One of the happiest memories I have as a child is sitting on my father’s lap and listening to him tell me stories about his time in the Army. My father was a commander of an Artillery company in the 82nd Airborne Division. Once, he told me about a time in Turkey where he saw a man walking a black bear down the street. I can never forget the look on his face as he told stories from this chapter of his life. There was air of joy, pride, and excitement.
Most significant to me, when considering what it has been like to be a military dad, is this- I never had to search far for models of good behavior. Between my wife, who so adroitly performed both roles while I was deployed, and the people serving with me ,I was constantly exposed to parents doing the right thing, making their best way. I was daily witness to fathers struggling to protect and guide their children as they went about the work of protecting a nation.
When I first sat down to watch Top Gun with my dad back in the 8th grade, I didn’t know the difference between an F-22 and a 777, and I could probably count on one hand the number of service members I was acquainted with at the time. It took me another 3 viewings just to understand what branch Maverick was in because I was under the impression, like most Americans, that the Navy sailed ships, the Air Force flew planes, the Army marched on foot, and the Marine Corps...well, they were an elusive branch that were just more hard core than the rest. Even though Top Gun was a little before my time, I can easily say that Top Gun shaped my adolescence and taught me valuable lessons about the military lifestyle that was so different from my own.
Monday the 22nd of February demonstrated the value and the strengths of Code of Support Foundation’s case coordination program.
In the morning, we received an emergency request from the parents of a veteran in distress. Their son is suffering from post-traumatic stress and has been riding an emotional roller coaster since separating from the military. With his health declining, their son began to contemplate suicide. Recognizing the danger he was in, he tried to check into a VA Medical Center for care-and was refused.
As we approach this holiday season, it is important to express our empathy for our service members, veterans and their families. Many of them know nothing but war and separation during a time when most are celebrating communion and fellowship with family and friends. As a veteran, and as a spouse of a military veteran, the emotions of anxiety and uncertainty are all too familiar. Some of you may be aware of my story, but I am merely half of another - my greatest support system, best friend and the father our 3 beautiful children, Cedric. These are his words:
Beau Chambers is not his real name. Beau Chambers is not a ‘long distance runner’. Beau Chambers is not a lot of things; but he is a MARATHONER.
Beau is a hometown boy who grew up in Alexandria, went to TC Williams High School, and still lives in DC. A little over three months ago, a close friend, Chris Nelsen, asked him if he wanted to run a marathon. His answer: a simple, ‘Sure.’
Running a marathon takes guts. It takes the strength of mind, body and soul to complete those heart-aching, back-breaking 26.2 miles. Running a marathon takes incredible toughness, nerve and guile - but running five takes just a little bit of crazy.
Just ask Robyn Chatwood, one of our very own Team Code of Support runners. Already a champion in many other fields, she’s definitely not averse to hard work, and exemplifies it in every aspect of her life. Even after having two kids, Johnny (3yrs) and Robert (9mo), she continues to persevere, and even picks up the pace. She recently participated in a ruck march, which instead of marching, she flat out ran. She ran the Army Ten-Miler as a warm up, then returned home to make breakfast for her kids. Her longest training run so far has been 15 miles, which she completed while suffering from a severe flu. This woman knows dedication, in sickness and in health, a trait that follows her into many other aspects of her life. Her husband John currently works 5 hours away in Blacksburg as a professor of Military Science at Virginia Tech and Radford University. The commute is strenuous, especially with two kids in the mix, but this couple knows how to go the distance.
The first part of my life was normal. By normal, I mean I was born in the house I grew up in. I could have stayed there while going to college, but chose to experience dorm life, and chose to live on my own after college.
I left my normal life, not knowing what I was getting into. I left my family, my friends, my career, my familiar surroundings, everyone and everthing I held dear. I left for the most courageous, loving, proud, kind, beautiful, Southern man.
The military has always been the backdrop of my life, but until this point, I had never engaged in it or connected it to my every day life. One of my grandfathers enlisted in the Army where he quickly rose through the ranks, became a Green Beret in Vietnam and retired in Hawaii as a Lieutenant Colonel. My grandpa on the other side was an Air Force Academy grad who flew KC 135 refuelers during Vietnam and also retired as a Lieutenant Colonel. Growing up as a civilian in Hawaii, but surrounded by many military friends and family members, gave me an incredibly interesting perspective on civilian/military relations in communities and the assumptions made by both about the other. But I didn't participate in the military community and didn't see how it affected my life in any way other than my birthplace.
Coming from a small, rural town in Ohio, I had never heard of AmeriCorps until my senior year of college, when I was offered an AmeriCorps position at Indiana University East. At the time I turned that position down, but as I learned more about the AmeriCorps mission and what members did during their year of service, I was sure that it was something I would look into in the future.
While there are many reasons I wanted to be an Americorps member, the one that stands out most is my sense of service. One thing I know for sure is that I truly have a passion for nonprofits and associations. I have been serving others and volunteering since I was a young child, and I find great meaning and personal fulfillment knowing that I am contributing to a purpose greater than myself, no matter the cause. Being in a military family myself, I wanted to be involved with organizations that address the many issues that come along with the military lifestyle. After extensive research, Americorps seemed like the perfect fit. I love the fact that they address these issues with military families through a holistic approach, and admire their initiative to create the “code of support.”
