Tag Archive for National Guard

Election Day #TroopVote and Soldier Voting During Hurricane Sandy Relief Missions AAR

The untimely arrival of Hurricane Sandy in the Northeast United States managed to coincide with both high tide, the full moon, and the U.S. Presidential Election. As many people were without gas, polling places were without electricity, and lots of displaced people were either living in shelters or with friends and relatives who had heat and lights, the storm disrupted voting all over the Tri-State area.

Of particular concern to me was the idea that our soldiers who were called up for emergency duty would be disenfranchised by their service.

In the end, New Jersey and New York patched together last minute fixes that would allow determined displaced people to vote. New Jersey governor, Christie, announced that all displaced New Jersey residents could vote via e-mail and fax. New York first extended the absentee ballot application to November 2, late on November 1 and failed to publicize this information or notify the New York National Guard leadership until it was too late for this information to help anyone vote.

Early on November 5, the application was again extended to November 5 but applicants had to go to their county board of elections in person–something impossible for people without gas and soldiers who cannot leave their duty station, which may be far from their home county.

Finally, late on November 5, New York governor, Cuomo, announced all New Yorkers could vote in state-wide and national elections at any polling place with a signed affidavit.

On my husband’s installation, he and other officers gave up sleep to work this issue after their duty shifts were over.

In my opinion, this was all too little, too late. Many people were still disenfranchised by the lack of timely and clear action by the states affected.

When it became clear the storm was going to hit, a clear plan should have been in place for allowing all citizens to vote. Along with information handed out during relief efforts, there should have been printed forms with the state board of elections contact information and how to vote. There is probably also an argument in here for a move to electronic voting so that all district ballots are available at any polling place but that is outside of the scope of this post.

What I do want to discuss is preparedness for future elections.

  • Register as a Military Voter: If you are a member of the National Guard, please, RIGHT NOW, before you forget, contact your state board of elections and see your options for registering as a military voter or permanent/perpetual absentee ballot voter. This should pre-register you to receive your absentee ballot just in case you are ever called up for duty during an election.
  • Deadline Extensions:All states should immediately extend registration and postmark deadlines to the maximum possible during a state of emergency, especially for military called up for emergency duty. Please write to your governor and state legislators to request that they propose this legislation, immediately.
  • Better Coordination with Military Leadership: This does not require legislative action–just better communication. Our state governments need to make sure the National Guard leadership is aware of all new information as soon as it becomes available.
  • Explore Alternatives to Traditional Polling Places: The governors of the affected states were clearly caught off guard by the timing of the storm. No one should be able to use that excuse in the future. All states should have emergency plans for displaced people to vote in ALL elections, including local ones.
  • Improved National Guard Communication with Soldiers: As soon as soldiers are called up, they should be presented with a packet detailing their options for casting their votes, all deadlines, and directions for how to use military facilities to meet the requirements. These men and women barely had time to secure their homes and make sure their own families were safe before heading out to help others. There should be no hurdles to them casting their votes.

You might think this a small matter when people lost their lives, their homes, and their livelihoods but isn’t this something for which so many have marched and fought and died? One of the missions of the soldiers has been to monitor generators and safety at polling places.  Should they guard others so civilians may vote while they themselves cannot? Relief efforts must absolutely continue but they do not have to and should not result in disenfranchising our soldiers.

(Photo: Pennsylvania National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Ted Nichols/Released)

Soldiers Disenfranchised by their Service?

Update 11/5: New York allows absentee ballets to be sent TODAY ONLY. http://www.elections.ny.gov/CountyBoards.html 

All absentee ballot applications must be made in person at your county board of elections by Monday, November 5th.

The State Board of Elections has approved an extension of the deadline for absentee ballots to be received and counted from 7 days after Election Day to 13 days after Election Day. Ballots must still be postmarked no later than Monday, November 5th, however they now have until November 19th to arrive at the local Board of Elections.

Get word to your soldiers in the area! Let them know! The access to news and information is limited so share the updated word via Twitter and Facebook to help get the message out there. 

