Thursday, February 16, 2012

What Can I Do?

Ever since my book came out, I’m besieged by the question, "What can I do to reach out to military families in my community?" People are looking for ways to support our military and their waiting families—but they don’t know what to do.

I completely understand. 

Before our son joined the Marine Corps, I had no idea either. We don’t come from a military family and our home in upstate South Carolina isn’t near a military base.

So today I want to share some of the ways our community reached out to us and ways I see others currently reaching out to families.

Ways Our Community Helped Us
  • Ask how their soldier is doing—and then give the family a chance to answer. This is so comforting. Often our soldiers feel like the world has forgotten them, and sometimes the families feel that way too. Giving them a chance to share news, triumphs and fears is vital
  • Send their soldier a letter, or even better, a package. Knowing that our son was receiving mail from people other than family was huge. I knew it let him know he wasn’t forgotten.
  • Let the family know you’re praying. As I mentioned in my book, I would sometimes be so fearful I had trouble praying. Invariably I’d hear from someone that during my time of prayerlessness, they had been praying.
  • Be on hand for the send-off and the homecoming. Some soldiers prefer a quiet send-off or homecoming, but be sure to reach out near these special dates and if they’re open, take part! Especially be available to line the streets when a soldier is killed at war. That happened recently in our community and the outpouring of support was incredible and helped so many more than just the family. 

Things I See Others Doing Now
  • Help with the kids left at home. We all know how hard it is to be a single parent these days. That difficulty is magnified when one parent is away at war. Step in and offer to help get younger kids to and from activities.
  • Provide a night out. Whether it’s a child or spouse away at war, the family can use a chance to get out with friends. Especially if it’s a spouse, money can be tight. So plan a special surprise with a gift card to a movie or favorite restaurant.
  • Offer to collect items to send. Most of us are a part of some kind of group. You may not be able to collect a truck load, but if we all do a little we can accomplish amazing things! Our soldiers love getting things from home and it’s even better when they have plenty to share with their buddies.
  • Stop and give. As a member of Blue Star Mothers of America, I often have the opportunity to collect donations for our military. It means more than you can imagine when people stop and give.

Many times, people wind up doing nothing out of fear that they’ll do or say the wrong thing. Really and truly there are very few wrong things. Most are things people have said without thinking and I promise, military families are a forgiving group.  

Here are a few comments you should try to avoid.

Did you see that news story about…
The first thing military families learn during deployment is to avoid watching the news AT ALL COST! The reason is because if something happens, the military will contact the family. Also, we’ve found the news reports are incomplete at best and out-and-out wrong at worst.

I hope your soldier makes it back.
You may wonder that anyone would say this, but people do. We are all scared that something awful might happen and we really don’t need to be reminded about it.

You must be so sorry your (husband, wife, son, daughter) is in the military.
Really? No, we’re proud—button bustin’ proud—and we don’t appreciate those who think it’s something to be ashamed of.

Finally, here is a link to an organization that helps our military and their families. There are chapters all over the US, so chances are, you have at least one in your community.

This is a 501(c)3 organization and is set up to reach out to active duty military, their families and veterans who need assistance. Many of the local chapters have websites set up with information. Here is our Greenville Blue Star Mothers website.

Now it's your turn. What helped you while your loved one was serving our country?

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