Q&A With Our Military Kids

Our Military Kids is a non-profit organization that supports the children of deployed National Guard and Military reserve personnel and AW2 recently had an opportunity to chat  with the program’s Director of Special Programs & Strategic Analysis, Mary Carolyn Voght, on how AW2 Soldiers and Families can utilize services and support programs provided by the organization.

Can you briefly describe how Our Military Kids provides services and support to children of deployed National Guardsmen and Army Reservists?

Our Military Kids supports the children of deployed National Guard and Military Reserve personnel through grants for extracurricular activities and tutoring. Such activities help these children cope with the stress of having a parent in a war zone. Our Military Kids grants are made to honor the sacrifices that military families make and to ensure that their children have access to sports, fine arts, or academic tutoring programs.

What services and support does Our Military Kids provide to children of severely wounded, injured, and ill Soldiers and Families?

Our Military Kids also awards grants for extracurricular activities and tutoring to children of severely wounded/ill service members. For these children, the stress and anxiety caused by a parent’s deployment do not end once their father or mother has returned home. Children of severely injured service members face new challenges that come with learning to adapt to physical, mental, and emotional changes in a loved one.

What are the eligibility requirements for military families to receive grants and support from your organization?

Children of severely injured military personnel between the ages of 3 and 18 are eligible for an Our Military Kids grant. Grant awards average $400 with a $500 limit per child. Qualified families complete a simple one page application and submit it along with the following documentation: 1) a brochure or flyer from the organization providing the activity, 2) a copy of the child’s military dependent ID, OR Form 1172, OR birth certificate, 3) a letter from a case manager certifying the service member’s status as severely injured, and 4) the most recent copy of the service member’s military orders. Our Military Kids evaluates each request and, provided all requirements are met, awards a grant paid directly to the organization providing the activity.

The following criteria are required for families to be eligible for an Our Military Kids grant.

  • Service member must be a veteran of either OEF or OIF
  • Service member must be classified as severely injured in one of the six categories designated by the Department of Veteran Affairs (burns, amputation, mental health, spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury, or PTSD)
  • Service member must have a case manager who certifies the above information and recommends the service member’s family for the grant program

Your organization has grown a lot from when it was founded in 2004. Out of the millions of dollars in grants and support your organization has given out to thousands of military families, is there a particular event or story that stands out for you?

Our Military Kids recently helped a family experiencing significant difficulties ever since their father returned home from Iraq with severe nerve damage to his hand and PTSD. Unable to go back to his old job as an electrician because of his injuries, the Soldier constantly worries about the financial problems facing his family. He and his wife have had to charge groceries so that their children could eat and two of their daughters had to quit gymnastics because there was no money to pay the gym where they take classes. The family’s financial stress has also taken an emotional toll on the children, especially the middle daughter who was too afraid to tell her parents that she needed new shoes because she knew that they couldn’t afford to buy them.

Fortunately, the severely injured soldier’s case manager heard about Our Military Kids and encouraged him to apply for grants for his children. Two of his daughters are now re-enrolled in their gymnastics program and the middle daughter is considering signing up for piano lessons. “I just wanted on behalf of my family and myself, to thank you all so very much for doing this for us,” he wrote in a recent email to Our Military Kids. “It brings tears to my eyes as I am writing this to you all. I am so glad that there are organizations out there like this and people like you that support these efforts. To receive the grants and gift cards was such a blessing knowing that my girls will be able to continue gymnastics during these tough times.”

Does your organization have any special events coming up that you would like to share with the AW2 community?

Careerbuilders.com and WTOP are sponsoring an event recognizing military families and the Our Military Kids program on Tuesday, July 21 at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C.. We are still in the preliminary planning stages for this event but anicipate that there will be tickets available for AW2 Soldiers and their Families.

How can civilians and military personnel get involved with your organization?

Our Military Kids is always looking to increase our ranks of friends and supporters. We greatly appreciate financial contributions that help support our grant program. We are also grateful to everyone who helps spread the word about our program to the Guard, Reserve, and severely injured communities.