Update 11/4: The focus is on NY now…Let Gov Cuomo know our the votes of soldiers called up for Sandy should count–like in Alabama and NJ. Please everyone, fill out this contact form and call on Monday morning–thank you! On Twitter, let @NYGovCuomo  know you want troops’ votes to count! Contact: http://ow.ly/1N8zEn or 518-474-8390 #TroopVote #SOT

11/3 11:25 PM: According to a 10:19 PM tweet from NJ Governor Christie, residents will be able to vote via fax or e-mail:

Governor Christie Governor ChristieVerified ‏@GovChristie

E-mail and fax voting will be available to New Jerseyans displaced by Hurricane #Sandy. For more information call 1-877-NJVOTER.

Please help so our NY servicemembers and soldiers in other affected states can vote, too!

UPDATE 11/3 8pm: Please use #troopvote and #SOT to spread the word on Twitter. You can also tweet @NYGovCuomo @GovChristie to let them know that you want our soldiers’ votes to be counted! I plan to call the governor’s office on Monday morning and hope you will, as well. Thank you Angela and Adrianna for helping to get the word out!

Most soldiers know they can vote using an absentee ballot. However, many of our National Guard and Reserve soldiers did not expect to be called up due to Hurricane Sandy.  Alabama has extended the application for an absentee ballot application to November 5 for military servicemembers deployed in response to Hurricane Sandy.

New York also extended the deadline but only to November 2 on November 1 and did not publicize this information. I haven’t found any information for New Jersey. For soldiers like my husband who were called up on November 2, or for those who have been fighting the flood waters and keeping peace in the shelters since October 29, this is not enough to prevent them from effectively being disenfranchised by their service.

There has been a lot of discussion about using National Guard and Reserve troops to ensure that civilians can vote. Isn’t it the least we can do to make sure these men and women, who sacrifice their safety and comfort for our own, are able to exercise their basic right to vote?

Please write your state board of elections and your governor and ask that they follow Alabama’s example and make sure that all soldiers have an opportunity to vote.

Photo credit.

Rock You Like a Hurricane: National Guard Duty Calls

My husband was supposed to have National Guard Drill this weekend.  They cancelled it because the public transportation has all been shut down in the New York Metro Area due to Hurricane Irene and many soldiers rely on public transportation to get to drill.

So, we were excited to have him home all day on Saturday.  An hour ago, he received a call that he is being activated to help with the emergency efforts.

We are, ourselves, directly in Hurricane Irene’s path.  At this point, it looks like a weak category 1 hurricane will hit mid-Long Island sometime tomorrow morning. If it hits around 8am, the South Shore will have high tide.  If it hits closer to 11am, the North Shore will have high tide.

I am about a mile away from the beach and the low-lying areas in my village have been evacuated.  We’re up on a hill, though, so we will most likely be fine.  My parents are visiting so I will have help with the kids.

We may be incommunicado for a few days but I will try to send out smoke signals after the hurricane passes, when I can, to let everyone know we are okay.

Stay safe, everyone!

Bag It Forward for Children of National Guard Soldiers

Would you Bag It Forward with me and help school children throughout the country?

Money is tight everywhere and people are struggling to ensure their kids have opportunities and the families of our soldiers are no exception. Most of our National Guard serves part time until activated for deployment. These soldiers work full time jobs besides their one weekend a month, two weeks a year training obligations. However, like too many other Americans, some of these soldiers have lost their full-time jobs in the latest economic downturn.

There are laws to protect our servicemembers but it is possible that the frequent deployments and training commitments have made some of these soldiers first on the list to go at their workplaces.

Most families do not want their soldier to spend time away from the family but for some, active duty becomes the most economically safe option. Just imagine looking forward to a deployment just so your family has a steady paycheck!

There are a number of agencies and volunteer groups that try to fill in the gaps of the needs of our servicemembers and their families. For example, Operation Homefront’s Backpack Brigade supplies backpacks full of supplies to eligible military families every year.

Elmer’s selected me as a paid Bag It Forward ambassador and gave me a $100 gift card to Walmart to purchase school supplies for my daughter and for a family in need. I was thrilled to be able to donate the full amount to the back-to-school supply drive for the enlisted soldiers’ families in my husband’s National Guard unit. Some of the members of my local moms’ group chipped in with more backpacks and supplies, too.

After the video, find out about how you can Bag It Forward and earn a $10 donation for Adopt-A-Classroom. Elmer’s will donate up to $10,000 to Adopt-A-Classroom to aid their mission to increase opportunity for student success by empowering teachers with community partners and funds to purchase resources for the classroom. You can help end teacher-funded classrooms with just a blog post or facebook note!


