What Americans Need To Know About Military Kids

Military kids are amazing… I hope you’ll enjoy this post from THEIR point of view.

Action Speaks-Voices of Operation Homefront

As we wrap up the Month of the Military Child, we asked the past winners of our Military Child of the Year award what they want Americans to know about military kids. Nine out of 17 of our past recipients provided input for this blog. They brought us up to date on where they’ve been — and where they’re headed — and they STILL continue to inspire us!

Now, in their own words…

operation-homefront-blog-kids-1“Military kids are little warriors themselves. Many have to move multiple times and start over in new schools and towns, make new friends constantly (a scary thought for those in middle school), and send their fathers and mothers off to war. That being said, military kids are not to be underestimated. Military kids are outgoing, resilient, creative, and strong. The hardships and the sacrifices that comes with being part of a military family only makes us that…

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You Can Salute Dryhootch Today

Incredibly, Mother Goose is honking about yet another good cause! Today we salute an amazingly original organization headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin but spreading like a virus throughout the Midwest.

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Dryhootch of America was organized by Vietnam veteran, Robert Curry, as a place where veterans of any era could gather in a safe, secure environment, a coffee shop, to connect and sort through their “stuff” on their journey of reintegration. Because of his own troubled life after the war, Mr. Curry knew there had to be a better way to adjust to life after combat.

With peer mentors, a great bunch of resources and some EXCELLENT coffee, Dryhootch is meeting the mission at hand:

“Helping those who survived the war, survive the peace.”

Mother Goose could go on and on about the troubles and the problems of our returning vets. She could write pages and books about the men and women she has met and helped along the way. Mother Goose could fly around the world sixteen times and never see the things that our vets have seen in their lifetimes.

But rather than bore you with my stories, I am asking you to visit their Kickstarter.com fundraising page and click on the first video that you see — then you’ll get a taste, then you’ll experience a bit of the flavor, you will feel the pain of our returning combat vets.

Please support Dryhootch of America. Please share this request with your own networks.

God bless you, dear and generous readers!

Mother Goose Salutes Miss Murriel

Mother Goose is proud to introduce you to her friend, Miss Murriel — the beautiful woman pictured below. We have known each other for about five months, but we believe that our friendship was in place long ago. She’s just that kind of a person — Mother Goose met her and fell in love with her for life and beyond.

The reason that Mother Goose is saluting Murriel today is because she is a TRUE American hero — she’s not one of these Yankee Doodle dandies all waving the flag and singing the National Anthem but not really caring a lick for the veterans, the servicemen and women, and the families who know what true American sacrifice is all about. Murriel cares because she knows first hand what it’s like to be a Navy wife, a Navy widow, a Navy mother and as of this past Sunday, the woman who saved the life of a suicidal veteran.

Yes. She did that.

David, Husband Goose, Murriel and Kevin

David, Husband Goose, Murriel and Kevin

Murriel grew up in Cleveland County, Mississippi through the 1950’s and into the ’60’s. There were thirteen children in her family — she was the seventh of the bunch. Her family worked a farm — picking cotton by hand was still the way to make a living in those times. The summers were hot and the kids all enjoyed a dip in the pond when their work was done. Her aunties lived in town and had good plumbing for taking showers so Murriel and her sisters would go to visit them often.

She married her childhood friend, Bobby Jenkins, just before he left for Navy boot camp. When he came home on leave from southeast Asia in 1968, she presented him with his newborn son. The sailor returned to duty in Vietnam, and then tragedy came in the form of Navy officers and a chaplain at her door with the terrible news that her husband had made the ultimate sacrifice for his country. Murriel held her newborn daughter and her toddler son and cried.

By that time, she had moved to Chicago with other sisters and brothers. Her sailor husband was buried in the church cemetery in Cleveland County.

Life goes on, and she was able to pick up the pieces. She eventually remarried — a Navy veteran actually — and worked as a registered nurse and raised her family. She had another son, and the two sons grew up to be sailors as well. The older of the two was serving in October 2000 at the time of the suicide bombing of the USS Cole and was part of the rescue team for that horrible tragedy when seventeen American sailors lost their lives and an additional 39 were injured.

