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AFSC Coverage from the local TV stations in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area.

 

bullet Minutes After Landing…Soldier Gets Married - August 2012 (External Link)
bullet Support for military gets a big thank-you - April 11, 2012 (External Link)
bullet White House Announces ‘Joining Forces Challenge’ Winners - April 6, 2012
bullet First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden Announce "Joining Forces Community Challenge" Winners - April 6, 2012 (Ext. Link)
bullet Armed Forces Service Center invited to the White House - 3/27/2012
bullet Joining Forces Community Challenge Finalists - 3/18/2012
bullet First Lady Michelle Obama to Meet with Minnesota Military Families and Community Leaders - 3/12/2012
bullet Minneapolis StarTribune - Military affairs beat: State has 2 military charities up for honors - 1/31/2012 (Ex. Link)
bullet MPR News - VIP service for military members up in the air - 1/18/2012 (External Link)
bullet WCCO - Jewish Mother, Daughter Work Xmas For Troops At MSP 12/25/2011 (External Link)
bullet KARE11 6:00PM Newscast 12-23-11 (External Link)
bullet KSTP - Holiday Travelers Greeted with Hugs at MSP Int'l 12/23/2011 (External Link)
bullet KARE11 - Military travelers get a dose of "Minnesota nice" 12/21/2011 (External Link)
bullet WCCO - MSP Stop For Soldiers Making Their Way Home From Iraq 12/18/2011 (External Link)
bullet FOX9 - Eden Prairie Soldier-Mom Home for the Holidays 12/18/2011 (External Link)
bullet WCCO - The Volunteers Behind The Troop Greeters - 12/10/2011 (External Link)
bullet Minneapolis StarTribune - A Taste of Home, Away from Home - 10/17/2009

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White House Announces ‘Joining Forces Challenge’ Winners

From a White House News Release

WASHINGTON, April 6, 2012 – First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden today announced the five winners and “The People’s Choice Winner” of the Joining Forces Community Challenge, an effort to recognize and celebrate the extraordinary efforts of citizens and organizations across the country that are working to improve the lives of military families.

 

The announcement comes in advance of the one-year anniversary of the launch of Joining Forces, the national initiative started by the first lady and Dr. Biden to support and honor America’s service members and their families.

 

The Joining Forces Community Challenge, launched in July, captured the innovative ways Americans have stepped up to support and honor military families.

 

“Jill and I are so proud of all of these finalists and the work that they have done for our military community,” the first lady said. “Our military families demonstrate such strength, service, and sacrifice every single day, and we’re so grateful for everyone who is stepping up to give back to these families. The challenge winners are leading by example, and showing that all of us can find a way to serve those who serve us.”

 

Dr. Biden also praised the winners and all efforts to support military families. “As a military mom, I know firsthand the impact a small act of kindness can have on a military family,” she said. “So the great work we have seen through the Joining Forces Community Challenge has been inspiring. I hope others can look to these incredible examples for ways to support service members and military families in their own communities.”

 

The Joining Forces Community Challenge winners are:

 

-- Our Family for Families First Foundation, East Greenwich, R.I., also chosen as the “People’s Choice Winner.” The foundation supports military families pursuing higher education by supporting military children through scholarships and military spouses through grants and assistance identifying educational opportunities. Since 2006, Our Family for Families First has provided more than 20,000 hours of outreach in communities surrounding seven military installations, and its scholarship program has given more than $3.5 million in direct scholarship and grant awards to the children and spouses of active duty service members. John G. Picerne, president and chief executive officer of Picerne Military Housing, created the effort.

 

-- Armed Forces Service Center, St. Paul, Minn. The service center is a 24/7 “all free” lounge staffed by volunteers at the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport for active-duty military personnel, their families, activated reservists and National Guardsmen and other members of the uniformed services. Maggie Purdum founded the center in 1970 after her son was killed in action in Vietnam. More than 766,800 active duty service members have passed through the center since its inception, and more than 25,800 military family members have been served since Sept. 11, 2001.