The appearance of external hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the United States Department of Defense of the linked web sites, or the information, products or services contained therein. For other than authorized activities such as military exchanges and Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) sites, the United States Department of Defense does not exercise any editorial control over the information you may find at these locations.

Memorial Day Poem from an AW2 Soldier

Memorial Day is a time of remembrance and reflection as we salute the brave men and women who serve our country. On this Memorial Day, AW2 brings you a poem written by retired SGT Dane Kaimuloa:

A Soldier’s Story

People listen eagerly to find out what’s bugging me
Finding out the price of freedom isn’t free
If they could have seen the things I saw in IRAQ
There would be no question or doubt just the horrible facts
So I keep myself distant giving them only a piece of my story
If I told the whole truth people would worry
We go to war for our country and family to protect them from harm
Being in IRAQ has taken away all my charm
Anger is just is a constant part of my life
I never would have imagine myself hurting my kids and my wife
Now I know what the Vietnam vets went through in Vietnam
Where was god at to stop all the killings from the IED bombs
No matter how you view it from the ground or from the air
Watching your brothers die just isn’t fair
If you don’t feel my words are touching your heart
Go back again and read it from the start

AW2 Weekly News Digest for 05/18-05/22

  • AW2 Soldiers SSG Dale Beatty and SPC Keith Maul, featured in Stars and Stripes, were among wounded warriors who received Segways during a ceremony at the Iwo Jima Memorial.
  • AW2 Soldier SGT John Botts, featured on Worldgolf.com and the Golf Channel’s “The Golf Fix,” continues playing the game he loves despite the loss of a limb.
  • AW2 Soldier Dillon Cannon is featured in an USA Today article about spinal cord injury, the Shepherd Center, and the SHARE Initiative, which benefits the 100 war veterans who have come to Shepherd since January 2008.
  • AW2 Soldiers MAJ Joe Claburn, SGT Joel Dulashanti, and SGT Shane Heath, featured on ABC News, took a trip to St. John with other wounded Soldiers from Walter Reed Army Medical Center with a nonprofit organization called Soldiers Undertaking Disabled Scuba, or SUDS, which teaches wounded veterans how to scuba dive.
  • AW2 Soldier MAJ L. Tammy Duckworth, featured in DefenseLINK, was sworn in as Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs.
  • AW2 Soldier Michael Fradera, featured on ESPN, lost both his legs in Iraq but is staying motivated through the Wounded Warrior Project.
  • AW2 Family, CPT Patrick Horan and his wife Patty, are featured in a Web Newswire article about a new Family camp for veterans with traumatic brain injury (TBI).
  • AW2 Soldier SGT John Hoxie, featured in DefenseLINK, was reunited with the 82nd Airborne Division during the kick off its annual All American Week celebration.
  • AW2 Soldier CPL Christopher Levi, featured in NY Newsday, arrived at his Holbrook home via a parade after he learned to walk again on prosthetic limbs.
  • AW2 Family, Wendell McLeod and his wife Annette, are featured in a The Link Paper article about a new Web site that helps friends and Families of veterans with the uncertainty of re-adjustment.
  • AW2 Soldier Roy Mitchell, featured on News 10 Now, has been able to help test some of the new products for amputees, including “a computer knee.”

The appearance of external hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the United States Department of Defense of the linked web sites, or the information, products or services contained therein. For other than authorized activities such as military exchanges and Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) sites, the United States Department of Defense does not exercise any editorial control over the information you may find at these locations.

Memories for Memorial Day

–By Emily Oehler, AW2 Stratcom–

Over the past two years, I have had a unique view into what it means to serve in uniform. While I always respected service men and women: their call to duty, their sacrifice – I didn’t really understand.

That began to change in May 2007 when I walked through the doors of the Army Human Resources Command and began supporting Casualty and Mortuary Affairs Operations Center’s (CMAOC) survivors program, Long Term Family Case Management… and then transitioned to AW2, the Army Wounded Warrior Program. These two unique programs provide long-term personal support to Families of the fallen and those severely wounded, injured and ill. Working with them showed me the heart of the Army.