Because of the horror of that rescue operation, Murriel’s son was hospitalized in a catatonic condition in the hospital for seven months. His mother sat by his side, praying for his own healing and recovery. Today he is fine and works as an inventory manager in a large grocery store chain. Murriel is very proud of all of her children, but this one checks up on her most often, protecting her and defending her against any and all harm that may befall her.

Murriel’s heart is all about helping the veterans, and she volunteers her time at our Easter Seals office every week. She is active in her church, New Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church, in Chicago. She cares for heroin babies and advocates for them in the court system. She checks in on veterans who are living in church-sponsored apartments in the neighborhood.

And here’s the bottom line of this story:

This past Sunday, Murriel was checking in on one of the vets. She visits often but he seldom opens his door — many of the vets prefer to be left alone with their problems and their PTSD, but Murriel knows how important it is to keep checking on them. His door was unlocked so she walked into the apartment, searching the rooms for this troubled man.

She found him sitting in a chair in his room with the barrel of a handgun in his mouth.

“No!” she screamed and rushed at him.

Murriel walks with a cane because her knee is bad, but she still managed to get to the man and pull the loaded gun out of his mouth. The barrel was actually pointed directly at her when he finally took his finger off the trigger. She wrestled it away from the poor hopeless man, screaming the whole time. “Stop it, you gotta stop this, put that gun down NOW!”

Other people heard the commotion and came running. Somebody called 9-1-1, and the paramedics arrived. They put the straitjacket on him and took him away to the suicide watch ward of the hospital. Before they closed the door of the ambulance, Murriel got in the last word:

“When you get out of the hospital and you’re feeling better, I’m gonna kill you!”

She’s so precious to Mother Goose — that’s just the kind of friend and Hero she is…

An Important Announcement

In response to the epidemic of suicides among our nation’s and our city’s military veterans and active service members, the Chicago City Council will hold a hearing of the Human Relations Committee on Wednesday, February 19th to hear testimony and strategies for fixing this tragic problem.

Mother Goose salutes the Council for opening up this discussion and for building awareness of this crisis and for hearing the good ideas of those who are working with the vets in our communities. Mother Goose will be in attendance as a comrade of the Blue Star Family Platoon.

Chicago City Council Chambers

Here is a copy of the resolution submitted to the Council by Alderman James A. Balcer on the fifteenth of January requesting Wednesday’s hearing:

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The Blue Star Family Platoon would also invite you to read our statement which will be read at the hearing by member, Kevin Lewis. And here is a link to that very important document. Simply click on STATEMENT and you’ll find the document in its entirety.

The crisis of veteran (and active service member) suicides is frightening in its scope — most recent numbers indicate that twenty veterans commit suicide each day. That number was from a report in 2012 by the Veterans Health Administration.

Last month, new numbers were released by the VHA as part of a follow-up study. This study indicates that suicides have actually increased in the last two years among female vets as well as male vets under the age of 30 and especially between the ages of 18 and 24.

This is absolutely unacceptable.

The Blue Star Family Platoon has made several viable recommendations in our statement to the City Council including an expanded utilization of our city’s library system to create a city-sponsored virtual network connecting our veterans to each other and to all resources available to them within Chicago’s city limits.

We also would recommend mobile devices be given to each and every veteran in order to allow them contact to the online resources they could access from the safety and security of their own homes. Many of our returning vets are experiencing post-traumatic stress which gives them fear of being in open spaces and public areas.

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We realize that having a sense of purpose and personal meaning is essential to combating depression and hopelessness. Our city could indeed lead the way by sponsoring and implementing a full-scale Veteran Olympic project. Let the current Warrior Games and Wounded Warrior Games go on steroids and let the participants realize their vital role as leaders and positive role models in our country.

I hope that you’ll stay tuned as we learn more about what Chicago can and will do to help solve the tragic crisis of veteran suicides. In the meantime, here’s what you can do!

