Angels Among Us: Practical Ways to Help Military Families
- Monday, March 31, 2003
We all have our limits. Doing the single-mom thing while worrying about my spouse's safety will at times create so much tension that the thought of plowing through the week without help is almost too much to bear. It is precisely at these moments that God provides a strong back to take care of a few of Dad's chores, or we receive a hot meal when I'm too exhausted to cook.
In times of national concern, people ask themselves (or the military family) how they can reach out in practical ways to help the heroes at home. Americans really do care about each other, as is most evidenced during times of national tragedy. Often people--even extended family members--don't know how to help; that's what this section is for. It will help you help others to help you.
The other problem military families have is that sometimes well-meaning people think what they're doing is helping when it really isn't. For example, the in-laws that want to come and welcome the ship back into port. That seems like a very natural thing to do, and to suggest otherwise could be deemed ungrateful.
However, a closer look at the nature of military separations and reentry issues indicates that it would probably be better if the in-laws gave the sailor a couple of weeks to readjust to his nuclear family before they come to visit. That's why a copy of Heroes at Home in the hands of your family and friends will help you and a lot of other military members.
Here are some suggestions that you may want to pass along to those who want to be angels with skin on from those who think the right kind of help is simply divine!
Initially there are quite a few phone calls, cards, and letters of support when military members deploy or when the TDY begins. This can be a great source of encouragement, but here are a few tips to make the most of your support:
Brevity. Keep the initial phone calls brief and to the point, such as: "I just wanted to let you know that we're here for you and want to support you in any way we can."
Sensitivity. Be mindful that sometimes people will want to talk and other times they won't, because they can feel bombarded by phone calls as well as the enormity of their circumstances.
Leave a Message. Due to the number of phone calls, some families may have an answering machine on at all times. If you get the machine, don't hang up; just leave a short message expressing your care and concern.
If you are related to a military family, your initial reaction might be to go and help them. Here are some items to keep in mind if you are considering a visit. These guidelines can also be photocopied and mailed to your extended family members so they will know how to best help you.
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