Military Family Deployment Guide Benefits

sponsored by 

The Dove Self-Esteem Fund

     Extended deployments and separation from your loved ones can be especially trying and challenging.  As your children grow up and they are influenced by media and peer pressures, they receive mixed messages, making their transition from childhood to adulthood especially difficult. To help reinforce a positive self image, you can become directly involved in helping your children overcome these hardships. The Dove Self Esteem Fund provides you guidance on how to help your children incorporate these mentoring ideas in their development.   

Ideas for Moms & Mentors

     Whether you're a parent, guardian, sports coach or mentor, you can make a positive difference to the young people in your life. The following are some ideas and suggestions you can use in fostering healthy self-esteem in young girls:

Teach children that their
self-worth is not related
to how they look.

     Emphasize their talents and qualities. Don't focus on their physical appearance.

Talk with your children about self-esteem, body image and what it means to be beautiful.

     The downloadable True You! Guide can help you to open up a dialogue with your children.

Be a healthy role model for your children

  • Don't make comments about anyone's size or weight, especially as a "joke".

  • Make sure that your child knows that you love them regardless of their size or weight.

  • Treat fat and thin, tall and short, dark and fair (etc.) children the same.

  • Build self-confidence and self-esteem through a range of activities, both physical and non-physical.

  • Build good self-esteem in all children for who they are and what they do, not how they look.

  • Feel proud of your child, regardless of their size or weight.

  • Be creative and assertive in finding the right clothing and equipment for your child.

  • Encourage healthy eating and physical activity for the entire family.

  • Don't feel guilty or ashamed if you or your child is fat.

Be aware of advertising and toys aimed at children.

Notice how they reinforce gender stereotypes and body dissatisfaction. Encourage a conversation about how the child in your care views the advertisement or the toy. Foster critical thinking... and playfulness.

Work toward identifying and resisting all forms of discrimination.

Remember that prejudice against size and body relates to prejudice based on sex, race, sexuality, class and physical ability.

Choose from a variety of high-quality diapers at low prices - for babies and adults.

Volunteer Blazes New Path With Passion for Troops

By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 2007 – When it comes to connecting troops and their families with services they deserve, Pat Kerr is in a league of her own -- literally.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Missouri State Veterans Ombudsman Pat Kerr shows off a photo of her daughter, Army Reserve Capt. Kate Numerick, who is serving her second tour in Iraq. 

As the only paid state veterans ombudsman in the nation, Kerr spends her time battling bureaucracies, raising money and advocating for servicemembers, their families and veterans in Missouri.

But folks shouldn’t let the salary fool them; Kerr’s passion for taking care of troops began long before her tenure at the Missouri State Veteran’s Commission.

It started at home, right after the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Kerr’s daughter, an Army Reserve officer, was deployed two weeks after the war in Iraq started in March 2003. The care for the soldier’s 13-month-old son fell to Kerr. This came as Kerr was also caring for her husband, who was dealing with serious medical issues.

Even though Kerr and her family members thought they was ready, Kerr said, they quickly realized they were not.

“She kind of looked like a deer in the headlights with her notice,” Kerr said of her daughter. “Even though after 9/11 we sat as a family and made a plan. We knew she would get deployed.

“We were shocked,” Kerr said.

Kerr’s husband is a pastor and a licensed professional counselor. Her daughter is educated and working on her doctorate degree. Kerr was trained on coping skills while dealing with her husband’s near fatal injuries following a serious accident. With all of the education and training in her family, Kerr said, she realized that if she had difficulties, so would many others.

“We decided that if we, who had trained coping skills, … are a little overwhelmed by what’s coming down the pike, what’s going to happen to our Guard and reserve (members) who don’t have our professional background,” Kerr said.

So, two weeks after her daughter left, Kerr began organizing events like “Support Your Troops” at the state Capitol. Working nights as a secretary and dipping into savings from her court reporting business, Kerr paid for many of the expenses herself. The events drew thousands, and state officials began looking to Kerr to help set up similar events and soliciting her input on the development of troop-related programs.

Kerr also started advocating on behalf of troops who were stuck in the gaps between the local, state and federal systems. At that time most of problems troops were facing were not well known, she said.

“We started talking about the gaps in the system. And people would say ‘What gaps?’ So I would use real examples,” Kerr said.

