United Through Reading: Face to Face While Miles Away

By Kara Dallman

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Military spouses and children face many unique challenges. The frequent moves, reassignments and deployments that many families experience mean that life is never simple or routine. The resiliency and strength of parents and children alike is outstanding – but that does not mean that it is easy.

Fortunately, there are numerous organizations dedicated to supporting military families and children –United Through Reading (UTR) is proud to be one of them. Dedicated to keeping military families connected through the read-aloud experience, UTR provides the opportunity for deployed service members to record a video of themselves reading a favorite book to their children. The recording and book are sent to their loved ones back home.

 

When Sergeant David Simmons left for his first deployment with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit aboard the USS Iwo Jima, he wasn’t only leaving behind his wife, Hannah. The two were expecting their first child, a daughter. Hannah’s July due date fell during David’s deployment; this would be the first major life event David would miss.

 

“There is no sugar coating it. This deployment has been pretty terrible for me,” Hannah shared with UTR. “And I’m only 5 weeks deep. My only best friend is on the other side of the world serving our country. And I’m in a new city, alone, with close to no family… oh and I’m 6 months pregnant.”

 

It was at this five-week tough spot when Hannah received a surprise package containing a UTR recording from David. As the DVD played, Hannah could not hold back the tears and was in full on ‘ugly crying’ mode. In her words, “THIS is my husband. THIS is the man that I fell madly in love with. THIS is why, despite our situation, despite any negative thing going on in my life, THIS man is why I am the luckiest woman on earth!”

 

On more challenging days, Hannah takes comfort in playing David’s recordings of Daddy’s Lullaby and Where the Wild Things Are. Although David recorded these stories for their daughter, they actually helped Hannah make it through the deployment. She even said, “To some it may just be a man being recorded reading a book but to me it was reassurance from my husband that I am not alone, that despite the miles, he is supporting me, supporting our family and the new chapter of parenthood we are crossing into.”

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These UTR recordings have helped relieve some of David’s fears as well. Every time David records a story for his daughter, he feels closer to her, more connected to Hannah and rests easy knowing his little girl will know his voice when he returns from deployment.

 

UTR offers deployed parents the opportunity to be video-recorded reading storybooks to their children, which eases the stress of separation, maintains positive emotional connections and cultivates a love of reading. At nearly 200 recording locations worldwide, U.S. service members can read to their children from command units on ships, in tents in the desert and at USO centers worldwide. Research shows that the read-aloud experience is a way for children to experience the joy of reading and gain critical learning and communications skills.

 

For more information, visit www.unitedthroughreading.org or call (858) 481-7323.  UTR can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.

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Influencers Meet in Washington, DC to Address Key Military and Veteran Family Needs.

Influencers Meet in Washington, DC to Address Key Military and Veteran Family Needs.
Military Family Advisory Network Hosts Solutions Summit in Honor of Fifth Anniversary

Press Release—
WASHINGTON — The Military Family Advisory Network (MFAN), a national non-profit of military spouses, marked its fifth anniversary by convening its current and former advisory board members as well as leaders from the Armed Forces, White House, Congress, and private sector to address three timely and compelling topics that affect military families, as identified in the 2017 Military Family Support Programming Survey: military spouse and veteran entrepreneurship, food insecurity among the military and veteran community, and the effects of frequent military moves.

The current and former advisory board members, who represent a diverse cross-section of military families, traveled from across the country to participate in this Solutions Summit. “The convening power of MFAN is what sets our organization apart. We live this life, we experience the challenges and opportunities firsthand, and our connection to those we serve is personal and authentic,” said MFAN’s executive director, Shannon Razsadin. “This weekend we celebrated our accomplishments by doing what we do best — bringing the right people together to make a positive impact on the lives of military and veteran families.”

Military family issues have long benefited from bipartisan support. On Friday, Second Lady, Mrs. Karen Pence invited MFAN to breakfast at the Vice President’s Residence. “The Military Family Advisory Network serves an important purpose to our Armed Forces,” said Mrs. Pence. “I am encouraged by the organization’s commitment to address some of the greatest challenges facing military families such as military spouse employment, education, and the effects of frequent moves.  Their work on these issues will play an important role in helping to identify how we can better assist military families.”

Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., congratulated the group at the Solutions Summit via video message, “Through MFAN I’ve met several incredible military spouses whose stories have helped me and my entire team advance bipartisan efforts focused on spousal employment, PCSing, childcare, and Military OneSource,” said Senator Kaine, “I hope that you take time to reflect on the work that you’ve done to advance the cause of military families.”

