Standardization May Be Key For EFMP Families

For anyone willing to listen to me, I have suggested that one of the keys that could readily aide the ability of military families to get better access to education, advocacy, services, etc would be to standardize programs like EFMP across all services. It appears that a large study is being conducted to assist in the potential of standardization across the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines.

Having different EFMP programs facilitated differently from the branches I believe has been good since the programs inception. However, we are at a fiscal operational point now where the study and adoption of best practices across all the services is badly needed. Each service branch has a couple special things that when adopted across all branches will decrease the current disparity that exists from branch to branch and installation to installation.

When we moved from an Army post to a Naval Air Station we quickly realized the massive differences in the content, quality and operation of the EFMP operation in our one specific instance. I have to imagine that the differences are varied and widespread. A study like the one about to launch is a step in the right direction for sure.

Access to advocate services, legal representation, education, ancillary programs such as respite and others are all programs that will better service all military EFMs by being under one umbrella of services. Plus, with the increasingly joint operations that the services are rapidly heading to, bench marking, best practices and standardization just makes sense.

I hope this study is well done and provides some excellent results!

Here is a clip and the link follows to read the whole article from medicalexpres.com:

“If you don’t have policy informed by the literature and research, you are apt to be floating around, without sufficient direction,” Turnbull said. “There most likely will be standardization of policy and practice as a result of our work, and that result becomes very important given the amount of intra-service and intra-base work in the military. Military personnel need some certainty in their lives. But there’s a tremendous amount of uncertainty in their lives because they deploy often and they’re frequently in harm’s way. When we can provide certain standardized policies and services that are available at every branch and at every installation, then we can assist the military family support programs to address the special-needs issues that military families have.”

Turnbull said that standardization and improvement of policies designed to help families with special-needs members would likely boost the overall effectiveness of the armed services, while improving the lives of those who serve their country.

Click here for the rest of the article:

Where I Was On 9-11 and Why I’m Where I’m At Right Now

I posted this on my personal Facebook page, but felt compelled to share it with you here as well. I have to warn that I kept this in the same form I posted on my page, so there is a vulgar word. I am leaving it in there as I believe it best captures the moment, and the account is the truth as I remember it that fateful day.

Like many service members who serve because of a desire to pursue their patriotism, I consider myself one of the idealists. And am thankful that I was able to return to service at the young tender age of 37 a couple years ago!

I was running late that day. Some people dread Mondays, but I hated every day of the week at the time. Feeling trapped in life in a fairly high-paying corporate sales job, I usually made myself late by taking advantage of “my” morning before enduring the drudgery of my career at the time. So, it was not uncommon for me to be at home at 9 am.

My phone rang just after 9 and Dan said, “Where you at? You near a TV?” He said, “Turn on a TV, you aren’t going to believe what just happened.” I hung up and flicked on the TV to see the now smoldering first tower of the World Trade Center. The talking heads on TV were discussing how a small commuter plane could have been the cause, but no one was quite yet sure. This was only minutes after the first crash.

I, clad in my three-piece suite and $100 Ike Behar tie, sat and watched with mostly curiosity at that point on what and how this crash had happened. I nestled into my chair for the long haul since there really wasn’t anything exciting to look forward to at work, and decided like tens of millions other Americans at 9ish am on a Tuesday morning to watch the excitement of the crazy event unfold live.

Not even minutes after I got comfortable in my chair, the second jetliner came screaming from the rear right of the picture and slammed into the the second tower live, right in front of my eyes. I stood to my feet, and uncontrollably yelled, “NO” at the TV set as a sickening feeling of watching the immediate death of everyone of the people on that plane, and the thousands inside the building during the explosion.

A sickening feeling came over me as I slowly slumped back into my chair, a witness live to the most destructive and devastating terrorist act on American soil in our nation’s history. “That was no fucking commuter plane”, I said angrily to myself. My sickening feeling quickly and easily turned to anger. The muscles most notably in my arms and legs began to twitch slightly, like one experiences after a long, enduring run, or other strenuous physical activity. I got up and without taking my affixed, numbed stare off of the TV, I started to pace back and forth. Then the news reporters started to debate what I started to think myself – that this may have been a terrorist act. Then came news of the crash in Pennsylvania and then the crash into the Pentagon.