 

-- Defending the Blue Line, Hastings, Minn. This organization works to ensure that children of military members have access to participate in hockey through free equipment, hockey camps, special events and financial assistance toward association and other hockey-related costs. Since it was founded by two Minnesota National Guard soldiers in 2009, more than 3,000 families across the United States have been served, including more than 300 recipients of hockey equipment, more than 700 children attending hockey camps. In addition, more than 2,000 professional hockey tickets have been donated.

 

-- Give an Hour, Bethesda, Md. Founded by Washington, D.C.-based psychologist Barbara Van Dahlen, this organization is dedicated to meeting the mental health needs of military personnel, their families, and the communities affected by the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. As of February, Give an Hour had about 6,000 providers across the nation -- in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Guam -- with more volunteer mental health professionals joining its network every day. In addition to counseling, providers also consult to schools, first responders, employers, and community organizations. Give an Hour has provided nearly 50,000 hours of free service, valued at roughly $5 million.

 

-- Project Sanctuary, Parker, Colo. This organization brings military families together in the Rocky Mountains after deployments to help them reconnect through recreational activities and therapy. Follow-up support beyond the retreat is also provided, and includes support to families with housing, job placement and veterans’ assistance. Project Sanctuary has hosted 22 therapeutic retreats and is providing support and services to 164 families, 80 percent of which are those of wounded warriors.

 

-- City of Richfield, Utah. The city has supported its local Army National Guard unit through four deployments since Sept. 11, 2001. Additionally, Richfield provides several programs and services for military families, including a city utility abatement program and distribution of the city’s newspaper to deployed soldiers so they can stay in touch with the community. The Richfield community has contributed more than $250,000 in monetary and in-kind donations to build a Veterans Memorial.

 

Since 20 finalists were announced in February, the public voted to select Our Family for Families First Foundation as the “People’s Choice Winner.” The additional five winners were selected with input from a panel of judges:

 

-- Tom Brokaw, NBC News special correspondent and author of five bestsellers, including The Greatest Generation;

-- J.R. Martinez, Iraq war veteran, motivational speaker and “Dancing with the Stars” winner of season 13;

-- Sloan D. Gibson, USO president and CEO;

-- Julian Castro, mayor of San Antonio, one of the nation’s largest military communities; and

-- Deanie Dempsey, military family advocate and wife of Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

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Armed Forces Service Center invited to the White House

On April 11, 2012, the Armed Forces Service Center, will join 19 finalists from the "Joining Forces Community Challenge," for a special celebration at the White House.

Thanks to Suncounty Airlines, the Executive Director and President of the Armed Forces Service Center Board of Directors will be able to attend this once in a lifetime event.

First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden announced the 20 finalists on January 24th, as part of the Joining Forces Community Challenge, in an effort to recognize and celebrate citizens, communities, and organizations who have demonstrated a deep commitment to service by improving the lives of military families and veterans. Mrs. Obama and Dr. Biden were inspired by the outstanding work of all the submissions and hope that celebrating the 20 finalists will encourage others to follow their lead and continue to raise awareness about the military family experience.

The 20 finalists recognized were selected from more than 300 submissions, for displaying exemplary support to military families and veterans. The five winners will be announced at the White House on April 11th, based on input from a panel of judges; Tom Brokaw, J.R. Martinez, Sloan D. Gibson, Mayor Julian Castro and Deanie Dempsey.

The 20 finalists attending the two day event in Washington DC (on April 10 & 11) have been asked to extend an invitation to two military guests that have benefited from the services provided by their organization. The AFSC guests are;

LTC FlorCruz (based at Ft. Drum, NY)- In Feb. 2010, the LTC sent an email to MAC entitled "Red Bull Soldier rescued by a SWAT Team of Debbie's." The LTC is from out East, but she was attached to the MN Ntl. Guard during her deployment. A graduate of West Point -- she was a demobilizing Army Mom trying to get home (during a blizzard) when the AFSC was contacted for assistance. With the help of two Debbie's from Delta, the LTC was able to depart the next day. Her family drove thru the storm to pick her up at the airport 100 miles away from their home.