“What about the guy who lost his eye in Ramadi?” she asked. “The soldier has three children, and his wife wants to come back to Walter Reed (Army Medical Center here) with him.

“Who’s going to pay for his child care seven days a week, 24 hours a day? Even if they have it in savings, why should they have to pay for it?” Kerr said.

Eventually Kerr was brought on board the state-run Missouri Veterans Commission with the mission to raise awareness of the commission and to identify gaps in the systems.

That led to the Missouri legislature, the governor, the Missouri Veterans Commission, and the Missouri Association of Veterans Organizations formalizing her position as state veterans ombudsman.

Since taking the post, Kerr has coordinated more than $600,000 for servicemembers, families and veterans through private citizens, corporations or veterans service organizations. Her efforts have kept 16 homes from being foreclosed on.

Kerr has helped a brain-injured soldier who was stuck in a hospital bed for three months without his family. A clerical error made it impossible for officials to locate his family, and his brain injury kept him from helping. Kerr reunited him with his family, who was only 30 miles away. She worked with the family members to get the soldier’s disability rating raised.

Kerr arranged services for a mother of four children -- three in diapers -- who broke both of her arms while her husband was deployed–. Kerr arranged for 24-hour care helping the mother with cooking, cleaning, diaper changing and getting the children to school while she healed.

There was also the Korean War prisoner of war who hadn’t received a penny of the benefits coming to him. He didn’t even know he was eligible until she began her outreach program and a family member asked about his health care.

Kerr’s service has even rubbed off on her grandson, Abraham, 3.

While caring for her grandson as his mother served in Iraq, Abraham regularly accompanied Kerr to visit injured troops.

One day when planning to attend a movie, Abraham had 11 cents in his hand. Kerr told him to put the money in his pocket, but instead he offered it up as a donation. “He said, ‘No Grandma – you give this to your injured troops,’” Kerr said.

“I was overwhelmed,” she added.

Kerr took the idea to the Missouri Veterans Commission and the lieutenant governor and parlayed it into a school education campaign. Dubbed “The Power of 11 Cents,” the program focuses on educating children on patriotism and America. Kerr said she wanted to allow the children to help support the troops but not focus the campaign on the war.

Originally started on Veterans Day, the program encourages younger children to donate 11 cents and older students donate $1.11. Abraham’s act of selflessness led to the creation of a statewide school outreach program that Kerr hopes will raise $50,000 for the state military family relief fund. Guard and reserve troops can apply for $1,000 grants from the fund.

Kerr’s daughter is now on her second tour to Iraq, and Kerr is again caring for Abraham. Her personal experiences help Kerr empathize with those she helps.

“I know these issues. I’ve lived these issues. I know what these families are talking about,” Kerr said.

Kerr’s daughter will have served two rotations in Iraq before her son turns 5 years old. She has missed many of the firsts in a child’s life that most mothers cherish. But, in spite of the sacrifices and the inherent dangers, Kerr said she supports her daughter’s decision to serve.

“I am extremely proud of her. I am extremely supportive of what her commitment is to our country, and I am forever grateful,” Kerr said. “Because I am not a brave person to go out and do what she is doing, I can only do what I am doing."

As the list of those she helps gets longer, Kerr is quickly becoming in demand across the nation. Even though her primary focus is on those with residence in Missouri, Kerr said she fields calls from all over the nation asking for help.

It’s a job Kerr describes as “way cool” and one she has no plans to quit, even after her daughter comes home or the war is over.

“I am probably going to do this forever. This is not going to go away. We are going to be dealing (with veterans issues) for my lifetime,” Kerr said.

“I’m going to support our troops. I’m going to teach our veterans and reach out to the families of those who have injuries,” she said.

It is a higher calling that everyone and every community must answer if Americans are to live free, Kerr said.

“By relying on our citizen soldiers, … (supporting them) becomes a great onus on the state and employers and schools and civic organizations and churches,” Kerr said. “We have to work together as the United States of America. We truly have to be united in order to accomplish protecting the borders of America.”

