AAAA Family Forum Judy Konitzer By Judy Konitzer
Every October I look forward to accompanying my husband to Washington D.C. for the AUSA Annual Meeting during which AUSA’s Family Directorate hosts Military Family Forums. Relevant and informative presentations from military and civilian leadership and representatives who provide service to Soldiers and their families are featured.
Here are a few highlights.
An Advocate for America’s Servicemen and Women
Gary Sinese made opening remarks at Forum II – Family Transitions: Supporting You Through your Military Life Journey. You know Gary as “Lt. Dan” from Forrest Gump. He has had a commitment and enduring connection with servicemen and women since the early 80’s while supporting Vietnam Veterans’ groups and, following ‘9-11,’ he established the Gary Sinise Foundation. Two of the many Foundation efforts are building custom Smart Homes for severely wounded veterans, and hosting spirit-boosting festivals for families and medical staff at military hospitals. Gary emphasized that 99% of those retiring don’t have a job while there is a real skills gap in manufacturing. Through a partnership with GE, his Foundation helped launch GetSkillsWork.org, designed to help veterans put their military experience to use in civilian jobs.
Senior Leaders Field Questions
GEN Raymond Odierno, Army Chief of Staff, fielded questions from both the live and virtual audience while emphasizing that the leadership has two top priorities: “Never send soldiers into harm’s way without being properly trained and equally equipped, and taking care of families.” He also stressed that “We ask our families to do more than the other services because we ask our Soldiers to do so many diverse things. We want families to thrive-not just survive and we want children to be proud of being in the Army.” There have been 12-13 years of incredible funding to develop programs, but now with a shrinking budget there has to be a determination of how to make the most of the dollars and only resource the best.
How to leverage and navigate the dependence on social media of those entering the Army today is a challenge. Regardless, there is a personal responsibility of how to use it as well as determining what is appropriate for disseminating information, and commanders have to figure this out.
Sergeant Major of the Army Raymond Chandler acknowledged having post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and said, “A Soldier with a mental wound is just as in need as one with a physical wound. There is great strength in reaching out for help, and the earlier it is recognized the more effective can be the treatment.” The periodic health assessments for pre-, during and post-deployments are helping, but he worries that some of our leaders tend to hide it. PTSD will be with us for generations and de-stigmatizing it is vital.
A Book Worth Reading
Venturing out on the exhibit floor, I spoke with several authors for Stories Around the Table: Laughter, Wisdom, and Strength in Military Life, a book officially launched here. On the trip back home, I genuinely enjoyed reading the book, a compilation of personal stories from service men and women, wives and husbands, moms and dads, daughters and sisters, widows, published authors, business leaders and community advocates. Their stories were personal and varied about friendships, caring for children with special needs in a mobile lifestyle, career challenges for spouses, faith, grief, renewing relationships after deployments, adoption, finances, PTSD, depression, living overseas and so much more. The book is available thru www.ElvaResa.com, www.MilitaryFamilyBooks.com, or Amazon.com. It is worth noting that over 40 of the authors selected Operation Home Front’s relief and recovery programs to be the primary nonprofit beneficiary to receive a portion of the proceeds from its sales.
Caption: Army Chief of Staff, GEN Raymond Odierno (center), addresses questions, together with Secretary of the Army, John McHugh (left) and Sergeant Major of the Army Raymond Chandler, during the third AUSA Family Forum on Wed., Oct. 15, at the Washington, D.C. Convention Center. / AUSA COURTESY PHOTO