Although I felt like a fish out of water around all the Soldiers, worrying about Army protocol, I was comfortable in CMAOC as my father and brother are both ministers. I grew up talking about loss, funeral arrangements, and memories of loved ones. I was impressed to see all the care and thought put into every aspect of CMAOC. Not that I didn’t think the Army was compassionate, I just didn’t know what to expect. I soon realized so much of my military “knowledge” was based on TV and movies—which I have come to learn take great liberties with interpretation.

While supporting Army Long Term Family Case Management, I heard the stories of the fallen Soldiers and met many of their loved ones. It always meant a lot to me when someone would share memories of their loved one. I always feel that a person stays alive through memories and storytelling. And by listening and talking to them, I was able to better appreciate being a Soldier or the wife, mother, or sister of one.

As this weekend is Memorial Day, these all memories sit heavy with me. Each one represents a life and a loss. Two weeks ago, I heard a new memory… a Vietnam vet with severe burns shared with AW2 staff a memory of his recent trip to visit troops in Iraq; here is a paraphrase of his memory:

While I was there, a medivac helicopter landed with several injured troops. One was a 19 year old Soldier with third degree burns on 100% of his body – so you know who I went to be with. I got to his side, held his hand and whispered the following to him… ‘This is not a hospital, it’s a sanctuary; this is not a gurney, it’s an alter; you are not a Soldier, you’re a sacrifice for freedom. On behalf of the country, thank you.’ He then took his last breath and died in my arms. I prayed next to him, kissed his forehead, and left.

This story brought me to tears—the beauty of compassion, the sadness of war, the pain that Soldier’s loved ones will face for a long time.

For me, this memory and others like them have helped me better understand the burden our Soldiers, their loved ones, and their children carry on behalf of this country. These stories weigh on my heart and continue to be hard to grasp because they are so far out of my reality as a civilian.

Memorial Day for me is now much more than a three day weekend, it’s about real memories of real people who have made a real sacrifice… and the loved ones left behind with bitter sweet memories.

Join Us in The Real Warriors Campaign

–By: BG Loree K. Sutton–

Will you join us in an important battle to support Warriors and their Families? We need you—your ideas, your enthusiasm, and your influence—to help Warriors get the treatment they need for psychological health and traumatic brain injury concerns.

It’s called the Real Warriors Campaign, our leading effort to eliminate the stigma that keeps warriors from seeking the help they need and deserve. I invite you to come see what we’re doing—and what you can do—at www.realwarriors.net. Log on and you’ll find the heart of the Real Warriors Campaign:  first-hand stories told by Warriors and Veterans who sought care for their own psychological health concerns and traumatic brain injuries. I am convinced that when Warriors see peers just like themselves facing these challenges, they will be encouraged to seek support in their own struggles. There’s a powerful lesson witnessing the courage and strength of those seeking support:  “If they can reach out and grow stronger, then so can I.”

I invite you to check out these profiles—read them, watch them, take them to heart, and embrace them as an urgent call to action. The remarkable folks you will meet have amazing and enduring stories to tell. Please, let us know what you think – we’re all in this together.

Partners are vital in this effort, and so we are proud to announce that the Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2) joined us as we take on this historic mission. The AW2 provides compassionate and customized support and advocacy to severely wounded warriors and their families. We are honored to stand together as committed partners. For a full list of campaign partners and affiliates, check www.realwarriors.net/partner.

With your participation, the Real Warriors Campaign will succeed in its quest to eliminate the discrimination of stigma, a deadly toxic workplace hazard that effects the health and well being of those whom we are so privileged to serve. Thank you in advance for spreading the word and sharing your ideas, comments and questions with us at www.realwarriors.net.

To the journey~

BG Loree K. Sutton

DCoE Director

Write a blog for AW2

AW2 Soldiers, Veterans, and Families can submit a blog for AW2 by emailing WarriorCareCommunications [at] conus.army.mil.