Joining Forces Blog
- Posted byon May 30, 2012 at 6:57 PM EDT
Eye injuries occurring through combat are changing and the nature of our current conflicts are pushing the numbers higher. Today’s battlefield conditions result in 16 percent of all those wounded/evacuated having penetrating eye injuries and/or TBI-related visual dysfunction due to blast forces. It is estimated that approximately 55,000 service members have some type of eye injury and 70 percent of those with eye blast injuries also endure traumatic brain injury (TBI) visual dysfunction. Serious combat eye trauma is now, according to VA data, the fourth most common combat injury, trailing only PTSD, TBI, and hearing loss.
One example is Sgt. Dorian Gardner, who was on foot patrol at the Forward Operating Base Kajaki, near the Kajaki Dam on the Helmand River, when he took a prone fighting position and began to scan for enemy activity. Shortly after laying down, a mortar exploded near his position, and instantaneously everything changed. After being treated at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda Maryland, Sgt. Gardner ended up losing his left eye, and only retaining 15-20 percent vision in his right eye. He was now legally blind. After attending the week-long convention hosted by the Blinded Veterans Association, Sgt. Gardner was able to unite with fellow visually-impaired veterans and join a peer support group. While still facing many challenges, Gardner now has a new group of friends and mentors who understand and can relate. To read the full story, please see the following link- Sgt. Gardner's Story (on page 34).
- Posted byon May 29, 2012 at 6:58 PM EDT
In 2009, U.S. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus announced that for the first time in Navy history, women would be assigned to serve aboard Navy submarines.
Yesterday, the first contingent of 24 women who completed the Navy’s nuclear submarine program met with President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House. They were joined by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus and the Vice Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Mark Ferguson.
The commitment by the Navy to put women on submarines has gone from idea to reality in just a few short years -- these women are now serving in a variety of important jobs aboard ballistic and guided missile submarines in the Navy's Atlantic and Pacific Fleets.
- Posted byon May 29, 2012 at 4:03 PM EDT
“Our soldiers, our sailors, our airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen, and civilians in Afghanistan have done their duty. Now we must summon that same sense of common purpose. We must give our veterans and military families the support they deserve, and the opportunities they have earned. And we must redouble our efforts to build a nation worthy of their sacrifice.”
President Barack Obama, 2012
The President’s message to those who serve is clear: when you come home to America, America will be there for you. Together, the federal government, state and local governments, and the private sector, will work to establish a holistic and balanced approach for providing unprecedented levels of support for our servicemembers, veterans, wounded warriors, and military families.
Recently, I had the pleasure of visiting the city of Norfolk, VA to meet with the Mayor's team and discuss their design of a strategy aimed at enhancing the support available to their returning service members.
Overall, the city of Norfolk’s vision is to accomplish this by partnering with federal and state agencies, educational institutions, non-profit organizations, local industry, and employers to implement a place-based strategy that leverages investments and efforts in an integrated way. By focusing on a particular place, with regional scale in mind, the goal is to have the most transformative, effective, and efficient impact.
To support this initiative, Norfolk has designated a leader for the effort, and has also created commissions to provide advice and direction. The community of Norfolk will band together, amassing resources and manpower to ensure that returning veterans will get the support they need. Servicemembers coming home to Norfolk will be able to effectively reintegrate into society, and local employers will see them as the assets that they are.
Norfolk's not the only place finding innovative ways to support our veterans. The city of New York, along with the Robin Hood Foundation, has applied business metrics and management oversight to find and fund the most creative and effective ways to support our veterans. Their focus will consist of five key pillars: outreach, employment, housing, health care, and education. Together, these focus areas will help facilitate a healthy transition for our nation’s veterans, and begin building a model that can be scaled in communities across the country.
Building on these efforts, the White House is convening a July conference with city leaders and representatives from across the nation, to focus on sharing best practices. Together we will ensure that the best possible care is provided to our veterans, servicemembers, and their families -- now and far into the future.
