Archives for May 2014

‘What’s On Your Mind?’ Social Media Event Moves Psychology from Couch to Twitter

Got a question? Ask DCoE; click here to download the photoIn a new spin on the proverbial couch, SDI launched a social media event in May to encourage a dialogue on mental health in the military space. In a first, client Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE) virtually opened the doors to its psychologists’ offices by making them available on social media platforms all month long.

The event, #Ask DCoE, invited service members, veterans, families and health care providers to ask questions about mental health issues via the ease of Facebook, Twitter and the DCoE Blog. Through a monitored and controlled internal communications process SDI conceived, questions were quickly threaded through one of DCoE’s three centers for responses: Deployment Health Clinical Center, Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center, and National Center for Telehealth and Technology.

SDI named the event the “Living Blog” because each question and answer lived on through the month in one continuous flow of dialogue posted to the DCoE Blog on its website.

While DCoE has long been active in social media, SDI’s creative undertaking was the first time its client’s main social platforms combined synergies in pursuit of a singular goal. Timed to promote Mental Health Awareness Month, the Living Blog embraced concerns that ranged from posttraumatic stress disorder to moral injury.

Pairing the high-speed world of social media with the deliberative analytical process of psychology may seem cautionary. In effect, the two environments made for an intriguing relationship. What made it work — subject matter experts fully engaged in the process; commitment to a 24-hour turnaround for responses; tight coordination between the SDI on-site communications team and DCoE experts and facilitators; thorough and vetted strategic planning; and DCoE’s dedicated effort to encourage service members to reach out for help.

The stigma of seeking help for mental health keeps many from getting answers to their concerns, let alone asking questions. SDI created the opportunity for the military community to raise their hands in anonymity and find answers or a pathway to understanding of their personal struggles. The event lays the foundation for leveraging DCoE digital properties in more creative ways to advantage its military stakeholders.

20th Anniversary of the IMLS National Medal

On May 8, First Lady Michelle Obama joined Institute of Museum and Library Services Director Susan H. Hildreth to present the 2014 National Medal for Museum and Library Service to 10 exceptional museums and libraries in the East Room of the White House. The ceremony marked the 20th anniversary year of the National Medal honoring outstanding institutions that make significant and exceptional contributions to their communities.

The award is bestowed by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. The First Lady noted the valuable contributions of the award-winning museums and libraries, saying, “You all are redefining what it means to lead a museum or library in the 21st century. All across the country from Brooklyn, New York, to Independence, Missouri, to Gallup, New Mexico you all are putting your programs and exhibitions up to help us expand our horizons and connect us with the rest of the world.”

SDI coordinated communications for the National Medal for Museum and Library Service, working with directors and community members from each institution to help them spread the word about winning the nation’s highest honor for museums and libraries. SDI also assists IMLS in promoting events and highlights the achievements of grant recipients by writing “Project Profiles” for the IMLS website each month.


Who Did You Have in the Preakness?

For us, it was our client Giant Food.

SDI helped to promote the role of the Nation’s Capital Grocer, Giant Food, in the long-standing Preakness tradition of crowning the winning horse with a floral “Black-Eyed Susan” blanket.

If you are familiar with horse racing in Maryland, you probably know that the black and yellow flowers match the state colors and the color theme for the Preakness. Did you know that for the past 18 years, the blankets for the Preakness and the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes were constructed by floral associates at Giant Food in Towson, MD?

It became pretty well known that because Maryland’s state flower, black-eyed Susan, does not bloom until June in Maryland, the blanket was instead made from daisies with centers painted black to recreate the appearance. Here’s an interesting twist – the flower was switched from the daisy to the Viking pom more than 15 years ago. A front-page article in the Baltimore Sun explains, with the help of Giant florists, that the flowers have, in fact, not been painted for over 15 years. Viking poms bear close resemblance to black-eyed Susan and sport a dark center naturally.


A New Class of Heroes


Our team is proud to be supporting a remarkable organization, led by a dedicated public servant, to raise awareness and support for a largely undiscovered class of heroes – the caregivers of our wounded warriors. The Elizabeth Dole Foundation, founded by Senator Elizabeth Dole, is building a national coalition of public, private, nonprofit and faith organizations to call our nation’s attention to the tremendous service provided by the loved ones caring for ill and injured veterans. Senator Dole joined First Lady Michelle Obama, Dr. Jill Biden and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter to formerly launch Hidden Heroes: The National Coalition for Military Caregivers at the White House.

The Foundation commissioned a RAND Corporation report of military and veterans caregivers, which was unveiled at the National Press Club. The report is full of statistics and findings that are both eye-opening and alarming. Perhaps the two numbers that stand out the most are 5.5 million and 15 billion. The report found that 5.5 million people are serving as caregivers to service members and veterans, and the collective, unpaid service they provide is worth approximately $15 billion annually. The emotional, physical and financial stress of shouldering these incredible responsibilities is taking its toll on the caregivers. This piece by Diane Sawyer did a wonderful job showing how the statistics play out in caregivers’ everyday lives.