Editors Note: While Kerr is the only state veterans ombudsman with a state veterans commission, servicemembers and veterans can contact veterans commissions in their home states to inquire about state benefits by going to the Web site of the National Association of State Directors of Veterans Affairs at

Military families can also avail themselves of the Defense Department's America Supports You program, which highlights home front groups across the nation that are providing a variety of services and support to troops and their families. A listing of these groups and information about their efforts is available at

Click photo for screen-resolution image Missouri State Veterans Ombudsman Pat Kerr with her daughter, Army Reserve Capt. Kate Numerick, at a change of command ceremony. Courtesy photo  
Click photo for screen-resolution image Missouri State Veterans Ombudsman Pat Kerr with her daughter, Army Reserve Capt. Kate Numerick, at a Support Your Troops event at Jefferson City, Mo. Courtesy photo  

DoD Committed to Taking Care of Military Families

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 2006 – The one overriding lesson of the all-volunteer force is the importance of the military family, a top Defense Department official said here today.

And DoD has learned the lesson, Michael Dominguez, principal deputy undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, told the Pentagon Channel and American Forces Press Service.

November is Military Family Month, and Dominguez said it is a good time to highlight the sacrifices and strides military families have made. “Military families make an enormous contribution, because they support the servicemembers in the work they have to do,” he said.

With 150,000 servicemembers deployed to Iraq and another 20,000 in Afghanistan, these are tough times for military families.

There were growing pains as DoD attempted to connect with families, Dominguez acknowledged. “Clearly, our ability to support a deployed force at war for sustained operation needed to adapt,” he said. The department had never faced a deployment like Operations Enduring Freedom or Iraqi Freedom before. The scale and length made caring for families difficult.

But the systems inside the department are adapting, he said. “When a unit gets deployed, the DoD Education Activity school surges counselors,” he said. The schools understand what the children are going through and the counselors help prepare the teachers and families for what lies ahead.

“When the unit redeploys, you get the same kind of pressures,” he said. “These servicemembers are coming home and life is going to change again. They are going to be dealing with all kinds of issues from having been in combat.” Other questions surface, such as how the children are going to react to Dad or Mom coming home. The spouse has forged something of an independent identity during the deployment. How will the spouse react?

“Again, (we have a) big surge; a pulse of support to make sure the community can deal with that and that the schools and teachers are ready for that and prepared to help families,” Dominguez said.

He said he has seen the department grow and develop, but more needs to happen. “This conflict is going to stretch us,” he said. “We’re going to bump into some boundaries we didn’t know were there. So there’s going to be more room for improvement, for growth more development that we’re going to have to make, but I’m confident that we will adapt to it, because families are important. They sustain the all-volunteer force.”

Some servicemembers have made multiple deployments to war zones, and Dominguez said it never gets any easier. “I can’t imagine it gets easier -- not for the families, not for the member,” he said. “I’d have to speculate it gets harder each time, but you’d have to ask one of our heroes who’ve done it, and one of those marvelous families that support them in doing it.”

Information on how to help military families is available at the Defense Department’s “America Supports You” Web site,

Michael Dominguez

Related Sites:
America Supports You

America Supports You: USA Cares Gets $2.5 Million Boost

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept.  2006 – USA Cares recently received a $2.5 million grant to further its mission of assisting servicemembers and their families, organization officials said.

“I can’t explain how happy we are about it. We’re just beyond thrilled,” Barbara Yaw, USA Cares’ director of communications, said. “We’re very blessed.”

The grant came from the Iraq Afghanistan Deployment Impact Fund administered by the California Community Foundation. The foundation is a leading charitable organization in Los Angeles County, managing over $1 billion in assets.

The California Community Foundation surprised the Radcliff, Ky., organization last year as well, Yaw said.

“It was actually a surprise for us, the last week of December 2005, to open up this plain envelope and see $1 million donation sitting there,” she said. “It seemed every day to them, and it was an amazing, shocking thing for us here in the office.”

Wise use of that $1 million earned the nonprofit organization an invitation to apply for the larger grant, Yaw said. The long application process concluded two weeks ago, when USA Cares got the phone call that its request for the two-year grant had been approved.

USA Cares helps bridge financial gaps for families of servicemembers deployed anywhere in support of operations in Iraq or Afghanistan, Yaw said. The majority of the nonprofit organization’s assistance relates to quality-of-life issues.

“If we have an issue where there’s been a financial mistake by the military, and … that sometimes happens, we would provide monies directly to the service provider for electric to keep the electric going (for example.),” she said.

USA Cares is a member of America Supports You, a Defense Department program highlighting ways Americans and the corporate sector support the nation’s servicemembers.

