Program Launches to Educate Communities on Family Needs

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WASHINGTON, April 16, 2013 - A new publication series designed to educate civilians on the specialized needs of military and veteran families in their neighborhoods launched here yesterday.

Charles E. Milam, acting deputy assistant secretary of defense for military community and family policy, spoke at the launch event at the Army-Navy Club for the "How to Help Military and Veteran Families, Before, During and After Deployment" initiative.

"Today, more than two-thirds of our military families live in communities, and in many cases, 20 miles away, [from the installation]," Milam said.

In addition, he said, some military families settle into communities outside their installations for the schools, churches and activities available there.

"In over a decade of deploying service members to active war zones, we've paid careful attention to the changing demographics and impact of these deployments on the well-being of our service members and their families," Milam said. "We have prioritized programs and services that support families and help with overall preparedness and resilience. Our family readiness system is the network of agencies, programs, services and individuals, and the collaboration among them that promotes the readiness and the quality of life service members and families deserve."

The initiative comprises a series of pamphlets on topics such as military and veteran families' needs for higher education, early childhood education, financial assistance and more, Defense Department officials said.

Milam said the series will allow the Defense Department and its partners to connect with a variety of third-party subject-matter experts to reach communities of support.

"The key is being able to approach specific groups with a common interest," he said. "Whether you are a medical professional or a member of a faith-based organization, there is a specific publication that addresses how you can become engaged [with military and veteran families].

The launch event also celebrated the Month of the Military Child and the second anniversary of Joining Forces, an initiative to build public support for military members, veterans and their families, which is championed by First Lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden's wife, Dr. Jill Biden.

The publications -- produced in partnership by DOD, the Agriculture Department and a variety of organizations, including the Military Family Research Institute at Purdue University and the National Military Family Association -- will be distributed throughout U.S. communities and are available on the Military OneSource website.

"The program really is definitive Joining Forces -- the idea of a public-private partnership," Navy Capt. Todd Veazie, Joining Forces executive director, said at the program launch. "In 2014, we will no longer be a nation at war. We'll see our families reintegrating. Now, more than ever, we need Joining Forces types of activities exactly like the one you've put together."

Service members will be returning home following the conclusion of the war in Afghanistan, Veazie noted.

"They will need all of America's sectors to support ... to reintegrate," he said. [Your program] is a phenomenal resource."

Forming new partnerships and strengthening those that already exist in civilian communities will be key, Milam said.