The 2008 Weblog Awards

Finalists for The 2008 Weblog Awards have been announced.

There were over 5,000 nomination for us to sort through and visit, and it was a very difficult task.  When the process pushed the potential voting dates too close to Christmas we made the decision to hold off voting until after the New Year.

From all of the nominations we have selected nearly 500 finalists in 48 categories.  The full list of finalists is here:

http://2008.weblogawards.org/site-news/2008-weblog-awards-finalists/

Finalist badges will be available Wednesday.  Voting is scheduled to begin January 5.

The Army releases a “Year in Photos- 2008”

This annual year-end special features the best of Army.mil’s feature photos, drawn from a variety of Defense Department sources. These photos capture the essence of America’s Army – the Soldiers and their Families – the Strength of the Nation.

www.army.mil/yearinphotos/2008/

Soldiers’ Creed

I am an American Soldier.

I am a Warrior and a member of a team. I serve the people of the United States and live the Army Values.

I will always place the mission first.

I will never accept defeat.

I will never quit.

I will never leave a fallen comrade.

I am disciplined, physically and mentally tough, trained and proficient in my warrior tasks and drills. I always maintain my arms, my equipment and myself.

I am an expert and I am a professional.

I stand ready to deploy, engage, and destroy the enemies of the United States of America in close combat.

I am a guardian of freedom and the American way of life.

I am an American Soldier.


www.army.mil/soldierscreed/flash_version/index.html

Adopt a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine- www.soldiersangels.org

“Sure you might not be here on the front line, covered in filth, smelling like hell, your heart going a mile a minute, not knowing what’s coming next: if your next step is on that TRP, or if your going to be the latest recruiting tool for some insurgent’s new video while they take pot shots at you. But, what you all do with those cards, care packages, cookies is just as important…

When I get a box (or anyone else gets a box) its hard to describe. You find a nice quiet corner and everyone knows not to bother you. You sit there and look over the box as if you had never seen anything like it before. You read who it’s from, and a smile crosses your face–you recognize the name. You might already know what’s inside, but it does not matter. Some tear it open as fast as they can, others take their time and enjoy every second of it. Once inside, you go through it, every little item once, twice, sometimes three times. It’s a very delicate process. You breathe it in and you think of the person who sent it to you. You think of home, family, cars, summer–everything all at once. And for a very short time, you are there away from this SH*T hole. You are grateful. Then you look around and there’s always a buddy who is down or having a bad day. You share your box–sometimes just with the one guy, sometimes with everyone–and it’s electric. Everyone catches that feeling, and we start talking about home, about things we miss, things we are going to do when we get back, and the heaviness of the day lifts and it’s not so bad.

…It’s not the “things” that are sent that matter to us, it’s the thought. That’s the power ALL of you have who take the time to send things. You can change the worst day into the best day, in a split second.
– MP in Iraq

www.soldiersangels.org

The length of each adoption depends on the branch of service your soldier is in and a number of other factors, but generally averages between six (6) months to twelve (12) months. On occasion, they can be extended, but this is the average. When you adopt you are committing to sending a card or letter each week, and a minimum of 1 or 2 care packages a month. This is one of the most important things that can be done to help bring home a healthy hero; it is so very important for each of them to know they are loved and supported, and your letters and care packages prove just that.

Care packages do not have to be expensive: you can put together your own (we have a detailed list of the most-requested items for you–snacks, hygiene products, and games or magazines).

www.soldiersangels.org

Many Ways to Support our Service Members:

Donate to Soldiers’ Angels – If you would like to assist Soldiers’ Angels in its troop support activities, please consider a financial donation. Donations of every size help provide aid and comfort to the troops through our many projects and activities. You can also donate stock, old electronics, air miles, care package items and much more. For details got to www.soldiersangels.org

