Tuesday, March 13, 2012

2011 Coast Guard Spouse of the Year

For those you who haven't had the enormous pleasure of meeting Mrs. Laura Vanderwerf, you are missing out. Last May, she was rightfully named Military Spouse Magazine's 2011 Coast Guard Spouse of the Year.

What brought her to land this coveted role? Well, I am glad you asked.

She and her husband have been married over two decades. They are a beautiful couple with beautiful children who have grown into terrific young adults. Since the 1990's, Laura has served in an Ombudsman capacity for the United States Coast Guard. This has been more than a volunteer position, but really an excellent opportunity for her to mentor up and coming Ombudsmen as well. She has take the position seriously and looked for ways to improve things over the years. For those of you who are not sure what an Ombudsman does: they are the link between the families and their respective units.

She even assisted folks on a national level, far outside of her local purview in a variety of situations. It is apparent that Laura views a Coast Guard spouse in need as a Coast Guard spouse she can help,regardless of where they are located. Her passion is a large part of what her makes her so appealing. The other big parts are that she is down-to-earth, frank and realistic. If she does not agree with something, she won't couch her words to coddle you, but she is kind in her sharing of opinion. If she hears an idea, she offers realistic advice on how one can realize the goal. If you want to talk, she talks to you as a fellow spouse, not as a subordinate or superior; not as a stranger; not condescendingly; and not without warmth in her voice. She is approachable, relatable, and willing to impart her wisdom with grace and an "I've been there" kind of way.

I know this because I have been communicating with Laura for a number of years as a part of various online support forums we used to frequent and to one of which we both still belong. Finally, last year, I met her. I would be lying if I said I wasn't nervous. After all, this was THE LAURA VANDERWERF. The lady who seemingly always knew the answers to everyone's questions, and if she didn't she found someone for you who did. In ten years of virtually knowing Laura, nothing could have prepared me for how great meeting her in real life was.

There was no pomp and circumstance heralding her or magical glow about her. She was an ordinary person. *gasp*

I immediately came to call her friend. This woman who had been in part my mentor and question-answerer over the years was pretty darn awesome and normal. Well, normal might not be the right word. ;) We all have crazy quirks. Don't even get me started on mine.

Chatting with Laura, I felt right at home. She presented me with this sense of how we are all the same--riding in the same boat (pun intended, of course). And, we are. Regardless of rank, socioeconomic status, or even whether or not we have children, Coast Guard spouses are often dealing with the same things day in and day out. Laura recognizes that and as such treats everyone as her equal. That, in and of itself, (quite ironcially) raises her on a pedestal in my book.
In July 2011, I had the pleasure of seeing Laura again at the CPOA graduation in Petaluma. She was gorgeous as always. I was even fortunate enough to meet her equally fantastic husband. Then, this past fall, she came to Astoria and made time to sit down with me for a lunch before she and her family headed east for their PCS.
I asked Laura, what can I do. How can I help you to serve spouses? Without Laura as a strong presence on the West Coast, I didn't know how the culture would change. You see she has been a strong force in Alaska, Oregon and California over the years, and now the lucky, lucky East Coast would have her. I was sad to see her go, but excited for her adventure as she and her husband round out there time in the USCG.

Laura said to me, Keep doing what you are doing. She urged me to remain a voice for Coast Guard spouses and families and to keep my presence known. With Laura being one of my biggest supporters, that hasn't been hard. I think almost the entire Coast Guard community knows who I am now. With that comes a large responsibility. Laura's legacy to the Coast Guard community is immeasurable. If I can help half as many people as she has, then I consider myself blessed. I am grateful for the tireless efforts and unnending dedication Laura has. I am thankful to have her as a mentor, friend and a supporter as I can follow in her footsteps.

Laura, you are truly a classy lady who has given so much to so many;

prompted positive change; and provided outstanding opportunities.
Thank you for all you have done and will continue to do. See you in May, my friend!

Sunday, February 5, 2012


There have been some fantastic unit homecomings in the grand USCG this past week. I love homecomings. I am a sucker for them. They don't even have to involve me.

What can I say? I'm a hopelessly sappy romantic.

I hope everyone enjoys their reconnecting and makes the most of every moment. As we all know, the times between homecomings and subsequent deployments often goes all too quick.

One of my favorite homecoming was when my oldest daughter was six months old. Dad left when she was just about 3 months old. Now, for any of you parents out there, you know how quickly a new baby can change in a three month time period. Dad came home and was over the moon with his growing baby girl. She really had no idea who he was at that point, but the reunion was still momentous for us as a family. We realized that our life was about to change more than we expected.