CPT. Bridgett (based at Quantico, VA) - In Oct. 2006, he placed a satellite call from Iraq, to the AFSC requesting assistance for 310 Marines en route to their base in HI, via a military charter. The phone call resulted in the launch of the AFSC 'Troop Greeters' -- thanks to USCBP, MAC, APD & TSA. To date, the AFSC has welcomed 245 military flights (over 67,000 combat troops). CPT. Bridgett is set to retire on April 26 2012, after 23 years in the Marine Corps.

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Dear Joining Forces Community Challenge Finalists,

The First Lady and Dr. Biden would like to congratulate you once again for the outstanding work you are doing to support our troops, veterans, and military families. To honor your accomplishments and commemorate the one-year anniversary of Joining Forces, First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden invite you to a celebration event at the White House on Wednesday, April 11, 2012.

All 20 Joining Forces Community Challenge finalists are invited, and the First Lady and Dr. Biden look forward to meeting you.

You will receive additional details about the White House event from the White House Social Office.

We look forward to seeing you in April!

Thanks,

Joining Forces Community Challenge

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The White House - Office of the First Lady

For Immediate Release

March 12, 2012

First Lady Michelle Obama to Meet with Minnesota Military Families and Community Leaders

Friday, March 16th 3:30 PM: As part of her Joining Forces initiative, First Lady Michelle Obama will travel to Minnesota on Friday to meet with National Guard families and local community leaders who are dedicated to supporting military families. Last month, Mrs. Obama and Dr. Jill Biden announced 20 finalists as part of their Joining Forces Community Challenge, an effort to recognize and celebrate citizens, communities, and organizations that have demonstrated a deep commitment to service by improving the lives of military families and veterans.  In a roundtable discussion about Minnesota’s best practices that can be replicated nationally, Mrs. Obama will join military family members, representatives from Serving Our Troops, and three Joining Forces Community Challenge finalists from Minnesota – the Armed Forces Service Center, Defending the Blue Line and GreenCare for Troops. Below are descriptions of these military family support organizations.

 

Information on military family support organizations

 

The Armed Forces Service Center is a 24-7 “all free” lounge staffed by volunteers at the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport that serves active-duty military personnel, their dependents, activated reservists and national guardsmen, as well as other members of the uniformed services. Maggie Purdum, a mother whose son was killed in action in Vietnam created the Center in 1970 in an effort to appreciate those who have served this country.

 

Defending the Blue Line works to ensure that children of military members can play hockey by offering them free equipment and financial assistance as well as access to hockey camps and special events. Founded by two Minnesota National Guard members in 2009, the organization has donated more than $500,000 to benefit military families across the United States.

 

GreenCare for Troops was established by a wounded warrior who after surviving an almost deadly attack pledged to dedicate his life to improving the lives of veterans.  This project was created to provide free lawn and landscape services for military families nationwide. The nationwide program is coordinated by Project EverGreen that connects local green industry professionals with military families.

 

Serving Our Troops was formed by a group of community and business leaders who create an active appreciation for soldiers serving abroad and their families at home. Since 2004, Serving Our Troops has brought together families and soldiers for a special dinner event that is connected via live international video.

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A taste of home, away from home

(From the StarTribune newspaper)

 

Volunteer Annie Olson (center) chats with several Marines has their unit passes through the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport recently.

 

Though volunteers at the Armed Forces Service Center bring much-needed comfort to troops, resources are taxed because of increased troop movements.

 

Last update: October 17, 2009 - 11:07 AM

 

The volunteers of the Armed Forces Service Center call themselves Minnesota's best-kept secret.

 

Born during the Vietnam era when returning soldiers were sometimes scorned by a public soured by war, the group that welcomes traveling troops coming through the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport now struggles with a post- 9/11 problem -- a concern over security that means many people don't know of its existence.

 

The center's volunteers rely on donations from local businesses, nonprofits, and veterans' organizations for toiletries, muffins, coffee and other amenities to give troops in transit.

 

The group has greeted 171 military flights over the past three years. Last month, 3,000 troops passed through, drinking 35 pounds worth of Caribou Coffee and grabbing cell phones lent courtesy of Sprint. The Girl Scouts have been especially generous: a storage room has a well-stocked supply of Do-Si-Dos.

 

With the country at war on two fronts, the number of troops filtering through the airport has exploded, and the volunteers have found themselves knocking on more doors for donations.

