Joining Forces Blog

  • Wellness Wednesday: Veterans' Health Care by the Numbers

    Today begins a series of blogs on Wellness Issues for Military Families, Veterans, and Service members. Check back for Wellness Wednesday blogs, where we will cover topics relevant to the holistic health of the military and veteran communities.

    Joining Forces, along with the President, the Departments of Veterans Affairs, Defense, and Health and Human Services, is committed to supporting the wellness of military service members, veterans, and their families.  Today, we’ll summarize the actions of the Administration that enable Veterans to pursue the American Dream, especially as it relates to health and wellness.

    Improving Mental Health Care

    The President has allocated funds to the VA to provide high-quality mental health services for veterans.

    $7 billion: dollars of the FY2014 Budget committed to continue expanding and transforming mental health services for veterans.

    1669: mental health professionals hired by VA to increase capacity to provide timely mental health services for veterans.

    800: peer-to-peer specialists the VA will hire by December 31, 2013

  • The Blackstone Group hosts Inaugural Veterans Hiring Summit

    On Monday, I had the pleasure of attending the Veterans Hiring Summit hosted by the Blackstone Group in New York City. In support of the Joining Forces initiative, the summit brought together seventy-eight of Blackstone’s portfolio companies to encourage them to contribute to Blackstone’s commitment to hire 50,000 American veterans over the next five years.

    The summit covered a variety of topics pertaining to hiring veterans, such as the strengths of the veteran applicant pool, coordination with local VA offices, and the role of mentorship in ensuring a positive transition to civilian life for those who have served our nation. The event was designed to help hiring executives within corporations learn how to attract, hire, and retain veterans.

    Joining Forces applauds Blackstone’s efforts in making sure our veterans find meaningful employment. They deserve jobs worthy of their talents – and thanks to organizations like the Blackstone Group this is becoming a reality for many veterans. Good civilian jobs not only help our veterans and military spouses manage the  transition from military to civilian life smoothly, but also demonstrate that our nation truly honors their service.

  • FMA Live! Teaches Military Students the Importance of STEM Education

    As part of our Family blog series, every week we will cover a topic relevant to military and veteran families.  Today we highlight FMA Live! – a unique one-of-a-kind show that  teaches students the basic principles of physics and connects the dots between Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) and the great job opportunities of the future.

    In support of our nation’s military families, the FMA Live! Forces in Motion show kicked off their fall season by performing at a military-impacted school in Washington, DC. The show uses live actors, hip-hop music and dance, larger-than-life demonstrations, and audience participation to inspire teachers and military students to embrace STEM education.

    FMA Live! was created in 2004 by Honeywell Hometown Solutions and NASA with the goal of using innovative methods to instill a passion for innovation and technology within our future workforce. FMA Live!, along with the Joining Forces Initiative, aim to cultivate the talent of our youth to ensure that our country is equipped with scientists need to meet the challenges of the next century. 

    “Our country shouldn't lose out on its most promising talent because the career path is untenable,” explained First Lady Michelle Obama. “So we have got to do everything we can to keep fueling this country's engine of innovation and discovery.”

  • The Boys & Girls Clubs of America name RaShaan Allen Military Youth of the Year

    Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the 2013 Inaugural Military Youth of the Year Celebration held at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial. At this event, the Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) announced the first-ever Military Youth of the Year winner. This distinct honor recognizes an outstanding military youth that overcame enormous odds with exceptional accomplishments. Members of the BGCA were judged on their community service, grades, speeches, and interviews. 

    This year’s winner is RaShaan Allen from Fort Knox, Kentucky.  RaShaan was one of six regional finalists and will now serve as BGCA’s official youth advocate for the 500,000 military youth that belong to BGCA. RaShaan demonstrates extraordinary character and is a true testament to how someone can overcome adversities and prevail.

    Growing up, RaShaan faced many challenges: his mother’s deployment, the lack of a father figure in his life, the eight moves he underwent in one year, and the loss of his home, his neighborhood, his school and his best friend during Hurricane Katrina. Despite these adversities, RaShaan participated extensively in extracurricular activities and served as co-president of the Club Youth Council and as Army Family Action Plan delegate. In high school, he played eight varsity sports and served as president for his freshman and senior classes. Currently, RaShaan is a student at Western Kentucky University, where he plans to major in political science.

  • Marking Suicide Prevention Month

    In recognition of Suicide Prevention Month, First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden have contributed to the Huffington Post “Invisible Casualties” series -- a special series that shines the spotlight on military suicides and prevention.

    Joining Forces is committed to enhancing the well-being and psychological health of our military service members, families, and veterans. Thus far, Joining Forces has engaged mental health professional associations to train thousands of health care providers to recognize the unseen wounds of war, promote research, and build public awareness of military wellness issues.

    Joining Forces wants every military service member, veteran, and family to know that asking for help is not a sign a weakness and they do not have to face these challenges alone.  As Americans, it is our duty to take care of those who have sacrificed so much for our country.

    “Whether you’re a friend, a neighbor, or a family member, you can help support these heroes by encouraging them and their families to seek help if they need it,” explained Dr. Biden.

    If you or someone you know is seeking assistance, The Military Crisis Line is there to help. For support, call 1-800-273-8255 (Press 1), text 838255 or chat online at This service is free, confidential, and available 24/7 to all military service members, veterans, family members, and friends.

    Colonel Rich Morales is Executive Director of Joining Forces

  • Joining Forces Launches Family Friday Blogs by Highlighting Blue Star Museums

    Today we launch our first in a series of Family Friday blogs, which will cover topics relevant to military and veteran families. This week's blog highlights one example of a great partnership aimed at increasing military family wellness through the enjoyment of the arts.

    Blue Star Museums, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families, Joining Forces, MetLife Foundation and museums across the country, have just wrapped up their fourth successful season. This year, more than 2,000 museums, art centers and exhibits offered free admission for all active duty, National Guard and Reserve military personnel and their families from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

    In addition to free admission, military children between the ages of 6-17 were invited to participate in the Way Cool Creativity Contest. The participants created a piece of art that either highlighted their visit to a Blue Star Museum or expressed appreciation for the arts. The 2013 Finalists have been selected and their artwork can be seen on the Way Cool Creativity Page.

    Ask your local museums about military discounts or view the Blue Star Museums map for a list of museums that participate year-long. In addition, military service members, families and veterans can take advantage of Blue Star Theatres. Over 90 theaters nationwide have joined Blue Star Families to offer discounted or complimentary admission to military personnel, their families, and veterans.

    Joining Forces would like to thank the more than 2,000 Blue Star Museums that took part in celebrating our military service members and their families. We look forward to seeing the 2014 season.

    Colonel Rich Morales is the Executive Director for Joining Forces