Currently eligible families can receive up to $750 in assistance for family needs, including food, diapers, formula, electricity and rent, Yaw said. If there’s an additional need, the case is re-evaluated. Two grants is the absolute maximum, however.

If the need is larger than USA Cares can handle on its own, it routinely partners with other organizations that might be able to help the family, she said.

When it comes to mortgages, USA Cares can offer a maximum of $7,500 in assistance to homeowners, Yaw said. Because of the grant, however, the organization is looking at its process to see what adjustments and allowances can be made for the mortgage assistance portion of its program.

“We have also partnered with an organization called (Homeownership) Preservation Foundation, and we have saved over 80 military families’ homes from foreclosure,” she said.

The assistance USA Cares offers is always in the form of a grant and does not discriminate, she said. “If you’re a military family, we support you,” she said, adding that the organization has granted nearly $1.7 million since its founding in March 2003.

In accepting the $2.5 million grant, USA Cares agreed to file reports on how the money was being spent, something Yaw said was not an issue for the group. “We’re hovering somewhere around 97 cents on the dollar going back to military families and servicemembers, and we’re working very hard to move that up to 100 percent,” she said.

“We feel very, very secure in the fact that we’re responsible with every penny,” she said.

Related Sites:
USA Cares
California Community Foundation
America Supports You

Programs Help Prepare, Support Families Through Deployments

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif., Aug.2006 – As members of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit here make last-minute preparations for their upcoming deployment, Staff Sgt. Danny Sava and his family are getting their own affairs in order so they’re ready for another long separation.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Marine Staff Sgt. Danny Sava, his wife, Julia, son, Anthony, and daughter, Alyssa, stroll past a sign at the top of a stairwell in the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s command headquarters that marks the days until Sava’s upcoming deployment. “E-22” marks “Embarkation minus 22,” or 22 days until Sava and 2,300 fellow Camp Pendleton Marines will deploy, leaving their families behind in the care of the base’s extensive family support network. Photo by Cherie Thurlby

The Sava family — Danny, a seven-year Marine, his wife of two years, Julia, and their children, Anthony, 10, and Alyssa, 18 months — offer insights into what a “typical” military family faces during deployments and the importance of the services the military provides to help them.

Less than three weeks before Danny and 2,300 fellow Marines leave here for six months of duty as U.S. Central Command’s theater reserve, the Savas told American Forces Press Service they’ve got a handle on their family affairs.

Sava, the 15th MEU’s data chief, is drawing up a list of details and contact information for Julia. The family bill-payer, he set up automatic online payments and is making sure she knows where to find his will, power of attorney, Social Security card and other important documents. “We’re trying our best to get everything together and get squared away,” Julia said.

The Savas already have endured one deployment as a family — when Danny was in Iraq and Julia was experiencing a difficult pregnancy until Alyssa’s birth two months before her daddy’s homecoming. The family lived off base during the last deployment, and Julia’s doctor warned her not to drive. Fortunately, her parents didn’t live far away and were able to pitch in when she needed it. “That’s what kept me going,” she said.

Danny made his presence felt at home the best he could by calling whenever possible, sending frequent e-mails and photos and picking up souvenirs for Anthony during port calls. “Frequent communication let me know he was OK and gave me peace of mind,” Julia said. “It made a big difference.”

Now that they have one deployment under their belts, the Savas say this time they pretty much know what to expect.

With the family now living on base and Julia serving as a key volunteer for the 15th MEU’s family support network, they’re hoping the deployment will go a bit easier than the last one. In her volunteer role, Julia will serve as a conduit between the unit and other Marine spouses, keeping the information channels open and helping steer families to any help they might need during the deployment. “We pass information to them and let them know what’s going on,” she said.

A vast volunteer network is just one part of the array of resources and services Camp Pendleton offers its 18,000 families to help them cope during deployments, explained Veronica Largent, assistant branch manager for the base’s Family Team Building and Community Support effort.

The program has grown by leaps and bounds since the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, the launch of the war on terror and the corresponding acceleration in the Marines’ deployment cycles.

The program’s offerings span the full deployment cycle, from pre-deployment briefings to prepare families for what’s ahead to support groups during the deployment to a Warrior Transition Briefing that helps redeploying Marines transition back to their roles at home, Largent explained.

In addition to committing more resources to family support, the Marines are fine-tuning their support network to make it more proactive to families’ needs, she said.