Following the release of the report, SDI arranged a week in Washington for nearly 60 military and veteran caregivers – named Elizabeth Dole Fellows – to share these findings and their personal perspectives with nonprofits, media, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, more than 100 members of Congress and the White House. In just the first weeks of this coalition, legislation has already been introduced, dozens of organizations have signed on to support, and stories about the challenges facing caregivers have run on national and local media outlets across the nation.

Nina Foster: My First Meeting with LCDR Sullivan


LCDR Jean Marie Sullivan is the first military person that I’ve ever actually met. I was quick to define anyone in a uniform. Feeling uncomfortable and intimidated, I thought to myself, they must be very stuffy. After meeting her, everything changed.

Jean Marie heads the production of the Joint Women’s Leadership Symposium for the Sea Service Leadership Association and was a longstanding client of SDI’s. I vividly remember meeting her for the first time.

Three years ago, a petite, bubbly,  5’1” curly haired blonde walked through the offices of SDI as if she was in her own apartment. She helped herself to the office drinks in the fridge and sat down in the conference room. She welcomed me and Lisa Miller into the conference room as if she was hosting us. Jean Marie kicked off the meeting by talking a bit about her personal life and made a few jokes about some dates she had been on – I felt immediately at ease and I knew that nothing was going to be as I originally expected.

As we switched topics to the one at hand I could tell how much the Joint Women’s Leadership Symposium meant to her, and the importance of making sure that it happened each and every year. This was a gathering that impacted women’s lives and the only one of its kind. I don’t think I realized at the time what an honor it was to be a part of something so vital.

Her energy filled the room as we discussed possible themes.   I scribbled on a giant note pad as the ideas gushed out. What did we want to accomplish? What taboo topics needed to be discussed? What sessions would provide support for those who feel like they had none? I was worried about chiming in – I wasn’t in the military, what would I know about having to keep quiet or feeling like a subordinate? But I did know about these things that all of us go through, and I realized that the conference was first and foremost about women, and I could relate even though our lives might be very different.

This year is her last year overseeing the conference after orders came through for her move to Italy. Her passion behind producing this conference and making it as meaningful as possible is clear to every attendee.  Through all the hard work, long hours, and conversations in between, I consider Jean Marie not just a client but a dear friend.

In May, for National Military Appreciation Month, I would like to thank Jean Marie Sullivan for her service, all the work she has done for the Sea Service Leadership Association, and all that she has taught me in the few years I’ve known her.

Tom Davis: Remembering Memorial Day

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We cherish too, the Poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led,
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies.

Moina Michael 

In a small town, the kind of town where doors were never locked, seen through the eyes of the children, Memorial Day was an exciting experience. The usually predictable, measured pace of life abruptly changed. The quiet of the early morning hours quickly gave way to the stirring of a community coming to life. Far off came the sound of a single trombone, soon to be joined by all of its neighbors in the brass section of the high school band, tuning up before marching across town to the steady beat of the bass drum. [Read more…]

Dan Honors Our Nation’s Military Past By Helping Preserve It

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In the winters of the Revolutionary War, early Americans could track the movements of the Continental Army by the trail of blood the Soldiers’ chapped, uncovered feet left in the snow.

General George Washington’s urgent supply requests during the war were not for tactical material to give him the edge over the British, they were for survival: food, blankets, clothes. He once wrote that the Army was nearing the inevitable choice to dissolve, disperse, or starve.

These were the disparities of a young nation that by most measures had no business taking on the British with any expectation of winning.   [Read more…]

David Remembers His Grandfather as More Than Just a Good American

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My grandfather, Jerome “Jerry” Bahr, was, by profession, a fiction writer. His first book of short stories, All Good Americans, published by Scribner’s and Sons, had the honor of receiving a preface by a rather well-known colleague of his, Ernest Hemingway.  (This was the only preface Hemingway wrote for an American short story writer.)

[Read more…]

Diana Moon Remembers Her Grandfather’s WWII Service


Every Memorial Day, my mom proudly hangs an American flag outside of her house. It floats in the breeze with the other flags her neighbors display to celebrate the holiday, but she tells me it holds a different meaning to her. It is the flag she received on behalf of the U.S. Navy when her father passed away in 1996. I always knew growing up that my grandfather, Henry “Hank” Haligowski, served in the Navy during World War II, and was stationed in the Pacific during the war  with  Japan. But I never fully understood his story until I began my own work with the military, service members and military organizations.

World War II was a tumultuous time not only for the United States but for the world: atrocities committed in Europe, families displaced facing uncertainty, and troops heading out to the open seas of the Pacific. [Read more…]

First Lady Michelle Obama Presents National Medal for Museum & Library Service


Institute of Museum and Library Services Ceremony Honors 10 Exceptional Museums and Libraries Washington, DC – Yesterday morning, First Lady Michelle Obama joined Institute of Museum and Library Services Director Susan H. Hildreth to present the 2014 National Medal for Museum and Library Service to 10 exceptional museums and libraries that have made a difference in the lives of individuals in their communities. This is the 20th anniversary year for the National Medal, the nation’s highest honor given to museums and libraries for service to the community.These ten honorees exemplify the nation’s great diversity of libraries and museums and include a natural history museum, a children’s museum, a natural sciences museum, an aquarium, a botanic garden, public library systems, and a book center, and hail from ten states. The 2014 National Medal for Museum and Library Service recipients are: [Read more…]