Home-Front Groups Partner to Help Troops

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 12, 2007 – No single troop-support group can meet every request servicemembers make, but through partnerships with three other groups, Silver Star Families of America is coming closer.

Under the guidance of Silver Star Families of America President Steve Newton, the group has teamed up with “Give An Hour,” “Soldiers’ Angels,” and the “Thank You Foundation.” These partnerships broaden the scope of resources the group’s able to offer servicemembers.

“All three of these (partnerships) were launched within the last two weeks,” said Janie Orman, vice president of Silver Star Families of America. “They’re working great already.”

Silver Star Families of America, Soldiers’ Angels and the Thank You Foundation are all members of America Supports You, a Defense Department program connecting citizens and corporations with military personnel and their families serving at home and abroad.

Give An Hour’s current mission is to develop a national network of mental health professionals who will volunteer an hour a week to respond to the needs of the military community. The organization is a Washington-based nonprofit group.

The partnership with Give An Hour is aimed at encouraging servicemembers or relatives of servicemembers with post-traumatic stress disorder to seek help.

Servicemembers seeking help for PTSD or other mental health issues can visit Silver Star Families of America’s Web site and follow the link to the Give An Hour Web site. Once there, individuals can locate professionals in their area and schedule an appointment.

Silver Star Families of America recently got a first-hand look at how their new partnership worked when a woman called about a friend’s son suffering from PTSD, Orman said.

“It was very important that we got something happening for her immediately,” she said, adding that the woman was referred to Give An Hour, which got the young man help that day. “That’s what she was so excited about, that Silver Stars was able to give her help right at the moment and there wasn’t any time wasted, because there wasn’t any to waste with this young man.”

Give An Hour also extends its services to parents, siblings and unmarried partners who don’t qualify for benefits through the military, according to its Web site.

While the military and medical communities are working intently on identifying and treating troops suffering from PTSD, they also are working to help servicemembers recover from traumatic brain injuries.

One of the therapies reported to help patients down that road is a favorite of teens, as well: hand-held electronic games.

“We have read several reports of how this really helps with their motor skills and to boost their morale,” Orman said.

In conjunction with Soldiers’ Angels, Silver Star Families of America will distribute hand-held electronic games to those suffering from traumatic brain injuries, Orman said. The first shipment has already been shipped, and Madigan Army Medical Center at Fort Lewis, Wash., has requested the games for some of its patients.

While Silver Star Families of America’s main focus is on honoring families of those wounded in combat, its members realized that many more servicemembers are injured outside war zones, Orman said. They felt these veterans should be recognized as well, and the partnership between Silver Star Families and the Thank You Foundation was established to do just that.

“In the last few weeks, we’ve been trying to come up with a program to acknowledge them. It’s outside of our mission, but … we want them to know that we care about them and thank them also,” Orman said. “That’s what led us to the Thank You Foundation and to work with them.”

By filling out a form asking specific questions about an injury, servicemembers wounded outside a combat zone can receive a certificate of recognition for their sacrifices, Orman said.

Additionally, Silver Star Families of America is operating two new programs on its own.

The “Honoring Hungry Heroes” program provides fast food gift cards to wounded servicemembers during hospital stays, Orman said. The other program, “Letter Writing to the Wounded,” sends letters to wounded troops recovering in military hospitals in Iraq and Germany, as well as across the United States.

“Each program, I feel, (assures) the wounded veterans that people really do care about them and that (the caring) didn’t just stop when they came home,” Orman said. “I guess we’re hoping it will encourage them.”

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