 

The demand comes as the public's patience with the wars is being tested amid economic hardship. It also comes as the Twin Cities airport continues to operate at a high level of concern over security. The Twin Cities is the venue, after all, where convicted terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui was first arrested.

 

Debra Cain, the center's director, often gets advance word of incoming flights. But troop movements, and where they are coming from and going to, are treated as an issue of operational security. A soldier recently discovered he was going to be traveling through the airport on a layover and sent out e-mails about the schedule. In response, the military re-routed the flight.

 

"We try to work closely with the airlines and with the military," she said. "There's a lot of concern about keeping troop movement secure. At the same time, we're seeing more and more people coming through. We need funds, funds, funds."

 

Pat Hogan, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Airports Commission, which runs the airport, said Transportation Safety Administration regulations apply to airports across the country and that MSP has no history of being more restrictive. The airports commission donates space to the center but is not otherwise affiliated with it.

 

"The troops are required to be contained in a certain area; they're carrying guns and there is no screening process in terms of when they get off the plane and what they may have," Hogan said. "There are some security concerns that have to be taken into account."

 

Even with their new blue denim shirts with the letters AFSC embroidered on them (donated in 2008 by Kraus Anderson Construction), local volunteers might be forgiven if they have felt a little left out. Similar groups elsewhere seem to enjoy a much easier time and have flown far less under the radar.

 

The Maine Troop Greeters, for instance, have welcomed 841,000 troops since 2003 at the Bangor International Airport and have been the subjects of a multitude of attention, including face time with Vice President Joe Biden in the White House and players in a documentary film, "The Way We Get By," being screened this month.

 

The local center, which is not affiliated with the USO, was founded in 1970 by a woman whose son died in Vietnam. It has never closed.

 

Besides greeting flights at the gate with a mobile canteen of treats, the Armed Forces Service Center operates a center on the mezzanine of the Lindbergh Terminal. It has a large lounge with satellite TV, free Wi-Fi, complimentary sandwiches, pastries, cereals and soups and bunks for men and women. In the days after 9/11, 16 Marines were stranded there for five days while commercial flights were grounded.

 

Teacher Jeanne Morford volunteered for the first shift and has returned for a four-hour stint every Monday. Like many of the volunteers, Morford became involved in the center after seeing how troops returning from Vietnam were being treated.

 

"We should never treat people who have served their country like that again," said Morford, the one-time president of the group. Another volunteer, Annie Olson, began writing letters to soldiers in Vietnam in 1968 and has volunteered at the center since 2004. "I feel it's the best way I can give back to people who have sacrificed so much," she said.

 

Don Wille, whose stepson Chris is in the Army, learned about the center when his wife, Renee, became involved in a military family support group. He ended up delivering several truckloads of snacks and personal hygiene items donated to his business after learning of the critical need for supplies.

 

"It's either the first place when they get to American soil or the last place before they leave," he said. "They need to have a good reception one way or the other because they are going to be gone for a long time or they've been gone for a long time."

 

While soldiers are being given more support than during the Vietnam days, a recent flight in by a group of Marines provided a glimpse of some of the new problems in dealing with weary troops facing extended deployments.

 

Two and a half hours late after their flight had mechanical difficulties, the Marines filtered through, some staring with fatigue, others happy to have a conversation with the volunteers. An airport police officer and a TSA guard monitored movements the whole time.

 

As the Marines marched on to their next flight back to their base in Arizona, volunteers from the center made a point of going through the restrooms to make sure no one was planning to go AWOL. It has happened before.

 

But not on this date. All troops were accounted for and within 45 minutes after the plane landed, the volunteers were breaking down their mobile canteen like a NASCAR crew at a pit stop. Their effort did not go unnoticed.

 

"After six or seven months of a long deployment you kind of forget that there are people here supporting you," said Staff Sgt. Nicholas Cook, whose unit, Marine Wing Support Squadron 371, was returning to its home base in Yuma, Ariz. "When you jump off the plane and see something like this, I am taken aback. It can't help but put a smile on your face for the rest of the trip back home."

 

It was the end of Cook's third deployment. "Back and forth, this is my sixth time seeing something like this," he said, "and I never get used to it."

   

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