Find a veteran in your community. Yes, shake his or her hand and thank them for their service regardless of the war or conflict in which they served. And then find a way to stay connected to them. Make them feel your pride in their service by being their friend. Yes, it’s as simple as that for most of us. Be a friend.

Just a friendly request and reminder from Mother Goose.

Coming soon…

Illinois military families, are you ready for a new option in license plates?

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Coming soon to a Secretary of State’s office near you…

Yes, we are very excited to be working with the Illinois state legislature to bring this to fruition in 2014. Of course, the picture above is only a mock-up of what the new plate might look like, but the Blue Star Family Platoon is working hard behind the scenes and behind those closed doors where legislative action really takes place to accomplish what can only be called a modern day miracle in the great state of Illinois.

The idea was first proposed around a Saturday morning breakfast table at the Buzz Cafe in Oak Park. The next thing you know, we had the backing and sponsorship of the Chairmen of the House Transportation Committee AND the Senate Transportation Committee — two very powerful congressmen who understand the vital importance of recognizing our state’s military families.

We’ve already garnered the endorsement of some very important groups in Illinois: The Illinois Military Family Initiative, the Coalition of Veteran Organizations, and Vet Net.

Our state offers a great variety of military-oriented license plates. Every branch of the service can be displayed as well as wonderful veteran status plates, military honor plates and a very beautiful Gold Star Family license plate.

The only other state in the Union to offer Blue Star Banner plates is Tennessee, and I must say….our design is so much more distinctive. [smile]

As the bill moves along through the legislative process, Mother Goose will certainly be flapping and honking about it. I wonder who will get the plate that says “M.Goose”….

Mother Goose Joins the Navy (kind of…)

Mother Goose was so enthralled with the sailor recruits who she entertained on Thanksgiving that she decided it was time for her to join the Navy. Unfortunately, they would not accept her enlistment…because of her flat and rubbery feet.

However, the good news is that she has found employment — true employment including a paycheck — and it involves helping Navy families who have special needs children. A perfect place for Mother Goose to be! I’m not afraid to tell you that I prayed and prayed for months for a job like this one!

Of course, my dear and loyal readers know that Mother Goose has been volunteering with a new division of Easter Seals these past six months — a department devoted to helping veterans and military families — a population group near and dear to her heart obviously.

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Well, with the New Year, came a new program — a respite care program for these special Navy families in our area. We are near the Great Lakes Navy Base (where the charming young recruits came from!) and that makes Easter Seals perfectly positioned to help.

These families have special needs children ranging broadly across the spectrum — anywhere from high-functioning autism children to deaf children to wheelchair-bound children with severe disabilities. Our program provides up to forty hours of FREE respite care each month to qualifying families. We find those specially trained and certified caregivers who have hearts to spend time with special children — staying with these kiddos in their homes and engaging them while mom and dad take a break.

Easter Seals partners with Child Care Aware of America to recruit these care providers. The Navy pays for the care, and Mother Goose makes sure that everybody is happy and compatible and coordinated together.

What a perfect occupation for this goose!

Ohhhh the United States Navy — a powerful and global force for good. I may not see the world from the deck of a world-class aircraft carrier, but I will definitely see the smiling faces of Navy parents who are allowed to take off for a couple of hours to see a movie, have a peaceful dinner alone or just stroll hand in hand through the park knowing that their child(ren) are safely and lovingly cared for.

And if you know anyone in the Chicagoland area who is qualified and interested in applying for these positions (Respite Care Providers), please contact us at The Willett Center (708-524-8700). They can ask for either Laura or Natalie. Mother Goose is currently working incognito at this location…

Sailor Recruits Enjoy A Magical Thanksgiving

“Welcome aboard the USS Thanksgiving! At the helm today, we have Captain George who will be steering us into a magical port called Oak Park, Illinois — a place where they have TVs….computers….phones….and good food.”

The thirty-four sailor recruits cheered and ooooorah’d as we pulled out of Great Lakes Naval Training Center heading for a Thanksgiving Day to remember. Most of them had been told they would be picked up and taken to a community soup kitchen to serve dinner to poor homeless people — they had no idea that Mother Goose and Company had made other plans for them!

