Joining Forces Blog

  • Changing the Story about Mental Health in America

    Today, in support of her Joining Forces initiative, the First Lady spoke at the launch of The Campaign to Change Direction, a nation-wide effort to raise awareness around mental health in America. Spearheaded by Give an Hour and co-sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the campaign is designed to change the story of mental health across the nation by urging all Americans to learn the five signs that someone might be in distress.

    While there has been much media attention on mental health in the military and veteran community, it is incredibly important to understand that mental health isn’t just a military issue -- it is a human issue. Mental health conditions impact our children, our grandparents, and our neighbors. Every year, roughly one in five adults -- or more than 40 million Americans -- experience a diagnosable mental health condition like depression or anxiety.

    It’s up to all of us to change the conversation by encouraging everyone to reach out when a friend, co-worker, veteran, or loved one might be struggling, and to ask for help when we need it for ourselves.  

  • Strengthening America’s Families: Joining Forces & Blue Star Families

    Blue Star Families creates a platform for military families and civilian leaders to work together encouraging community-level leadership to address the challenges of military service. Through Joining Forces, First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden -- a Blue Star mother herself -- have worked side-by-side with Blue Star Families to honor service members, veterans, and their families. This week, Blue Star Families hosted a celebration commemorating their fifth anniversary.

    In the past five years, Blue Star Families has grown its membership and its programming exponentially. It has helped 700,000 military family members experience the arts through Blue Star Museums; it has gathered more than 26 million hours of volunteer service through Operation Honor Card, and it has informed policy makers through the publication of its annual Military Family Survey.

    I was honored to attend the fifth anniversary celebration this week, and I was happy to help share this video from the First Lady with Blue Star Families:

    Watch on YouTube

    United States Army Colonel Steve Parker is the Executive Director of Joining Forces. 

  • Vet Centers Offer Free Support to Service Members, Veterans, and Their Families

    Each year, Vet Centers in communities across this country provide a broad range of counseling, outreach, and referral services to more than 200,000 veterans, service members, and their families. Vet Centers are staffed by qualified mental health professionals who provide family services, assessments, education, preventive health care information, family counseling, bereavement services, and referrals. Most of the staff members are veterans themselves and understand the unique challenges that veterans and their families can sometimes face. They can also assist with navigating the larger Veterans Affairs (VA) system, including both health care and benefits.

    The families of veterans and service members can access services at Vet Centers. The services offered are confidential, completely free of charge, and do not require VA enrollment. Read more about Vet Center services, and find your local Vet Center at www.vetcenter.va.gov. You can also contact Vet Center staff 24/7 at 1-877-WAR-VETS (927-8387).

    Beginning next month, Joining Forces will host a monthly feature on this blog highlighting the Vet Centers and the great work they do.

    Rory Brosius is the Deputy Director of Joining Forces.

  • A Letter to All Transitioning Service Members

    Last week, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army General Martin E. Dempsey and the Joint Chiefs signed a letter addressed to all transitioning service members. The letter urges them to exercise the leadership they learned in their military service to help a fellow veteran navigate the uncertain waters of transition. The letter urges them to become leaders in their communities.

    Long after veterans take off the uniform for the final time, they continue to carry the experiences and the culture of service. Stretching across generations of veterans, the bonds of military service extend beyond the uniform into communities at home that will provide purpose and new opportunities for service. This service to community will inspire and give rise to the next generation of Americans who will volunteer to place service above self -- many of whom will take their place in the ranks of future Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen before returning home themselves as leaders. Read the full text of the letter below or view the letter itself here

  • Bringing Valentine’s Day Moments to the Military

    This Valentine’s Day, many Amercan troops find themselves thousands of miles away from their loved ones. With this in mind, the USO, Joining Forces, and Florists' Transworld Delivery (FTD) are teaming up to show these military families how much we appreciate their sacrifices.

    As part of the USO’s Every Moment Counts campaign, USO centers across the United States are receiving a floral arrangement as a symbol of our nation’s love and enduring support. Every American can add their voice to this display of support by going on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram this weekend and using #USOmoments to send messages to America’s troops and their families.

    The USO is also inviting Americans to send a Love Note to our troops by visiting the USO’s Love from America website. Visitors to the site can also learn about the challenges troops and their families face, and what they as civilians can do to help.

    Too often, troops miss out on family dinners, date nights, birthdays, and even the births of their children. With this in mind, the USO created the Every Moment Counts campaign to rally Americans to show their gratitude by helping the USO create priceless moments for our troops and their families.

    “The USO is proud of its collaboration with Joining Forces and FTD, and this synergy shows our troops how much we care wherever they may be serving,” said J.D. Crouch, CEO & President of the USO. “We want the 30,000 troops and military family members who pass through our doors each day to feel closer to home and know that we are always by their side, especially on this Valentine’s Day.”

    Colonel Steve Parker, U.S. Army, is the Executive Director of Joining Forces.

  • Happy Valentine’s Day, and God Bless Our Troops

    Valentine’s Day is a day to spend with your loved ones. Earlier this week, along with a bipartisan group of Senate spouses, I had the opportunity to serve 14 wounded warriors and their families an early Valentine’s Day dinner at Walter Reed National Medical Center.

    Dr. Jill Biden Attends Valentine’s Day Dinner at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center

    Dr. Jill Biden joins Master Sergeant Juliana Joseph-Tanner and husband Gary Tanner for an early Valentine’s Day dinner at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, February 10, 2015 (photo by HM3 Devin Stewart, Assistant Lead Petty Officer for Allergy and Immunization Clinic, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center).

    As a military mom, I believe it’s our sacred duty to honor the service of those who have sacrificed for our country. We owe thanks today and every day to those who wear the uniform. That is one of the reasons why First Lady Michelle Obama and I started Joining Forces in the first place.

    On Valentine’s Day, we hope all Americans can find ways to show appreciation for our service members, veterans, and their families who do so much for our country.

    Happy Valentine’s Day, and God bless our troops.