Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Military Sexual Assault: What I Want My Community to Know

Written by Andrea Cilento

As we wrap up April, National Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Month, we reflect on the continued efforts to end Military Sexual Assault and one survivor’s words to her community.  Military Sexual Assault affects men and women in all military branches.  According to the Department of Defense (DoD), an estimated 19,300 sexual assaults occurred in 2010 and only 13.5% were reported.  Sexual violence has devastating, pervasive effects on survivors and their families and negatively impacts the cohesion and strength of the United States Military.  Major General Jeffrey J. Snow, USA, Director of the DoD’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO) spoke earlier this month at Fort Belvoir and emphasized that the DoD is “attacking sexual assault from all sides.” (Link)  He highlighted this as a multifaceted societal problem that will not be solved by policy changes alone.  Instead, he stated, “We all have a critical role in preventing and responding to sexual assault,” and further elaborated that it takes social courage to recognize and speak up when witnessing inappropriate behavior.  This includes providing empathy and support for those who are being mistreated.

Catherine Bane, a member of Hope For The Warriors® Women Veterans Initiative and Team Hope For The Warriors®, shares her story of surviving military sexual assault in hopes to benefit not only other survivors, but the military and veteran community.

“I was raped many years ago, and just recently could say and believe it wasn’t my fault. I am proud of my service and proud to have served as a soldier. But I was let down by my command and my peers. I did have some amazing support from a few, who I will never forget, and it is because of those few I am where I am today.” 

Catherine shared her account of what she wishes her community had known, and how they could have better supported her.

“Military values-Marines and Navy: Honor. Courage. Commitment.  Air Force: Integrity first. Service before self. Excellence in all we do.  Army: Loyalty. Duty. Respect. Selfless service. Integrity. Honor. Personal courage.  Coast Guard: Honor. Respect. Devotion to duty.

We live and die by these core values. We build bonds others will never understand. We trust and stand side by side ready to defend and die together.  There is no better time to live these values than when one of our own is attacked and violated on our military bases, here in the states or abroad.  No one asks or deserves to be attacked. Prove that to them. Show them they still have worth, value, and are still respected. You may not know what to do or say, but do not judge. Be there to help. This is a wound that water and ibuprofen will not heal. There is no walking this off. This is something that a man or woman will have to deal with for the rest of his or her life. And you, as their leaders, their supervisors, their peers, will make the difference in how they will heal; that means in the office, in the barracks, out in town, anywhere we should be taking care of each other and ourselves. Do not be silent or ignore.  The smallest act of support can make the biggest difference.  They will remember it and hold it with them.  Let justice take its course and help our brothers and sisters in arms regain their strength and self worth.

Healing my wounds has been a very long and hard road. I wanted to give up. I felt so worthless and alone. I lived through anxiety attacks, sleepless nights, torn relationships, night terrors, and feelings and thoughts no one who hasn’t been attacked will ever understand. I felt alone and in desperate need of hope. I needed support. I needed guidance. I needed help. I needed to know that I had value and was not an object. I needed to know I could trust in my peers again. I needed assurance I was not alone and my brothers and sisters in arms were there to support and protect me, as they would on the battlefield.  I needed them to speak up on my behalf, not betray or turn their backs. To speak up before it happened and after. To put my value as a human person before their career.  I needed a friend. I needed hope.

I speak out to help my fellow service members know that they are so amazing and so strong no matter what has happened to them. They have been through things most can never imagine. They have survived and are living. To be honest in all we do, to protect and defend each other, we all need military sexual assault to stop. To be true Marines, Sailors, Soldiers, and Air Men, we need to fight and work together, not against each other. Bad things happen out of our control, but there is hope if we choose to heal and work together.  If we choose to not give up, not let go, and to move forward one day at a time together, there is hope.”

Catherine first connected with Hope For The Warriors® and completed her first half marathon at the inaugural Jacksonville Half Marathon on May 15, 2010.  Since then, she has joined Hope For The Warriors® for several runs, completed many half marathons, two full marathons and even an ultra.  In addition to participating in several Hope For The Warriors® events, Catherine is a peer mentor for the Women Veterans Initiative and Hope For The Warriors® volunteer.  Thank you, Catherine, for your courage and generosity in sharing your story to help sexual assault survivors and your community.

