Entries in Military Families (6)


VIDEO: Military Dad Surprises Family at Baseball Game

ABC News(PAPILLION, Neb.) -- It’s a surprise 8-year-old Jackson Zortman will never forget. Jackson, a big baseball fan, was picked to throw out the first pitch for the Omaha Storm Chasers, AAA affiliate of the Kansas City Royals, as the honorary “kid of the week” at Werner Park.

Unfortunately, Rik Zortman, Jackson’s dad, was in Mississippi training with the Iowa Air National Guard and wasn’t around to help Jackson practice for his big moment. Instead, Jackson practiced all week with his brother and sister to help him get ready.

The big day came and Jackson threw out the first pitch of the game. The announcer then explained that the catcher had a secret. As Staff Sgt. Zortman took off his catcher’s mask, he knew he had pulled off quite a surprise. Jackson and his family all rushed to hug him at home plate and welcome him home.

“I heard them say his name, but I didn’t think that he would be here,” Jackson told ABC’s Omaha, Neb., affiliate KETV.

“It’s been tough because I’ve been hiding out. But I’ve been going to places I knew they wouldn’t be,” said Rik Zortman.

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This isn’t the first surprise from Staff Sgt. Zortman either. He once surprised his wife on Mother’s Day by setting up a scavenger hunt for her to find him.

“It was super sneaky,” said his wife Lindsay Zortman. “We’re not going to be able to believe him when he sends messages or updates his Twitter.”

It was a day that Jackson will never forget, and he even hopes to one day surprise his future family too, just like dad does.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Michelle Obama, Jill Biden to Push Military Spouse Employment

Chris Trotman/Getty Images for NASCAR(WASHINGTON) -- First lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden will unveil on Wednesday the results of a national study aimed at boosting employment among military spouses in careers that require state occupational licensing, such as teachers, child care workers and nurses.

Spouses in those careers commonly face financial and administrative burdens every time they change residency -- which is often in military family life.  The report offers a roadmap to help streamline occupational licensing across state lines.

The White House estimates the licensing burdens, “negatively impact employability for more than 100,000 military spouses,” or 35 percent of all military spouses in the labor force.

Only 11 states currently have laws allowing portability of occupational licenses. Thirteen states have legislation pending.

Obama and Biden are expected to add pressure on more states to consider laws that would allow for easier state-to-state transfer of certification.  

Wednesday's Pentagon event is billed as part of the Obama-Biden “Joining Forces” initiative to support veterans and their families. 

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Michelle Obama Touts New Effort on Military PTSD, Brain Injuries

The White House/Chuck Kennedy(WASHINGTON) -- First lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden on Wednesday touted a new commitment by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) and the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM) to improve the health care delivered to military veterans and their families.

Their goal, they said in a statement, is to create a new generation of doctors, medical schools and research facilities capable of providing a quality of care “worthy of their sacrifice.”

Some 130 U.S. medical schools associated with the AAMC and AACOM had pledged their support.

“I’m inspired to see our nation’s medical schools step up to address this pressing need for our veterans and military families,” said Mrs. Obama in a statement.  “By directing some of our brightest minds, our most cutting-edge research, and our finest teaching institutions toward our military families, they’re ensuring that those who have served our country receive the first-rate care that they have earned.”

The two medical education groups say they will focus on developing new research and clinical trials for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injuries so that they can better understand and treat those conditions.  The group also plans to share the information and best practices they develop through a collaborative web forum.

“Medical schools have long recognized the sacrifice and commitment of our military, veterans, and their families,” said Darrell G. Kirch, M.D., president and CEO of the Association of American Medical Colleges.  ”Because of our integrated missions in education, clinical care, and research, America’s medical schools are uniquely positioned to take a leadership role in this important effort.”

The project is part of the first lady’s Joining Forces initiative to support veterans and military families.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


For-Profit Colleges Target Military Personnel, Market High-Interest Private Loans

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- America’s students are in debt, $1 trillion in debt in fact. But while most college graduates struggle to repay loans with less than 10 percent interest, some military personnel are drowning under significantly more expensive loans.

Holly Petraeus, CIA Director David Petraeus’s wife and an advocate for military families, told a Senate panel Thursday that for-profit colleges are actively targeting military personnel and their families, marketing private loans with inflated interest rates.

