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  • Warrior Tales: An Airman's Story of Creating a 'New Normal' and How Sharing Helped Her Heal

    Air Force Reserve Tech. Sgt. Julie Weckerlein

    Growing up in Northern Kentucky, my backyard was the spot to be every Fourth of July because my father put on quite a show. Immediately after the town parade, neighbors set up lawn chairs and coolers in our driveway. Every kid got a sparkler or two, and there was enough food and drinks to last a week. The adults got to go a little crazy with the roman candle fireworks and cherry bombs while the kids got to hang back and hope that maybe — just maybe — they’d finally — FINALLY! — be old enough to light a fuse.

    It was loud. It was smokey. It was ridiculously fun. Nothing seemed more patriotic to me than those wholesome celebrations with friends and family and fireworks.

    And it was a tradition I wanted to pass onto my daughter.

    For the first few years of my daughter’s life, I created that experience for her.

    But that changed during the summer of 2007.

    I was in Iraq that summer, serving as a combat correspondent for the Air Force. It was the beginning of “The Surge,” and we hopped around from Sather Air Base and Camp Victory to various forward operating bases in the Baghdad area. No matter where we were, there were mortar attacks at least once every other day. Most of these attacks resulted in property damage. One left two Airmen who were standing outside for a smoke break severely wounded; I never did find out if they survived. Another attack killed a female Army sergeant who was sleeping in her hut not far from where I was staying.

  • Get Connected to the National Resource Directory

    National Resource Directory

    The U.S. Departments of Defense, Labor and Veterans Affairs recently launched a new and improved National Resource Directory.

    For more than a year, the site has provided wounded warriors, transitioning service members and veterans, and those who support them with quick and easy access to thousands of services, programs and resources at the national, state and community level.

    The Website’s new features allow the military and veteran community to identify and stay informed about the thousands of resources that are available to them as well as browse for information they may not have known about in the past.

    The National Resource Directory is designed to serve a broad base of users including:

    • Service members, including wounded warriors
    • Veterans
    • Families
    • Caregivers
  • Frontline Psych with Doc Bender: Helping Children Cope with Deployments

    Dr. James Bender recently returned from Iraq after spending 12 months as the brigade psychologist for the 4-1 CAV out of Ft Hood. He served for four and a half years in the Army. During his deployment, he traveled through Southern Iraq, from Basra to Baghdad and many spots in between. He writes a monthly post for the DCoE Blog on health issues related to deployment and being in the military.

    Dr. Bender

    Doc Bender on top of the Ziggurat of Ur in Southern Iraq, in February 2009.

    Recruiters often say, “you recruit service members; you retain families.” This means of course that family members play a big role in military members’ careers. Service members don’t serve alone; their whole family serves right alongside of them.

    I’ve spent the last few months writing about warriors and spouses, but today I’m posting about military children and what you can do to help them through deployments.

    There are a lot of programs out there to help children of deployed service members. Your unit family readiness group is a good place to reach out to for support. Something you may also want to check out is Sesame Workshop’s Family Connections Website, which is part of their Talk, Listen, Connect initiative. Like a Facebook for kids, this site helps children and deployed loved ones stay in touch. With the help of Sesame Street Muppets, it also gives adults and children lots of pre, post, and during-deployment tips.

    The specific things you do to help your children through deployment will, understandably, depend on your children’s ages. However, there are some things you should do regardless of age that will help you and your children get through the deployment.

  • Learn More about Sexual Assault and Sexual Trauma in the Military this Thursday

    While reports of sexual assault within the military have been on the rise, the majority of victims remain silent due to a variety of reasons, such as feelings of stigma and shame. This is not just unique to the military; it is a national issue. DCoE’s April webinar will explore the reasons that service members may not report instances of sexual assault and will spotlight national and local support and counseling resources. Join the important conversation this Thursday, April 22, from 1300 to 1430 hrs EST. All service members, family members, government employees, health care providers, subject matter experts and anyone interested in this topic are encouraged to join. To register for this event, or for more information e-mail us at: *Please share this information with anyone you think would be interested.
  • Sesame Street’s Elmo on Coping with the Death of Uncle Jack

    Sesame Street’s Elmo on Coping with the Death of Uncle Jack

    Elmo's cousin Jesse shows him her memory box, a place where she keeps things that remind her of her dad, Elmo's Uncle Jack.

    In the series, “When Families Grieve,” Sesame Workshop’s latest phase of the Talk, Listen, Connect initiative, Elmo and his cousin Jesse cope with the loss of Jesse’s father, “Uncle Jack.”

    Elmo sat down with the DCoE Blog Team (DBT) to discuss how he remembers Uncle Jack and copes with his feelings.

    DBT: Elmo, we’re so happy to be here with you today. Thank you for taking the time to share your feelings about Uncle Jack’s death and how you coped with those feelings. By sharing, you are helping other families and kids who are dealing with the death of a loved one.

    DBT: Elmo, what kind of feelings did you have when Uncle Jack died?

    Elmo: Elmo was sad. It took a while for Elmo to realize that his uncle wasn’t going to be around anymore. Elmo didn’t really understand at first….Elmo misses Uncle Jack.

    DBT: Did you feel like it was hard to open up with your loved ones?

    Elmo: No, Elmo had a lot of questions, so he asked questions. Jesse, Elmo’s cousin, had more of a problem opening up about her dad dying.

  • Secretary Lynn and Admiral Mullen Host Pentagon Screening of “When Families Grieve”

    Sesame Workshop's Gary Knell invites Deputy Secretary of Defense William J. Lynn and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for a chat with Sesame Street muppets Elmo, Jesse and Rosita during the Pentagon screening event of "When Families Grieve."