Our nation was once again at war. And I was really pissed off. That day changed me inside.

As a combat veteran of Operation Desert Storm in 1991, I witnessed first hand the devastating effects of what the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait did to that region. I participated directly as a combat soldier in liberating Kuwait and advancing with the elite 82nd Airborne Division far into Iraq to just outside of An-Nasariyha on the banks of the Euphrates River. Fortunately, that war only lasted several months, but that experience burned into me a patriotism for everything American, and our position in the world as the most powerful, and at the time, most important symbol of righteousness in the world. I was proud to have served, and knew that if my country ever needed me again I would quickly and easily stand in the gap again.

In my heart, I felt that call again on 9-11-01 on that morning. I didn’t know who the enemy was and I didn’t care. You don’t mess with America, and you certainly don’t attack her innocent civilians on her own soil.

Like all immediate reactions when you feel violated, I stewed with my friend and fellow citizens about how this could happen to America, to “us”. All the talk came in about Osama Bin Lade, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and others. President Bush acted swiftly and without regret to provide an appropriate response. We were at war with terrorism.

On 9/11 I had the beginnings of something that would become a very successful business in the years ahead. Even though I felt the call, I also felt other responsibilities to friends and business partners to begin what I had started. It was just too inconvenient to run off and fight a war at that time in my life. Several times in 2002 and 2004 I started the initial process to join the military as a reservist to do my part in the war. See, it is difficult for those of us who have the innate “calling” to fight a war. Those who never pick up a weapon and serve never get that call and they don’t understand how consuming that feeling can be. It goes away from time to time, but always…always comes back. Sometimes it comes back stronger than others.

Fast forward to late 2006 – me, standing in my kitchen crying my eyes out in front of my wife because this time that feeling came back with such intensity I started making phone calls this time intent on serving my country and fighting the war. I was trying to explain the torment going on inside of me despite the success we were having in our professional lives. I know it was difficult for her to understand at the time. My business at the time and my career at the time was at a high point. But, the war was continuing in full swing in two places on the globe, and I WASN’T IN THE FIGHT. That is near impossible to push away when you know it is your place to be there too. Not only because you are called, but because you are also good at it. Designed for it. Prepared for it. Only those who fight the fight know what I am talking about.

2008. Many things changed for me in 2008. I was at a difficult period professionally, personally and emotionally. In September 2008 that undeniable call came again. This time was the time. After much prayer, thought and contemplation with my wife I made the decision to join the Army again as an Army officer and finally, put the suit back on, get into the game and play first string on the front line. I put everything else professionally on hold to do it the right way and fulfill that nagging calling that had been present with me since 2001.

I am here in Iraq because I was called to be here. That’s it. My country deserves the best of one of her citizens that was designed with a certain mentality, a control over emotions in the fog of war and a honed skill set that allows me to do what I do and prayerfully do it well on my nation’s behalf.

I am thankful to have a wonderful country that deserves every effort I can give to make a difference. I am thankful that I have a loving, wonderful and respectful wife that serves the needs of her husband even if that need calls our entire family temporarily on a different and many times inconvenient path. I am thankful for friends, family and business associates who were understanding as best as they could be about a man’s calling to service.

And most importantly. I am thankful and wonderfully fearful of a holy God who before the beginning of time planned these steps for me, provided that calling for me and has protected me and my family through this walk on a path less traveled. I owe everything I am and everything I become to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Thank you Lord for your grace and mercy in my life and thank you for the purpose-filled adventure you have given me.

Thank you America.

God bless,

Mike

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28

Army Values Applied to The Military Dad Living With Autism # 4 – Selfless Service

This is a big one for me. It also one that I struggle with personally as a human. See, it’s not naturally in the human makeup to live a life in selfless service to others or a higher purpose. We tend to be creatures who take care of our own needs first. We tend more to “look out for #1″. Now, I’m not talking about the basics of life like Maslow’s needs of shelter, food, sex, etc that we need as
human beings. I am talking about living a life that focuses on the needs of others MORE than our personal needs.