Join a Soldiers’ Angels Team – If you want to dig deep into the Soldiers’ Angels mission, we invite you to join one of our many teams. The 30+ teams of Soldiers’ Angels specialize in filling specific servicemember and family needs. You can get involved in sending handmade blankets to the wounded, supporting our military chaplains, helping soldiers distribute toys and clothing to children in Iraq and Afghanistan, and much, much more! To find a team that fits your interests, please see the complete list in the center of our homepage at www.soldiersangels.org

The Woman’s Heart

HISTORY

This Company Has its Deepest Roots in the Sisterhood of Women…
Women Helping Women Through Crisis is a Bond & Solution that Transcends Time

The Woman’s Heart was established to alleviate the suffering and the all too common relapse women experience in early recovery. This is particularly tragic when it occurs soon after exiting apparently “successful” treatment. Continuing care requires transportation, childcare, education, personal support, and may seriously conflict with work and family needs.

As a woman discharges from treatment returning to the demands and expectations of friends, family, and work she is not always prepared to cope with the realities of the day to day stresses. This can start a downward spiral back into addiction. Our families, particularly our children, are bound to suffer as well.

After 20 years in her recovery… Stephanie, the founder of The Woman’s Heart, had heard too many of the same stories at 12-Step meetings that exemplified these issues. One in particular galvanized her into action.

Just before the end of an afternoon meeting in 2003, a woman (we will call her Sara) cried out that she needed to talk. It was her first meeting and she was scared. Sara had completed a 28-day treatment program and felt quite hopeful about staying sober. Upon coming home, her husband wanted sexual intimacy, the children were still frightened (because as a drinking Mom she had been abusive), and she was expected to show up at work that Monday morning. Four days later she drank. She was soon fired from her job; her husband divorced her and got custody of the children; and he sold their home.

When Sara arrived to stay on the couch of the last friend that would talk to her, the requirement to stay was that she attend 12-Step meetings. As she finished her story, she yelled out, “Now I know why they wanted me to come here! You are just like me. You understand what happened and how I feel!”

As Sara spoke, Stephanie knew then… “That she had to do something!” The technology was available to provide inexpensive, supplementary treatment and recovery support & services through the internet paradigm and in the communities and homes of suffering women and their children.

From that moment on, Stephanie held onto her belief that women deserve the opportunity (the right!) to immediate and no-cost access to recovery. The Woman’s Heart offers recovery support services, and endless peer support – where you can take your new friends with you wherever you go – day or night.

www.thewomansheart.org

Cherish most precious gift of all…freedom

Today, I received a holiday gift on my doorstep.
I picked it up and looked at it carefully. The shiny paper glistened in the sun. The note on the package said:
“Go ahead, open me. I am more than a pretty package. Look inside.”
As I looked at the bow, I noticed it was a bit tattered, as if it had been through some rough times. The edges were a bit scuffed up and frayed, yet still the bow was neatly tied.

The paper was many different bits and pieces taped together like a quilt.

It gave me a lot of comfort knowing that someone took the time and energy to put these pieces all together to cover the next layer, which was a cardboard box. It looked like it had been around the block a few times, recycled but still sturdy.

Carefully opening the box, I peeked in.

I could not believe how much was packed into that strong, small box. It was like an explosion of color with fireworks bursting out of it.

It was full of music, sunshine and rainbows. It had walks in the park, education and snowboarding tucked inside, too.

It was full of hugs, kisses and laughter. It had cartoons and books and travel. It was festive and creative and full of emotion.

It had stars and stripes . . .

It was full of freedom. Freedom. Sweet Freedom.

The note was signed: “Forever true, An American service member, (past, present and future).”

Tonight, as I bow my head in prayer and nod off to sleep under that blanket of freedom while living safely in my sturdy shelter, I will give thanks for our servicemembers’ precious gift of freedom.

Shelle Michaels

Michaels is an officer and longtime volunteer with Soldiers’ Angels, a nationwide nonprofit that supports American service members around the world.

Coming soon…. Grace After Fire

 

www.Grace After Fire.org

 

She Needs Your Help…

 

anytime 877-490-5797 anywhere

 

 

 

When things feel like they’re falling apart….

 

We’ll connect you to people who can help

put the pieces back together.

