Viva's Story: Keeping up Appearances

December 18, 2015

Bringing a new baby into what is already a volatile home could mean a death sentence for all involved. But, for Viva, her pregnancy brought her life.

When she told C.L. about the pregnancy, his immediate response was for Viva to have an abortion. He soon left for a three-month European trip funded by a wealthy Family Member. As soon as he left, Viva called her mother who immediately came to spend time with her.

Three months went by quickly, and a few days after Viva’s mother left, C.L. returned in the middle of the night.

“He came in and searched the house because he could swear that I had somebody over at the house,” Viva said. “Then he notices I’m [still] pregnant, and then he flips out.”

Although C.L. was angry because Viva kept the baby, he refrained from physically abusing her. Instead, he continuously said mean words to her. He threw things, punched more holes in the walls and abused their res- cue dog, “Sweetest,” even more.

Pregnancy changed her. Viva said she became a mother bear and started sticking up for herself. She said she even told C.L. he could leave if he was not happy. Viva said the three months C.L. was gone was much needed because she began to realize who she was with- out him in her life.

“I was just tired of trying to be perfect,” Viva said. “I didn’t care anymore. It seems like when the roles changed at that time, he was nicer to me. I was standing up for myself, and he gave in to me a lot more when I was being really tough about it.”

Now, out of the Army, Viva felt she really had no place to turn. The fight, which brought the relationship to a close, happened over the course of two days. This was what Viva called 'the worst and last one.' As their child lay asleep in bed, C.L. took Viva’s phone, read her text messages and accused her of cheating. He then threatened to cut off her hair and hog-tie her with the zip ties in his hand. Viva said C.L. punched her in the face, head and body as she screamed and fought to get away. For the next three and a half hours, Viva was physically tortured to the point of being strangled until she passed out. However, soon after beating her, Viva said C.L. began to cry and begged for forgiveness.

“For the next two hours, C.L. begged me not to call the police,” Viva said. “He made me promise that I wouldn’t leave him and that I wouldn’t report this incident. He finally left to go to work. The next day, I went to work and waited [until] my manager showed up and then called my attorney who was able to fit me in right away.”

Staff Sgt. Jones, a Soldier stationed here, said she had no idea of the level of abuse her twin sister Viva was going through over the years. Jones said C.L. did not seem like a “bad guy” at first, but then something changed. She said she noticed the verbal fights between Viva and C.L early on, yet was not privy to the physical abuse until May of this year. Jones was still deployed in Afghanistan when she found out the details of the last fight.

“I can’t believe that it was going on for so long,” Jones tearfully said. “That’s my sweet, beautiful, twin sister who is always so happy and so cheerful ... and to have to go through that and to know that maybe she felt like she deserved that—ever.”

Navy retiree, Dr. Skytina Felder-Jones, victim advocate coordinator, Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield, Army Community Service, said when she learned of Viva’s horrible abuse, Felder-Jones’ heart went out to her. “My first thought on that was wow, nobody deserves that, and how can someone be that cruel to a human being, let alone your wife, let alone the mother of your child,” Felder-Jones said.

Felder-Jones said there is help for women and men in domestic violent relationships. She said because of the shame or guilt a victim may feel, the key is to approach them with compassion and in a non-offensive manner.

“Victims shouldn’t stay quiet because the abuse will not end,” Felder-Jones said. “The longer you stay in a situation where there is abuse, the greater the chances are of injury or the possibility of being killed.”

Felder-Jones said ACS has an “arsenal of tools,” resources and advocates, who are ready and willing to help. “And, if you make the first step, you don’t have to make another step alone because there is an advocate there with you every step of the way,” Felder-Jones said. “I wish somebody else would have approached me,” Viva said. “I wish my battle who knew everything, she would have told on me. I wish my sergeants would have come and done home inspections on me. I wish they would have checked me when I went to the doctors, when the doctors saw the bruises on my body. I wished they would have asked what’s going on. I wished I would have gone and sat before my commander and first sergeant. For them to ask me what’s going on and hopefully get me to the point of me breaking, and knowing [I have] some help, and getting out of it sooner. I am so lucky I am not dead right now.”

Today, after seven years of being in a domestic violent relationship, Viva and her toddler escaped with their life. She is no longer a victim, she is a survivor.

If you or someone you know, someone you love, is in need of help escaping a domestic violent relationship, please call the Fort Stewart Domestic Violence Hotline at 912-767-3032 or Hunter Army Airfield at 912-315- 5343. The 24/7 cell phone number for the on-call person for both bases is 912-532-3426 or call the National Domestic Hotline at 800-799-7233.

---Kaytrina Curtis, Fort Stewart Public Affairs

Domestic Violence and the Holidays

December 2, 2015

Research studies indicate that domestic violence tends to spike during the holiday season due to a variety of factors, including:

* Increased financial pressures

* Increased alcohol and drug consumption

* Increased family pressures and conflict

* Increased contact with the abuser who may be on vacation for the holiday season

Individuals who are at an increased risk of domestic violence are encouraged to contact FS/HAAF Family Advocacy Program. Victim advocates are available seven days a week including after hours. These individuals are trained to specifically to keep victims safe and to help prevent further incidents of domestic violence. Potential victims should be armed with a safety plan. FAP assists Soldiers and Family members with creating a safety plan and other resources. Sample safety plans may also be found on the National Center on Domestic and Sexual violence website. The FS/HAAF Family Advocacy hotline numbers are: 912-767-3032 (FSGA) and 912-315-5343 (HAAF).

Do not suffer in silence. There are alternatives and resources available to end domestic violence.

Prince Charming…..

December 2, 2015

Remembering back, I never thought it would be like this. I was a single parent of two; Janet, who was 18 months old and Tommy, who was 5 years old. I was independent, working and even had my own place. It was not perfect but it was not the horrific life I am in now. Where did it all go wrong?

I can remember when we first met; I will call him Prince Charming. I had gone out for the first time in years. I might have had a little too much to drink but he did not appear to be what he is now. Prince Charming had a nice smile and was very good looking, way out of my league. I never thought of myself as pretty but he made me feel like I was the only one in the bar. We exchanged numbers and talked the next day. We eventually went on several dates. He was my prince charming: he was good looking and had a good job. I really liked him and things seemed to be on the right track.