If you have experienced military sexual assault and are in need of assistance, please contact the DoD Safe Helpline for confidential crisis intervention, support and information at 877.995.5247 or by visiting the website.  You can also visit for a variety of resources including guidance, rights, reporting options, and resources by branch.

Friday, April 25, 2014

The Few, The Proud, The Military Child

by Chrystal Thompson

It is difficult to be fully prepared for the aftermath of war. The physical and psychological wounds have not only impacted the members of our armed forces but have had significant impacts on the loved ones waiting for them upon their return home.  A study completed back in 2011 by Cozza and Guimond estimated that more than 30,000 military children had a family member who had been injured in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF).  Since that time, the numbers of wounded and the numbers of those diagnosed with PTSD have increased.

In 1986, U.S. Secretary of Defense Caspar W. Weinberger designated each April as “The Month of the Military Child.” Since that time, the impact of service on military children has significantly increased. According to the Department of Defense, there are more than 1.3 million military children that are school-aged.  More than 700,000 children have experienced the deployment of one parent or more since 2001.

It is important to recognize the contribution of the children whose parent or parents serve our country. Aida Sanchez is the wife of Hector Sanchez and mother of two elementary school aged children.  She candidly opened up about her perspective on the life of the military child, including her husband’s battle with severe combat-related post-traumatic stress and its impact on her children.

“To give the kids a voice is so important because the kids always get lost. They're the ones we need to protect the most because they didn't make the decision to go to war or get married to a Marine or Soldier and they're 100% innocent in this. That's what parents and teachers need to understand."

The impact of military life on children with parents in the armed forces includes the more obvious stressors of frequent relocations and prolonged separations (Leskin et al., 2013).  The stressors that are not as commonly known are the increased risk of adverse effects on emotional, behavioral, and academic functioning, and difficulty developing and maintaining interpersonal relationships (Leskin et al., 2013).

PTSD has an effect on the family unit, including the military child.  Children tend to mirror the distress and functional capacity of their parents (Cozza & Guimond, 2011).  This means that they may develop depression, difficulty at school, anxiety, and social, behavioral, and emotional problems.

Aida witnessed her children experiencing levels of stress that mimicked her relationship with her husband during the “darker times.” The oldest, an eight-year-old, continues to have small-scale outbursts and emotions that stem from her secondary traumatization.  Aida recognizes the importance of encouraging open communication between her and her children even when the topics are hard to swallow.

Hector served eight years in the Marine Corps, including a total of 19 months deployed to Iraq. During his combat, he endured the impact of five IEDs and witnessed severe combat conditions as an Infantry Mortarman.  Upon his return to the home front, Aida and the children were there to care for Hector during his recovery, rehabilitation, and reintegration.  Aida recalls the first few years as a difficult time period.

“It was hard for me to put on a happy face all the time in front of my children.  It was like an out of body experience. As the mom I had to take everything that was going on and push it aside for the kids to have some sort of normalcy in their lives.”

There was a point when Hector’s PTSD pushed Aida to consider taking herself and her children out of the situation, but she felt bounded to her husband by the commitment of marriage; to love one in sickness or in health.

The family’s capacity to maintain structure, provide emotional support, and to lessen distress, are strategies to help children adjust to the physical and psychological wounds of their parents returning to the home front (Cozza & Guimond, 2011). Fulfilling multiple roles as caregiver, military spouse, and mother, Aida realized that it was her responsibility to take control and turn her family into what she wanted it to be.  To do this, she needed to fight away the negative energy and replace it with positive energy.

Aida has developed techniques to strengthen her family and lessen the distress in the Sanchez household.  She does so by explaining PTSD in a way for her children to understand and reinforcing on a regular basis the importance of healing together as a family.  She takes this psycho-education and reinforcement one step further and remembers to verbally thank her children for being strong, similar to thanking a service member for his or her service to our country.  Early on, Aida ensured that her children’s teachers were aware of Hector’s transition and made sure that both were seeing a school counselor on a weekly basis. 

