Angels Among Us: Practical Ways to Help Military Families
- Monday, March 31, 2003
Ask First. Don't call your daughter or nephew and simply announce your intentions to come to their rescue. Ask permission to come and be prepared for a "no" or a "please, not right now" answer.
It's Not About You. If you get one of the two negative responses about a visit, remember that this is not all about you. Don't make life harder for these family members by insisting on your so-called "family rights" or "responsibility" to help.
Asset, Not Liability. If the military family feels that your visit would be a real asset during this time, carefully consider the living arrangements. If your family lives in military housing, it is more than likely very small. Consider staying at an inexpensive hotel, at billeting on base/post, or even renting an RV to stay in during your visit. Close quarters can make for added stress.
Permissive Help.If it is determined that you will go to visit your family, then decide to help without taking over. I've had many friends whose families show up and then let the mom do all the cooking for the additional family members! Ask permission to help; then once you get a green light, by all means clean, cook, do laundry, take the children to the zoo, mow the lawn, change the oil in the car, fix the broken door handles, run errands ... well, you get the idea.
Keep Those Cards and Letters Coming
During Desert Shield, our troops sat in the desert for six months for a three-day ground war. Once the media frenzy of the initial deployment wears off, people get on with their lives and tend to forget the families that remain alone for many weeks. Here are ways not to forget:
Mark Your Calendars. Make a weekly reminder note to send a card or make a call. A small note makes a big difference.
Humor Helps. Humor can be an incredibly healing balm and provide a much-needed release, so you might want to send a funny card, a poem, cartoon, book, photo, or family-oriented video.
Unconditional Love. Do not require a response from your friend. Your card may have meant a lot, but your friend may be so distracted by the stress of the deployment that they may forget to thank you (at least right away). The usual protocols do not always apply during sustained separations from family members.
When in Doubt, Send Chocolate (or Other Tokens of Support)Okay, this piece of advice comes from a chocoholic, but the logic is sound--give the heroes at home small gifts from time to time. These special treats can make all the difference during a difficult stretch. Small acts of kindness reap big rewards to those holding down the fort at home.
Money Is No Object. Thoughtful reminders that someone is thinking of you don't have to be expensive. Drop off a gift basket filled with your friend's favorite foods (did I mention chocolate?) or a video rental of a movie they've been wanting to see (be sure to let them know when it's due back).
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