After a few months, I lost my job. Money was always a little tight but now it was even harder. Prince Charming offered to move in to help with the bills. At first, I said no but then I had no choice; it was either let him move in or get evicted. The bills started getting paid again but eventually Prince Charming kept complaining. He wanted me to contribute and started calling me worthless and saying I was good for nothing. I was applying for jobs but none led to anything more. It got to the point where I started to feel depressed, like I wasn’t worth anything. My friend Lucy said I just needed to get out, so we went out for lunch. I ended up getting home later than I anticipated, past our normal dinner time. Prince Charming was calling me every minute wanting to know where I was and who I was with. When I got home, I noticed he had been drinking. I tried to make dinner, but he smacked the dishes out of my hand. He was yelling and very upset because dinner was not ready when he got home from work. As I tried to pick up the broken dishes, he threw beer bottles on the floor and told me to clean those up as well. Prince Charming said that since I did not have dinner ready on time, that I brought this upon myself. My neighbor was on her way to bring the kids home and I did not want her to know what happened or for the kids to hurt themselves on the glass, so I cleaned it up. I tried my best to avoid Prince Charming the rest of the evening. Later after the kids went to sleep, he tried to kiss me. I did not want to kiss him but he grabbed by chin and made me turn my face back towards him. Then he began to rub on me and I pushed his hand away. Prince Charming grabbed my wrists very hard and held them. He said he could have me whenever he wants to, that I was his. I told him no and he slapped me so hard I feel on the bed. He proceeded to take what he wanted despite my cries and protests.

The next morning, I had bruises on my wrists and a bruise on my right cheek. I put extra makeup on that morning to try to hide the bruise on my face. Prince Charming was off today and was being extra nice. He apologized and said it was the alcohol that caused him to act that way. We went to lunch and had a good time. I figured I would give it another chance plus it was not like I had a lot of options since I still did not have a job. As the weeks passed, Prince Charming did not hit me again but he did continue with the emotional abuse. On a daily basis, I heard how worthless I was, that I was stupid, and that I could not do anything right. He was always yelling at me and putting me down. If Lucy called he would grab the phone and hang up on her. He told me he did not want me to be friends with Lucy. I continued to talk to Lucy but only did so when Prince Charming was not around. Lucy picked up on this but I kept making excuses. It got to the point where I felt I was walking on egg shells whenever Prince Charming was home.

Then one day when I was helping Tommy with his homework and he told me I was stupid. I was so shocked; I did not know what to say. I knew where he had learned it from and decided I needed to address it. I was very anxious the remainder of the day waiting for Prince Charming to come home from work but he was not home at his usual time. I called him several times but he did not answer. He finally came home and at the same time Lucy called me wanting to go out. Prince Charming started yelling, grabbed my cell phone and broke it. I began to cry and had a moment of courage so I yelled back at him, telling him that I was leaving. I instantly regretted it because the look in his eyes was that of an animal. He threw my phone at me but I ducked so it didn’t hit me but at the same time he charged at me. Prince Charming grabbed me by my arms, threw me against the wall and pinned me there. He was still yelling; his face was so close that I could feel the heat of his breath and smell the alcohol. Tommy came out of his room and was crying, asking Prince Charming to stop. Prince Charming yelled at Tommy causing him to run back to his room. Then suddenly Prince Charming punched the wall right next to my head causing a hole. He told me that if I ever yell at him again, it would be worse and if I ever left him he would kill me. That night he raped me again.

The next day I had bruises on my upper arms. He apologized and again blamed it on the alcohol. I don’t know why but I stayed. I did not have any money saved, my car was broke, I did not have a job, I had no family in the state and I had nowhere else to go. The physical and emotional abuse continued, almost as if on cycle. Things would be good, then he would get agitated easily and then he would hit me. Prince Charming always apologized afterwards and took me out to eat or bought me a gift.

Tommy started getting in trouble at school more, fighting and his grades started dropping. The school called one day asking how Tommy got the bruises on his arms. I did not know he had bruises on his arm. Tommy told his teacher that Prince Charming had grabbed him, causing the bruises. I sent took the kids to the neighbor’s to play so I could talk to Prince Charming. I tried but he became very angry because he felt I was accusing him and questioning his discipline methods. He had been drinking again, so I decided it was not a good time to try to talk about this, so I tried to walk away. Prince Charming grabbed my arm and yanked me back. He told me not to walk away from him while he was talking and hit me on mouth. Then he grabbed me by my neck and started choking me. I kicked him which caused him to let go of me and I tried to run for the door but he grabbed my hair and pulled me back causing me to fall. He proceeded to kick me. All I could do was curl up in the fetal position to try to protect myself. He kept kicking and yelling. Then all of a sudden the police were there and Prince Charming was being put in hand cuffs.

I ended up having two broken ribs, several stitches on my lip, a slight concussion and many bruises. My neighbor had came back to the house to get a diaper, heard the yelling and saw Prince Charming hit me in the face, so she had called the police. If she had not called the police, I don’t know if I would be here to tell my story today.

The police put me in contact with a Victim Advocate who took me and the kids to a shelter for battered women. The Victim Advocate helped me get a Protective Order against Prince Charming so he could not come around me and my kids. The Victim Advocate also helped me and the kids get in to counseling. We stayed at the shelter for about 4 months while we continued with the counseling. The shelter helped me find a job and get a new place. Prince Charming does not know where we live and I feel safe now. Tommy is doing a little better but it will take some time. I don’t think I could have re-established myself without the help of the Victim Advocate or the shelter.

One in four women will experience domestic violence during her lifetime. Most domestic violence incidents are never reported. Help change this by speaking up, speaking out, and making a difference for victims of domestic violence.

If you are the victim of domestic violence or sexual assault, please call the Army Community Service Victim Advocacy Program at (Fort Stewart) 912-767-3032 or (Hunter Army Airfield) 912-315-5343. An advocate is available to you 24/7.

FAP offers classes on couple’s communication, parenting classes and much more. For more information on FAP and the classes offered, please call 912-767-2882 (FS) or 912-315-6816 (HAAF).