For example, “family readiness officer” was once an additional duty that rotated between Marines as they came and went. Now the base has hired full-time civilian employees, such as Bill Bonney, the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force’s family readiness officer, to bring experience and continuity to the job.

The base also established task-organized response teams, made up of professional counselors and other family experts, to bring families together and assist them through bumpy spots during deployments. “It was an opportunity to bring spouses together and allow them to vent and express their concerns, with counselors able to take that discussion and steer it in a constructive way,” said Lisa Stehle, team leader for the base’s LINKS program.

The program, better known for its acronym than its full name -- Lifestyle Insights, Networking, Knowledge and Skills program -- has proved to be invaluable in bringing Marine families into the fold of the base support program, officials said. They describe LINKS as “Marine Corps 101,” an eight-hour workshop that teaches families about the Marine Corps, how it’s organized and what services it provides. “It’s the single most important program we have,” said Bonney, noting that this knowledge empowers family members to tap into programs offered to help them.

Like many family support programs here, LINKS is run by volunteers who shoulder the largest share of the load in taking care of families. Last year alone, this network of Marines, spouses, military retirees, base civilian employees and members of the local community, clocked 180,000 volunteer hours, said Emily McKinley, the volunteer program coordinator.

In addition to steering families toward the resources and services offered to help them, Camp Pendleton’s programs aim to ensure they understand the family dynamics that take place before, during and after a deployment, explained Deborah Smith-Porter, a readiness support coordinator and key volunteer trainer.

“There’s an emotional cycle of deployment, and a lot of times spouses don’t realize that,” said Smith-Porter, a Marine wife who’s held down the homestead during her husband’s three deployments. “They might fight a lot just before the deployments and have doubts about their marriage. They might go through a stage where they are mad at their Marine and mad at the whole Corps. We teach them about this cycle and let them know that this is all perfectly normal.”

As spouses of deployed Marines support each other, they form bonds that officials said many simply can’t find outside the base network. Frequently families like the Savas, who counted on their extended family for support during the deployment, begin seeking that support from their Marine Corps family, Smith-Porter said.

“At home with your parents, the same support system of understanding just isn’t there,” she said. “Military spouses are a special breed who understand what you’re experiencing. The Marine Corps family is a very small family, but we are very supportive of each other.”

“We are spouses, and we are in this together,” agreed Stehle. “So we circle the wagons and take care of each other.”

Rebecca Rider, a family member employment assistance specialist and Marine wife, said he’s proud of Camp Pendleton’s programs and the support it offers families. “If spouses grab hold of these programs, they won’t be disappointed,” she said.

As the base’s family support program has evolved, a new level of cooperation has developed between the base’s operational side and its support side. “We’re working more closely together and understand each other better,” Largent said. “We’re synchronizing our efforts and, as a result, ensuring we are providing the services needed.”

“It’s really part of taking care of our own,” said Lloyd Thorne, supervisor for Marine Family Team Building and a retired Marine. And that, he said, ultimately boils down to supporting the Marine Corps mission. “It’s so they can do their job and keep their head in the game,” Thorne said. “That’s what it ultimately comes down to.”

Col. Brian Beaudreault, the 15th MEU commander, praised the support services being offered to his Marines and their families. He noted with pride that on his past deployment, he didn’t have to send a single Marine home to take care of a family problem. “There wasn’t an issue that arose that my key volunteers couldn’t handle,” he said. “I have total confidence in them.”

As Beaudreault’s unit prepares to deploy in early September, he said he’s counting on the family support network to look out for his Marines’ families. “A commander can’t do this alone,” he said. “We count on them and the support they offer.”

As the Savas prepare for the MEU’s deployment, Julia said she knows she has to be extra strong once again — not just for her children, but also for her husband, who’s counting on her so he can focus on his mission. It won’t be easy, she acknowledged, particularly knowing that he’ll be gone over Christmas and for both of his children’s birthdays.

But Julia said she’s determined to make the deployment a success. “We’ll make it,” she said. “We’ll be OK.”

For now, little Alyssa toddles around base with an infectious ear-to-ear grin, blissfully unaware that her father will soon be leaving. Ten-year-old Anthony understands all too well what’s ahead, keeping a brave face as he promises to be a big help to his mother while his Marine father is deployed. “I get used to it,” Anthony said of Danny’s absence, “but I kind of miss him.”