Elmer’s will donate up to $10,000 to Adopt-A-Classroom with your participation. Join now!

ELMER’S VIRTUAL BAG IT FORWARD RULES

  • Copy and paste these rules into your blog post or facebook “note” (look on yourr left sidebar).
  • In you blog post or facebook note, give a “virtual bag of school supplies” to other bloggers or facebook friends by linking to them or “tagging” them in your note.
  • Link back to the person who gave you a bag of school supplies.
  • Let each person you are giving a virtual bag of school supplies know you have given them a bag.
  • Leave your link in the Elmer’s Virtual Bag It Forward comment section. You can also find the official rules of this virtual #bagitforward program there. (http://bagitforward.org/donate-a-bag/)
  • Elmer’s is donating $10 for each blog participating in the Virtual Bag It Forward Donation to Adopt-A-Classroom (up to total of $10,000 for blog posts written by September 10, 2010).
  • Please note that only one blog post per blog url will count towards the donation.

The National Guard Drill Blues

Since my baby left me,
To head upstate to drill,
I’ve found that I have
just about about had my fill…

We’ve looked at military family life from the active duty and National Guard perspectives.  And there are definitely pros and cons to each.  On Active Duty, my husband had one job–Army officer.  Now he has at least two, serving as an Assistant District Attorney by “day” and a National Guard Field Artillery Commander by night (or at least one weekend a month, two weeks a year).  My concentration is similarly divided as I am a full time stay-at-home mom who also squeezes in part-time work as an Educational Consultant and Writer somewhere around the margins.  This creates a sort of frenetic activity and tight scheduling around our household that seems more suited to a war room.

On Active Duty, our medical co-pays were next to nil because we lived near a post with a military treatment facility. Now, taking two kids to a check-up practically requires a credit-check.  And I hear that our county health care plan is one of the “Cadillac” plans.  Because, you know, county employees and their families…we be rollin’ in the Benjamins.

Of course, we have a lot more predictability to my husband’s temporary absences.  Generally we have a head’s up before field exercises and there is some understanding that my husband has a life outside of the military.

In terms of family support, I have been blessed with good FRGs on both sides–but a “good” FRG in the National Guard still means we really only see other family members twice a year.

And even though the military exerted more influence over our lives on Active Duty, it was at least a constant influence.  With the National Guard, just as we get settled into a routine, off my husband goes again…answering the call of duty.

And when it comes down to it, that’s the type of man I married, and the one who is a caring husband and involved father.

Overall, we love being a military family and are very proud of our soldier–on active duty and in the National Guard–and wouldn’t have it any other way.

How about you? What has been your experience with the demands and benefits of being part of a military family?

Post-9/11 GI Bill

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Are your spouses taking advantage of the post-9/11 GI Bill?

Part of the bill allows the servicemember to transfer the tuition benefits to family members.

In order to qualify, my husband needs to transfer the benefits and then complete an additional service requirement (beyond his initial commitment).  He already completed his initial active duty commitment and just finished his IRR requirement and now he has decided to stay on in the National Guard.  Mostly he is staying in the Guard because he enjoys being able to continue serving but the ability to transfer his educational benefits to our kids definitely helps, too.

What do you think of the post-9/11 Bill? Is your servicemember going to use it?

Captain Dad is Now COMMANDER Dad!

My most awesome and beloved husband took command of a great group of National Guard soldiers on Saturday.

Following the change of command, the unit threw its annual Christmas party and I was impressed, delighted, and struck by some of the differences between the National Guard and the Active Duty Army.

The First Sergeant’s amazing and dedicated wife organized the party with help from a small group of regulars and created a real festive scene. There was tons of food–turkey, baked ham, roast pig, fried chicken, sweet potatoes, salad, arroz con frijoles, breads, pies, cookies, well…you get the idea. A local teacher and his band provided the entertainment–a mix of 70s dance music, popular latin numbers, and some Christmas classics. Besides the soldiers, there were unit alumni, junior cadets, the teacher’s class of “troubled teens,” and other community members.

Without the red tape of the regular rules and bureacracy, the party planners had more freedom to make the event work.

There were so many adorable children running around, playing on the castle bounce, making hand painted ornaments, and playing with new toys. The highlight for the younger set was Santa’s arrival on a Humvee!

