Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Memorial Day 2012 - Annapolis MD

Greetings, friends,

Yesterday marked the official remembrance of those who died to fight for our freedom.  We say “official” because far more often than a single day a year, Patriots remember their friends and neighbors who gave their lives so we could maintain liberty.  In DC this year, there was finally a formal ceremony for the Vietnam Veterans who were not welcomed back by a grateful nation.  The contrast was striking then as compared to today:  troops were spat upon, cursed as “baby killers”, and told to change out of uniform upon arrival in states for their own safety.  We have come a long way, but not far enough.
In Annapolis, the Memorial Day parade was different this year. Few politicians, no cheerleaders in skimpy uniforms, but instead our USNA band, a flag-draped casket with vigilant guard, first responders, serious banners ("Lest We Forget"), and groups of war veterans and their families, gathered to remember and also to step forward.  So often our service and veteran families humbly stand back, do not self-identify, and are not recognized.  This year they were honored.
And, so as the days go forward, and your family is seeking education, employment, friendship, coordination, assistance, and support, know that this VCG Community also stands quietly available to you each day, to the best of our ability to help. 

Very respectfully,

PS:  On a personal level, here’s a photo of my (Vietnam Veteran) uncle and me.  He mattered then and he matters now – so too do your families remain in our thoughts and prayers.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Caregiver Jobs & Career Thoughts

Hi friends,

Last Friday, the Chamber of Commerce held the first ever Military Spouse and Caregiver Forum and Hiring Event.  We were very pleased to be included and were on the schedule with Blue Star Families to provide a Caregiver Roundtable.  As it turns out, we worked this more informally than expected, but it was apparent that we need to use every opportunity to educate corporations about the value of hiring caregivers.  As you know, caregiving is on a continuum, and employers will be better able to offer positions with greater understanding of the phases of caregiving. 
Since this was held near Bethesda, the caregivers that attended this event were still actively caregiving at Walter Reed (WRNNMC).  First-stage caregivers are very deeply involved in their service member’s recovery, and possible jobs would need to be supremely flexible; not impossible but challenging.  Importantly, though, this is a very good time to re-tool a resume, learn how to translate your skills into career enhancers, and to review priorities in interests and job choice.  There is also a wide variation of skills and capabilities among caregivers, and an excellent workshop was held for those seeking to resume higher-level professional careers. Again, this is an excellent time to now translate your civilian skills into a possible governmental track, if this appeals to you.

The group that was underrepresented at this event were the caregivers who are now out of the hospital and in the community. At this secondary caregiving stage, we believe those who re-work their resumes and attend such events will find willing and eager employers.  Flexibility, telework, and research are all possible for the stay-at-home caregiver, and VeteranCaregiver and Blue Star Families will continue to discuss the employment potential and value of caregivers to employers wherever we go.  As you view the years ahead, caregiving and treatments will presumably continue to bring forth new options, and taking advantage of these community events is a great first step toward resuming your work, or calling.

One of the most remarkable things to us is that the military community is now purposefully inserting Caregiver elements into nearly all events.  This includes medical care, education, employment, transition, communication, and outreach topics.  In other words, could it actually be that Caregiving has reached the ears of enough people to resonate and expand the military’s perception?  We say a resounding “Yes”!!!  Take advantage of the events around you, re-tool that resume even if you are not ready to use it, talk to employers whenever possible, and realistically consider your options over time.  Just as you thought little medical progress was occurring at the time – remember that you now view great strides from the place you now stand.

Caregivers are emotionally strong, resourceful, loyal, and persistent people.  These attributes make for excellent employees.  Where you are today will not be where you are tomorrow; be ready when the circumstances and opportunity arises.

We support you; let us know how we might help.


Friday, May 4, 2012

Ahh, PTSD Awareness & Compassion Shown!

Greetings, friends,

One of my favorite Caregivers called today with a story of a great out-in-public experience.  Her husband, a veteran with moderate to severe PTSD wanted to go to the midnight showing of the new movie, The Avengers last night.  She was surprised, and also glad.  How very normal!  She immediately began mentally considering the environment:  they knew the building, the exits, the parking, the ticket line, but surely the crowds on opening night would be daunting?  Quick discussion: he really wanted to make the effort, so on they went.

The theatre and surrounding area was packed with people and after she’d bought the tickets, her vet started to become fairly agitated.  Since she’d been planning in her mind for the past hour, she easily located the manager and explained that her husband was a combat veteran with PTSD, and would he possibly help them?  The manager asked what specifically disturbed him?  She replied:  the crowd, needing a seat near the exit, some sounds, and the hope of not disturbing others.  His face cleared, and he said:  “Oh, like Captain America!”  (Captain America was the star character of a World War II movie of a veteran who was frozen in time, but when he “came back” years later, he had these same PTSD reactions and went on to become a super-hero.) 
The manager immediately asked a few smart questions, then guided them to the smallest of the many theatres, found them seats apart from others yet with clear access to the exit, and also said that if they needed to leave, he would comp their tickets.  He even went on to say that if there were a group of vets in the area who wanted to view the movie together that they would be glad to arrange it at a quieter time!

The loved the movie.  They were grateful to the manager.  And, mostly, they loved the outlook that (unlike the recent media sensationalism of PTSD), this veteran was compared to Captain America – a character that had been changed by his military service – but who was regarded as a Hero.  

Bottom line:  with calm planning, informing others of their needs, and a blessing in the form of a wonderful theatre manager, a wonderful movie night was enjoyed by all!

May you all enjoy a Captain America experience very soon,