As he utters the words with a brave smile on his face, a tear forms in his left eye and slowly rolls down his cheek.

Related Articles:
Base Family Network Focuses on Children’s Needs During Parents’ Deployments
Camp Pendleton Marines Make Final Preparations for Deployment

Related Sites:
Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif.
15th Marine Expeditionary Unit

Click photo for screen-resolution image

The Sava family, Staff Sgt. Danny Sava, his wife, Julia, son, Anthony, and daughter, Alyssa, are preparing for Danny’s upcoming deployment with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, with help from Camp Pendleton’s extensive family support network. Photo by Cherie Thurlby  

Click photo for screen-resolution image

Marine Staff Sgt. Danny Sava, his wife Julia, son, Anthony, and daughter, Alyssa, stop by the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit command headquarters to wrap up last-minute details as they prepare for the unit’s upcoming deployment. Photo by Cherie Thurlby  

Click photo for screen-resolution image

Marine Staff Sgt. Danny Sava, his wife, Julia, son, Anthony, and daughter, Alyssa, take a stroll outside the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit command headquarters as they wrap up last-minute details to prepare for the unit’s upcoming deployment. Photo by Cherie Thurlby  

Click photo for screen-resolution image

Ten-month-old Alyssa Sava rides on the hip of her father, Marine Staff Sgt. Danny Sava, unaware that her father will soon be leaving for a six-month deployment. Photo by Cherie Thurlby  

Click photo for screen-resolution image

Ten-month-old Alyssa Sava was born the last time her father, Marine Staff Sgt. Danny Sava, deployed with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit. This time, her father will be away as she celebrates her second birthday, leaving her in the care of her mother, Julia, and an extensive family support network to help them at Camp Pendleton, Calif. Photo by Cherie Thurlby  

Related Site:
National Military Family Association

Related Articles:
Operation Purple Camps Meet Critical Military Family Need
Operation Purple Sends Deployed Members' Children to Camp

(From a National Military Family Association news release.)

Emergency Registry Helps Locate Family Members, Friends

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 2005 – As news coverage of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks flashed across television and computer screens, thousands of Americans wondered if family members living in or visiting New York or Washington, D.C., were alive and well.

Partially due to the personal turmoil caused by the 9/11 attacks, Mark Cerney, a disabled U.S. Marine veteran, established the National Next-of-Kin Registry, a free emergency contact system that can help citizens find missing loved ones in the event of serious accidents or catastrophic national emergencies.

The privately funded NOKR was officially established in January 2004, Cerney said during a Feb. 24 telephone interview from his office in Temecula, Calif. Four million people, he said, have registered to date. People can input personal data about themselves or loved ones at the registry's Web site.

Registry users, Cerney explained, include families and individuals registering personal information about themselves, their children, other relatives, and friends.

"All we need is a name and address as far as a point of contact (is concerned)," he pointed out, noting registrants may provide additional information if they so desire.

Cerney said he first became interested in starting a next-of-kin registry in 1990, when a family member died at a convalescent facility in San Diego.

"To my dismay, there was no way to contact me," noted Cerney, who was in Hawaii at the time, "even though the people at the facility knew that I was the next – of kin."

He recalled that he'd lost cell-phone contact with a close friend who was in New York City on the day of the terrorist attacks. The friend survived, but Cerney said he was shaken by the experience.

Cerney cited U.S. Centers for Disease Control statistics from 2003 that said 900,000 people in hospital emergency rooms that year couldn't provide emergency contact information because they were incapacitated by illness or injury. Several states, he noted, recently have passed laws requiring hospitals to collect information on patients' next of kin.

State-issued driver's licenses, Cerney pointed out, may contain some personal information, but "don't list a next of kin" in the event of an accident that may occur far away from the victim's home. And, most Social Security records, he added, don't identify next of kin.

And, for people who are single and live alone, Cerney observed, it's much harder for authorities to make a next-of-kin determination.

Other personal identification organizations exist, Cerney acknowledged, but they charge as much as $200 for their services. The NOKR gives affluent, less- wealthy, and indigent citizens the opportunity to archive personal information "in the event that that information is needed," he said.

The NOKR is unique, Cerney said, noting, "There's been no resource like this anywhere in the United States."