In addition to the focus groups, the event included keynote remarks from the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Military Community and Family Policy, Mrs. Ann Thomas (A.T.) Johnston, “I am humbled to be here today. Everything that you do, and we do together, helps our military family members, and that truly touches my heart,” said Johnston.

At the event, MFAN released a preliminary report from research conducted in July on the impact of frequent moves. “Research is at the foundation of all we do at MFAN. We survey the military community to ensure that we understand the gaps in support,” said Shelley Kimball, Ph.D., MFAN’s director of research. “We use the results to find unique solutions to the problems we uncover. That formula has served us well for five years, and we look forward to bringing even more people into the process.” MFAN will produce three reports that outline the outcomes from the Solutions Summit with next steps.

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The Military Family Advisory Network is a nonprofit dedicated to building a community of military and veteran families at home and abroad who are well-informed about the resources designed to serve them, equipped with tools for success, connected to leaders who serve the military family community and embraced by the public. To learn more about MFAN, visit www.militaryfamilyadvisorynetwork.org

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Dogs Open Hearts- Giveaway

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Westley the three-legged Wonderdog entered our family’s life on Mother’s Day 2013.  The three legged bouncing bundle of joy had lived in four homes since he was born in 2010.  His first family surrendered him to rescue after he was hit by a car and lost his leg during his first hunting trip.  He could no longer hunt so he was tossed aside, but from the moment our family saw his profile on the German Shorthair Pointer rescue website, we knew he belonged with us.  We could see the love in his eyes.  Wes bonded with each member of our family in unique ways.  He is so sensitive, he knows who needs him at any given time.

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As a special needs dog, Westley draws attention wherever he goes.  At first, most people don’t even notice he is missing a leg; he runs and jumps with gusto, just like any other dog.  When they do notice, though, his untethered joy and energy tug at the heart strings of even the toughest soldier, sailor, airman or marine.  Westley serves as a diplomat, just like the rest of our family.  His uniqueness and unconditional love bring people together, bridging language barriers wherever we’ve lived.  Wes even has his own identity card in China!

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Westley doesn’t care what nationality a person is, as long as he gets a pat on the head and acknowledgment that he’s a “good boy.” He is among the best US representatives you can find.

Wes was even the center of a project at the International school, where, under direction to create a dynamic project of his choice, Bob took it upon himself to design and 3D print a prosthetic leg for our pup.

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“Dogs Open Their Hearts To Us To Love, And To Be Loved…”  – Dog Days

DOG DAYS is a hilarious and heartfelt ensemble comedy that follows the lives of multiple dog owners and their beloved fluffy pals.  When these human and canine’s paths start to intertwine, their lives begin changing in ways they never expected.  This is a sweet film about the joy our furry friends bring into our lives and what they can teach us about treating people with kindness and compassion.  DOG DAYS releases in theaters in August 8.  See below the photos for a chance to win a Target gift card.

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To enter for a chance to win a $50 Target gift card, comment on this post to tell me something about your pet, and share the blog post with your facebook or twitter followers using #DeploymentDiatribes.

 

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God Friended Me- First Look

 

Quick Question:  If GOD asks you to be his FB friend, would you…A) Confirm or B) Ignore His Friend Request

This September, a new and uplifting television series premieres on CBS. GOD FRIENDED ME is about an outspoken atheist whose life is turned upside down when he receives a friend request on social media from God, and unwittingly becomes an agent of change in the lives and destinies of others around him.

This is an inspirational show about hope, faith, and a question we’ve all asked ourselves – what’s my purpose in this world – how can I be of service to others and be an agent of good?

GOD FRIENDED ME is a humorous, uplifting drama about an outspoken atheist whose life is turned upside down when he receives a friend request on social media from God and unwittingly becomes an agent of change in the lives and destinies of others around him. Miles Finer is intelligent, hopeful and optimistic, but he doesn’t believe in God. This puts him at odds with his father, Reverend Arthur Finer, a beloved preacher at Harlem’s Trinity Church for 25 years who is stung by his son’s strong rejection of his faith. Miles feels he’s found his purpose in life hosting a podcast where he’s free to speak his mind, but that changes when he receives the ultimate friend request. After repeated pokes by God, Miles’ curiosity takes over, and he accepts the request and follows the signs to Cara Bloom, an online journalist suffering from writer’s block. Brought together by the “God Account,” the two find themselves investigating God’s friend suggestions and inadvertently helping others in need. Joining them on their journey are Miles’s supportive sister, Ali, a doctoral psych student by day and bartender by night, and his best friend, Rakesh, a sometime hacker who helps Miles and Cara research the enigmatic account. Miles is set on getting to the bottom of what he believes is an elaborate hoax, but in the meantime he’ll play along and, in the process, change his life forever.