“There are some real concerns, there is real aggressive marketing right now to the military and not just to military members, but to their spouses and to their children as well,” Petraeus said.

To pay for the pricey private schools, these colleges often market “expensive private student loans” to service members, said Petraeus, who as the assistant director of the Office of Service-Member Affairs at the newly-formed Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is working to protect military families from such predatory loans.

Petraeus said she spoke with an Army wife at Ft. Campbell in Kentucky who had enrolled in an online course through a college she thought was officially associated with the military. She said representatives from the school, which actually had no military affiliation, called her a dozen times per day until she agreed to register.

But help was nowhere to be found once the school received her tuition payment. The woman ended up failing her course because she had trouble logging on, Petraeus said.

While meeting with service members around the country, Petraeus said she also heard horror stories of loan companies charging crippling interest rates. One internet lender, she said, tells service members who visit their site: “We  believe that your membership in the armed forces entitles you to special treatment. We speak your language!”  That language includes a steep interest rate on their loans that far out-paces rates on government-offered loans. And when military personel fall behind in their payments, harassing debt collectors take over.

“They may call a service member’s home and unit 20 or 30 times a day, threaten them with the uniform code of military justice, and tell them they’ll get them busted in rank or have their security clearance revoked if they don’t pay up,” Petraeus said. “We’ve even heard of a debt collector harassing a surviving spouse of a service member killed in action, insisting that she had to use the money from his death gratuity to pay off a debt immediately.”

College costs aside, many military members are in debt before they even enlist. Petraeus said that on a recent trip to Texas, “We were told that the average Air Force recruit arrives at Lackland Air Force Base for basic training over $10,000 in debt.”

“A continuing issue for the military is the general issue of indebtedness,” Petraeus said. "Unfortunately there are still too many young troops learning about wise spending through hard experience and years of paying off expensive debt.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Michelle Obama and Jill Biden Team Up to Honor Military Families

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Pulling the weight of the administration out Tuesday in full force -- with speeches from President Obama, Vice President Biden, first lady Michelle Obama, and second lady Jill Biden, the administration launched a national public awareness campaign to honor and support the nation’s military families.

Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden are spearheading the effort and will travel for two days across the country to speak in various communities and businesses about the campaign.

“We’re hitting the road.  Yes, Michelle and Jill on a road trip,” Mrs. Obama said from the East Room of the White House. “I think Jill is going to drive.  We’re going to be traveling throughout the country, celebrating the service of military families and the communities, and nonprofits and businesses and folks who support those families every day.”

The initiative, called Joining Forces, teams up with the Center for a New American Security, a nonpartisan institution focused on national security -- and will be guided by an advisory board, including retired General Stanley McChrystal and Patty Shinseki, the wife of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki.

“Today, my administration is working to implement nearly 50 specific commitments to improve the lives of military families -- everything from protecting families from financial scams to improving education for military kids and spouses, to stepping up our fight to end homelessness among veterans,” President Obama touted. “ And as Commander-in-Chief, I’m not going to be satisfied until we meet these commitments.”

As part of the effort the administration will bring together some of the nation’s well-known names and brands to help.

NASCAR, Walmart and Major League Baseball will be creating public service announcements featuring Oprah Winfrey, Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, among others to bring awareness to the military families needs and talents.

In employment the initiative will aim to help connect military spouses and veterans to new jobs to advance their careers. In education, the initiative will help military children thrive in the classroom and make it easier for military spouses to continue their education. There’s also an emphasis on mental health and wellness, hoping to “remind the nation” of the support that veteran and military families need.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


Michelle Obama, Jill Biden to Spotlight Military Families on Tour

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- First lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden are heading out next week on a tour to support military families.

The pair will first make a visit to Camp Lejeune on Wednesday, where the duo will address 3,000 marines, soldiers, sailors and military family members.

Following that event, Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Biden will join Martha Stewart and pregnant women whose husbands are in the military when they visit Operation Shower, a non-profit that hosts baby showers for expecting military families. The two then plan to visit service members and families at a support center in San Antonio, Texas, before an evening trip to Coors Field in Denver where they will join military families from across Colorado for a Rockies baseball game.

On Thursday, their tour will take them to Colorado Springs and Columbus, Ohio.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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