Hector has made huge strides in his recovery, rehabilitation, and reintegration with his family by his side for emotional, spiritual, and affirmative support. The Sanchez family takes one day at a time, fostering their strengths and healing together as a whole.  

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Run Captain Needed!

Hope For The Warriors® is seeking a Run Captain for the Big Apple Run For The Warriors® on June 8, 2014 in New York City.  This is a great way to get involved with Hope For The Warriors and help us with an important program.  The race is in New York City at the start of Army Week!

More details:

The Run Captain will work with the Run For The Warriors® Coordinator on all event activities, public relations, and legal matters. It is often difficult for one person to handle all of the required duties, so it is important to have a strong committee. The Run Captain must have contacts in the corporate or local business community. He or she must also have time to serve, be passionate about the event and the cause, and be organized and willing to take on the responsibility of working proactively.

The Run Captain will –

·         Identify and recruit a leadership Run Committee consisting of individuals with specific skills to match the tasks required to get the job done
·         Recruit Sponsorship, Logistics, Publicity, and Recruitment Committee Chairs
·         Organize and preside over monthly local committee meetings
·         Follow up regularly with Committee Chairs and assist where needed
·         Organize a team of Runners and fundraise by collecting personal donations
·         Recruit multiple sponsors for the Run site
·         Communicate regularly with the Run For The Warriors® Coordinator participate in Race Day activities and be accessible to Run For The Warriors® staff during the Run
·         Organize and complete post-event tasks (e.g., thanking sponsors) in tandem with other Committee Chairs
·         Most importantly, HAVE FUN with committee members, volunteers, and Runners

Please know that there is a significant time commitment to cultivating a successful Run. Run For The Warriors® will provide you with the necessary support and resources, as needed.

And for the complete information:

Complete Job Description

Military Child Appreciation

Photo by Lewis Marien

Tax Day has passed and we are half way through April but it is not too late to celebrate the Month of the Military Child.  Not sure what you can do?  Here are some ideas:

Place a sign on the door or on bulletin boards, thanking Military Children for their service. 

Better yet, ask for Military Children to identify themselves and give them a small token of your appreciation.

Create a map and pinpoint all locations where the kids in your classroom have ever lived.  Ask children to share their experiences of the more remote and unusual locations.

Not in a military community? Ask a military child to talk about the benefits and challenges of having a parent that is in the military.

Promotions and Awards Ceremonies within the military are always a simple but formal affair where that service member is honored within the battalion.  Why not create a similar ceremony for your military child?  Write a formal Award Citation and make an award out of felt or paper to pin to your child.  Or create a certificate on the Blue Star Family website.

Got Heart, Give Hope Gala.  Photo by Paul Oberle

Highlight a military child from your community.  Need a good story?  E-mail our staff!  We know thousands of awesome military kids!

So many of the members of Team Hope For The Warriors® run in honor of service members.  This month, run a 5K in honor of a military child.  Wear their name on your bib and let our kids know that their service is important too!

How have you honored the military child this month?  Let us know!

Donate Today!  You can donate in tribute to your favorite military child.  We will mail a letter, letting them know!

Military Child and member of Team Hope For The Warriors

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Turkey Grand Slam

I cannot express my gratitude enough to you for giving me this once in a lifetime opportunity, and I will be forever grateful to you and everyone that made this possible. These hunts have helped me in so many ways spiritually, emotionally, physically and I feel truly blessed.”
--Brant, Service Member pursuing the Turkey Grand Slam

Thank you to Mossy Oak and the Turkey Thugs for granting Brant this once in a lifetime adventure.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Swim, Pedal, Inspire!

Hope For The Warriors® has many amazing members of Team Hope For The Warriors® across the country and today we highlight Pam in Tampa.  Pam served in the United States Army from 1989 until 2006.  In 2002, she was crushed by a generator during a training exercise, causing paralysis below her waist.  She also lost the use of her right arm.

Two years ago, Pam attended an adaptive skiing clinic.  Although a bit reluctant at first, the clinic opened up a new world for Pam, giving her the opportunity to enjoy an outdoor sport with others who were experiencing the same challenges.  She has continued skiing and attending the clinics whenever her schedule permits.