--- Installation Victim Advocate

Abusive Women

December 2, 2015

What’s the first image you think of when you hear of an incident of domestic violence? Do you think of a husband hitting his wife or a man hitting a woman? It is uncanny how times and things seem to change. As a victim advocate with several years of experience under my belt I take every opportunity to dispel myths. Outside the world of victim advocacy, many individuals never associate domestic violence with a woman being the offender! That’s right, the age-old stereotype of men being the abuser is no longer a reality. As a matter of fact historical data tells us that men have long been victims of domestic violence although not at the rate of women victims. Women can be abusers too! Men are also victims.

Most men will not report being abused. Male victims of family violence and abuse - like women - often face many barriers to disclosing their abuse:

* They are likely to be told that there must be something they did to provoke the perpetrator’s abuse.

* They can suffer shame, embarrassment and the social stigma of not being able to protect themselves.

* They can fear that if they disclose the abuse there will be nowhere for them and their children to escape to.

* In cases of intimate partner violence, men often fear that if they disclose the abuse or end the relationship, their partner might become more abusive and/or take the children.

* They can feel uncertain about where to seek help, or how to seek help.

* Services are less likely to ask whether a man is a victim of family violence, and when they do ask, they are less likely to believe him (indeed many health departments have mandatory domestic violence screening for young women, but no such screening for young men).

* Male victims can be falsely arrested and removed from their homes because of the assumption that because they are male, they must be a perpetrator and not a victim. When this happens, children can be left unprotected from the perpetrator of the violence, leading many men to suffer the abuse in silence in an attempt to protect their children.

* The word “victim” is troublesome to most men. Men do not want to be thought of or think of themselves in that way. Many men convince themselves that their silence proves that they can take it, that they are allowing the abuse to happen, not being victimized by it.

Because of these barriers, men are much less likely to report being a victim of family violence than are women (and women also frequently don’t report violence against them).

If we want to reduce the amount of violence in American homes, we need to take a hard look at our attitudes. Do not teach our children that the correct way to resolve problems is through hitting or any form of physical or emotional abuse. We should all learn healthy ways to settle problems. Abused men and violent women can be helped. If you are the victim of domestic violence or sexual assault, please call Army Community Service Victim Advocacy Program at 912-767-3032 (Fort Stewart) or 912-315-5343 (Hunter Army Airfield). An advocate is available to you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

--- By Lisa Crocker, Family Advocacy Program, Installation Victim Advocate

Social Security dilemma: Draw now or draw later?

November 18, 2015

The federal government allows retirees to start drawing Social Security as early as age 62, a feature that more than 40 percent of Americans take advantage of as they gladly draw from the system they spent a lifetime paying into.

But many of those people may be making a mistake, says Reid Abedeen, a partner at Safeguard Investment Advisory Group, LLC

"While you're allowed to start drawing Social Security when you are 62, your monthly benefit will be reduced," Abedeen says. "Although there might be personal reasons why someone needs to apply early, for most people it's probably better to wait at least until their full retirement age."

Full retirement age is between 66 and 67 for most people in the workforce right now. Wait until you are 70, and the amount of your monthly check goes up even more.

When it comes to Social Security, though, there's a financial monkey wrench that can complicate sorting out your plan. Social Security rules can be complicated and even your spouse's income and decisions can affect when the most opportune time is for you to draw benefits.

"You really are going to want to coordinate what you do with what your spouse does, to make sure you are getting the highest amount possible," Abedeen says.

Here are a few points to remember if you're considering claiming your Social Security at 62:

Reduction of benefit. Depending when your full retirement age is, you would see about a 25 to 30 percent reduction in your benefit if you retire at 62. On the other hand, if you delay collecting past full retirement age, you can increase your benefit by eight percent a year up until you are 70.

Life expectancy. One reason many people opt to draw the money early is they fear they will die before they get a chance to receive anything at all from Social Security. After a lifetime of paying into the system, they won't get a penny out of it. They don't want to feel cheated out of what they have coming to them.

That's certainly a concern, Abedeen says. But there's an even greater concern than dying early, and that's living too long. "Life expectancies are growing, but many people have not saved enough to see them through a retirement that could last two or three decades or longer," he says. "If you live a long life, it could be crucial to you that the monthly Social Security payment be as large as possible."

Continuing to work. You could be in for a surprise if you plan to continue working after you begin drawing Social Security. If you haven't waited until your full retirement age, there's a limit on how much you can make. In 2015, that limit is $15,720, according to the Social Security Administration. If you go over that, you would be deducted $1 in benefits for every $2 you earn over the limits. (That changes in the year you reach full retirement age, and beginning with the month you are at full retirement age there is no limit on your earnings.)

--- Special to the Frontline

Learn more about Foreign-born Spouse Program

October 21, 2015

Army Community Service has always been a staple in the lives of our military, supporting both Soldiers and Family Members during their time of need.

As we embark on the middle of the PCS season, emotions and stress are high for all, especially for our foreign- born spouses. Whether you are looking for information on English as Second Language classes or help reviewing your citizenship paperwork, the ACS Relocation Readiness Program is here to help you.

As a foreign-born spouse, you may have questions and concerns on adapting to the American culture, to include the military lifestyle. You may not know who to turn to for answers or guidance. Attend one of our Foreign-born Spouse Program meetings and join other foreign-born spouses from various cultures and countries to network, share experiences, develop friendships and learn about the many resources that are available to you through information and referral.

The Foreign-born Spouse Program meets on the second Wednesday of every month at 10 a.m. in Fort Stewart ACS, building 86.

Please give us a call at 912-767-5058 if you have any questions. We look forward to meeting you all.

Have spending plan when holiday shopping

October 7, 2015

It’s that time of year again when we step into the world of holiday spirit, and start venturing out with our Christmas checklist. Many are just finalizing last years’ holiday debt, only to fall right back into the same revolving debt trap again for another year. As the economy continues to change, so will the value of the dollar.

Having a spending plan and reviewing your current financial situation will paint a broader picture of how much you can actually afford to spend without going into debt.

