Blog Archives

My Hero

Every Veteran’s Day is an opportunity to thank those who bravely served to keep our Country free. My husband and I spent some time together late Monday night viewing Facebook posts together of our military family and friends; all of us reflecting on past deployments. There is something about the comaraderie developed during difficult times, yet it is good to reflect on the people who were there with us during those times. Thankful for the “battle buddies” in our lives, for the military members and families who have sacrificed so much through the years and continue to do so, and for my hero! Here’s a few photos reflecting on Chris’ deployment to Afghanistan.

A corn field.  Corn seed is spread by hand-it's not placed into the ground-so that is one project the ADT team will be working on teaching this spring.  Things such as hand-planting into the soil and hybrid corn could result in significant yield increases!  Typical ear size resulting from fields such as this is maybe a few inches long.  This is open pollinated corn.  Tall hybrid corn was introduced in some regions of Afghanistan, but the Taliban would hide in it, so a shorter hybrid was introduced in those regions of Afghanistan instead.   Photo by Chris Rees.

Chris in an open pollinated corn field. The team taught the people how to plant seed in the ground vs. scattering on the surface. The result between this and hybrid seed was larger ears with more yield in which the people brought their corn to the next Team to show them.  Photo by Chris Rees.

This photo was taken at a Women's Development Center where women and their children have a safe place to stay.  This is a greenhouse where vegetables are grown and this little boy kept picking cucumbers and giving them to the soldiers so they got a picture together.  The cucumbers were returned to the Center.  Photo via Chris Rees.

This photo was taken at a Women’s Development Center where women and their children have a safe place to stay. This is a greenhouse where vegetables are grown and this little boy kept picking cucumbers and giving them to the soldiers so they got a picture together. The cucumbers were returned to the Center. Photo via Chris Rees.

Part of the Ag team holding a banner with the NE ADT2 logo at the Demonstration farm.

Part of the Ag team holding a banner with the NE ADT2 logo at the Demonstration farm.

My soldier and me at the Boss Lift for Nebraska National Guard Agribusiness Development Training

My soldier and me at the Boss Lift for Nebraska National Guard Agribusiness Development Training prior to NE ADT2 deployment. It was such an honor to watch them train. So thankful for and proud of you Chris!!! You are my hero!!!

Impacts from Partnering with Military Serving in Afghanistan

In time for Christmas of 2013, members of the Nebraska National Guard Agribusiness Development Team 4 (NE ADT4) returned home to their families from Afghanistan.  While the NE ADT missions were concluded, lasting impacts in the lives of the Afghan people will hopefully remain for years to come.

Members of NE ADT2, UNL Extension Educator Vaughn Hammond, and Afghan Extension agents after a train the trainer program.

Members of NE ADT2, UNL Extension Educator Vaughn Hammond, and Afghan Extension agents after a train the trainer program.

Our military worked to “win the hearts and minds” of the Afghan people by helping them learn how to grow their own food and provide for their families.  You can read more in this post about their missions and ultimately the efforts to train the extension faculty to take the research they were conducting to the people of Afghanistan so their lives could be improved.  This is what Cooperative Extension in the United States does every day for our citizens!

It has been an honor to work beside the men and women defending our Country and our freedom!  It was also a blessing to have a unique insight to the missions and accomplishments of these teams as a military wife serving at home while my husband served with NE ADT2.

Beginning with three UNL Extension faculty providing reach-back to NE ADT1 in 2008, an ADT Training Team grew to over 60 individuals from UNL Extension and Research, Natural Resources Conservation Service, USDA National Agroforestry Service, UNO’s Center for Afghanistan Studies, and the Nebraska Corp of Army Engineers providing pre-deployment agricultural training followed by reach-back during deployment for NE ADT2-4.

Partnership Impacts:

Since this was the conclusion of this effort, I wished to share a few of the impacts our military shared with me via a survey sent to 27 military members from NE ADT1-4 (n=14 respondents).

  • 93% agreed or strongly agreed that the training received from the ADT training team prior to deployment helped prepare them with information needed during deployment.
  • 93% agreed or strongly agreed that the reach-back they received from the ADT Training Team was timely and helpful.
  • “The help that I received from the UNL extension was priceless. I am very thankful for their support and guidance.”
  •  “…All supporting staff instantly responded to our questions which enabled us to provide feedback to the local Afghan Extension Agents, political reps and the general population.”
  • “During my time in Afghanistan…we had a built in reach-back with Mr. Vaughn Hammond being with us…”
  • “The information provided by UNL Extension and training partners helped us help approximately 10,000 Afghans with crop and livestock projects.”

In their own words….

