It’s Hurricane Season – Are You Ready, Military Families?

hurricane-evacuationI may not be a meteorologist or an insurance adjuster, but I can tell you this: hurricane season is serious business.

How do I know?

I’ve been evacuated for two major hurricanes.

When Hurricane Ivan hit, I was alone. My husband was deployed. After the storm, I came back to a lot of downed trees (and I am a treehugger, so I cried) and a wrecked roof.

For Hurricane Dennis, I was 40 weeks and 2 days pregnant. I didn’t come back more pregnant. Instead, I came back with a healing incision and a sweet baby boy. Luckily, the house was in pretty good shape, but it wasn’t exactly the birthing experience I had in mind.

Luckily, our area was outside of (but close to) the “cone of destruction” when Hurricane Katrina rolled around. Our block had a “hurricane party”…because schools were closed, just in case. And you had to eat everything in your freezer, just in case!

When you live in hurricane alley for a decade because the military tells you to, well, you just make it a way of life.

If you’re stationed in, or around, hurricane alley, you need TWO kinds of kits ready to go:

  1. The all-purpose disaster kit- This should include things you’d need to survive in your house, or a shelter, with no power and potentially no water: batteries, flashlights, radio, food, water, anti-bacterial wipes, first aid kit, medications, and other survival needs including diapers or formula for babies, and cash (because ATMs don’t work when there is no power).
  2. The travel disaster kit- This should include things you’d want to save if there was no house to come back to and some things to get you to safety: family photos, important documents including IDs, military documents, deeds, insurance papers, etc., irreplaceable and valuable items (keep space in mind…most things can be replaced), food, maps, phones, important numbers, money and a plan.

I never had to use the all-purpose disaster kit, because our installation commander evacuated the base before we could need it, and generally waited for power to be restored before calling people back.

Evacuation orders (with some geographical and cost restrictions) covered all family members, whether the service member was present or not. Upon return, a travel voucher would be filed for reimbursement. Keep in mind, for weaker storms, the service member may be required to evacuate sensitive equipment, but that is not the same as a full blown evacuation that includes personnel and families.

One more thing: remember how you take pictures and document all of your belongings before you let the movers come and pack you up for a PCS move, just in case? Do that before a hurricane, too. It helps with the insurance claim in the event of loss.

For more information on disaster preparedness visit Ready.gov.

What other tips would you share with military families who live in a disaster-prone area?

Brooke-GoldbergPosted by Brooke Goldberg, Government Relations Deputy Director

Living with PTSD and TBI: A Spouse’s Perspective

woman-sitting-on-bench-aloneMy husband has been an infantry officer in the Marine Corps for nearly 15 years.

Between 2003 and 2009, he completed three combat deployments to Iraq. He didn’t know it at the time, but my husband sustained a mild traumatic brain injury as a result of an enemy ambush. He suffered from splitting headaches, ringing in the ears, and light sensitivity. For years, he quietly battled his symptoms on his own.

By the summer of 2010, he had reached his tipping point. He became critically ill, and denying treatment was no longer an option. At the time, I was pursuing my career goal of becoming a licensed clinical psychologist. I ultimately made the choice to put it on hold in order to focus on my husband and his recovery. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

Through the encouragement of several senior leaders, my husband began to explore different treatment options. He enrolled in a program at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence, where he was officially diagnosed with mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). TBI’s and PTSD are often thought of as the signature injuries of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The stigma associated with these injuries is a major barrier for service members in need of mental health care.

Unfortunately, this stigma has prevented many injured service members, including my own service member, from getting help sooner.

During the recovery process, my husband and I were overwhelmed and concerned with how our situation would impact his career, and our marriage. Fortunately, we got through it with a tremendous amount of support from his leadership; everyone from commanding officers to general officers.

Those leaders ensured my husband would remain on full duty while receiving extensive medical care. With a combination of medical and psychological treatments, his condition began to improve. He’s developed a firm grasp and acceptance of his condition, and has been armed with the knowledge that it is treatable.

Making a difference in the lives of military families is crucial to me. As a result, my career goal is to obtain a license in clinical psychology and use my professional and personal experiences to assist wounded warriors and their families. Achieving this objective would not be possible without the generous support of the National Military Family Association. They provide military spouses with valuable scholarships to help them fulfill their educational and career aspirations.

Today, my husband is serving on full duty and desires to deploy again. I am very proud of his dedication to our country and family, and am deeply grateful for the support I received.

When it comes to asking for help, taking the first step is often the hardest. But it’s the bravest of all. My husband and I strongly encourage anyone in need of assistance to get the support you deserve.

sandy-cullinsPosted by Sandy Cullins, USMC Spouse and Joanne Holbrook Patton Scholarship Recipient who received scholarship funds from United Health Foundation to pursue her career in mental health

Your Military Move Just Got Easier With the MyMilitaryLife App!

moving-vanAs a military spouse, you knew this day was coming. We all have our own rituals when those orders arrive. No matter how many times you PCS, it still looks like a chaotic process.