The day started at 7:30 a.m. at the garage of Mid-America Charter Lines in Elk Grove Village, IL. Mother Goose had been chosen as the hostess with the mostest for this most exciting day — of course, as a Navy Mom, Mother Goose is very familiar with young sailors and relished the idea of riding the tour bus to pick up the recruits at the boot camp so bright and earlie in the morning.

With Captain George Kousakis and the USS Thanksgiving

With Captain George Kousakis and the USS Thanksgiving

We arrived at the base in plenty of time and with just a little bit of run-around, we loaded up the recruits. The U.S. Navy has implemented the Adopt-A-Sailor program for the recruits who can’t get home for the holidays. Organizations can apply to adopt as many recruits as they can accommodate, and if the application is accepted, you get to pick up your sailors for the day! It’s such a GREAT program! Look at their smiling faces!

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We arrived in our magical port where the computers, phones, TV and food were warmed up and ready for them. The sailors politely lined up to remove their coats, scarves, gloves, and covers (hats) and then politely asked where the computers and phones were. AND THEN THEY STARTED SMILING AND DIDN’T STOP SMILING FOR THE NEXT EIGHT HOURS!!!

In boot camp (also referred to as basic training), the recruits are completely unplugged. There are no TVs, no radios or music, no computers, no phones, no internet — nothing but marching and training and discipline and eating their meals in five minutes. They learn new names for things — the bathroom is now the “head”, hats are now “covers”, time is now measured in 24-hour segments, they are known by their last names only and there is no hugging.

So Mother Goose hugged them all day long.

These sailors immediately found their way to Facebook, their emails, their favorite online games and surprised their moms and dads with phone calls. Most of the guys and gals had not heard the voices of their folks since they left their hometowns for boot camp five or six weeks earlier! Imagine the tears on the cheeks of the moms all across the country as they heard the voices of their young sailors…

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Besides the young recruits, our amazing team at Easter Seals also invited the veterans in our community who participate in our programs and services. It was a wonderful mix of young and old, squids and old salts, volunteers from all walks of life serving turkeys and the fixin’s donated and cooked by so many gracious helpers. It was a team effort and those are the best kinds of efforts according to this goose.

Volunteer and retired Army drill sergeant, Daniel and his wife and son served all day long.  Check out their biz, Gruntstyle.com for GREAT patriotic apparel.

Volunteer and retired Army drill sergeant, Daniel and his wife and son served all day long. Check out their biz, Gruntstyle.com for GREAT patriotic apparel.

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Our dinner with the recruits and veterans had a full agenda, including the Presentation of Colors by the Oak Park Police Department, poetry reading by Ms Josie Pierce of the American Women of Oak Park and Austin, presentations of roses to veterans and live music by a really talented musician named Ernie.

And then it was time to climb back aboard the USS Thanksgiving and head back to the base…hugs and tears all around. As Mother Goose climbed onto the bus, the sailors started singing at the top of their lungs!

“Anchors Aweigh, my boys, Anchors Aweigh. Farewell to foreign shores, We sail at break of day-ay-ay-ay. Through our last night on shore, Drink to the foam, Until we meet once more. Here’s wishing you a happy voyage home.

Blue of the Mighty Deep; Gold of God’s Sun Let these colors be till all of time be done, done, done, On seven seas we learn Navy’s stern call: Faith, Courage, Service true, with Honor, Over Honor, Over All.”

When we arrived at the base, thirty four sailors filed out of the bus with thankful hearts and happy faces. Each and every one of them gave Mother Goose a GREAT BIG HUG and said “thank you” and “happy Thanksgiving” and “God bless you”. Mother Goose smiled…

Sons of the Goose Meet Lincoln Nation

We have certainly enjoyed the month of November, a month to recognize and celebrate military families across our country. Of course, Mother Goose has taken full advantage of this time to tell the story of how our particular family became associated with the military.

