difficult for me. This is not something that is talked about much as there is a stigma that goes along with PTSD. There was hardly anyone who knew I was having problems. In fact, only my wife and two to three friends that I had been in Iraq or Afghanistan with were aware of my struggles. It was because I knew there was a large need for a book like this, that I was pushed into actually publishing it.

What message do you hope that children of families receive as a result of reading these books?

The thesis statements of the books are that even though Dad (or Mom) gets mad often, it is not the child’s fault. In the books I use metaphors to illustrate to children what is happening inside Dad (or Mom) when they get angry. Parenting is tough, even without additional obstacles; parents with PTSD have a harder time dealing with a lot of the common stressors of family life. It does not mean they do not love their children or care about their children’s feelings.

                                                                                             

Have you received any feedback from military families after they read your book, and if so, what have they said?

This has actually been the most rewarding part of the entire book project coming to life. I have literally heard from hundreds of military families that have read my books. They have thanked me for writing the books, and they explained how this book helped them explain to their children what is happening with their Dad (or Mom). These books are not a magic fix for PTSD and family dynamics; my hope though is that they are set the stage for starting conversations. One email that sticks out in my head was from a Veteran who wrote to me and said, “You know that look your child gets the first time they understand something, my son got that look tonight when I read your book to him.” I have also had a number of Vietnam Veterans and their families reach out to me and say that they wished they had had this book 30 years ago. Some of them have even said that they bought the book for their adult children to help them understand now why things were the way they were when they were growing up.

Do you have plans to write another book that focuses on the military? If so what is the focus of that book and when might we expect to see it?

I feel like there needs to be a book that explains divorce to military children. The national divorce rate is high and the military is no different. I feel a large part of why my books have been successful is because they were written based on my experience, so they were true to life. Divorce is not something that I have experienced so I may not be able to do the book justice. To do it right I would need to, at a minimum, collaborate with a service member who has been through a divorce.

This post was edited by Robyn DiPietro-Wells Michaelene Ostrosky, PhD, members of the MFLN FD Early Intervention team, which aims to support the development of professionals working with military families. Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network FD concentration on our website, on Facebook, on Twitter, and YouTube.

Clip and Save: Stretching Your Grocery Dollar

By Jennifer Hunter, Ph.D., University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service

Regardless of the reason, whether it’s to save a few extra dollars or the thrill of scoring a good deal, couponing has become very popular. Have you seen TLC’s popular television show, Extreme Couponing, highlighting families who save hundreds of dollars at the register by using coupons? Do you ever wonder how someone can actually save that much at the grocery? Although most of us will not be able to reduce our grocery bill to a few dollars, there are a few simple couponing strategies that you can use to stretch your military family’s grocery dollars.

The first step before even setting foot in the store is to get organized. Planning ahead for meal time can help you save both time and money, whether you use store ads or coupons. At the beginning of every week, spend a few minutes planning the meals you will need for the week. It is often helpful to look at a calendar, keeping in mind which nights your daughter has softball practice or your son has guitar lessons.

Join us in saving this month by making small daily deposits July 1-30 to save $100 in 30 days.
Join us in saving this month by making small daily deposits July 1-30 to save $100 in 30 days.

Planning ahead will prevent the last-minute panic of trying to figure out what to serve for dinner or turning to fast food from the drive-through. As you prepare your list, don’t just think about the evening meal, but also think of all meals that you will be serving for the week, including breakfast and lunches for both school and work. Also, consider meal options that include items you already have at home, especially perishables such as meat and dairy products.

Once you have your meal plan for the week, search your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer, making a list of the items to pick up at the store to complete your menu. You will also want to add any kitchen staples that you may need. After your list is complete, search your local stores’ weekly sale ads and coupons to find the best price. Sale ads, as well as coupons, can normally be found online, at the store, or in the Sunday edition of your local newspaper. You may also request coupons directly from manufacturers, although there is no guarantee that they will respond. Be flexible with your meal plan; if you see a great bargain on an item, such as beef or chicken, consider rearranging your list to incorporate it into your menu. However, once you are at the store, stick to your list. A last-minute change at the store could leave you without key ingredients to complete your meal plan.

As you review weekly sales ads and coupons, keep in mind that if you are able to purchase the item for 50% off or more it is a good deal. For example, let’s assume macaroni and cheese normally costs $1.20 per box, but is on sale this week for $1.00, and you have a $0.50 coupon. If the store doubles coupons, your mac and cheese will be free, but if not, it would only cost you $0.50, a savings of nearly 60%. This is an item that you would definitely want to grab, but only if your family likes mac and cheese. Do not buy a bargain, just because it is a bargain. If no one at home likes a particular food item, but it is a good deal, either pass on it at the store or purchase it and donate it to a local food bank or charity. Also, you will need to become an informed consumer to know whether a sale is really a good deal. Maintaining a spending diary is a good financial practice to monitor monthly expenses. A detailed grocery-spending diary will help you quickly recognize a bargain price. Track the prices you typically pay for common household goods. You can reference your grocery diary to see whether an advertised sale price is really a good deal and if you should stock up on it or wait for a better price.

Scanning weekly grocery ads and coupon circulars can seem like a time-consuming task for a busy person. Consider using internet search engines, social media, and both store and coupon websites to make the process faster. There are several websites that can help you locate the best deals and coupons quickly. Be cautious of fee-based websites; there are several reputable free sites available. Talk with friends and other couponers to find the best online resources. If you are considering a fee-based site, make certain you understand the fees and services provided. Be cautious about coupons on the Internet. Coupons can be counterfeited the same as money, and it is illegal to use fake coupons. Make certain that you are printing coupons from a legitimate source, such as www.redplum.com or www.smartsource.com. You might recognize the names RedPlum and SmartSource from the coupon circulars that are normally in the Sunday paper. These are examples only and there are many other sources of Internet coupons.

Learning to coupon takes time and patience. Try not to become overwhelmed in the beginning. Remember, small savings are still savings, and they provide you with additional

Contact Jennifer at  jhunter@uky.edu

Stumbling Upon Mindfulness: One Veteran’s Afghanistan Experience

By Reg McCutcheon, Lt Col USAF (Retired)

Tree at Sunset
Flickr [Sunset Tree by der LichtKlicker, February 5, 2016, CC BY-ND 2.0]
I personally define mindfulness as the space between cause and effect where our expressed differences define our relationship with the present.  I know it’s not the definition with which you might be most familiar, but my mindfulness journey is rooted in a story of chaos, desperation, and survival.  This is my narrative of how I accidentally discovered mindfulness and how it created in me a new perspective and an enlightened way to experience my circumstances.

As a retired military officer with over 30 years of service, I have seen many things during my career.  But the single most life-changing experience for me was a combat tour in Afghanistan in 2011.  Although I was 25 years their senior, I approached this experience with many of the same feelings that our young men and women experience during their first time in a combat zone – energized and ready to “go, fight, win.”  I shared in their desires to do my part.  But by the end, many of us left with conflicting feelings of confusion, loss, remorse, and regret.

We were confronted with the harsh reality of that environment very soon after our arrival.  Just four days into our tour, a single rogue attack on our base took the lives of nine fellow soldiers, all within the perceived safety of our walls.  One was a friend of mine named Ray, with whom I had trained and traveled just weeks and days before the attack.

I responded and coped with this event by increasing my focus and pace, and I soon fell into a pattern of working 14-16 hour days, 7days a week.  I told myself that if I stayed busy, then the time would fly by and I would be headed home soon.  But I was beginning to feel the breakdown of my own connectedness and I needed to catch my breath.  I look back now and see that, like everyone else, I was playing a mental game with myself in a world that really required a new way of thinking and experiencing the moment.

As a military officer, I am familiar with the works of military strategist Carl von Clausewitz, who coined a term “the fog of war.”  It is a cornerstone concept at every level of command and in senior leadership training.  But a lesson plan about combat operations and real live war are two very different things.  After a particularly challenging day, I was desperate to clear the fog in my own head and experience some separation.  I often did this with the aid of my iPod, listening to various podcasts and music as I would lie in my bunk.  I would have my trusty ear buds perfectly placed, the world securely muted outside this metaphorical cone of separation.  But on this one evening, the damned thing would not work no matter what I tried.   So I found myself lying there frustrated, angry, and tired.  All I could hear were the sounds of my heart beating faster and louder and the air passing through my nostrils.

In retrospect, I believe this was an existential moment, as I realized at that point that I had to make a different choice.  I had to use whatever resources were available to me, but that amounted to a non-functioning iPod (with ear buds) and solitude.  In the stillness, I began to focus on my racing heart and the pace of my breath.  I slowly began closing off the outside world, which left me to deal with the inside.  I started by feeling my breath slowing and listening to my heart following that lead.  I began to feel a sense of control over my anxiety and adrenaline, and a sense of calm for the first time in weeks.  Little did I know that my iPod malfunctioning was actually a gift that had provided a way out of the fog and a path to resolving the present.

Let me also say here that I had no knowledge at all of what mindfulness actually was or how it could be used as a therapeutic technique.  I just happened upon this in a moment of desperation.  But I began to take those times of solitude as an opportunity to experience what I was really feeling and examine moments between cause and effect.  Over time, I rarely played the iPod anymore and just left its ear buds untethered, listening to my breath and heart providing a predictable rhythm in a chaotic place; a gift of insight through reflection and projection.  As I left Afghanistan, I thought of this exercise as something I had only needed to survive war and shifted my focus to getting home.

In reality, I needed mindfulness all the more when I returned stateside.   Back home, people are twice as aggressive and truly just focused on what they have going on.  They talk over you, they speed past you, cut you off, and are sometimes selfish, inconsiderate, lack good manners and that’s just the people in our families.  The combat experience is a bell that cannot be un-rung when a soldier steps back on American soil.  There is something – actually, many things – unique and different about veterans who have been exposed to the challenges of war.  As soldiers, we are trained to be the “biggest, strongest, and baddest” fight force on the planet.  But with all the bravado and armor outside, what is fragile and delicate inside cannot be ignored.  The dilemma for a returning combat veteran is that the fragile inside wants to come out and experience the world it once knew, while the armored outside wants to retreat from a world that it doesn’t know.

For me, emotional confusion came from these ongoing contradictions, and my frustrations grew as a “fog of war” had turned into a “fog of being home.”  I “checked out” at times and was not always intentional in my actions and reactions.  I sometimes didn’t recognize consequences, and I found I was not driven by the same motives, ideas, or beliefs that I once was.  I was having difficulty taking moments in context, slowing things down, and processing them appropriately.  I had lost my relational insight.  I cared about things that didn’t matter and didn’t care about things that did.  Mindfulness for a warrior is survival-focused; for a citizen, it’s relational-focused.

Eventually, with the help of a supportive spouse, things equilibrated.  I went back to what had worked for me in the chaos of Afghanistan.  I found that a mindfulness journey at home was filled with many more insights than just survival.  Over the past few years, I’ve been able to build up my focus and my mindfulness journey to capture what I believe is the center of being – the present.  For many, the time it takes to make a choice – the space between action and reaction – is inconsequential and but a nanosecond.  But for those who practice mindfulness, choices are so much more meaningful and are not measured by time but by space — the space between cause and effect where our expressed differences define our relationship with the present.

Mindfulness allows me to slow down to capture a moment’s essence and meaning, so that I can create the effect I desire within myself in relationship with everything around me.  I believe it’s in that state in which we are all able to make the best choices.

Your success depends on your next move, statement, or expression…they all hinge on your relationship with the present.

 

This post was written by Reg McCutcheon. Reg is a retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel with over 30 years of military experience.  He is currently a MFT intern at Valdosta State University and holds a bachelor’s degree and masters in business.  He is a graduate of the Air University Air War College, Air Command and Staff College, and Squadron Officers School.  In addition he has graduated from several USAF occupational schools, to include Undergraduate Missile Training, Undergraduate Space Training, and Senior Leader Development Training.  Reg’s awards include three combat medals: Bronze Star Medal, NATO Medal, and Afghanistan Campaign Medal.  He also received two Meritorious Service Medals and three Commendation Medals during his career of leadership and dedication to the Air Force.

A long-standing example of Military and Cooperative Extension Collaboration- Texas A&M AgriLife Extension System

The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and the United States Military have worked hand-in-hand to meet the needs of Texas families since 1987. Currently, Extension staff are at Ft. Bliss and Ft. Hood providing educational programming in multiple areas, providing an excellent example of how Cooperative Extension helps build community capacity to enhance the resilience of service members and their families. Following are a few examples of the excellent programming being done at the Installations.

Cooperative extension agents are in the Family Advocacy Program (FAP) at both Ft. Bliss and Ft. Hood. The mission of FAP is the prevention of child and spouse abuse. This goal is met by providing educational programs in awareness to military personnel as required by Army regulation. Agents teach parenting education, couple enrichment, and train all child care providers in identification and prevention of abuse. Promoting awareness of child and spouse abuse through community awareness campaigns is a major focus of the program. FAP also provides education on child safety and life skills training such as stress management, anger control, and dating violence. Fort Bliss has a puppet show that provides educational programs for children and youth on several topics from child abuse to bicycle safety. The Passenger/Car Seat program is also very well received at both installations with regular monthly car seat events for families.

Victim Advocacy is also a part of the FAP and assists victims of spouse abuse to access services available to them. They also train a volunteer corps to assist in the program.

New Parent Support Program provides in-home visitation, therapeutic support, and resource assistance to Army families with new babies and continuing support for families with children through the age of 5 years. The program attempts to reduce the likelihood of child abuse and neglect and spouse abuse through individual parenting education, roll modeling, and access services.

Since the program began at Ft. Hood, awareness classes to soldiers have increased from 40 percent of units being reached to 100 percent or above of all units being reached in a year. In fiscal year 2002 Fort Hood Cooperative Extension Agents briefed 100% of the Units at Fort Hood and over 85% of all military personnel, an all time high. Recently, an Extension Agent reached 100% of individuals assigned to the units he is responsible for. Fort Bliss continues to provide training to the military community with innovative programming. The Extension Agent for Family Violence has also assumed a larger part of the Victim Advocacy program in the absence of the Victim Advocate. Fort Bliss Extension Agents are extensively cross trained in programs due to limited staff in all community service areas. It has been showcased as a model program for the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command.