 

Grace After Fire was created by women for women veterans who return from service with hidden effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), symptoms of depression, thoughts of suicide, unwarranted anger or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) originating from episodes of rape, bombing and war time trauma.

 

Grace After Fire is a resource for women service members to reach out to others who have experienced the same concerns. Experts are available to offer help, connections and referral for healing.

 

Grace After Fire is a division of The Woman’s Heart, founded in 2002, that will formally launch their web-based women veterans’ services January 2009.

 

 

Statistics

 

9.3% (312,000) veterans aged 21 to 39 experienced at least one major depressive episode

(MDE) in the past year

 

Of those, 51.7% reported severe impairment in at least one of four role domains (i.e., home

management, work, close relationships with others, and social life.)

 

Female veterans were twice as likely as their male counterparts to have experienced MDE in

the last year.

 

SAMHSA’s 2004 – 2006 National Surveys on Drug Use and Health

 

 

 

Vision

Offer the grace of hope, help and healing from trauma and addiction to all military women.

 

 

Mission

Create global awareness and confidential access to appropriate services for trauma and treatment for women veterans.

 

 

Objectives

Educate women veterans about signs of trauma and addiction, intervention and resources for

help. Provide confidential crisis support via live chat, email support and referral.

 

 

Purpose

Give pain a face so that healing can begin now.

 

Soldiers’ Angels Ladies of Liberty (www.soldiersangelsladiesofliberty.com) supports this program.

 

Your voice is needed for better health care for the female veterans

Emine Cay Masters, M.D.is leading the efforts across the nation to gather support for better health care options for our female veterans.  If you are interested in assisting her effort, please copy and paste the below note into an email or letter to the 111th Congress- U.S. House Committee on Veterans Affairs and 111th Congress- U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs. Your voice can and will make a difference for our heroes.
Dear Congressional Leader,
I am writing to express my grave concerns regarding the proposed system for delivering medical care to our women veterans.

As you know, in order for women to receive adequate medical care, they need direct access to primary care, mental health, and gynecology care.  These disciplines are considered the three fundamental pillars for delivering quality care to women.

 

The number of women veterans utilizing VA healthcare will likely double in the next few years.  Within the next 15 years, women are projected to represent 1 in every 7 enrollees versus 1 in every 16 today.  In fact, the active duty military force today is 14% female.  Most of the new women veterans entering VA care are under age 40 and of child-bearing age, thus creating a need for a significant shift in provision of healthcare to women veterans.

Women veterans have chronically been under served by the VA.  Women veterans have higher physical and mental health burdens than their female non-veteran counterparts and medical burdens comparable to or worse than those of male veterans.  Even while utilizing VA services, women have had to seek outside medical services more than have men, especially for women’s gynecological conditions.

My concern is that the Women Veterans Health Strategic Healthcare Group (a group composed of VA administrators far removed from direct patient care – none of whom are Gyn clinicians) has recently recommended that women veterans be limited to a single primary care provider who is supposed to take care of all her medical needs, including gender-specific gynecology care.  This restrictive “gatekeeper” model was tried on a nationwide basis by the HMOs back in the early 1990s, proved to be detrimental to patients’ well-being, and thus abandoned.  Since then, women in the private sector, with or without health insurance, with Tricare coverage, even those enrolled in Medicaid welfare programs, not only have a primary care doctor, they have direct access to an Ob/Gyn for all their gynecological needs, from routine Pap smears to complex gynecology interventions.  This is not fragmented care – it is the standard of care enjoyed by women outside the VA healthcare system.  This same level of high-quality, focused, gender-specific care should also be provided to our women veterans who have served and sacrificed for our country.

The Women Veterans Health Strategic Healthcare Group has recommended that a specialized mental health provider be assigned and co-located to ensure integration of adequate women’s mental health care as part of primary care.  A specialized gynecology clinician should also be assigned and co-located in the women’s health clinic; otherwise, women veterans will continue to be deprived of the comprehensive and competent gender-specific care only a gynecology clinician can provide.