Some organizations linked to the NOKR, Cerney noted, include the "FirstGov" federal government Web site, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the National Center for Missing Adults, the National Association of Medical Examiners, the Amber Alert missing children system, homeless care organizations, and several state and local government and police agencies and coroner's offices.

The registry also is linked to the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime, he said, as well as several tsunami-victim locator groups.

People who'd hesitate to use the NOKR because of privacy concerns shouldn't worry, Cerney said. Minimum information required for registration can be found in phone books, he explained, and much greater amounts of personal information can now be readily purchased over the Internet. 

You don't have to be a star to have an agent

FORT LEE, Va. - Having both parents deployed can be very troubling for children left behind with a caregiver, but thanks to not-widely known commissary directives their children can continue to enter the friendly confines of any commissary as long as they are accompanied by an adult. The military does not require children under 10 years old to have an identification card; however, directives permit an approved agent to accompany children separated from their military parents and act on their behalf.

"This is not a new policy. It's one that has been on the books for years," said Robert Vitikacs, the Defense Commissary Agency's executive director for operations and product support. Known as the agent privilege, it's for any authorized commissary shopper who
needs assistance shopping or who cannot shop on his or her own behalf because of disability, illness or infirmity. That privilege also extends to grandparents, guardians or caregivers of children of service members who may not be available due to deployment or remote assignment. "DeCA does not grant this privilege," said Vitikacs. "Agent privilege is
authorized by the installation commander who controls who enters the installation."

The agent does not have to be an authorized commissary shopper. The military member may request an agent pass for approval to allow the individual who is the primary caregiver for the children of deployed parents to enter the installation. Non-military primary caregivers should contact the identification card section on the installation to determine what legal documents, i.e., power of attorney, may also be needed to establish proof of caregiver status. At the same time, the individual can also ask what documents are required to enter the installation. Upon verification of caregiver status, the individual receives written authorization from the commander's representative designating him/her as an "agent" to accompany the children. Usually, the letter is for a 12-month period, but it can be extended in cases of continued hardship.

"We want to provide a touch of home for children whose parents are deployed and often, family finances are stretched to the limit. Whether they're buying for a toddler or a teen, we can help the agents get the best value for their money by saving them 30 percent or more on their groceries and personal care items. It's just one less worry deployed parents will have,"
Vitikacs added. "I also urge authorized shoppers who are elderly or disabled, and unfamiliar with the 'agent' privilege, to contact the identification card section on the installation to determine what proof is needed to have an agent shop in the commissary on their behalf," Vitikacs concluded. Chief Master Sgt. Deborah Brian, DeCA's senior enlisted advisor, added, "The agent privilege is especially helpful for Reserve and Guard family members and I strongly recommend military organizations tell their children's caregivers about it."

Military Wives Flock to Internet for Help with Mass Deployments

   VIRTUAL REALITY – As tens of thousands and active duty, Guard and Reserve servicemembers deploy to the Middle East , their wives are turning to for help in coping with marital separation, single-parenting and financial hardship.  

  “We’ve seen a huge spike in visitor traffic since November, when the threat of deployments began to loom,” said Meredith Leyva, founder of  “Similarly, our charitable arm, Operation Homefront, has been flooded with requests for emergency assistance from families left behind by deployed servicemembers.”    

Determining the status of units, family support meetings and other official information is another key topic, especially for Guard and Reserve wives.  Because most military wives work outside the home and have young children, and Guard and Reserve wives often live far from military bases, attending pre-deployment briefs and family support meetings can be difficult.  

“Since most military wives and female servicemembers are working moms, it’s easiest to come to CinCHouse because you can get questions answered almost anytime of the day or night,” said Leyva.  “And we make sure that commands and family support leaders are engaged in these discussions so that wives are getting the right answers and not hysteria or rumors.”             

Leyva points out that approximately 100,000 wives and 38,000 female servicemembers enter military life each.  Statistically speaking, that means a 100 percent turnover in military wives every six years.  Leyva explains that, with such little historical reference or experience, military wives often feel they are on their own to deal with problems.’s job is to raise awareness of all the benefits and organizations, such as the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society and Armed Forces YMCA, that are on hand to help during these difficult times.

Most important, military wives and female servicemembers are using CinCHouse to make friends in new places where they’ve relocated.  As times get tougher, the friendships grow closer.

   For more information please visit or call Meredith Leyva at (850) 624-8887.  


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