Simply ask yourself, can I afford to make additional monthly payments on a new debt or perhaps an increase in my current debts? Do I have enough saved or available cash flow to make my holiday purchases without using a credit card?

If the answer is “no,” it is truly time to reevaluate how you will spend for the holidays. By creating a list of good intentions, you can now start to prioritize and figure out what is important to you.

Take the time to check your list and set a spending limit without adjusting it to suit another’s needs or wants. By doing so, you will more than likely find yourself doing it for everyone out of guilt or the feeling of obligation.

Most importantly, there is no written rule that a gift has to be of monetary value. These gifts are not only priceless, they cannot be replaced and normally mean the most. Search the internet for gift ideas, there are hundreds of them available. For instance, homemade crafts, cookie mix in a jar, a holiday family photo, a personalized coupon for an evening of babysitting, just let your imagination run wild with great gift giving ideas.

Keep in mind that every year the toy makers seem to get smarter and smarter, creating awesome jaw-dropping gadgets and let’s not forget the latest video craze, “Oops” did I forget the newest electronic device that does everything? Of course not; yes, it’s out there but we have to snap back into reality and start planning early. Some of the local retail stores have begun their Christmas Lay-a- ways, using them will cut down on spending large amounts of money at one time.

Our local Exchange will began holiday lay-a-ways now until Dec. 24. The service fee will also be waived during this time with the exception of electronics (see store associate).

To top it off, there are no taxes when shopping at the Exchange. With laying away items, this allows the leverage of making small payments over the next few months as well as not worrying about where to hide or store these great gifts. Also, do not forget to use store coupons as well as comparison shop and always ask about the store’s return and refund policy on seasonal items. The one question that I love to ask when I’m making a purchase is, “Does your store offer military discounts? The least I can be told is “no.” If, on the other hand, the answer is “yes,” this makes for even sweeter savings. There are many ways to beat the stressors of holiday spending and saving just a little at a time throughout the year is a great way to start. This can also avoid the use of that much- relied upon “plastic money.”

Many local financial institutions offer saving clubs that allow you to save for the holidays at your own pace. Christmas holidays are a great time to enjoy spending time with Family and friends but please always apply safety and safeguard your identity, credit/debit cards, checkbook, Social Security Number and birth information.

Be very careful of scams offered over the telephone, never provide your personal information to anyone over the phone and use caution when dealing with door-to- door sales that seem too good to be true, they normally are. Pay very close attention to your banking and billing statements for unauthorized charges and immediately notify your banking institution should you lose or misplace your bank card.

Army Community Service Financial Readiness offers several classes monthly to assist Soldiers, Family Members and retirees to get their finances on track not just for the holidays but every day.

We are also available to provide training to units and Family Readiness Groups. For confidential financial counseling, please call 912-767-5058/5059.

--- Renee McClinton, ACS Financial Readiness Specialist

7 ways fathers can bond with new baby

September 28, 2015

Parents are often advised to bond with their infant. For mothers, that seems to be an easier task as they are usually the parent who feeds the baby by bottle or breast every two-to-three hours after birth. But, what about the father? How does he connect with his child when the mother is so involved in the initial care of the baby?

According to the book “Father Need: Why Father Care is as Essential as Mother Care for Your Child,” bonding is the emotional and physical connection between two human beings. It occurs usually immediately after the birth of your baby. However, the father is frequently an outsider following the birth. Fathers can take a more active role in their child’s birth by having the baby placed in their arms following the birth. Skin-to-skin contact can help to increase the bonding experience. Regardless of the circumstance, dads step up and hold your baby after birth, let the baby hear your voice, and feel your touch.

Here are seven ways fathers can bond with their new baby:

1. Hold the baby between feedings, change diapers, touch the baby’s hands, and give the baby a sponge bath. Remember that you have waited for months for this little baby to appear, and now you want to get to know him or her.

2. Put the baby in a baby carrier and walk around the neighborhood or in the house with him on your chest. Although infants cannot see well at birth, their sense of smell is especially accurate, and you want your baby to recognize your smell as a caregiver.

3. Over the next few weeks, a baby can see clearly at about six-to-10 inches away, so hold them close, and talk to them. Let them see your face, and hear your voice. It is these first opportunities which promote that attachment with our children. Babies are recording our voices and faces in their memory. Babies also will start to respond to a parent’s voice and touch; this is demonstrated by the baby quieting when a parent talks to him or start to wiggle, or move arms at the sound of parental voices. An infant can tell the difference between mother and father’s voice by six weeks of age and recognize their care giving differences as well.

4. When you first arrive home from work or school, greet your baby, and spend a few minutes holding or talking to them. Babies do not care about the topic of conversation (the words), they just enjoy the sound or tone of your voice.

5. Your helping with the baby upon returning home improves your partner relationship. The baby has been with its mother for most of the day, and mom could use a time out when you get home. After all, the baby has been her priority during the day; maybe she would like to bathe or take a nap before the evening routine. A few minutes now will go a long way to demonstrate that you are an invested parent and value her efforts as a mother.

6. Feed the baby by bottle or take the baby immediately after the feeding. (After six weeks of birth, it is generally safe to feed breast milk by bottle). Let your partner have some free time away from the house, to get her hair styled, a pedicure or go visit a friend. This time away is healthy to reduce stress and feel appreciated.

7. For playtime place the baby on the floor, on a mat, wiggle his legs and arms and put colorful toys in front of the baby’s face. These play times help with bonding and improving baby’s spatial and language development. Fathers are just as important as mothers in bonding with their children, so make the effort.

As your baby ages, you will have more opportunities to play with your baby. By two months of age, your baby’s personality is emerging, and he enjoys cooing, laughing and smiling.

For additional information on parenting topics or classes, contact Family Advocacy Program, Army Community Service, at 912-767-2882 for Fort Stewart or 912-315-6816 for Hunter Army Airfield.

---Cheri Jones, Army Community Service

Army Emergency Relief gives junior Soldiers direct access

September 21, 2015

Army Emergency Relief, or AER, has just made it easier for junior Soldiers to request interest-free loans and grants.

Effective Sept. 9, many junior Soldiers will be able to apply for emergency financial assistance without involving their chain of command.