I know two Coastie families just this past weekend who welcomed new babies. While I'm excited for them, my heart is a little blue because I know the dads will be waving goodbye in the all too near future as the moms are at home with the precious bundles.

You can endure times apart and you certainly miss your loved ones when they are gone, but you throw a kid in the mix and it's a whole new ball game. They grow so quickly and often the deploying parent misses not only holidays and birthdays, but also significant milestones.

In my family, we do our best update my man in blue via email and with photos when he's underway so he still feels included. We are very fortunate. I can remember days when the only communicating was done through snail mail. So, yes, I am thankful for technology.

Regardless of technology though, my man in blue is saddened by all he misses. His little ones are too. It's not an easy life. I will say, the kids have been resilient for the most part, but sometimes I think they are just putting on a brave face for mom who misses their daddy so much too.

I know that my husband is going to miss some pretty big life moments for us this year. Still, I am already looking forward to the homecomings and how I can make each one special for all of us.

Monday, January 23, 2012

TRICARE for the South Region - Decreasing ER related costs

(Recent news from 12/2011) A friend shared the following information with us.

Did you hear that the TRICARE South department has decided to put on a demonstration for all of the AD CG members and their dependents with respect to decreasing ER costs? If you are in the South Region, chances are, you received this in a letter. For those of you who haven't here's the info:

The objective of this demonstration is to decrease Emergency Room (ER) costs, increase access to care, and improve patient satisfaction. What does this mean for you? If you are unable to get an appointment to see your Primary Care Manager (PCM) for acute/urgent care, you may utilize, with no out of pocket costs, a TRICARE South Network Urgent Care Center (UCC) for each member of your family. Each Active Duty (AD) service member and AD family member will be allowed up to four visits for acute minor illness and/or minor injuries in each period.

The first period begins January 1, 2012 and ends on September 30, 2012.
Your clock will restart for another four visits in the second period which begins October 1, 2012and ends on May 1, 2013.

WE NEED YOUR HELP! If this pilot program is successful, it may be extended to all servicebeneficiaries on a permanent basis. This program should significantly reduce the costs of healthcare for the Coast Guard and the U.S. Government and improve services to members and their dependents. Please utilize this opportunity and save yourself unnecessary wait times in ERs. Important Information: Active Duty members must schedule a follow-up appointment with their PCM following any UCC utilization and AD family members are encouraged to schedule a follow-up appointment with their PCM. Participating UCCs may be found by visiting Humana Military’s website (
http://www.humanamilitary.com/) and additional information on the project is available at the following website link (www.humana-military/urgentcaredemo). General information, including governing documentation, about this demonstration may be found by visiting the TRICARE Regional Office-South website (http://www.tricare.mil/trosouth/).

Coast Guard Health Safety Work Life points of contact are:LCDR Leah Preston at (703) 681-8716 or Leah.Preston@tma.osd.mil.LT William Chew at (210) 292-3277 or William.Chew@tros.tma.osd.milLT Cory McCollow at (510) 326-4032 or Cory.J.McCollow@uscg.mil.Following your visits to an urgent care center, please give us your feedback at the followingwebsite: https://surveys.uscg.mil/Community/

Friday, January 20, 2012

Breakings News at CGFO, Inc.

Jennifer Bassett is one of the top five finalists for Coast Guard Spouse of the Year and in the running for 2012 Military Spouse of the Year. If you would like to read about her commitment and work on behalf of CG and other military families, please visit her profile and vote at: http://msoy.milspouse.com/ViewProfile.aspx?id=144Voting runs through 11:59pm on 2/3. 2/6th-13th they will be announcing 1 branch winner per day. National voting runs 2/14 to 3/5.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Onward and Upward - Lots of news about CGFO!

Coast Guard Family Organization, Inc.

continues to do great things for you and your family!

BLOG - We are relaunching our blog, right here, in January 2012. We are so excited to share relevant and related stories with you.

HOLIDAY PROJECT - Right now, we are busy, busy, busy with helping Operation Homefront distribute some toys this holiday season to Coastie and other military kids.

COMING SOON - Roundtable discussions where YOU talk and we listen and report to the powers-that-be!

SCHOLARSHIP - Our spouse scholarship application period will be open December 31, 2011.And, last, but not at all least.

This is an organization by Coast Guard spouses for Coast Guard families. We are a volunteer led nonprofit group, honored to serve you ad your families with the support of Coast Guard Community Relations behind us.