Monday, April 30, 2012

The Therapeutic Game of Golf

Golf Pro Kim Hall begins a round of golf with our guys
Last week, four wounded service members and two staff members from Hope For The Warriors® attended the Mobile Bay LPGA Golf Classic Tournament in Mobile, AL.  Two of the men played golf before their injuries and returned to the game that they always loved.  The other two learned the game post-injury and found enjoyment and therapy in the game.

The warriors and their families were flown to Mobile as part of our Hope & Morale Program.  The program is one way that we restore hope in our military families as they recover.

Events began on Tuesday when the guys were introduced to two of the professionals--Wendy Ward, daughter of a retired Army officer and Kim Hall, spouse of an active duty Air Force pilot.  The group of 6 played the 18th hole together, swapping both golf and military stories.

Our wounded heroes with Kim Hall and Wendy Ward

On Wednesday, the four men joined Kim Hall, LPGA Professional, in the Pro-Am event.  This pairing was even more special because Kim's husband Casey is active duty in the Air Force and was her caddy for this week's tournament.

Casey Hall, active duty Air Force, acts as caddy for his wife

Our four warriors were each unique--different backgrounds, branches of service, and different wounds.  However, each talked about how the game of golf was part of their rehabilitation.  One veteran, attending with his family, shared that he grew up playing golf with his grandfather.  His trip to Mobile was a much needed form of respite for him and his family as they continue to struggle with the impact of combat on their lives.

Two of our warriors shared that they had never played golf until after they were injured.  Their injuries forced them to embrace new hobbies and new sports.  Both love the game of golf and play whenever possible.

A huge thank you to the LPGA, the management of The Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, and 55 Water--the tournament sponsors.  Finally, thank you to Kim and Casey Hall, Wendy Ward and each individual on and off the golf course that gave our warriors a great week in Mobile.  It was a fun and inspiring event and each of our warriors had a great week!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Friday's Photo

A picture is worth a thousand words.

Country singer, Kellie Pickler, with Sean and Rusty

Monday, April 23, 2012

Providing Accredited College Programs for Returning Veterans

By June Olsen, Accredited Online Colleges

Veterans who return to civilian life often have a difficult transition; after serving in the military and adjusting to rigorous discipline and structure, it can be overwhelming to return home only to find that life isn’t the same as when they left. Often, this can lead to depression or feelings of aimlessness, particularly if the returning veteran finds him- or herself unemployed, an outcome that is becoming more common in the United States’ current poor economy.

Fortunately, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs provides health care, counseling, and for returning veterans. Additionally, Veterans Affairs provides programs to help returning veterans transition to civilian life. Injured veterans have access to the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program, while all veterans have access to the GI Bill, which provides funding for returning veterans to go to their choice of colleges online or on a physical campus.

The advantages of going to college within a few years of returning from service are several: first, in an economy where many U.S. citizens don’t have a job, the problem of joblessness is particularly acute for those without a college education. Therefore, getting a degree can help make finding later work that much easier. Second, for veterans who feel they lack structure in their life, taking courses can provide some structure and direction (albeit not nearly at the level found in the military). And, third, adjusting to civilian life means re-adjusting to a social life. A campus environment can help veterans do this.

Therefore, many veterans choose to avail themselves of the GI Bill, which provides up to one hundred percent tuition reimbursement for veterans attending college. The program is fairly straightforward: any qualifying veteran who applies to a qualified program will get reimbursed for most (or all) of his or her college expenses. Simply visit the Veterans Affairs website on the GI Bill to see what programs qualify and for how much you qualify.

When considering programs, there are some important things to keep in mind: in-state programs are reimbursed to their full cost (up to the percentage of reimbursement for which the veteran is eligible), while private or out-of-state programs have a reimbursement cap at $17,500 per year. A final consideration is for veterans to carefully plan their college tenures; the GI Bill will only cover four years of schooling, so any additional education veterans take on must be covered by their own funds.

In sum, transition to civilian life is important, as is choosing a college or educational program that allows for personal and career growth. Therefore, it may be worthwhile to work with career counselors or for a veteran to otherwise seriously consider what he or she wants to do with his or her post-military life before he or she makes use of the opportunity to attend college.

June recently graduated with a degree in educational psychology. She currently works as a writer on all things education and is always interested in connecting with bloggers online.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Friday's Photo

A picture is worth a thousand words.

Ronnie Simpson provides a lesson in sailing to a wounded service member.
Read more.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Immediate Needs: Support During Difficult Times

In February, in a blog posting about our Immediate Needs Program, I wrote:  " is difficult to capture this program in a picture.  How do you show a caregiver getting help at bedside, the lights being kept on, a family staying in their home, or food on the table?"
We have completed the first quarter of 2012 and the the dollars spent within this program have been tallied.  The chart above is exactly the picture that some of us need to understand the work that is involved.