We often don’t hear about the great impacts our military members have on the Afghan people while they are deployed.  Here are just a few of the many stories in their own words as they share the importance of partnerships during deployment.

I was in constant contact it seemed with a couple members of the UNL extension. Their support guidance and assistance was immeasurable. I received training material from the Beef Basics course for classes I taught to Afghan college students and constantly received ideas and assistance from the extension members.

Drawing on some of the education provided on water resource management, I identified a dam that was in danger of failing..threatening the village below. Emergency efforts were then made to shore up the dam. The livestock and poultry education gave us the base from which to provide training, in turn, to the Afghan people using, in my case, the Center for Educational Excellence (CEE) in Sharana, Paktika. A highlight for me was a series of training on livestock vaccination (FAMACHA) conducted in remote sites – even on a mountain side – in eastern Paktika.

ADT 1 received direction, websites, hard copy fliers, books, and additional training information through mail, email and correspondence. The farm and machinery safety information was vital to the development of an “Operator’s Maintenance / Safety” video and handbook that we developed for the Afghan farmers. But just simply bouncing ideas back and forth was much more beneficial than anything else for me. I’m just so glad that future ADT’s saw the need and developed a plan to initiate Extension and the ADT Training team into their in-state training!

The initial training, relationships created and reach back capability had a direct effect on the success of our mission. I am proud to have had such an excellent working relationship with UNL and the ADT training team during our deployment.

During our time in Afghanistan we made a train the trainer program for the Ag Extension Agents and DAIL staff to utilize. A lot of the material that was given to us and from our training were put into the training program.

The NRCS training we received in Texas pre-deployment gave us a good idea of the terrain, crops and irrigation practices. Agroforestry helped in identifying tree species. The Nemaha NRD assisted by providing a template of their Tree Program which we started in the Paktya Province with their MAIL & Extension Agents. UNL Extension was vital to our success in many ways by providing an Extension Educator (Vaughn Hammond) as well as advice on many relevant topics. Our mission success would not been as great without the support of UNL Extension and the ADT training team.

May We Never Forget 9/11/01

Video released from the Department of Defense.  With everything going on in the world, I don’t have much else to say right now…except this.  Today I’m remembering those who lost loved ones on 9/11/01 in my prayers.  I’m praying for the many military members still serving this great country away from their families today-and praying for their families serving bravely without them on the home-front.  I’m so thankful for those willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for my freedom.  And through everything going on right now, God is in control and has a plan and purpose for all.  May God continue to bless the U.S.A. and may we never forget 9/11/2001!

Remembering Our Fallen

Every time the Remembering Our Fallen Memorial was mentioned, I would get goose bumps.  Clay Center American Legion ready for the escort to arrive.Every time I would mention it was coming to our Clay County Fair, my eyes would moisten. 

Our Extension Office moved out to the Fair early on Wednesday so we could be ready to stand with flags while the Memorial was escorted to our Fair.  The loud roar of motorcycles approaching was soon followed by an amazing site of over 40 Patriot Riders from Omaha to Hastings escorting the Memorial to our Fair.  It was incredibly touching watching them ride in.  Local TV and newspaper crews were on hand to capture the event.  July 11th would mark 9 years since the passing of Clay County residents Jeremy Fischer and Linda Tarango-Griess due to a roadside bomb in Iraq.Over 40 Patriot Riders from Omaha to Hastings escorted the Remembering Our Fallen Memorial to the Clay County Fairgrounds.

That day I just observed the scene from a distance.  I knew I needed time alone to go through the Memorial later.  That time came Sunday morning as it was quiet at the Fair.

Over 80 service men and women from Nebraska have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.  Joshua Mann was younger than me, but attended the same high school that I did.  Patrick Hamburger was in the Chinook Helicopter group that often flew into the base my husband was stationed at in Afghanistan in 2011.  Jacob Schmuecker was married to a gal I group up with in my home-town church.  I didn’t know Jeremy Fischer or Linda Tarango-Griess but many in Clay County and the area did.  Very touching to see all the Patriot Riders escort the Memorial to the fairgrounds.

This Memorial is striking and different because it’s about viewing the faces of the fallen.  There are other pictures added of their lives and people leave additional tributes at the Memorial as well.  Scanning the QR codes to watch the tribute videos and reading letters left behind by moms, spouses, relatives, friends, coaches, and fellow service-members brought me to tears.  We must never forget that freedom is not free!

A special thanks to Laurie Jarzynka and her family for organizing the honor escort and getting this Memorial at our Fair.  I will leave you with a video I captured of Jim Fischer, father of fallen soldier Jeremy Fischer, talks about his son and thanks everyone for being there.the Memorial.  May we never forget those that paid the ultimate sacrifice for our Freedom and the families left behind!  God bless all our men and women in uniform and their families and God bless the U.S.A.!