The Army Substance Abuse Program (ASAP) uses Cooperative Extension agents to provide educational programming to make soldiers and family members aware of the consequences of drug and alcohol abuse. Agents take leadership in Army-required military unit training, awareness campaigns, and violence in the workplace training for civilians. A highlight is the Summer Sense campaign held over the summer season to create a heightened awareness not to drink and drive. The program also brings the message to youth in the community througha three-day outing that teaches leadership skills and drug and alcohol abuse prevention. The Fort Hood Substance Abuse Program received the Secretary of Defense 12th Annual Community Drug Awareness Award for the best community drug awareness program in the United States Army back in  FY2001, and continues to provide leadership in this area.

Military families face many hardships that can create financial burdens. Cooperative Extension provides programming in the Financial Readiness Program by training NCOs to teach fiscal responsibility to soldiers in their units.  Agents provide basic financial education as a part of the 1st Termer program, an educational program to help new soldiers and families get started on the right foot financially. Agents also provide educational programming in budgeting, insurance, and protection against scams.

The Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) provides services to enhance the quality of life for special needs individuals and their families. This includes family members with learning disabilities, medical needs, or handicaps. Advocacy, education, and recreational activities for the support of families are included.

Mobilization and Deployment (MOB/DEP) are the backbone of today’s military. Soldiers must be ready to deploy at a moment’s notice to anywhere in the world, and their families must also be ready. To meet the challenges caused by military deployment, agents provide extensive training to rear detachment units, family readiness groups, and others. Operation READY, a comprehensive program developed by Family Development and Resource Management specialists, is a vital link in the training curriculum. When rapid deployments occur, agents have worked 24 hours a day. They have been active in providing services to soldiers and families as they prepared to deploy to fight the War on Terrorism.

The Relocation Assistance Program (RAP) is another integral service to military families relocating approximately every three to four years. RAP helps families prepare for moving by providing information on the locations to which they have been transferred. Educational programming is provided on financial preparation, making a smooth move for youth, and practical preparation to moving. They also provide a much needed service to newly arriving families through the lending closet. This service allows newly arriving military families temporary use of basic household items until their household goods arrive in shipment from their last duty assignment. Classes and groups are also provided for foreign born spouses to help them learn about the military and life in the United States. Waiting spouses are provided educational program that help them to deal with the situations of having a spouse away on an extended tour of duty.

Information and Referral (I&R) is the basic concept of the Army Community Service (ACS). If a military family wants to know the availability or up-to-date information on military and community resources, they call ACS. Staff assistants are at both Fort Bliss and Fort Hood to provide this vital single point of contact service to the military community.

The Employment Readiness Program (ERP) provides educational programming and information that can assist participants in finding employment opportunities in the community. Military family members learn skills such as resume writing, interviewing techniques, and working with employers in the community.

Volunteering is the backbone of both Cooperative Extension and the Military. Without volunteers, we would never be able to reach many of the soldiers and family members. At Fort Hood, under the Soldier and Family Readiness Branch, a Cooperative  Extension Agent is in charge of the Army Family Action Program (AFAP). The AFAP brings volunteer community members together, to include teens, to discuss community concerns which are addressed to the Command Group of the installation. This community capacity building  Volunteer Program is led by Cooperative Extension at Ft. Bliss. Our Extension agent recruits, trains, and places volunteers throughout the Ft. Bliss community. She is responsible for all Post-wide recognition of volunteers, including the Ft. Bliss Volunteer of the Year Award. There is also an extensive youth volunteer initiative at both installations.

Bell and Coryell County 4-H Agents give leadership to Child and Youth Services 4-H development on Ft. Hood, which has established 4-H Clubs at Youth Centers across the Installation. Their educational areas covered are Photography, Fine Arts, Citizenship, and Technology.

Each of these programs stands alone to provide services to soldiers and military families, but joint programming efforts are continually developed to better meet the needs of servicemembers and their families, and to build community capacity to enhance the resilience of military families.  With Cooperative Extension Agents and Staff Assistants working together with their military partners, programming efforts have surpassed all expectations. Whenever a new initiative is introduced in the care of soldiers and families at either Ft. Bliss or Ft. Hood, they look to the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service to help them meet these emerging needs.

Caregiving Facts and Statistics

In June 2015, the National Alliance for Caregiving and the AARP Public Policy Institute published Caregiving in the U.S. 2015.  This report compiled data from multiple research studies about caregivers and care recipients.

Below is a collection of some of the statistics found in the Caregiving in the U.S. 2015 report.

Click here to read or download a copy of the report.

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This MFLN-Military Caregiving concentration blog post was published on July 15, 2016.