With two years of training safely tucked under their belts, the twin sons of Mother Goose were ready to be assigned to a ship in the greatest Navy in the world, a Navy which is a Global Force for Good.

And we all wondered….would they continue to serve together or would they be split up and sent to different ships, perhaps even to opposite sides of the country or to different places in the world. Would one brother be sent to a ship whose port was on the East Coast and the other sent to the West Coast? Would they be attached to submarines (oh dear…) or to aircraft carriers? Both vessel-types operate on nuclear power, but which would it be?

The Navy does ask their sailors which they would prefer, subs or carriers. They also ask your preference of ports. And then they go ahead and make their own decisions which basically have nothing to do with your personal preferences.

“Because it’s the military, Mom.”

Yes, of course.

Strangely, nobody asked the guys if they wanted to be stationed together anywhere. Maybe nobody in high command knew they were related, let alone identical twin brothers.

ANYWAY, the word finally came down and it was a good word.

The two petty officers would be both attached to the powerful and mighty aircraft carrier, The USS Abraham Lincoln.

USS Abraham Lincoln, named for the favorite president of Mother Goose.

USS Abraham Lincoln, named for the favorite president of Mother Goose.

Yes, Mother Goose jumped for joy and flapped her wings in a great display of thanksgiving that her sons would not be separated but would serve America side by side on a beautiful ship ABOVE the water.

And off they flew to Norfolk, Virginia and then to Newport News, Virginia.

The USS Abraham Lincoln was commissioned on November 11, 1989 and has been in active service around the world since that time. It is a nuclear-powered vessel — a Nimitz-class carrier with two reactors onboard. It’s length is 1,092 feet and when fully boarded, it has a population of about 5,000 people. WOW!

The ship came home to port in the fall of 2012 for its half-life refuel and complex overhaul. My sons were on the ship when it was brought up the James River from Norfolk to Newport News earlier this year and hauled into drydock there. The RCOH (refueling and complex overhaul) will take nearly four years.

The ship pulls into the drydock area in Newport News, Virginia.

The ship pulls into the drydock area in Newport News, Virginia.

So the guys got a really nice apartment together, and everyday they go to work at the ship, working with all the other sailors and contractors to get the ship ready for the rest of its life. The culture of a drydocked ship’s sailors is basically one of working and serving and playing together. There is certainly a sense of teamwork and even family. Each individual is important in the grand scheme of things — each person’s work has purpose and meaning.

Mother Goose is proud to say that her sons did receive a bit of recognition for their “twinity” — the ship’s public affairs officer found out they were twins serving together and interviewed them for a news article which was then published in the Penny Press, the newsletter for Lincoln Nation and families of the sailors.

Yes, Mother Goose was completely bursting her buttons with pride when she found out!

And then our local newspapers found out about the Penny Press article and ran their own local articles in the western suburbs of Chicago where my guys are from. Pictures and publicity for my precious sailor sons — can it even get any better in the life of a Navy mom?

Working together for Uncle Same and the Lincoln Nation.

Working together for Uncle Sam and the Lincoln Nation.

My sons may never get out to sea on the USS Abraham Lincoln — their term of service will expire before the ship is sent back out into the briny waves, protecting our freedoms and keeping us safe around the world. I would hope that they might be standing at the rails when she leaves Norfolk again for great adventures abroad, but if they are the sailors who refueled her and gave her a mighty makeover and never sailed with her, then I will stand proud of them for their service.

Flapping and honking with great pride, and with wings lifted in great Thanksgiving, Mother Goose wishes you a wonderful and warm holiday wherever you are and whoever you are with today. Hugs all around!

Navy Nukes

November is Military Family Appreciation Month!

And because it is and because we are, Mother Goose shall now continue her story of how her family became a military family…

Two guys who look and dress alike.

Two guys who look and dress alike.

After those sailor sons graduated from “boot camp” at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center in March 2011, they immediately flew away to North Carolina. This is the place where seamen who have achieved high scores on their military service aptitude tests go to learn their trade in the field of nuclear science.