In summary, just like the rest of the women in America experience, women veterans deserve the same direct access to a dedicated Gyn provider for all their gender-specific, female-related gynecology care.

Sincerely,
Your name

111th Congress- U.S. House Committee on Veterans Affairs
Bob Filner
Chairman Corrine Brown
2428 Rayburn House Office Bldg 2336 Rayburn House Office Bldg
Washington DC 20515 Washington DC 20515
Vic Snyder Steve Buyer
1330 Longworth House Office Bldg 2230 Rayburn House Office Bldg
Washington DC 20515 Washington DC 20515
Cliff Stearns Michael H. Michaud
2370 Rayburn House Office Bldg 1724 Longworth House Office Bldg
Washington DC 20515 Washington DC 20515
Stephanie Herseth Sandlin Jerry Moran
331 Cannon House Office Bldg 2202 Rayburn House Office Bldg
Washington DC 20515 Washington DC 20515
Jeff Miller Harry E. Mitchell
1535 Longworth House Office Bldg 2434 Rayburn House Office Bldg
Washington DC 20515 Washington DC 20515
John J. Hall Henry E. Brown, Jr.
1217 Longworth House Office Bldg 1124 Longworth House Office Bldg
Washington DC 20515 Washington DC 20515
Ginny Brown-Waite Phil Hare
414 Cannon House Office Bldg 2434 Rayburn House Office Bldg
Washington DC 20515 Washington DC 20515
Shelley Berkley Brian P. Bilbray
405 Cannon House Office Bldg 227 Cannon House Office Bldg
Washington DC 20515 Washington DC 20515


John T. Salazar Ciro D. Rodriguez
1531 Longworth House Office Bldg 2458 Rayburn House Office Bldg
Washington DC 20515 Washington DC 20515
Michael R. Turner Gus M. Bilirakis
1740 Longworth House Office Bldg 1630 Longworth House Office Bldg
Washington DC 20515 Washington DC 20515
Joe Donnelly Jerry McNerney
1218 Longworth House Office Bldg 312 Cannon House Office Bldg
Washington DC 20515 Washington DC 20515
Doug Lamborn Vern Buchanan
437 Cannon House Office Bldg 1516 Longworth House Office Bldg
Washington DC 20515 Washington DC 20515
Zachary T. Space Timothy J. Walz
315 Cannon House Office Bldg 1529 Longworth House Office Bldg
Washington DC 20515 Washington DC 20515
Steve Scalise
1205 Longworth House Office Bldg
Washington DC 20515

111th Congress- U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs
Daniel K. Akaka Richard Burr
Chairman Ranking Member
141 Hart Senate Bldg 217 Russell Senate Bldg
Washington DC 20510 Washington DC 20510
John D. Rockefeller,IV Patty  Murray
531 Hart Senate Bldg 173 Russell Senate Bldg
Washington DC 20510 Washington DC 20510
Sherrod Brown Jon Tester
455 Russell Senate Bldg 204 Russell Senate Bldg
Washington DC 20510 Washington DC 20510
Jim Webb Bernard Sanders
144 Russell Senate Bldg 332 Dirksen Senate Bldg
Washington DC 20510 Washington DC 20510
Arlen Specter Johnny Isakson
711 Hart Senate Bldg 120 Russell Senate Bldg
Washington DC 20510 Washington DC 20510
Lindsey Graham Kay Bailey Hutchison
290 Russell Senate Bldg 284 Russell Senate Bldg
Washington DC 20510 Washington DC 20510
Roger Wicker
487 Russell Senate Bldg
Washington DC 20510

Recruiter suicides lead to Army probe

Associated Press
Published Tuesday, December 23, 2008

HENDERSON, Texas — Sgt. 1st Class Patrick Henderson, a strapping Iraq combat veteran, spent the last, miserable months of his life as an Army recruiter, cold-calling dozens of people a day from his strip-mall office and sitting in strangers’ living rooms, trying to sign up their sons and daughters for an unpopular war.

