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University of Central Missouri
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Tips for Military Families, Information for Veterans Provided During Summit

Contact: Jeff Murphy
WARRENSBURG, MO (Oct. 23, 2014) – Education, communication, and limiting expectations. These are tips  family members of those who serve their country should keep in mind when military members return home after deployment were shared with individuals attending Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler’s Veterans Summit Oct. 20 at the University of Central Missouri.

The Summit’s purpose was to provide information that will be useful for veterans as they reintegrate into their families and build on spiritual and community relationships after their military service. It also helped them refocus on education and activities in the work place, and provided a number of resource tables from military and veterans resource groups. Staff members in UCM’s Military and Military Success Center worked with the congresswoman to help make the event possible.

Veterans Summit presentation to Dr. Ambrose
University of Central Missouri President Charles Ambrose, right, received a framed poster representing the 1-135th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, headquartered at Whiteman Air Force Base, in recognition of UCM's hosting of deployment and welcome home ceremonies for Missouri National Guard members who served approximately one year in Afghanistan. Making the presentation during Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler’s Veterans Summit at UCM was Col. Tom Burson, second from left, with Major Paul Howerton, third from left, and Sgt. Major Javier Acosta, left.

The Summit began with a presentation of a framed military illustration to UCM President Charles Ambrose in recognition of the university’s previous service as host site for more than 320 Missouri National Guard men and women who participated in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. Soldiers from the 1-135th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, headquartered at Whiteman Air Force Base, were deployed to support an aviation task force that operated as part of a unique combat structure consisting of the National Guard and active component soldiers working side-by-side with NATO Allies. UCM provided facilities to welcome them home in February 2014, approximately one year after a deployment ceremony that also took place in the Multipurpose Building. Representatives of the Guard, Col. Tom Burson, Major John Martin, Sgt. Major Javier Acosta, and Major Paul Howerton, made the presentation to Ambrose.

“When you have the Missouri National Guard 1-135th deploy from here in harm’s way, realizing what it is going to be like for them and the intensity of serving our nation abroad and also here at home, it certainly gives you a real sense of responsibility,” Ambrose said. “I know there are a lot of individuals within this community and beyond this community who embraced those who were here with their support. We appreciate what the Missouri National Guard means in service to this country.”

Hartzler commended the work of the 1-135th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, noting that “We are very proud of their service. They are very humble. They didn’t tell you, but they are the No. 1 attack battalion in the country. They came back after a year’s deployment in Afghanistan with zero fatalities, zero accidents – a perfect record in 24/7 operations. We’re so proud of you and appreciative of the good work you do there,” she told the Guard members in attendance.

During the event, there were three panel discussions dealing with reintegration, refocus and resources for military personnel. Hartzler served as moderator of the first panel discussing personal, emotional, spiritual and family issues faced by returning veterans. Panelists shared their personal and professional experiences, emphasizing the need for families to help veterans recognize problems and seek help.

Among the panelists were Lt. Col. (USAF Ret.) Tony Monetti and his wife, Penny. They are authors of the books, “Called to Serve” and “Honored to Serve.” Tony Monetti also serves as assistant dean of aviation and executive director of the Max B. Swisher Skyhaven Airport at UCM.

Monetti, a former B-2 pilot who was deployed on combat missions in Desert Storm and Desert Shield, spoke about deployment and noted differences between the types of action faced by those in the air and those fighting on the ground. He also spoke about the difficulty transitioning from his military routine as a combat pilot to life at home after deployment.

“So many of us have been in a war zone or have been in intense combat where we are working 24/7 intensely focused on accomplishing our mission safely with the men and women that are around us,” Monetti said, talking about life in a combat zone. “We have such focus and intensity, and such a level of speed and efficiency. You’re always thinking that maybe someone is trying to kill you, and you can’t let your guard down for one second. Then,  all of a sudden you’re coming home. That is tough.”

Penny Monetti discussed what it was like to be the spouse of a veteran who is returning home. After Tony’s first deployment on a combat mission, she discovered that the alone time she had looked forward to with her husband was diverted to other things - “land minds” he still faced after his time in service.

 “My point is that when our spouses come home, a lot of times they have ‘land mines’ that they are still dealing with in their heads,” she told the gathering, noting that families need to learn how to limit their expectations for returning military family members.”

She also stressed the value of strong communication and education. Families need to know what soldiers go through in combat, and how to recognize the signs of post-traumatic stress.

“Just having that information is powerful,” she said. “It empowers them (families) to make transitions.”

The two other panels dealt with issues such as continuing education and career opportunities for returning veterans as well as hurdles and adjustments that they and their children might face when transferring to different schools. They also discussed VA health care and benefits and resources provided by the Missouri Veterans Commission along with public and private veterans service organizations.      

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Cutline Information:

University of Central Missouri President Charles Ambrose, right, is presented a framed poster representing the 1-135th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, headquartered at Whiteman Air Force Base, in recognition of UCM hosting deployment and welcome home ceremonies for Missouri National Guard members who served approximately one year in Afghanistan. Making the presentation during Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler’s Veterans Summit at UCM was Col. Tom Burson, second from left, with Major Paul Howerton, third from left, and Sgt. Major Javier Acosta, left.