In the first three months, Hope For The Warriors® provided more than $112,000 in assistance to wounded service members, their families, and families of the fallen.  The reasons vary--whether to support a combat wounded service member at bedside or along the road to recovery, our families are making sacrifices to support their wounded service member.  The challenges continue as service members retire and transition to the civilian community and learn to navigate new services and employment.

Nothing on this chart is frivolous.  Each of the segments represent a basic need that was met for our military family during a difficult period in their life.  A roof over their heads, the lights left on or food on the table.  (The miscellaneous category includes moving expenses for three separate families.)

When a family is assisted through Immediate Needs, we recognize that the support given is a quick fix. From here, our goal is to help the family find more permanent solutions.  This could be through one of our other programs or by referring that family to other available services. 

Our Immediate Needs Program often supports our military families during their most difficult moments.  Thank you to all that support Hope For The Warriors® and allow us to provide support during those times.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Lucky One: Movie Premiere

The latest movie based on a bestselling novel from Nicholas Sparks will premiere Friday, April 20.  The movie, The Lucky One, stars Zac Efron, Taylor Schilling and Blythe Danner.

A Marine Corps Sergeant, played by Efron, returns from his third Iraq deployment.  He believes that he is alive due to a photograph of a woman that he has never met.  Determined to meet his "lucky charm," he learns her name and where she lives and shows up at her door.  By taking a job working for her family's business, he is able to spend more time with her.  Through their time together, a romance begins.  Sparks is a master storyteller and will no doubt require movie-goers to bring their tissues. (Past movies include A Walk to Remember, The Notebook, The Last Song and Dear John.)

This beautiful story takes place in North Carolina, home to Nicholas Sparks and to Hope For The Warriors®.  For this movie, the Nicholas Sparks Foundation is hosting a Celebrity Family Weekend.  The weekend includes a Family Fun Night on Friday, including the movie's premiere in New Bern.  Saturday will be a golf tournament and Sunday will begin with a 5K race.  If you live in the area, please come out for one or more events.  (Event Website.)

Authors often create stories that swirl around love and war.  Perhaps it is the appeal of a man in uniform, the inevitable heartbreak of war or something less complicated.  Afterall, it is easy to acknowledge that war will pull at couples today--and often pull them apart, even if just temporarily.  Our military is filled with stories that are romantic, exhilarating, joyous, surprising, agonizing and yes, tragic. 

Several wounded service members and military families are invited guests to the movie premiere and will also attend the golf tournament and 5K race.  Their stories might not be made into a movie, but they are just as inspiring.  These families have served together, sacrificed together and in spite of their challenges, they have stayed together. 

Hope For The Warriors® is excited to be a beneficiary of the Nicholas Sparks Foundation along with two other worthy nonprofits.  We thank the foundation for recognizing the challenges and the needs of our military families both in North Carolina and throughout the country.

See you at the movies!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Turkeys can be Love Birds Too

Today I share a love story.  It is unlike any love story that you have read in a book or seen on film.  It is better.  It includes devotion, a promise and sacrifice.  It is both happy and sad.

Samantha met Mark when she was still in high school while working part time at her local Dairy Queen.  They immediately began dating and five years later, on April 16, 2009, the couple married.

Being young, the couple did not have a lot of money.  And since Mark was a Marine, they did not have a lot of time either.  So they agreed that they would save for the perfect Honeymoon—a guided hunting trip.

Although Samantha and Mark did not grow up hunting, they both enjoyed the sport. For the young couple, it was the perfect way to relax together and enjoy nature. They loved being surrounded by the woods, taking in fresh air, the company of only each other.  They also enjoyed a fun competition. Hunting was their favorite activity.

On June 16, 2011, Mark died from injuries that he sustained 13 days prior from an IED in Afghanistan.  It was his fifth overseas deployment.
Samantha made a promise.  She would still go on that trip to honor Mark.  She would hunt in his memory.  She was determined to go on that Honeymoon.

Last week, just a few days before her third Wedding Anniversary, Samantha joined other military spouses and Hope For The Warriors® for a turkey hunting trip in Florida.  Although we have hosted countless service members on hunting trips through our outdoor adventures program, this was the first trip that focused on our spouses.  All of the women loved it.

The time hunting is only one part of the trip.  Each woman on the trip was the spouse of a fallen or wounded service member.  Each have served this country through multiple moves and multiple deployments. They continue to serve by caring for their wounded hero, enduring the emotional ups and downs that come with any medical recovery.  This trip was one way that Hope For The Warriors® nurtures our caregivers.

For Samantha, the trip helped her fulfill her promise. 

“I promised myself that no matter how long it took, I would go on my Honeymoon.  I am so thankful to Hope For The Warriors® for making this amazing trip possible.  It has given me a sense of accomplishment and a sense of closure.”
It is important to share one last detail.  Each woman on the trip was successful and brought home a turkey.  Samantha did better.
“I am the only one that got two turkeys—one for me and one for Mark.”