 

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Why Post-War Reintegration is Hard

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   “When Angels Wept”

In World War I it was labeled “shell shock.” In World War II it was known as “battle fatigue.” Today most of us familiar with the term “post-traumatic stress disorder.” No matter what the label, it remains the destruction of a mind that follows individuals who experience traumatic events…typically events no one was ever meant to experience. Like war. When Angels Wept follows the path of one such individual, an idealistic young airman named Rod Hirsch, who experiences the most absolute horrors of war during his time fighting in World War II.     Hirsch has a respect for life, and a belief in the rewards of hard work. The young man accepts his duty to his country without asking questions. When he enters the Army Cadet Pilot Training Program and eventually becomes the captain of a B17 bomber, his inner struggles begin. Hirsch learns to deal with life and the diverse personalities of the men in his charge.

Life has more in store for Hirsch than just air battles and kills. He also finds love when shopping for a special gift for his mother in a small bucolic English village. The moment he lays eyes on Shelly, a layer of complication centers his young life.

Hirsch’s record of staying alive over the skies of Europe eclipses all other pilots’ until one day when he and his crew come up against an insidious evil his mind could not concoct. After losing his entire crew, Hirsch’s grip on reality is loosed. The horrors of war begin a relentless invasion into psyche, his mid-western values compromised forever. Guilt rages in every fissure of his mind.

War indeed is hell, but for those with PTSD, it is a personal hell that no amount of medication can cure. So it is for Hirsch as the cracks between reality and horrid war-torn memories deepen and expand. His final break from reality comes when Hirsch finds the body of the love of his life, bloodied and crushed by the rubble left by a rogue German bomb. Hirsch’s new focus is to find the bomber responsible and exact revenge.

While When Angels Wept chronicles the path to destruction of just one man’s life, the result of the effects of war that hundreds of thousands of soldiers experience today. The book takes readers through the insidious downward spiral that post-traumatic stress disorder causes. You can’t see it; you can’t touch it; it has no taste or smell. PTSD is the mind’s own grim reaper that has one, single purpose…to kill the human spirit over time.

AUTHOR BIO: David McCue is a native of Southern Californian. Like Rod Hirsch, the hero in his novel, his parents were from Iowa and raised him with Midwestern values. He grew up in Palos Verdes and graduated from California State University Long Beach. He and his wife live in south Orange County and have two sons. David is a WWII and Vietnam War era history buff with a particular interest in military aircraft. When Angel’s Wept is his first novel. An avid reader in collage, he has been influenced by John Steinbeck, Pearl S. Buck and later Larry McMurtry, Herman Wouk and Mario Puzo among others.

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Creed II Carries a Message of Going the Distance

“But it ain’t about how hard you hit.  It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.”  -Rocky Balboa

PCS (Permanent Change of Station) season is here.  All over the world, military families are packing up and moving to new duty stations.  This task can feel insurmountable when you are in the thick of it.  There’s a seemingly endless to-do list, more so if it’s an overseas move.  The best way to stay on top of everything and go the distance with strength is to make lists and tackle them one step at a time.  While preparing for a move, staying strong and going the distance to do the job well pays off in the end.

When I am feeling overwhelmed during a PCS move, I try to keep in mind that there’s a set date when the packers arrive and no matter how much preparation I do, once the packers arrive, it’s out of my hands and I can just let it go.  This mindset helps me to keep things in perspective.

One of the best hacks I’ve learned over the years is to keep certain items out of the household goods shipment so that I don’t have to go searching through boxes at the other end of the move and can use them immediately upon arrival at our next duty station.  Pack these items in your car or put them in your air shipment.

  • Sheets
  • Towels
  • Pillows
  • Kitchen Essentials
  • Hardware for anything disassembled
  • Toys (if you have little ones)

Moving can be overwhelming for anyone, military or not.  Relocating is one of life’s major stressors.  Starting early and following a To-Do List is crucial to minimizing anxiety.  Make notes to yourself during the process so that you know what helped, and what did not help, and can be better prepared for your next move.