This is tough. I struggle with it all the time.

That last piece of chocolate cake in the fridge – do I eat it…or, do I save it for my sweetheart? There appears to be an elderly couple in the car right behind me as I am pulling into the parking lot of the grocery store and that front spot is wide open! Do I take it…or, do I pass it by so the elderly couple can have an easier time parking and walking into the store?

See what I mean?

Now, try to build your character around a lifetime of selfless service – putting others needs before your own – dying to “self” if you’ll allow me to speak biblically for a moment. Now, I’m not trying to preach my Christian faith upon you, but one cannot deny that the Bible is full of tried and true principles of character and integrity. It also contains some of the greatest examples of humans who lived by these examples (as well as many who didn’t and the ramifications of these decisions of their free will – always a bad ending and a lesson to learn from, lol). One verse that is on my mind as I struggle with the predicament of selfish behavior is this on in Luke 9, verse 23: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”

This simply reminds me that I need to focus on the higher order of life and eternity in order to act and serve appropriately here on earth.

For those in the Army, selfless service is that value where one is willing to even go as far as put their own life on the line for their comrades and for their country. These men and women are truly living the calling of “denying themselves” and focusing on the greater service to nation.

We have the same charge when we look at the exceptional needs of our autistic children and the spouse who supports the love and care through these special needs at home. Just the fact alone that you have an autistic child at home REQUIRES, yes, REQUIRES that you live a life of selfless service to the needs of your wife and your children. Leaders lead by example. As leaders of our households men, it is incumbent on us to lead by example and put the needs of our wives and children first. And we need to do this above our careers in the military, above any sports, hobbies or interests and yes, even above Sunday NFL Football! I know! I told you this is tough stuff. I struggle with this myself.

I find it easiest to get through those seasons of selfish desires by consciously (and prayerfully) reminding myself of the great charge that I have been given by being blessed with a supportive spouse in the autism battle with me and three deserving boys who deserve my personal best. Putting selfish desires first only strips my family of the opportunity I can provide them by providing proper leadership and service by caring for their needs. The whole reason I am in the Army now is primarily so I could focus on the special needs of my boys. Paying out of pocket for the required ABA treatment my boys needed was starting to break the bank, even on a good six
figure income! At the time I even had the promise of growing one of the companies I owned into a very lucrative financial position in the years ahead. But, that selfish interest in the moment was not in the best interest of my boys who needed help RIGHT NOW. The decision was easy when I followed the order of priorities in my life and put selfless service first for the benefit of my family.

God

Spouse

Children

Career

Yes, career is after family in my order of priorities. Sorry, I can always make money someplace else. And if my selfless service in the Army ever interferes with the selfless service I need to provide for my wife and children, then the Army will be removed from the picture. So, before I get to far in the woods about prioritizing or ordering your life, I’ll stop right here. We’ll save that
discussion for another day.

In Advocacy,

Mike

Educating Your Command About Your Family’s Special Needs in Autism, Part #2, Your Values & Ethics Matter

So, let’s start discussing some fundamentals first before going into specific methodology about how to approach your chain of command to inform them about your child’s autistic challenges and the unique issues this brings in your life. We need to discuss some aspects of values and ethics first as a foundation of every other piece of advice I will suggest to you. Effectively, what I am going to be providing for you is advice that will allow you some leeway in your duties and responsibilities at work. It should provide some limited ability for you to miss work on occasion in order to be there to support your family and/or your child’s medical, educational or other unique needs. To be frank, I have to believe that a very small percentage people will use this advice as a way to shirk or “get over” on their chain of command under the pretense of having to take care of business at home when none truly exists. I would surely hate to think that anyone would do that (as it will always come back to bite you), but I feel that I have to cover the foundation of values and ethics first as a disclaimer to anyone who may intend to use these strategies for less than honorable reasons or purposes.