The new policy pertains to privates through corporals and specialists, who have completed Initial Entry Training and have a minimum of 12 months service or have completed Advanced Individual Training - whichever comes first. They will no longer be required to request an AER loan or grant by going through their chain of command.

Charles Durr, who serves as assistance chief for AER, said the change was brought on because AER feels that first year of service is essential in establishing trust between leader and a service members, and it's a kind of integration period where good financial fitness is being developed.

Another reason for the policy shift is because AER has seen about a 35-percent decline over the last six years in the number of active-duty Soldiers seeking assistance, Durr said.

During calendar year 2014, AER had 35,000 requests for assistance and disbursed nearly $46 million to help active-duty Soldiers set up homes, repair autos and take care of expenditures that were unforeseen, he said.

"We attributed the decline in asking for help to what was an intimidating, time-consuming process in that Soldiers would have to go to the squad leader, the squad leader to the platoon sergeant, the platoon sergeant to the first sergeant and so on," Durr said. "We think our Soldiers deserve to be afforded a streamlined process for resolving any of their short-term financial issues."

Durr said that no-interest loan requests and grants were down for fear of a perceived stigma that's associated with asking for help and being labeled as "bad Soldiers" because they had financial issues. Some Soldiers felt their need for financial help would threaten future promotion and selection for leadership positions or that they might lose their security clearances.

Direct access to AER has been gradual. In 2013, sergeants first class were given direct access to AER without going through their chain of command. After a further worldwide assessment, Jan. 1, 2014, AER extended direct access to sergeants and above, so it's been an incremental change over time, Durr said.

The retired command sergeant major said when Soldiers had to move through the laborious and embarrassing process of the chain of command, they would seek out alternatives like payday lenders for emergency financial assistance. Then they'd be stuck with high-interest loans.

Ways in which AER has assisted Soldiers and their Families in the past include initial deposits for utilities needed for establishing a new household, Durr said. He added that AER can also assist with the purchase of washers, dryers, beds and other furniture instead of renting-to-own.

"We can help with auto replacement, when it's not financially sound for a Soldier to continue to dump money into auto repairs that cost more than a vehicle is worth," he said.

In mid-July, AER opened a new category of assistance - minor home repair for those Soldiers, who choose to buy homes rather than rent. This new category is designed to cover repairs on interior, exterior wiring and the like which aren't covered by basic home-owners' insurance.

"We have a significant investment portfolio - so we're postured for disasters, payless paydays, things of that nature ... and this is the Soldiers' fund, so they should be able to draw from it as needed," Durr said. "We continue to look for ways to meet the emergency financial needs of our Soldiers and their Families, so we have to be an organization that evolves as the Army changes."

AER was established in 1942 with $1.5 million in seed money from the American Red Cross and $12 million from Irving Berlin's musical, "This is the Army." It was incorporated as a non-profit organization to meet the emergency financial needs of a rapidly expanding Army.

The secretary of war and the Army chief of staff established AER on Feb. 5, 1942, in Washington, D.C. AER was placed under the Army service commands with more than 600 sections worldwide at the height of World War II.

--- J.D. Leipold, Army News Service

Surviving first trimester tips, tricks

September 14, 2015

According to the book “The Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn: The Complete Guide,” the first trimester lasts 12 weeks. It is also known as the “formation” period.

By the end of it, all of your baby’s organ systems are formed and functioning. For mom, the first trimester is also a time of physical and emotional adjustment to being pregnant.

During the first trimester, you may feel unusually tired and need more sleep. This is because of your changing metabolic rate and your increased energy needs while growing a baby.

It is important to rest when able, eat healthy foods, drink plenty of water and reduce stress. Exercising regularly can decrease stress, promote sleep and improve your health during pregnancy. Most women experience nausea and vomiting during these early months of pregnancy. Even though it is called morning sickness, these symptoms can occur any time throughout the day.

There are many non-medicinal ways to cope with morning sickness. These include eating several small meals a day to prevent an empty stomach. It keeps your blood sugar level, drink fluids between meals and during meals, keep bland food by your bed and eat some before getting up. Identify and avoid odors that make nausea worse. Increase intake of foods rich in Vitamin B6.

Lastly, trust your food preferences. If it sounds good to eat, you will probably tolerate it. You may also begin to experience mood swings during the first trimester such as crying easily or reacting strongly to minor inconveniences. This may be difficult for you and your partner to understand, so it is important to talk with your partner and share your feelings. This will enable you to work through this transition together. Also, as earlier mentioned in the article, keeping stress levels low and getting adequate sleep can help decrease severity of mood swings.

Few women go through pregnancy without experiencing occasional emotional stress. In the short term, the stress does not cause harm and can be beneficial by providing a boost of energy or motivation. In the long term, chronic stress can increase chances of preterm labor or low birth weight.

Research has even shown chronic stress during pregnancy can increase chances of the child developing ADHD, anxiety disorders and language delays. There are multiple ways to cope with stress. These include identifying the source of your stress and eliminate it if possible, learn ways to cope with stressful conditions. If eliminating the source is not possible, be sure to get enough sleep, regular exercise, nurture yourself by doing somethings you enjoy, and utilize supports (Family, friends, community resources, etc.).

For more information on tips for surviving your first trimester, please contact your Fort Stewart New Parent Support Program at 912-767-2882 or Hunter Army Air Field at 912-315-6816.

--- Julie Albert, LCSW, NPSP; Army Community Service

15 different ways for Family fun

August 18, 2015

The military community is facing continued deployments, downsizing of military personnel and economic decline. With these things in mind, it is important that we find sources of activities for our children that foster quality Family time.

The following is a list of quality time activities for parents and children, which were taken from the article “78 Parent Child Activities.” These activities are appropriate for all age groups:

1) Fun with Cleaning –Decide to clean windows, dusting or just tidying up. Parents can make this more interesting or engaging by adding incentives such as music, prizes and finding money when tidying up.

2) Baking – even young kids like to help with the mixing or pouring the ingredients. Take pictures of your little “chefs.”

3) Make a pizza from scratch.

4) Make soup from scratch – have the kids help with washing the vegetables.