Creed II, is an inspirational, motivating story.

In Theaters Wednesday, November 21st

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Life has become a balancing act for Adonis Creed. Between personal obligations and training for his next big fight, he is up against the challenge of his life. Facing an opponent with ties to his family’s past only intensifies his impending battle in the ring. Rocky Balboa is there by his side through it all and, together, Rocky and Adonis will confront their shared legacy, question what’s worth fighting for, and discover that nothing’s more important than family. Creed II is about going back to basics to rediscover what made you a champion in the first place, and remembering that, no matter where you go, you can’t escape your history.

Director: Steven Caple Jr.

Cast: Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Wood Harris, Russell Hornsby, Florian “Big Nasty” Munteanu, Andre Ward, Phylicia Rashad, Dolph Lundgren

Writer: Sylvester Stallone

#CreedII

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Tasers Vs. Stun Guns: What’s The Difference

When you talk about self-defense, the first items that come to mind are tasers and stun guns. They are often regarded as one and the same but there’s a big difference between the two. Try to hold off buying tasers online just yet and read this to know if it is something that will work for you.

How Does a Taser Work?

 While both are weapons for self-defense, the big difference between a taser and a stun gun lies in the distance at which it can be administered.

An attacker can be neutralized using a taser from up to 15-feet away. However, it is recommended that the target spread is between 7 to 10-feet for optimum results. The taser lets out probes that are connected to the wires to the direction of the target. These probes are shaped like a spear and can get into the clothing or even skin. They emit electrical current and sends an electric shock.

How Does a Stun Gun Work?

A stun gun, on the other hand, requires physical contact for it to work on the target. It contains two or more prongs, which delivers the electric shock. It works by swiftly overworking the muscles and exhausting its blood sugar. This will result in muscle failure so the target experiences immobilizing pain, shock, and utmost exertion of muscle contractions.

Two of the prongs in the stun gun create an electric arc that you can visibly detect while the other prongs will not be visible to the eye although they carry the same voltage. Using a stun gun requires enough guts since the user has to be in direct contact with the possible attacker. But, it is comfortable to use.

If you wish to buy a stun gun online, this item is readily accessible and very convenient to purchase.

 (Sponsored Guest Post)

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Deployment Book for Kids – Giveaway

In April, the National Center for Youth Issues published the children’s book: Deployment- One of Our Pieces is Missing.

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This is the best children’s book about deployment that I have come across during my time as a military spouse.  It covers all aspects of how deployment and military life affect the family, including post deployment reintegration.  I highly recommend it for families dealing with deployment.

The story portrays the military family as pieces of a puzzle.  When the military member deploys, a piece of the puzzle is missing but when the piece returns, the other pieces have changed shape so the returning member must change shape to fit into the new puzzle.

From the back cover:

I think I’m pretty lucky because I’m part of a military family. It makes me really proud to know my parents are working to keep our country safe.

I get to do stuff other kids don’t.
My life is kinda unique.
I’ve tried on night vision goggles,
and I’ve looked inside a Humvee.

Julia Cook is an award winning children’s book author and her storytelling skills shine in this book.  You can buy it here.

I have a copy to giveaway, so leave a comment on this blog post to let me know you want to be entered.

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Vet Tix Provides Free Event Tickets for Military Families

Since 2008, Vet Tix has worked to serve the veteran and military community and achieve our core missions. Among those, is our goal to provide a stress-relieving experience for families to reconnect and strengthen bonds. We understand that veterans, currently serving military, their families and caregivers all face unique stressors, and our littlest VetTixers, military children, are no exception. Approximately 65 percent of all VetTixers have children; these kids are required to exhibit continuous strength and resiliency. Whether it’s frequent goodbyes, the stress of transition, or coping with a parent’s illness or injury, military kids learn what it means to adapt and overcome at a young age. This month, we celebrate them and recognize the Month of the Military Child. Check out some of our favorite photos and testimonials from the month!

To learn how you can both donate and sign up for tickets, visit VetTix.org.