Having said that, I am going to write this and the following posts from a stance that you are newly arriving at your new unit, that you don’t know many people and they certainly don’t know you yet. When you first get to your unit is when you are going to want to speak with your higher chain of command and educate them about autism and how it affects your family’s home life. The sooner that your higher understands the better off you, your family and your unit will be. It will be easier to make decisions on your assignment in the unit and allow everyone to set reasonable expectations for what your unique needs may present in the future. Don’t wait and don’t keep it a secret. Trust me, if you are doing the right thing and taking care of your family with autism in the household, there will inevitably come a time when you will have to get time away from duty or perhaps even have an urgent or emergency situation involving your family in some way caused by issues related to the autism in your household.

In the Army, all Soldiers are well aware of the Army Values in the acronym ‘LDRSHIP’ – Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, and Personal Courage. Every service component has their version of the values that drive an ethical and moral place to train and accomplish the mission. These values are what makes the Armed Forces one of the most well-respected and honored professions in the eyes of America. I am going to assume that you are one who takes these values seriously and one who strives to live by them in not only your daily duties, but at home as well. I am going to assume that you are a person of high character and that you are one who takes self-development and personal improvement seriously. I am also going to assume that your definition of integrity means the same to you as it does to me: do the right things always, even when no one is watching. You may read that and think, “I’m not perfect!” Well, we all fail daily while striving to achieve excellence, but it is the desire to live by these values as well as the deed that counts as well. I am also going to work from the assumption that you love your spouse and are committed to your marriage’s success. Some aren’t. So, I’m just putting it out there. If not, you need to figure out why not and work to correct it. With this comes the assumption that you are a committed family man and you put all their needs before your own. Are you there as a father or mother and leader of your household? If not, it is time to start. Nothing good happens without first good leadership!

Are you an asset to the Army’s mission? I mean that seriously? Are you one that adds value to the team by giving your personal best while on duty? Are you reliable and can your battle buddies and superiors count on you to do always do a good job? Do you work hard to improve in your skill sets required of your duty position and career field? Are you sold out to the requirements customary to the armed forces such as customs and courtesies and all the protocol that comes with respect for rank? Are you a “go-to” man or woman on the job? Do your peers and superiors personally like you? Do you get along well with others? Are you a positive person who everyone is thankful to have around? If you are a leader, do your subordinates come to you often to help them solve problems? Do people exercise their open door policy with you? Are you approachable and willing to give of your time to your Soldiers? Are you operating everyday with character and integrity and ensuring that others are doing the same? Would your chain of command consider you a role model by which other Soldiers are measured or compared?

Or are you the opposite of the above? Are you the one that takes away from the team and the mission? Are you the one to criticize, condemn, curse, complain and exhibit behaviors of a victim while on duty? On the inside, I believe everyone has a true grasp of how they are perceived and the part that they play in the mission and whether or not they are included on the short list of Soldiers who are “mission essential.” Are you one of those superior Soldiers? If not, you need to work hard to become one. Start today because your family and autistic child is counting on you to become your personal best. If you are the difficult, “project” Soldier as some are, it will not take long before your new unit figures out what you are truly made of. Within 90 days (that prototypical probationary period in every place of employment where you either get to keep your job or get fired) a leader has already classified you into a certain group of Soldier. Be in the mission essential category. Also, you are going to have a difficult time making your argument about the needs of your family if you aren’t even performing at a satisfactory or higher level on the job.

In order to set the right expectation you have to make sure that YOU are right. Right on the inside. Right in your thinking, attitude and work ethic. You can’t “fake it till you make it.” In our profession, all non-hackers are found out in short order. Any flaws in character, chinks in the armor or unsatisfactory behaviors will ruin your ability to build credibility with your chain of command. If these types of issues plagued you at your last unit, you now have a chance to do it right – especially for the sake of your family. You can do everything I am about to share with you, and if you have character or behavior flaws, the first time you need to take time off of duty is going to be questioned or perhaps outright denied – because they don’t trust you. Without established trust you are going to only decrease the pressure on yourself, your family and the positive development of your child. That increased pressure, over time, will whittle away your home life. It will whittle away at your marriage, decrease your effectiveness as a father and just make life damn depressing for you. The long term costs far outweigh the little extra effort that needs to be expended in order to be a top-notch Soldier.

Just remember that the difference between ORDINARY and EXTRAORDINARY is a little “extra.”

In advocacy,

Mike