He put in 13-hour days, six days a week, often encountering abuse from young people or their parents. When he and other recruiters would gripe about the pressure to meet their quotas, their superiors would snarl that they ought to be grateful they were not in Iraq, according to his widow.

Less than a year into the job, Henderson — afflicted by flashbacks and sleeplessness after his tour of battle in Iraq — went into his backyard shed, slid the chain lock in place, and hanged himself with a dog chain.

He became, at age 35, the fourth member of the Army’s Houston Recruiting Battalion to commit suicide in the past three years — something Henderson’s widow and others blame on the psychological scars of combat, combined with the pressure-cooker job of trying to sell the war.

“Over there in Iraq, you’re doing this high-intensive job you are recognized for. Then, you come back here, and one month you’re a hero, one month you’re a loser because you didn’t put anyone in,” said Staff Sgt. Amanda Henderson, herself an Iraq veteran and a former recruiter in the battalion.

The Army has 38 recruiting battalions in the United States. Patrick Henderson’s is the only one to report more than one suicide in the past six years.

The Army began an investigation after being prodded by Amanda Henderson and Texas Sen. John Cornyn. Cornyn, a Republican on the Armed Services Committee, said he will press for Senate hearings.

“We need to get to the bottom of this as soon as we can,” he said.

The all-volunteer military is under heavy pressure to sign up recruits and retain soldiers while it wages two wars.

Douglas Smith, a spokesman for the Army Recruiting Command, acknowledged that recruiting is a demanding job but said counseling and other support available.

“I don’t have an answer to why these suicides in Houston Recruiting Battalion occurred, but perhaps the investigation that is under way may shed some light on that question,” he said.

Stats since 2003

In all, 15 of the Army’s 8,400 recruiters have committed suicide since 2003. During that period, more than 540 of the Army’s half-million active-duty soldiers killed themselves.

The 266-member Houston battalion covers a huge swath of East Texas, from Houston to the Arkansas line. Henderson committed suicide Sept. 20. Another battalion member, Staff Sgt. Larry Flores Jr., hanged himself in August at age 26; Sgt. Nils “Aron” Andersson, 25, shot himself to death in March 2007; and in 2005, a captain at battalion headquarters took his life, though the military has not disclosed any details. All served combat tours before their recruiting assignments.

Charlotte Porter, Andersson’s mother, said her son — who served two tours in Iraq with the 82nd Airborne and earned a Bronze Star — couldn’t lie to recruits about the war and felt an enormous burden to ensure they could become the kind of soldiers he would want watching his back.

“He wasn’t a complainer. He just said it really sucked,” said his 51-year-old mother, who is from Eugene, Ore. “He felt like a failure.”

Paul Rieckhoff, founder of the advocacy group Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said recruiting these days “is arguably the toughest job in the military.”

“They’re under incredible stress. You can see it on their faces,” he said.

In Iraq, Henderson helped lead other infantrymen on risky “snatch-and-grab” missions and saw several buddies die.

He had been stationed in Germany before going to Iraq. After his tour was up, he was assigned to recruiting. He didn’t particularly want to leave the infantry, but going to recruiting allowed him to move back to the U.S., his widow said.

Like most recruiters, he began his day with paperwork, followed by cold calls to high school graduates and college students. He spent lunches trying to chat up high schoolers outside the cafeteria, and then, more phone calls — often 150 a day, according to his widow.

He spent evenings on the living room sofas or at the dining room tables of the few interested young people, trying to sell them and their families on the Army’s opportunities while easing their fears. Some recruits’ parents were hostile.

“They are completely outright nasty to you. That’s stressful to you right then and there because you have some mother or father just ripping you apart,” Amanda Henderson said.

Crushing pressure

She said her husband also found himself under crushing pressure from above. He and other recruiters in the battalion were required to account for every minute of every day in planners and logs, his widow said.

When Henderson took some time to recover from knee surgery, his bosses acted as if he was lazy and threatened to have him thrown out of recruiting and reassigned far from his wife, Amanda Henderson said.