Their first training is in “A” School which is basic electricity and electronics. At this time, the sailor sons of Mother Goose also achieved the rank of Petty Officers Third Class (and a sweet pay increase, I might add)! They lived on base in Goose Creek and after their daily work was done, they could go fishing or go to the beach or hang out with all the other sailors.

It was really fun!

The whole family with the sailors in Charleston at Patriots' Point to tour the retired aircraft carrier USS Yorktown and retired submarine, USS Clamagore in June 2011.

The whole family with the sailors in Charleston at Patriots’ Point to tour the retired aircraft carrier USS Yorktown and retired submarine, USS Clamagore in June 2011.

“Power” school follows after “A” School where the classes get a lot more technical and they specifically learn how nuclear reactors work. At this point in their training, they stopped explaining to Mother Goose what they were learning… Needless to say, it was over the head of Mother Goose.

The guys spent about seventeen months in Goose Creek, and then were transferred to upstate New York where they began their prototype training. Mother Goose knows absolutely NOTHING about this phase of Navy Nuke training, except to say that they actually worked on live nuclear reactors. They learned how to start them up, keep them running and how to shut them down.

Wow!

In their spare time, they enjoyed mountain climbing, weekend trips to NYC, ski trips to New Hampshire and also betting on the horses at Saratoga Springs.

On top of Stone Mountain in New York

On top of Stone Mountain in New York

So far, the Navy life sounds pretty darn good to Mother Goose!

However, the prototype training does now “stand down” for the holidays. My sons were not able to come home and join the family for Thanksgiving, their birthdays OR for Christmas in 2012. The salty tears rolled down the feathery cheeks of Mother Goose as she packed goodie box after goodie box for her sailors. How could we make this Christmas holiday a little cheerier for the homesick fellows?

AHA! A light bulb over the head of Mother Goose!

She contacted EVERYBODY she knew who cared about Adam and Erik — AND anybody who cared about the troops — AND anybody who was breathing.

“Could you please send my sailor sons a Christmas card to let them know they are not alone and SURELY not forgotten this Christmas time?”

And SO many people, friends and even strangers sent them Christmas cards until the mailman almost had a heart attack carrying the heavy load to their apartment building! Cards, letters, goodie boxes, treats, cookies and candies all piled up from folks around the country to wish them a Merry Christmas and cheer their hearts.

A pretty nice bunch of Christmas cards.

A pretty nice bunch of Christmas cards.

Finally in February of 2013, the young sailors graduated from “prototype” and were allowed a 30-day leave of absence to go home or wherever they choosed to roam. Happily for Mother Goose, they did choose to come home!

All together again in February 2013.

All together again in February 2013.

The Sailors Finally Emerge from Boot Camp

After eight weeks of basic training, rampant colds and flu, boot camp chow, marching, homesickness, Navy orders and rules and regulations, the sons of Mother Goose graduated from Great Lakes Naval Training Center. No longer to be referred to as recruits — now they were sailors in the greatest navy in the world, a global force for good!

The graduation ceremony is the most wonderful event in a proud Navy mom’s life — the pomp, the circumstance, the flags, the marching bands, the precision drill teams, and that moment when a son is spotted on the marching field with his division.

As they come marching into the grand arena, all the families and friends in the grand stand are cheering for their sailors. It’s a roar of joy, a proud moment that stays with you forever.

Ohhh my gooseness, I nearly swooned with pride at both of the boys’ ceremonies. And the tears of joy to see that “Yes, they survived!”

The sailors stand at attention for nearly an hour whilst activities and speeches ramble on and on. Finally the “liberty bell” rings and the sailors are free to reconnect with their people — dear readers, it is total pandemonium and general chaos as the uniformed and capped sailors suddenly leap into the air and begin to search the crowds for their moms. And of course, their dads…

And then we are all reunited and joys and kisses and hugs all around for everybody.

Of course, the guys look rather sickly and pale from weeks of little sleep and community virus-sharing and endless training. But oh, they are smiling.

And oh, they look so much older — almost like men.

Well, yes, I will say it — my sons were now men.

Oh happy day!

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Graduation Day

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