Pam also participated last year in the National Veterans Wheelchair Games and is slated to travel to Philadelphia in August for this year’s games.  She competes in the sports of bowling, air gun and archery, using adaptive equipment and techniques to make each sport work for her.  For example, to compete in archery, she uses her left arm and her teeth.  Pam loves the games—both for the competition and the camaraderie that is built among veterans who like herself, are overcoming incredible obstacles to compete.

Pam has also joined Team Hope For The Warriors® Tampa and with the help of Karla, the Team Leader, she is ready to take on her next challenge—the triathlon.  Team Hope For The Warriors® Tampa, has trained alongside Pam to ensure that she can complete each segment of this event.  This has meant many long training rides on a handcycle and learning how to swim, all powered by just her left arm. 

Pam is ready and will compete in a tri relay over the Easter weekend.  The following weekend, Pam will compete in her first triathlon solo—St. Anthony’s Triathlon in St. Petersburg, Florida. Team leader, Karla, will be there to help with the transition in and out of the bay and will follow for the bike and run. 

We will be cheering for Pam as she takes on this new sport.  And since we are in National Volunteer Week, we thank Karla and other members of Team Hope For The Warriors® Tampa, who have done so much for the Team and their community.

If you live in the Tampa area, consider joining Team Hope For The Warriors® Tampa.  Learn more.

Learn more about the Team across the country and join today!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Volunteers Raise Hope Higher

The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.
-- Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

April 6 – 12 is National Volunteer Week and although we aim to thank our volunteers throughout the year, we are giving this special group some extra attention this week.  Our volunteers enable Hope For The Warriors® to help more people, reach more military families, and work more closely with veterans— all on fewer donated dollars.  The positive impact of our volunteers is tremendous.
Our volunteers are gracious with their time and shy away from the recognition they deserve.  We asked a few volunteers why they help our organization and shared some of their response below.  Each volunteer thinks nothing of the time and energy they spend to support service members and military families.  They are humble and grateful for the opportunity to give back.

Why do you volunteer?  Please let us know!  Post on our Facebook or Twitter page.  Be sure to tag us and include #HopeVolunteer

We are grateful for the service and expertise that each volunteer brings to our organization. Thank you!

Bill Koch speak with middle school students
Steven volunteered to serve, we feel like we have been drafted to pick up the baton and carry on with his mission to serve.
--Bill Koch, Gold Star Father

Volunteering my time with Hope For The Warriors® allows me to give back to the men and women who have or are serving our Country, but most of all to help the families who make a tremendous sacrifice sharing their loved one for us to live in a free democracy. Lending a helping hand or supporting an event makes me feel whole because it is not about me, but about the people you meet, the friendships you develop and the memories you have for a lifetime.
--Sharon Schmucker

Karla leads Team H4W in Tampa

I volunteer to serve those who have served us to protect our freedom. 
--Karla Malone

I volunteer for Hope For The Warriors® because it is an organization that has become near and dear to me. The level of commitment and love demonstrated by my peers drives me to aim higher every day. I choose Hope For The Warriors® because the amount of passion shown is unmatched.
-- Miranda Dillworth

Paul and Sally Kelly after the Marine Corps Marathon
We are simply grateful.  The meager actions we carry out are just one way to express our gratitude:  gratitude for the freedom our service men and women protect; gratitude for the sacrifices of the wounded, their families, and the families of the fallen; and grateful for the privilege of being a part of such a great organization that returns so much into the lives of these heroes that have had so much taken from them.
--Paul and Sally Kelly

I volunteer because it is the best way I know how to say 'thank you' to all of the service members who put their lives on the line for me.
--Risa Garcia

First, I volunteer to help pay my share of the debt I feel I owe those who have been wounded protecting a way of life that I have enjoyed and want my grandchildren to enjoy. Second, If I'm going to volunteer my time and talents, I want to know that nearly a 100% of what I do or give or raise is directly benefiting those wounded and their families.Third, I enthusiastically volunteer for Hope for the Warriors because their mission is in complete concert with mine and I know their leadership will help me fulfill my reasons one and two.
--Bud Pitzer