He lived in constant fear of failing to sign up enough people, something that can result in an all-day audit by a recruiter’s superiors and thwart a soldier’s chances of a promotion, Amanda Henderson said.

As much as Henderson hated recruiting, he did the job well, his widow said. But Flores, who killed himself a few weeks before Henderson, “was getting chewed up one side and down the other” at work in the days before he died, Amanda Henderson said. Flores was her boss.

Smith, the Army spokesman, would not comment on Henderson’s job performance. Asked about the demands put on recruiters by their superiors, he said recruiting duty “often does entail long hours during the week and on weekends.” But he added: “There are other duty assignments in the Army that entail long hours, such as being deployed.”

Assigned duty

Some recruiters volunteer for the job, but most are assigned. They must have a recent evaluation showing no record of mental instability. But Amanda Henderson said her husband, like other combat veterans, rushed through his assessment, insisting he was fine.

Patrick Henderson had been out of Iraq a little less than a year when he began recruiting, and after several months on the job, his sleeplessness and flashbacks became evident, according to his wife. She said she stayed up one night watching him apparently flash between nightmares of combat and of illegally signing up a recruit.

He suffered a breakdown in the weeks before his suicide, his wife said. Because he was hundreds of miles from the nearest Army post, he went to a local counselor recommended by the military after an initial visit with an Army doctor. But the counselor had never worked with a combat veteran and couldn’t decipher the military jargon in his medical records, Amanda Henderson said.

One morning in September, she woke up alone, panicked and went out to look for her husband. The chain was on the door to the shed, but she could see him inside. She pried the window open, and screamed. “He was gone,” she said, her voice breaking.

“I don’t want anybody to feel this pain that I have,” she said, her eyes welling with tears. “It’s too much for one person. They need help.”

On the Net:
Army Recruiting Command: www.usarec.army.mil

What Patti Patton-Bader does when she plays Santa

America’s Favorite Mom played Santa for a Day in New York City, using the prizes she won to bring an early Christmas to military personnel and their families. Patti Patton-Bader, named America’s Favorite Mom last Mother’s Day, received the remainder of her prizes in New York last week, which she immediately donated in support of her heroes.  “Soldiers’ Angels is proud to acknowledge the continued generosity of its founder, Patti Patton Bader, through her donation of the proceeds and prizes she received from the America’s Favorite Mom contest,” said Soldiers’ Angels Treasurer Mark Concialdi.

Redbook magazine interviewed Patti in New York City at a private lunch with editor Stacy Morrison before she received her final prize of a shopping spree. At Patti’s direction, the shopping spree was spent buying Christmas gifts for children of wounded soldiers living in Fisher Houses while their parents recover at nearby military hospitals.

Patti is humble about the experience. “The best part of winning was being able to give the prizes to America’s heroes–our soldiers and their families. There are so many wonderful mothers in this country, and I was just glad to have the opportunity to shine the light on our military and the importance of supporting them in this time of war. I am so grateful to Stuart and Linda Resnick of Teleflora for developing the America’s Favorite Mom contest,” she said.
The cash grand prize was distributed as a lump sum of $150,000, which Patti donated to Soldiers’ Angels this summer. She has also donated the set of household appliances she received to nonprofit Homes for Our Troops where they will be added to a home to be constructed for a quadriplegic wounded soldier.

WWE’s 6th Annual Tribute to the Troops

Soldiers’ Angels is excited to share the news that WWE’s sixth annual Tribute to the Troops program airs Saturday, December 20 at 9/8 CT on NBC

This annual production features matches from Raw, SmackDown and ECW Superstars’ live performance in the Middle East. WWE’s mission to bring its unique form of entertainment to the U.S. servicemen in Iraq also bridges the American public with those who continue to fight in the name of freedom. Tune in to NBC at 9/8 CT this Saturday for this poignant holiday special. 
 
Trailers of the airing:

 
WWE Tribute to the Troops: Letters

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7FIFBvRbCe4

WWE Tribute to the Troops: Heroes
Here’s the link to the Tribute to the Troops: Landing page