“Thank you so much to Live Nation for allowing me to attend the Bon Jovi concert with my family! My kids had a great time Rocking out at the show at the Prudential Center.”-Ed (U.S. Army veteran)

 

 

“It was so awesome to receive these tickets from Fan Fest Walker Stalker Con! Our family sits down together every Sunday night and watches The Walking Dead together, so this was a dream come true experience for the kids to be able to go and meet the stars of the show in person! Thank you!” – Eric (U.S. Army veteran)

 

 

“Thank you Creative Artists Agency and Vet Tix for providing tickets to see Peppa! I’ve been super busy with school and it was wonderful to set aside time to take my daughter and her friend out for a play.”- Sara (U.S. Army veteran)

 

 

“Thank you so much to AEG and VetTix for allowing my wife and I the opportunity to take my son to his first concert. My daughter had an amazing time and my son was in awe of the whole event. This concert was purely amazing and had four great artists that I have wanted to see. Thank you again for this amazing opportunity. I am forever grateful for being able to share this great time as a family.” – Jonathan (U.S. Navy veteran)

 

 

“Thank you so much! My daughter got to experience her first Yankee game thanks to VetTix and bonus – we had great seats!” – Christine (U.S. Coast Guard currently serving)

 

 

“As an only parent, there usually isn’t any room or money to go to special events to spend time together – Vet Tix has changed all of that. Because of Vet Tix not only am I able to do these amazing things but my attitude of giving trickles down to others. For the first time I was able to share one of these events with someone special who has come along in my life, So I thank you, you have no idea how this can change someone’s spirit.” –Greg (U.S. Army veteran)

 

 

“My daughter loves going to the hockey games. There’s no way we could afford to take a family trip as often as we have to the games without Vet Tix! She’s two and it’s awesome watching her get excited when we tell her that’s where we are going.” –Laken (U.S. Air Force currently serving)

 

 

“Thank You Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for the opportunity to attend this event. Not only was this an exciting game (almost a no hitter) for me and my family but it was a much needed get away to take our mind off the loss of my mother to cancer a week earlier and especially for my kids who lost a wonderful and loving grandmother.” –Edgar (U.S. Army currently serving)

 

 

“Thank you Vet Tix and donors and New York Yankees MLB and the all the Donors involved to make this event happen for me and my family. It was a great game very excited and fun, sunny day too bad 12th inn loss but great game my kids and I we had a blast. Thank you Vettix and donors for all you do and to the NY Yankees MLB Donors thank you” –Ray (U.S. Marine Corps veteran)

 

 

“We want to give a huge “Thank You” to Vet Tix and Feld Entertainment for supporting the veteran’s and donating tickets so that we could enjoy Frozen on Ice. The kids loved seeing the movie come alive, especially on a snowy day in Denver. Thank you for your support!”- Ryan (U.S. Navy veteran)

 

To read more incredible Vet Tix Testimonials, click here, and to learn how you can both donate and sign up for tickets, visit VetTix.org.

 

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Beyond The Sun Movie- Win a Trip to Rome

BEYOND THE SUN is being released today, May 15, across multiple platforms, including iTunes, Amazon, and TUGG.  It is a modern-day tale of hope, faith and courage, based on stories from the Bible. The family movie chronicles the adventures of four young friends in search of G-d.  We are at the beginning of the huge summer movie season.  Summer means a slew of big blockbusters featuring the biggest Hollywood stars.  But this summer, the most inspirational person to hit the big screen may not be The Avengers, Tom Cruise, and even “The Rock.”  It’s Pope Francis!!!

The four young friends in the movie are on a search fueled by their faith.  As a twelve year old girl, I remember a 24 hour journey I took that changed my life.  The idea was to spend a solitary 24 hour period, in the wilderness, to get in touch with who I was, who I wanted to be, and how I planned to get there.  It was scary, but also character building and life changing.  Twenty four hours is a long time for a child to be alone, especially in the outdoors.  The sounds, smells, temperature and the hunger all played a role in my adventure through the day, but most of all, confidence in myself and faith that G-d would keep me safe helped me persevere.

This new film, Beyond the Sun, is a thought-provoking story, highlighted by an appearance by the beloved Pope Francis.

Plus, you can enter here to win a trip to Rome to see the Vatican and the Pope for yourself- a once in a lifetime opportunity.  In support of the film, AMBI Media Group is holding a special contest where one lucky winner will win an Exclusive Private Tour of the Vatican and Front Row Tickets to an Audience with The Pope For Four!

Also, comment below about a great adventure you’ve had, for a chance to win a gift card to Amazon so you can purchase the movie for yourself!

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