Joshua Mann

Patrick Hamburger2013-07-14 19.15.422013-07-14 10.38.55

Reunion and Reintegration

This morning I woke up excited.   Welcome Home Banner for returning military members

Today the Nebraska National Guard Agribusiness Development Team 3 (NE ADT3) would be reunited with their families!  I found myself going back 10 months ago to the day after Memorial Day 2012.  That was the day several of us were reunited with our soldiers and airmen from NE ADT2.

Today I was remembering bouncing up and down while holding hands with other military spouses watching the bus with our military members pull up.  I remember seeing my husband get off the bus and running to his arms.  I remember that even amidst all the family members and friends gathered that day, the military members were always gravitating towards each other-looking for each other.  Sure, they were excited to be home too….but their best friends….their battle buddies who they’d spent the past year with was who they felt most comfortable with at that moment.

I remember how tired they all were-how they all just wanted to go home…and yet how quickly they all missed each other.  I remember so many things being overwhelming to my husband…crowds of people and everyone asking him the same questions, going to Golden Corral after we left the welcome-home event and him being overwhelmed by the amount of food available to eat (he ended up eating very little), going to a grocery store where we have such a variety of EVERYTHING and having so many choices…

We truly are so blessed in the U.S.A. and take these blessings for granted everyday!

As I drove to the welcome home ceremony today, I thought back on this post and how I left many of you hanging about what happened next.  Honestly, I’ve started many draft posts but struggled to know what to write or really what to share.

Many think that once our military members return that all is right in our world.  But the reality is that while there’s a honeymoon period, there’s also a great deal of hard work to make reintegration occur.  You see, military members and their families have been living in two different worlds the past year.  My husband and his comrades were living in similar to Biblical times working with great people but yet always had to be on guard for the enemy.  I was living in a fast-paced techno-savvy world trying to hold everything together here.  We both were fortunately forming bonds with military buddies and spouses that will last a lifetime.  I was safe at home with my dogs.  He and some of his comrades had close calls with death.

I will never know…

what it was like for him to leave home and everyone he loved to serve a Country that he loves and was willing to lay his life down for.  To work as hard as he could so he could go to bed exhausted in hopes of not missing the home he loved so much.  He will never know what it’s like on this end…to have everything in our home remind me of him, to spend endless nights and go to countless events alone, to hold my breath at every bit of news I hear from overseas, and to continually say silent prayers throughout the day for all our military members and their families.  But these are the sacrifices military members and their families are willing to make to defend the cause of freedom.  We love this Nation and are so proud of and thankful for those who are willing to defend her!

Since the deployment, I learned that it was hard for him to want to connect with home and me.  His coping strategy was to not connect so he could focus on the mission and not think about home or worry about how things were going here.  (He now would never recommend this strategy to any military member!)  My coping strategy was to send him letters and packages-to show him he was loved and missed.  But lack of communication is hard on a marriage and it takes time to re-build that.  I would say for many military couples, reintegration is even harder than the deployment and separations themselves.  We all have good intentions for a good reintegration…we learn what to watch for and have resources available to help…but the reality is that we’ve been going two different directions for a period of time.  It takes work to bring those lives back into the same direction again.  But it’s worth the effort!

One way that helped us get away and start communicating again was to attend a Family Life Weekend to Remember Event.  There are discount rates for military members and their spouses and there are special locations where there are military emphasis breakout sessions for military couples to talk about military specific issues such as deployments, separations, addictions, etc.  It really helped us to start that conversation again and I would encourage any married couple to attend one!

I smile everytime…

I see my husband going through his Afghanistan pictures with the sweetest smile on his face.  I know he misses it…he misses the daily work with hisADT2 speaking about their mission in Afghanistan to a packed audience at the Sprague Community Church buddies and the difference they were making in the Afghan people’s lives.  My husband took lots of pictures and video with his helmet cam.  As he shared his stories, I realized how much I take for granted.  His buddies and us wives have also often gotten together as the guys have spoken at various events.  Those are good things-things I will continue to encourage.

I’m so thankful God allowed my husband to be on that deployment with great leadership and friendships.  I know he’d go back in a heartbeat-especially if he could go with the same people he served with.  I think of these Agribusiness Development Teams’ mission to provide for a sustainable Afghanistan…to teach the people how to feed themselves and provide for their families…of the successes that have been achieved.  I’m praying for a sustainable Afghanistan and hope that one day-maybe in 10 years-my husband and I can both go and see the places he was, meet the people, and hear the stories of how their lives were changed as a result of our brave men and women serving.

%d bloggers like this: