The Got Your 6 Family Pillar: Everyone Serves

Posted March 11, 2014

By Noeleen Tillman from Blue Star Families

I recently watched Dr. Mike Haynie’s TEDx talk. Haynie is the founder and Executive Director for the Institute for Veterans and Military Families, and the IVMF leverages the intellectual, programmatic, and human capital resources of higher education in support of the post-service life of our nation’s veterans and military families.

TEDx talks are typically powerful and Haynie’s is no different. It’s incredible how 12 minutes can change your view. Mike is a great friend to my organization, Blue Star Families, and his team is incredibly supportive of our mission. In his talk, Mike tells the story of a young Marine he met on a plane. The Marine, named Tim, was struggling to reintegrate in the civilian world and Haynie implores us to get to know the ‘Tim’s” that surely live next door, down the street, or in the next town.

“Not enough of you—not enough of us—are invested in his future,” says Haynie. “Sure war has changed him on so many dimensions—for the better, not for the worse.”

This thing—reintegration—is complex. It’s messy and hard to define as, depending on who you are, it can mean vastly different things. There is no simple solution for this issue and how it affects veterans, military families, spouses, and parents—not only when someone separates from the military but before, during, and after deployments.

One of the ways that Blue Star Families, with support from Got Your 6, is supporting our military families is by making resources and support available through a unique e-book.

In June 2012, Blue Star Families commenced work on the new edition of our reintegration toolkit, now available in digital formats. The updated toolkit is called Everyone Serves: A Handbook for Family and Friends of Service Members Before, During, and After Deployment. Our team of subject matter experts from the academic, government, and private sectors, has worked collaboratively to support and create this resource. We have not only modernized, but reimagined and redesigned the toolkit, adopting techniques from the entertainment industry to make it even more relevant and appealing. The content focuses on pre-deployment, deployment, post-deployment, care-giving, and transitioning from military to civilian life. We have coordinated with senior military leadership and the White House’s Joining Forces Initiative to distribute the toolkit and have received their full support.

Kris Lopez Krawczyk recently wrote in a Facebook post that the e-book helped despite it being her second deployment: “Thought I new everything but as I found out during this deployment there is always something to learn. There are many challenges with a deployment but this one by far tested me to the max with two other children at home (young adult son and a teenage daughter) both missing their brother and father. So thankful for all the information that is now available to military families and this was an excellent read from front to back.”

She’s not alone. We are well on our way to providing these important reintegration tools and training to 300,000 military families by December 2014. How? Through our unique chapter-based membership—we’re in Guam and the UK now too—we provide both online and local support, as well as create a bridge between families and support and service organizations that are striving to help make military life more sustainable.

We shared the e-book with more than 70,000 folks at events like San Diego’s storied Bay Fair event, Tidewater Military Family Services Coalition’s annual Military Family Halloween fair, and Hiring Our Heroes fairs. We’ve also been sharing it with caregivers at special Caregivers Empowering Caregivers workshops. And we plan to continue introducing the book to our chapters, through our volunteer chapter directors.

“While I have gathered information on various deployment related topics, I found your book to be one of the best from a visual and content perspective. I plan to utilize your resource in my future deployment oriented briefs,” said Daniela Lupu, PsyD, Wing Director of Psychological Health, 167th Airlift Wing.

Jen Hatzung, the social media manager for BSF, is rarely without an electronic device. And since her husband is deploying, she’s been tethered even more so but mostly because of Everyone Serves. After a recent spat, Hatzung turned to the e-book to see if there was a chapter on the ubiquitous pre-deployment fight. Sure enough, there was.

And while her husband admitted that he is focused on deployment first and isn’t paying attention to things that he needs to take care of at home, Jen had some work to do too in order to best deal with his pending departure. She also admits she downloaded the book to her husband’s iPad too.

Can we deliver a perfect black and white solution for Jen and Tim, the reintegrating Marine, with Everyone Serves? No. But rarely does a magic bullet work for things that are actually worth it.

Words from former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Retired General Colin Powell, may sum up what Everyone Serves is all about: “There are no secrets to success: don’t waste time looking for them. Success is the result of perfection, hard work, learning from failure, loyalty to those for whom you work, and persistence.”

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Noeleen Tillman is the spouse of an Air Force veteran and the Managing Director of Blue Star Families, a lead nonprofit partner for Got Your 6’s Family Pillar. BSF has made a commitment to distribute reintegration tools to 300,000 military families by December 2014.