It has been a long time since I took the time to really look at myself as a man, as a father and a husband. I looked in the mirror the other day and didn’t see myself. Looking back at me, I saw my dad. I could see the lines of heredity in my face, passed down through the generations. It was a deep thought – the soul, look, or essence of my bloodline so vivid in the mirror. I could see the lessons I had learned and continue to learn from my father and grandfather. As I stared, my thoughts drifted to my own son, and my daughters, and my wife – and how this hereditary evolution will continue well beyond my years.
This month marks the recognition of two, highly dedicated, acts of professional service for our nation. The first is the month long appreciation of our military service members – better known as Military Appreciation Month. This includes celebrated dates such as Armed Forces Day, a day to honor those who serve in the United States’ armed forces and Memorial Day, a day for remembering those who died while serving in the country's armed forces. The second is the annual American Nurses Association (ANA) recognition of the Nursing profession which highlights the distinguished level of care nurses provide to their patients. At first glance, the two may not seem directly linked. However, based on my experience as a nurse, and having also served for 38 years in the U.S. Air Force and Air National Guard (ANG), there is a vital correlation between these two service professions.
At COSF we have a simple mantra – They Stood for Us. We Stand With Them. We are committed to providing support for veterans from any generation, regardless of discharge status. Veterans with “bad paper”, who were separated from the military with Other than Honorable discharges – often as a result of untreated Post Traumatic Stress and Traumatic Brain Injury - are falling through the cracks. Soldiers like Michael Wells, a veteran whose two combat tours left him with both mental and physical wounds. In his own words, Mike tells us about the challenges he and his family continue to face. This Veteran’s Day, I hope you’ll take a few minutes to read his story and join us in our efforts to ensure that no veteran family is left behind. – Kristy Kaufmann, Executive Director, Code of Support Foundation
I want to get my story out there to raise awareness for PTSD, TBI and Other than Honorable discharges. Not everyone who has a less than Honorable discharge is a scumbag. Some of us were simply reacting to situations that were out of our control. I did what I did because I feared for my safety and the safety of those around me. There is hope for us. – Michael Wells, Combat Veteran
Shortly after graduating high school at 18 years old, I went down to the recruiting station. I was drawn to the Navy for the sole purpose of becoming a Navy Corpsman; a Medic attached to a Marine unit. After talking to the Navy recruiter, it was determined that prior injuries would bar me from enlisting in the Navy. I went next door to the Army office to see what my options were. The recruiter was showing me a tape of certain Army Military Occupational Specialties (MOS) and the only one that appealed to me was a Tanker.
Code of Support Foundation is a very small non-profit organization devoted to military family and veteran support. Our organization teaches civilians the sacrifices our service members, their families, and veterans make- all of this inspires me to want to give back to them. I may not be personally involved in the military or veteran sector later in life, but I now know more about this walk of life and will continue to be an advocate for our heroes abroad and at home.
To all Americans home and abroad, happy independence day! Please take a moment to read a very special post from one of our unbelievable staff members, Jamie Stacy.
The 4th of July is a Holiday celebrated with anticipation, all across America. We all share the common experience filled with BBQ’s and Fireworks. But it means so much more than that...
Growing up in rural, upstate Averill Park, NY, I have clear memories as a four year old of sitting in a stroller, beside my family, in the middle of the Empire State Plaza of Albany, NY to watch the fireworks display. Strangely enough, I was not amazed at the colors and shapes in the sky. I was terrified. I spent the entire two hours under my blankie, waiting for it to be over.
But now, I look forward to lying out on a blanket in the middle of a park and being enchanted by the beauty of the fire in the sky, and inspired by what it means…
As we all start to gear up for the long weekend I wanted to share some of my memories of Memorial Day. My name is Shane Cooke and I am the proud son of a Marine, and the Director of Communications and Outreach at COSF. I hope you take a moment to read what Memorial Day means to me.
The Nostalgia of Remembrance...
As Friday rolls around this Memorial Day weekend, school kids everywhere will struggle to pay attention in class. For me, I was always way too busy daydreaming about the local pool opening, or mentally preparing for a camping trip with my parents to listen to Mrs. Wrecker talk about civics. The only thing I remember being on my mind in 5th period was the fact that I wouldn't have to go to school on Monday. As for my mom, although she would never have admitted it, she was probably in a similar state as she rode out the rest of the work week. My dad, if he wasn't at 30,000 feet turning off the fasten seat belt sign, was usually preparing to make his classic dinner of cheese quesadillas (a dish which infuriated my mother because it lacked a vegetable- “Uh that’s what the salsa is for mom”). Sometimes we would all pack into the family suburban and actually go on that camping trip, but most years we would just spend the weekend relaxing around the house, usually kicking off the unofficial start of summer with potato salad and barbecue in the backyard.
This past September, America marked twelve consecutive years of freedom from terrorist attacks on our shores. In those intervening years, we have enjoyed twelve Christmases with our families, twelve years of shopping, little league ballgames, commuting hassles, reality TV shows, Superbowls, politics and elections, PTA meetings and all of the myriad happenings that make up ordinary, everyday life in America. Other than some “minor inconveniences” of increased security measures here at home, it has been twelve years of business as usual for more than ninety nine and a half percent of the American people.
The Code of Support Foundation lost a great friend and mentor recently with the passing of General Jack Deane. General Deane graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in 1942, and became a platoon leader in the 104th Infantry Division in Europe. By the end of the war, he had risen to be a battalion commander. After 35 years of active duty service, he retired in 1977 as commander of the U.S. Army Material Command, having achieved the rank of four-star general.
They stand on guard around the globe,
On vigil, night and day.
These sentinels of freedom,
Whom we send into harm’s way.