5) Tent City – grab pillows, sheets and set up a tent in the living room.

6) Visit a public library.

7) Go to the park.

8) Go to the beach.

9) Play catch with little kids. You can start with catching stuffed animals and then graduate to an actual ball.

10) Jumping Games such as jumping jacks, jump- rope, hopscotch, etc.

11) Play card games like “Go Fish” or “Concentration.”

12) Coloring can be fun with both crayons and magic markers.

13) Write a story using a combination of paper, pens, crayons, photos, collage to write the story.

14) Plant some flowers , vegetables or herbs, empty egg carton scan be used to start the garden.

15) Have a Limbo Dance .

These are just a few ways parents can engage in Family fun with their children. More age-specific fun activities for parents and children can be found at . As mentioned above with hectic work schedules, changes in the state of the national economy, constant changes in the Family and numerous deployments, it is important that we spend quality time with our Families. These activities can also be great for Family gatherings that include distant relatives.

If you have any further questions about how to spend quality time with your children, please feel free to contact the Family Advocacy Program at 912-767-2882 for Fort Stewart or 912-315-6816 for Hunter Army Airfield.

---Deborah Riley, Family Advocacy Program specialist

Army entomologists release video on controlling mosquitoes in and around the home

August 10, 2015

Summer is officially here and many individuals are spending more time outdoors. Being outdoors increases one's risk of being bitten by mosquitoes. Not only do mosquito bites make outdoor activities unpleasant, their bites can transmit diseases to people and domes- tic animals. In the United States, mosquitoes can spread West Nile fever, dengue, chikungunya and several other debilitating diseases. Mosquitoes are also responsible for transmitting heartworm in dogs.

To better educate Army personnel on what they can do to protect against mosquito-borne disease, the Entomology Program of the Army Institute of Public Health has released a video on controlling mosquitoes in and around the home. The video can be reviewed on Youtube.

All mosquitoes have one common requirement- -they need water to complete their life cycle.

"Mosquitoes grow in almost any source of water, including fresh water (even if heavily polluted), salt- water marshes, brackish water and sewage. Mosquitoes can live in the water in tin cans, bird baths, barrels, ornamental ponds, boats, canoes, discarded tires, plant pots, clogged gutters and poorly-maintained swimming pools," said Tom Burroughs, entomology program manager at the AIPH.

Army entomologists say there are steps one can take around the home to decrease mosquito breeding and basic personal protective measures that can reduce one's chances of being bitten. According to the video, controlling mosquitoes in and around the home can be accomplished by reducing larval and adult populations and avoiding contact with mosquitoes. Mosquitoes also bite indoors, so individuals need to prevent mosquitoes from gaining entry into living and sleeping quarters and eliminate those that might already be there.

Entomologists want individuals to keep in mind that adult mosquitoes can fly several miles from the water source where they developed. Therefore, attempts at controlling mosquitoes on certain premises may not eliminate all biting activity.

A community-wide effort may be needed to reduce mosquito levels, according to AIPH personnel.

"This will require the cooperation of neighboring homeowners, home-owners associations, and local government agencies to reduce adult populations and breeding sites," said Burroughs.

---Zia Mehr, Entomologist, U.S. Army Public Health Command

How to keep our children safe during the summer

June 9, 2015

We are moving rather rapidly into the summer months and we must consider the safety of our military members and their Families. It is the time when many of our Soldiers will be returning from deployments; children are out of school on summer break; Families are preparing for PCS moves; and many Families will be vacationing or attending Family reunions. Warm weather tends to present a greater opportunity for Families to enjoy outdoor activities such as swimming, fishing, biking and hiking. Summer is the time that children see as a time to relax, unwind and just have some fun. It does not matter whether we have young children or teens, it is important that as parents and grandparents or guardians that we help keep our children safe and healthy especially during the summer. With all of the events identified, it is important that our military Families take some time and discuss summer safety. Parents, when discussing summer safety with their children, should focus their discussions on not just making this a time of fun, but a safe time to be enjoyed by all.

An area of summer safety to focus on is helping our children to exercise extreme safety around water. Swimming and various water related activities are viewed as outstanding ways to get much needed physical activity and the health benefits from these activities support a healthy life. According to the Center for Disease Control swimming has been identified as one of the most popular recreational activities for both young children and teens in the United States. It is important to keep children safe in the water, from waterborn illnesses and to protect our children from germs often lurking in pools. Some simple things to do in order to prevent recreational water illnesses include keeping poop, germs, and urine out of the water. Parents should take young children on bathroom breaks. With infants and toddlers, parents should conduct diaper checks about every 30-60 minutes.

Another area of water safety to consider is that of drowning. Drowning has been identified as being responsible for the deaths of children ages 1-4. The following are a few safety tips that parents should observe In order to avoid drowning:

• Always supervise children when they are either in the water or around areas where there is water.

• Children should be taught how to swim. Formal swimming lessons can prove to be invaluable when it comes to protecting young children from drowning.

• It is important for parents and adults who supervise young children to learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation. These skills could save a child’s life.

• A four-sided fence should be installed around home pools. Those fenced areas should have closing and self-latching gates that open outward and those latches should be out of reach for children.

It is so important that we keep our children safe during what poses to be a long hot summer. If you need any further information about summer safety for children do not hesitate to contact the Family Advocacy Program at Fort Stewart or Hunter Army Airfield. The number for the Fort Stewart Family Advocacy Program is 912 767-2882 and the Hunter Army Airfield number is 912 315-6816. It is the intent of the author of this article to offer a series of summer safety articles with a focus on injuries caused by too much exposure to the sun and how to beat the heat.

---Deborah Riley, Family Advocacy Program Specialist

Male military spouses do much more than mow lawns

June 4, 2015

"We can do more than change light bulbs and mow lawns," said Dave Etter.

Etter is a part of a small group in the military community -- the male military spouse. According to a 2013 Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense report, males made up 7.3 percent of the active-duty spouse population.

Male spouses have voiced their concerns about what it is like to be in the minority.

A Navy veteran himself, Etter is no stranger to military life. He now proudly wears the spouse title and uses his knowledge to help others adapt to the Army.