I really got the sense that the soldiers and families love children as babies were passed from friend to friend, toddlers entertained, and older kids drawn into the singing and dancing.

Because not all of the soldiers had Class As, there was an interesting mix of uniforms and civilian wear on display, including a nehru jacket and a zoot suit.

With the vibrant neighborhood relationship and the obvious unit esprit de corps, I did not miss the regular army’s commitment to precision and uniformity.

Because National Guard members may spend their entire career with the unit, it was clear we were joining a close-knit family.

A lot of this also has to do with the community and how the armory is integrated into its urban neighborhood.

The one somber note came with a presentation of memorial plaques to family members of two fallen soldiers–some volunteers from the unit are part of a deployment to Afghanistan.

Even that sad note was a beautiful reminder of how much these soldiers care for one another.

I am proud to be a part of the family of this new unit and very proud of my husband’s service to our country.

Army National Guard Family Readiness Group

If you are National Guard, I’d love to hear about your Family Readiness Group.

While my husband was active duty, I ran one FRG long-distance (during his OCS–and we were spread out throughout the country) and was the co-leader for another (while his unit was deployed).

During the last year he has been in the National Guard. No one has contacted me about any sort of family group, although I received some general information about the National Guard family programs when DH first joined his unit. They seemed interested in volunteers, but only mentioned something about me going to a training program and that was the last I heard of it.

Now DH is about to take command. His unit is not slated to deploy as a unit during his command. I’m not sure what, if any, contact from me would be desirable for the families. A simple letter just so you know my name and contact information should you ever want to reach me? An invitation to a family day? Monthly e-mail updates about the unit’s training?

So, any insight from y’all would be much appreciated. Feel free to answer whichever questions you like and add your own thoughts:

Have you been contacted by an FRG representative?

If so, was that representative military personnel, a civilian employee, or a family volunteer?

Is your spouse deployed/deploying?

Is your spouse’s NG unit deploying as a unit?

Are there events (Holiday Parties, Picnics, etc.) hosted for families in your spouse’s unit and, if so, have you attended? Why or why not?

Would you attend family events if you were available on that date? Why or why not?

What would you like to see from an NG FRG while your spouse is stateside?

What about while your spouse is deployed?

What information would you like to receive in a letter from your spouse’s commander and/or the FRG leader?

When the Soldier’s Away, the Blogger Will Be Silent?

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For the military wife bloggers out there, or anyone whose husband is frequently gone on business trips, do you blog when the soldier is away from home? Do you feel you have enough anonymity or are you not concerned about any safety issues? Does it matter if he is away for a shorter or longer time? (I’m assuming male spouses don’t worry about this…but maybe I’m wrong.)

When DH was active duty, I always felt uncomfortable blogging about his absence while he was on field exercises…yet, I blogged about his deployment while he was gone.

It does not make a ton of sense, but I think part of it was the fact that there was no way to avoid the issue of his deployment on a Military Spouse blog and another part was, living in Killeen, it wouldn’t be that hard for someone to figure out whose spouse was gone anyway. So, blogging about the deployment, on an anonymous blog, didn’t seem to add significantly to the safety risk.

Since then, I’ve started a number of other online projects that are connected with my real name. And people who know me in real life have discovered this blog (and that’s a whole ‘nother can of worms).

DH has left Active Duty, but is still in the National Guard.

Suddenly, when he leaves, I feel exposed.

This time, I feel comfortable blogging about his absense because I’ll have family visiting. He’s headed off to Captain’s Career Course in preparation for taking command this summer. But generally, if he will be gone overnight, I just don’t say anything.

How about you? What are your thoughts and comfort level on this topic?

Photo Credit: Shush

http://www.flickr.com/photos/moonsoleil/2522976634/

Just when I thought that I was out…

…they pull me back in.

No, DH has not been called back up from IRR (Individual Ready Reserve). We are still leaving active duty.

However, DH has decided that, in addition to his work as an Assistant District Attorney, he will join the New York National Guard for a few reasons.

In no particular order:

  • He wants to continue serving his nation.
  • They will stabilize him for two years and cut his IRR commitment in half
  • He likes the military

So…now I will find myself in an entirely different sort of military spouse role. Any advice from current or former guard spouses?