Where to start? Overseas move, kids, pets, jobs, schools, housing, shipping your stuff, making a budget for the move, and TRICARE? It can be overwhelming, but our experts have done their homework and put the resources you need in the palm of your hand.

The Moving Life Path in the MyMilitayLife app has answers to questions you never thought to ask. From the moment you receive orders to the time after arriving at your new destination, the app can walk you through the entire process.

Gone are the hours spent scrolling through hundreds of Google links. MyMilitaryLife app gives you the answers you know you can trust. Plus, share advice and get advice from others along the way!

Beyond answering your questions, MyMilitaryLife app helps you make the right decisions regarding the type of move that is best for your family. It also helps you consider the differences between living on or off your installation. You will find valuable information regarding moving your vehicles, registering to vote, and finding employment opportunities. If you are moving overseas, MyMilitaryLife gears you in the right direction, as well.

When your orders arrive, get excited about your new location and have your smart phone handy. Last, but not least, remember to share this wonderful resource with your military friends and family!

Download MyMilitaryLife App today and let us know what you think!

Marlis Perez RiveraPosted by Marlis Perez Rivera, Mobile Initiatives Content Specialist

 

June is PTSD Awareness Month

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) affects not only the service members, but can wreak havoc on families, too. If you or someone you know is struggling, visit the National Center for PTSD’s website for resources, treatment options, and ways to bring awareness to PTSD this and every month.

ptsd-awareness

I Just Don’t Get…the Ever-Complaining Military Spouse

i-just-dont-get“Ugh! Just had to wait for 30 minutes to get a prescription from the MTF!”

“Seriously, I am so tired of ‘mandatory fun’ – what’s fun about it?”

“I can’t wait for us to get out of the military! If I have to deal with one more holiday alone…”

Do you know a fellow military spouse who’s a constant flow of negativity—always complaining about military life and everything that goes with it? From their spouse’s duty weekend to the terrible selection of ketchup at the Commissary – nothing is off limits. And it all gets aired on social media.

I just don’t get it.

Military life isn’t always sunshine and unicorns (can it be, please?), but it is something special. We have a secret weapon most civilian spouses don’t: a built-in community of support…each other.

No matter where you PCS, there’s a neighbor in base housing who understands the frustration of raising toddlers, a FRG leader who knows the perfect dentist out in town, or a spouse in your command who loves wine as much as you do.

So why is nothing ever good enough for that ever-complaining milspouse?

What I love so much about this military community is the camaraderie and pride we all seem to share. Maybe the ever-complaining milspouse hasn’t had a chance to see how supportive we can be. I have to think that if they did, they’d see how important it is to be that pillar of strength for someone else. It’s our duty as military spouses to pay it forward. Be supportive. Share resources. Do for others.

That’s the only way we can ensure the complainers become extinct – by doing our part to make the camaraderie live on.

Maybe then, there might not be as much to complain about.

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Online Engagement Manager

Mental Health and the Military: Reducing the Stigma

mental-healthThis month is Mental Health Awareness month – a time when the national spotlight is on mental illness and its effects on individuals, families and on our society. It’s also a time to educate ourselves to help end the silence and to reduce the stigma around mental illness. Mental illness exacts a real toll on our community. However, what is different for our community, the military community, is the way in which mental illness is viewed.

Mental illness as a whole is widely stigmatized. Adding to the already difficult reality of living with a mental illness, service members often view treatment as a detriment to their military career. This often prevents them from seeking out the services they need.

Families are reluctant to seek treatment, as well. Will it affect their spouse’s career? Who will know? Some spouses are afraid to admit to any mental health issues for fear they will burden their already taxed service member with their own issues. As a result, their struggles become private.

When you look at the number of people affected, the numbers are staggering. Overall, mental illnesses are now more common than cancer, diabetes and heart disease. One in every five families, and over 60 million Americans, are affected at some point in their lifetime by mental illness.

Our military families have very real needs when it comes to mental health. This is a call to action. A call to our leaders and our advocates to push for increased and improved services for our families. Our community needs help. In order to help, some obstacles need to be removed. For example:

  • Eliminate the barriers in connecting families with mental health resources.
  • Incorporate best practices when treating military service members and families.
  • Provide a seamless transition of care from duty station to duty station.
  • Provide an easier mechanism for military spouses in the mental health field to work with military families.
  • Start comprehensively tracking the suicide rate among military family members.
  • Increase/improve education and reduce mental health stigma.
  • Support the transition from deployment to reintegration AND the transition from military to civilian life for our service members and families.
  • Offer support to family members who have a service member who has been injured (mentally or physically) and provide support for CAREGIVERS.

Mental Health Awareness month is a great opportunity to voice your concerns. Educate yourself on the mental health issues that impact your community and advocate for increased and improved services for all. Only by tackling this together can we reduce the stigma and begin to help the number of families affected by mental illness within our community, not just during Mental Health Awareness month, but every month.

ingrid-yeePosted by Ingrid Herrera-Yee, PhD, Research Psychologist, Military Suicide Research Consortium

 

 

Image

Memorial Day 2014: Honoring the Ultimate Sacrifice

Memorial-Day-2014