Rosye Cloud is the Director of Veterans, Wounded Warriors and Military Families Policy.
- Posted byon May 28, 2012 at 11:15 AM EDT
Earlier this month, President Obama visited Afghanistan, where he met with President Karzai and signed an historic agreement that lays the groundwork for the next phase of our relationship with the country as we bring a responsible end to years of war.
While in Afghanistan, the President also paid a surprise visit to American troops at Bagram Air Base. He wanted to thank the men and women serving there for the sacrifices that they and their families have made. He paid tribute to their successes, saying "You guys represent what is best in America." Some 3,200 American servicemen and women were assembled to hear the President offer his thanks for their service.
But there was another group of service members who could not be in attendance at the event. These were the men and women behind the scenes, providing security, manning radios and maintaining operations to ensure that the President's visit went smoothly. President Obama wanted to thank these individuals as well. So, after visiting wounded warriors at the base hospital, the President used a nearby radio to broadcast his thanks to all the service members who could not be at the event.
"I just wanted to say how proud I am of you, how grateful I am to you, and just wanted to let you know that everyone back home knows what you guys are doing and cares deeply about it. And I know your families are sacrificing just like you are. So please do me a favor and let them know how much I appreciate them as well."
"Just know that you're making a difference here. You're keeping America secure," the President said. He went on to add, "All of us are grateful for everything you do and all the sacrifices you make."
You can listen to the President's remarks below. In the coming years, as we bring the war in Afghanistan to a responsible end, thousands of veterans will be returning home to their families. These veterans and their families have earned our thanks and our support. This administration is committed to ensuring that they receive the benefits and opportunities they have earned. To find out how you can help our Veterans and military families, visit joiningforces.gov.
Darienne Page is the Assistant Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement.
- Posted byon May 25, 2012 at 5:26 PM EDT
My husband Joe and I spent the morning with some of our nation’s bravest heroes -- kids, spouses and parents who have lost loved ones who have served in the military.
We were honored to kick off the 18th annual Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) National Military Survivor Seminar and Good Grief Camp for Young Survivors. TAPS is a national nonprofit organization providing care to families of the fallen, including peer emotional support, grief and trauma resources and information, casualty casework assistance and crisis intervention, for all those affected by the death of a loved one who served in the military.
This weekend, TAPS will help children and families of fallen service members build relationships that will last a lifetime. They will bond over their shared experiences, support one another, learn ways to cope with their grief, and also have a little fun touring our Nation’s capital. The camp is really making a difference in the lives of the children who attend – many of whom come back year after year, and some go on to become counselors themselves. I met a teenager who lost his father when he was nine, and this weekend he is attending the camp for the fifth time. He is heading off to college in the fall, and I am certain he will continue to inspire and support people he meets throughout his life.
These families have endured so much – and yet they are pillars of strength that inspire us all. The months and years ahead will not be easy for them, and some days will be better than others. But they have one very important thing to help get them through – the military family. And as an Army mom, I know that means they will never be alone. It is my hope that on Memorial Day – and every day – these families will know that our entire Nation mourns alongside them, and that we will never forget their loved ones.
- Posted byon May 25, 2012 at 5:05 PM EDT
Ed. note: This is cross-posted from Homeroom
The men and women serving in our Armed Forces make incredible sacrifices in service to our country. And so do their family members. Through multiple deployments and frequent moves, the spouses and children of service members live in constant transition.
In April - the Month of the Military Child - Secretary Duncan released a letter to school superintendents providing guidance on meeting the unique challenges faced by military-connected students.
During their K-12 education, these children move from six to nine times, and Duncan’s letter calls for school districts across the country to plan smooth transitions for them.
The letter provides additional guidance for school districts and schools (read the letter here), but what the letter fails to mention is what inspired the letter in the first place.
Earlier in April, Secretary Duncan, along with Mrs. Patty Shinseki, and Department of Defense Education Activity Director Marilee Fitzgerald, conducted a Student Voices roundtable with 21 children of service members who attend high schools in the DC area.
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