At Fort Campbell, Kentucky, he volunteered to be the Family Readiness Group leader for the 1st Special Troops Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division.

"I was accepted with open arms," he said.

Now living near Joint Base San Antonio, Texas, with his wife, Spc. Stephanie Etter, a respiratory technician training at San Antonio Military Medical Center, he found his niche through volunteering in Army Community Service programs. He is currently an Army Family Team Building instructor and a Master Resilience Trainer.

"As an AFTB instructor, I teach basic military concepts to Family members and Department of Defense Civilians," he said. "As a MRT, I instruct students on how to arm themselves with techniques and tools to combat catastrophic events that would otherwise result in post-traumatic stress disorder, suicide or harm to others."

Outside of volunteer work, Etter engages with other spouses through social events. He sometimes finds himself as one of the few, if not only, male spouses at those functions.

This is a feeling shared by other male military spouses.

"I often find that I am the only male at a lot of events," said Duwayne Jones. "It is okay though, because we have an awesome team of spouses at all levels throughout the command who make you feel welcomed and part of the team."

Jones, another veteran, is married to Cpt. Kiana L. Jones, of 526th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division at Campbell.

Jones is the co-leader for the Family Readiness Group. He says that his role ranges from providing information to assisting group members.

"I act as a sounding board and reassure them as needed regarding field training, exercises, deployments, Family concerns or even day-to-day life challenges," he said.

"The group is an extended Family, and we help each other through our challenges."

His wife deploys from time to time so Jones deals with challenging the traditional gender Family roles. He, however, sees these situations as an opportunity for the Family to grow.

"Our Family structure is stronger because of it," he said.

Both Etter and Jones encourage other male military spouses to participate in FRG meetings, uses on-post resources like ACS and even seek out online communities devoted to them.

"Help is out there," said Etter. "Even if you just want to chat with another male military spouse!”

Jessica Marie Ryan, FMWRC, SAN ANTONIO

Healthy and Safe Swimming Week 2015

May 15, 2015

The weather is heating up and Memorial Day weekend is a perfect time for taking a dip in the pool. Before you slip into your swim trunks and slather on your sunscreen, take a few minutes to consider how you and your family will stay safe throughout the summer.

The week before Memorial Day (May 18 – 24, 2015) is Healthy and Safe Swimming Week. The goal of this week is to maximize the health benefits of swimming by promoting healthy and safe swimming. This year marks the 11th annual anniversary of this observance and participating agencies are encouraging swimmers to take an active role in protecting themselves from illness and injury.

One of the most serious water-related injuries is drowning. Every single day in the United States, two children under the age of 14 drown, making it the leading cause of death for children between the ages of one and four. Many Americans are also injured by mishandling pool chemicals, causing 3,000 – 5,000 visits to the Emergency Department each year. Additionally, children and adults who spend time in any body of water are at risk for coming in contact with bacteria, or germs, that can cause serious gastrointestinal, skin, eye, or respiratory illnesses.

We each play a role in preventing injuries, such as drowning or chemical exposure, and illnesses caused by germs in the places we swim. Fortunately, there are many steps we can all take to make sure everyone has a safe, healthy swimming experience. Here are just a few:

• Make sure you and your family members know how to swim.

• Use life jackets appropriately.

• Constantly monitor children when they are in the water.

• If you own a pool, make sure children can’t jump or fall in when you aren’t around by installing a fence, pool alarms, or a weight-bearing pool cover.

• Read and follow all directions on pool chemical product labels, always wear protective equipment when handling chemicals, and never mix chemicals.

• Stay out of the water if you have diarrhea.

• Never use the restroom in the pool.

• Never swallow pool water.

• Always take children for a restroom break every 60 minutes and check diapers every 30 – 60 minutes.

By following these easy tips, you can keep yourself, your family, and your community safer and healthier during Memorial Day Weekend and all the fun-filled weekends to come.

For more information on healthy and safe swimming, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

--- Melissa Reams, Division Health Promotion

What do you think parents should do to make their military child feel special?

April 8, 2015

Every April the Department of Defense celebrates the Month of the Military Child. During this month, the DOD recognizes the support of and sacrifices made by, military children across all services. From deployments to frequent moves, military children face unique challenges that most youth their age do not experience.

You may be wondering how and when this celebration came to be. When I researched this topic, I certainly was. It was then I found out that in an effort to recognize and applaud the courage of military children, the Department of Defense, in 1986, deemed April as Month of the Military Child.

Rather than tell you about my personal experience and opinion as a parent, I decided to highlight what I think is an awesome story of last year’s Army Military Child of the Year Kenzie Hall.

Kenzie Hall knows the stress military kids feel when a parent deploys to a combat zone. She also knows what it is like to experience constant change. Kenzie has moved more than 10 times, and at one point, she attended three schools in one year.

With the help of her mother, Aerica, she formed "Brat Pack 11," a foundation dedicated to supporting the children of military heroes by granting wishes to the children of wounded or Fallen Soldiers. Her compassion and tireless effort earned her a nomination and she was selected as the Army Military Child of the Year.

In an age where many would answer the above question with a desire of their own, this extraordinary girl thought about what she could do for others.

Dena Yllescas-Johnston, whose husband Capt. Robert Yllescas died in 2008 from wounds he received in Afghanistan, recommended Kenzie to the MCOY selection committee. Yllescas-Johnston's daughters were the first recipients to have their dream come true from Kenzie’s foundation, which reached out to Yllescas-Johnston to see what the foundation could do for her two little girls.

“Our girls wanted to go to Disneyland,” said Yllescas-Johnston. “Kenzie made this dream come true. She was only 11 years old at the time.”

All I can say is that I hope more military children respond the way Kenzie did when confronted with the challenge of being a military “brat”.

For more information on this amazing girl and her foundation please visit Babble.

---Sgt. William Begley, 3rd CAB Public Affairs

Taking care of self to take care of others

March 6, 2015

At any given moment, a Soldier travels in three circles — the Unit Life Cycle, the Soldier Life Cycle, and the Family Life Cycle—as part of the Army’s Composite Life Cycle Model. The CLCM offers a holistic look at how a Soldier’s life may be affected by various transitions—promotions, re-enlistments, deployments, and Family issues—many of which may happen at the same time.