Happy Anniversary Samantha.  Mark would have been so proud.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Friday's Photo

A picture is worth a thousand words.

One of our military kids enjoys a fast ride around the track.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Military Children: A Legacy of Service

The Month of the Military Child highlights the younger warriors within the ranks of our nation’s bravest families. Among these, one of our own stands out.

Maggie, a freshman at The Ohio State University, was not satisfied with simply being the daughter of a Coast Guardsmen.  Maggie also volunteered countless hours at Hope For The Warriors® events.

Even more impressive was her high school Senior Project—a project dedicated to helping an entire school district better understand the needs and challenges of their students.

Maggie’s project informed local high school teachers about vicarious post-traumatic stress disorder, a psychological disorder that affects those that surround the military bases, especially children of service members.  Her project included a seminar for teachers, which was taped and his now part of the required annual training for teachers throughout Onslow County.

Maggie’s dedication to go above and beyond put her in the spotlight as Operation Homefront’s Military Child of the Year in 2011. She was honored with the opportunity to speak one-on-one with Michelle Obama about the needs of military families.  Maggie returned to the ceremony this year as a guest of the President of Hope For The Warriors®, Robin Kelleher.

As she moves forward into a successful college career, Maggie hopes to implement a new program at The Ohio State University as well, in an effort to educate future leaders about the needs of our nation’s wounded heroes and their families.

Maggie is not only an asset to Hope For The Warriors®, but also to every community group and educational institution that she works with. We are excited to see a continuance of great things from Maggie, and could not be more proud. 

Monday, April 9, 2012

Military Children: Run and Volunteer

Running in a 5K, attending an annual Dolphin Dip, riding a might seem like all fun and games, but when your Mom works for a nonprofit and your Dad is a Marine, they are a lot of work too.

Our President, Robin Kelleher, has two young kids that have grown up surrounded by the Marine Corps and Hope For The Warriors®.  They have attended races and events to raise funds and awareness for our military families. They have volunteered at events--helping their Mom and our staff with whatever jobs they can do. 

Even if their destination is fun, not all of the work surrounding the event is fun.  They have sat on the sidelines, watching their Mom interact with military families, trying to wait patiently.  They understand first hand the price of service and sacrifice.  They have witnessed the impact on the families their Mom works with, they have heard the conversations at the dinner table.  They will grow up with a very healthy respect for our men and women in uniform, like most military children.

If you have a great military child that has supported Hope For The Warriors®, please let us know!  Send photos and information to Anne Woods.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Military Children: Young Team Members

Meet Kelly and Brooke, both 11, and Devin, 5 years old.  Their father is in the Marine Corps and they have spent their entire lives following their Dad's career.  Their Mom is a director for Hope For The Warriors® and was one of the original volunteers when the organization started in 2006.

The kids had a great opportunity this year.  They attended the Disney Marathon and Half Marathon in January with their parents and members of Team Hope For The Warriors®.  They were excited to meet real life heroes--Manny and John, two wounded service members who competed in the marathon and half marathon.

The kids decided they wanted to do more.  The family lives in the Tampa area, home to the popular Gasparilla races.  Their Dad heads up Tampa Team Hope For The Warriors® and the Team participated in the half marathon that weekend. The two girls motivated a group of their classmates to run the Gasparilla 5K race in honor of Manny and John. They had fun and honored our heroes!

Dad returns from deployment and meets his son.
If you have a great military child that has supported Hope For The Warriors®, please let us know!  Send photos and information to Anne Woods.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Month of the Military Child

"Where are you from?"

It is a common question we ask new acquiantences and one that typically is easy to answer.  But sometimes, the answer is not so easy. 

"Everywhere and nowhere."

And when you hear that answer, the usual response is:

"Oh, was your Dad in the military?"

Yes, the military child lives an interesting life.  They have interesting stories to share, a long list of schools and states they have lived in--and sometimes different countries too. 

Military kids learn how to make friends quickly.  They know the meaning of the term "hit the ground running."  Move to a new base, make friends, find your activities and sports.  There is no time to waste.

Military kids quickly stand at attention during the Pledge of Allegiance, the Star-Spangled Banner and more.  They understand the importance of respect to the flag, to military members and to our leaders.

Military kids know how to say good-bye.  They know that their Dad or Mom might not be there for every single game or performance. Some moments will be missed. Military kids know how to carry forward.

Military kids learn at an early age the meaning of service and sacrifice. They are serving.

Help Us Celebrate the Month

Hope For The Warriors® depends on volunteers to ensure the success of our events and our organization.  Many of those volunteers are also the son or daughter of a member of our military.  If your military child has volunteered with our organization, taken part in a fundraiser, been a member of Team Hope For The Warriors® or has participated in multiple events such as Run For The Warriors®, we would like to hear from you.  E-mail Anne Woods with photos and share with us what your military child has done for our wounded heroes.  We will honor your child on this blog!