The Votes Are in For the 2013 Best Cleveland Book

book-full

It’s official! Woohoo! Thank you for the votes! This award honors our beloved sons, daughters and families in the military. Debra Estep, one of the authors in our book, Love You More Than You Know, couldn’t have said it better, “Our stories are a tiny fraction of the thousands of military families who have had children ‘go off to war’. To the many who never came back, to the many who came back, but will never be the same, and to those still serving in far off lands….THIS IS FOR THEM !!!!!!

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A Happy Ending: Storybook Ball Helps Foreign Students Learn About US Military

Give a warm welcome to my guest, Chris Stiehl, a writer, speaker, teacher and consultant in market research and strategic planning. Chris has taught courses in Statistics, Psychology & Market Research at schools including UCSD and Harvard. Thank you Chris for your generosity and for giving your students the opportunity for this real life experience of learning about and helping our deployed troops.

chris S students

Foreign Students Learn About American Military

I teach marketing and market research at UCSD Extension in San Diego. For one of my classes, the students and I choose a charity or business to help. Since the organizations we choose cannot afford their own marketing department, the students become their marketing department for the term and write a marketing plan for that charity or business.

This term, we selected United Through Reading and helped to promote their major fundraiser, the Storybook Ball. United Through Reading provides deployed parents the opportunity to be video-recorded reading storybooks to their children, which eases the stress of separation. The USO ships the recording and a copy of the book to the troop’s family back home. The family is encouraged to take photos of their children watching the recording and mail those back to their deployed service member to complete the circle of communication.The program helps to keep families tied together, while the soldier, sailor or Marine is away.

The students volunteered to help with the ball and were invited to attend. We had hoped to have an impact on the Ball, however volunteering had a great impact on my students as well. We watched as Laura Bush addressed the crowd via video. We listened as Marines described their morale as being lifted, when leaving the battlefield to go read to their children back home. We saw video of the kids getting excited to open their package and view the DVD from their deployed parent. There was not a dry eye at the Ball, as the children rushed the TV to kiss daddy and greet him reading to them.

I have attached a photo of my students and myself attending the Ball. They had a great time. As you can see, the students are from all over the world (Japan, Korea, China, Brazil, Switzerland and France). Without exception, they learned a lot about America and Americans that night. Several have told me how appreciative they were of the opportunity to help. They gained respect for the men and women in the US military, as well as the spouses and children back home.

These students are going home, now that the term is over. They will remember the Storybook Ball for the rest of their lives, as they do not attend such events in their countries. They made it clear to me that they understand America is fighting for freedom, not just in the US, but everywhere.

71 Year Old ElliptiGO Rider Travels 3,000 Miles for Injured Veterans

Picture from Rick’s blog

Rick Hermelin, a former active duty Marine jumped on his cross training running machine, the ElliptiGO, and in 100 days raised awareness and funds for the Semper Fi Fund,a 501(c)(3) nonprofit set up to provide immediate financial support for injured and critically ill members of the U.S. Armed Forces and their families.

Rick’s one-man, self-supported adventure, as described on the Semper Fi Fund page, departed Marine Corps Recruit Depot at Parris Island, S.C. on March 23, 2012, and finished at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego, CA on Saturday, June 30, 2012.

The meaningful coast-to-coast finish aboard MCRD (Marine Corps Recruit Depot) commemorates Rick’s service in the United States Marine Corps, while also honoring the Semper Fi Fund, who will be on site to celebrate his finish.

As of this morning, according to Rick’s blog, the total of $10,622 was raised for injured veterans. Keep the donations coming. You can donate here. Thank you Rick for a great effort! You rock!

Love You More Than You Know supports the Semper Fi Fund, giving a portion of the proceeds from the sale of this book to benefit our wounded veterans.

To Kandahar and Back Home: A Year in the Making

US Army Specialist Timothy Sheaffer is welcomed home by his wife, Amanda.

A warm welcome  and special thank you to my guest blogger today, Debra Estep, author of “Shoulder to Shoulder” in Love You More Than You Know. She is the proud Ohio Air Force Mom of SSgt Vincent Aleandri. This is Debra’s blog.

In early June of 2011, family and friends of the Ohio Army National Guard’s 1484th Transportation Company gathered to attend a Call to Duty ceremony. 180 members were preparing to mobilize for active duty in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.

Some were heading out for their first deployment, and others had been down this road before embarking on 2nd, 3rd, or 4th deployments. The soldiers and their families were well aware of the long year that lay before them. As the buses rolled away, tears rolled down so many faces. Young children could not grasp why Mommy or Daddy had to leave them.  Grandparents who could grasp the why, still had the same tears.

It takes great strength and perseverance to join the United States all volunteer military.   We’ve been at war for over a decade. Many of these young troops were in middle school when our engagement in Afghanistan and Iraq started. With the percentage of people serving being less than one percent of the population, many Americans don’t personally know anyone in the military.

I happen to know one of the soldiers from the 1484th Transportation Company–US Army Specialist Timothy Sheaffer. I met Tim when his Mother, Tanya Phillips, and I became friends years ago. I will never forget the first photo I saw of Tim in uniform. I did a double take thinking, this can’t possibly be that same KID. My heart filled with pride, grateful that we have individuals willing to stand and protect this country.

Tim said goodbye that June day, to his young wife, Amanda. In less than
six months, Amanda was due to give birth to their first child. Tim was in Afghanistan where he was able to view the birth of his baby girl, Brooklyn, via a Skype internet connection.  Family back here in Ohio, surrounded Amanda and supported her through the labor and birth.

Several weeks later, Tim was able to take his R&R returning to Ohio for a short visit.
Those of us who have a family member serving, thank God for today’s technology that allows us to stay connected to our loved ones far away.  Emails, videos, and phone calls, are all life lines to ours and our military member’s mental well being at such a stressful time.

On Saturday June 2, 2012, family and friends again gathered at the University of Akron’s Rhodes Arena. This day, there were tears also. These tears were tears of joy and gratitude. The Ohio Army National Guard’s 1484th Transportation Company rolled in on buses after flying into Akron/Canton airport.There were cheers, flag waving and a band playing as the unit marched in. Some speeches were made, as the unit was thanked for their service.

The unit was stationed near Kandahar, Afghanistan. No one from the unit was killed in this deployment. Sgt. Michael Barkey, 22, a Lawrence Township member of the unit, was killed in Iraq in 2004 and eight others were wounded.

As this unit acclimates back to civilian life, we know that another unit has replaced them. Freedom is not free. The safety and security we enjoy is paid for by those who serve and those who give their lives.   Pray for them and please THANK them for their service !!!

Mom and Dad with darling baby, Brooklyn.