In the 188th Infantry Brigade, a training brigade responsible for advising and assisting National Guard and Reserve Soldiers across the United States with training, the ULC spins rapidly and unceasingly, while the other two cycles fluctuate with changing circumstances. This inconsistency can burden even the most seasoned Soldiers with unnecessary stress. The Army seeks to provide as many tools as possible to ease the burden and help Soldiers remain focused on the mission.

“How would you react if you got a phone call and the person on the other end said, ‘Dad had a stroke’,” asked Dr. Lois Ricci, American Association of Retired Persons volunteer. She provided the brigade with a class on the role of being a caregiver for aging parents.

In addition to taking care of Soldiers as part of the ULC, Service members also have to think about their parents and other Family Members who are getting older.

According the United States Census Bureau, 1 in 5 Americans will be 60 years of age or older by 2015; by 2030, the senior population is expected to increase by 71 percent, to 2.1 million from 1.2 million in 2000.

“This seminar provided me with great insight on how to begin the conversation between my father and sister in providing for his well-being,” said Sgt. 1st Class Byron Horne, Army Guard Reserve S1 non-commissioned officer in charge, 188th Infantry Brigade. He has a father who is leaning on him to provide care and was not aware of all the resources that were available to help him in his journey.

“It’s not a comfortable topic, but it is something that has to be talked about,” said Karen Duncan, an intern with AmeriCorps, the stateside version of the Peace Corps. She said that Soldiers are taught to be resilient, but when it comes to care giving, it is important for Soldiers to know their capabilities and their capacities.

“It is okay to tell a person that you are not able to do something. Not everything goes according to plan; care giving is anything but controlled.”

This may be a challenge for Soldiers who are told to lead and take charge to get the mission done.

“I learned that I cannot have the “take charge” mindset. I have to be cognizant of the other person, who is still capable of being independent. I have to step back and make sure the care plan is still their plan,” said Horne.

Families also have the task of being caregivers, taking on the care of veterans who may have returned from deployment with serious injuries. A study on military caregivers conducted last year cited that there are 5.5 million military caregivers, and 20 percent of those are caring for someone who has served since Sept. 11, 2001.

“We have caregivers who are out there barely treading water because they feel isolated. It is important for them to step back and go to someone who may know the answers,” said Duncan. There are several resources online and on Fort Stewart to assist those who provide care. Among them are: VA Caregiver Support and Wounded + Caregivers and the Soldier and Family Assistance Center next to the Warrior Transition campus. However, providing care is not always about the other person.

“You also have to take care of yourself. You must take care of yourself because even though your parents are aging, you are aging, also,” Ricci said.

“I also need to start thinking about my long term care, because I may be in the same situation my father is in,” Horne said.

The three cycles Soldiers circumnavigate during the course of their career may be a challenge to remaining resilient; however, it is important to remember that there are resources available to keep them from treading water.

“There is nothing wrong with asking for help. It takes a strong person to know when to ask for help,” Ricci said.

---SFC Stephanie Widemond, 188th IB Public Affairs

Sound off in the 2015 Community Needs Assessment Survey

February 13, 2015

The 2015 Community Needs Assessment Survey, located here, is now open and will be accepting responses through the end of March. All members of the community, including Soldiers, Family Members, DA Civilians, Retirees, and Contractors are encouraged to take the survey. “This survey allows us to get an idea of what our community members think of Fort Stewart and Hunter, as well as ways we can improve”, says Ms. Sarah Lopez, Division Health Promotion Officer.

In its fourth year, this survey has played a role in shaping where resources should be focused on and what programs and services should be expanded or revamped. Although there are many ways to provide feedback across the installation, this survey allows respondants to weigh in on issues that aren’t normally addressed, such as top community health problems and barriers to accessing needed resources.

The CNAS is administered through Public Health Command but all results are compiled locally by the Division Health Promotion staff and are presented to the Senior Commander, Garrison Commander, Brigade Commanders, and agency representatives in the Community Health Promotion Council. For more information about the Community Needs Assessment Survey, please call Division Health Promotion at 435-9959 or 435-0875.

--- Melissa Reams, Division Health Promotion

Will you be my valentine….?

January 28, 2015

Will you love me forever? Will you be there when the going gets tough? Will you stay with me? Do you still love me? Such are some of the thoughts behind the simple, “Valentine, Will you be Mine?”. Let’s face it, we all want to be loved and accepted for who we are. But due to life’s circumstances, we and our relationships are always changing.

The truth is, relationships take time and commitment and go through many challenging times. Getting stuck at various times in a relationship is common. So here are a few suggestions for success:

* Your relationship must be based on a solid underlying friendship. Friends talk, laugh, share, and do things they are interested in together. Don’t stop being friends just because you’re married.

* Your relationship has to meet the needs of the two people involved. Understand what your partner’s needs are so you can meet them. Figure out what your own needs are and communicate them. If your needs are not being met, communicate and negotiate. Don’t let resentment build.

* You don’t fix things by fixing your partner.

* Forget about being right or wrong. Focus on figuring out if what you’re doing is working or not working.

Want to learn more, fine tune a good relationship, or get your relationship back on track? Check out the ACS class schedule for Fort Stewart or Hunter and call ACS for more information about the classes that would help you out the most [912-767-5058 (FS); 912-315-6816 (HAAF)]. Falling in love is easy…Staying in love is an art.

--- Johnny Cusimano, Family Advocacy Program

Guide to Understanding ROTC Programs

January 20, 2015

You may hear people allude to the ROTC while in high school or when entering college, but if you’re unfamiliar with the program, you’ll probably glean very little about what the ROTC actually is. The acronym stands for “Reserve Officers’ Training Corps,” and its goal is to train college students for future service in branches of the U.S. military; the Army, Air Force, and Navy each have their own ROTC programs. Students interested in U.S. Armed Forces service at an early age can also gain exposure to the rigors of military training through JROTC (Junior ROTC) programs offered at the high school level.

To learn more about ROTC and figure out if it's right for you, visit Best Colleges

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