Heroes Helping Heroes at Home
When I married my husband, I got a “three for one” deal. Not only did I marry “The World’s Greatest Fighter Pilot” but I also inherited two step-daughters in the process. Then he said we could “join the military full time and see the world.” But what he really showed me was five more children in the first seven years of marriage, for a total of seven children to financially support. Then we took the show on the road and moved eleven times in thirteen years.
One of the critical ways I found help for myself and my children was through our community. There are many opportunities for friends and neighbors to come alongside our military to bring the critical assistance they need during times of deployments and separations. Here are a couple of ways to be a hero to our heroes and their families.
Operation: Compassionate Kids
It’s also important to encourage military kids. Consider approaching your child’s classroom teacher, Scout troop or after school club about the idea of sponsoring a different military member each month. In English, the children can write letters; in Art class, they can draw pictures; and in Scout Troop, they can put together care packages. Children can learn the value of caring in community with others and it can teach lessons in altruism by creating an “others” orientation that will last a lifetime. Be sure to get instructions for shipment before sending care packages so that all regulations are followed. Some of the care packages might include:
- Toiletry Pack – Sample size shaving cream, disposable razors, wet wipes, deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrush, floss q-tips, shampoo, lotion, bug repellent, foot powder, & socks.
- Food Pack – Pre-sweetened drink mix, slim jims or jerky, granola bars, power bars, bag of candy (non-chocolate), gum, canned soup, canned fruit, fruit snacks, cool scar, nuts & trail mix.
- Smart Pack – Books of all kinds, crossword puzzles, stationary, stamps, phone cards, online gift certificates and fact books.
Help Our Troops
There are a number of organizations where you and your children can serve military members.
- USAA -With competitive home, life and auto insurance rates, as well as convenient online banking and investment services, USAA proudly serves millions of military members and their families and is also a sponsor of the “Heroes at Home” conferences, providing free copies of the book for attendees.
- TreatTheTroops.org – The “cookie lady” Jeanette Cram, can help you organize your own “cookie bakes” for the troops overseas. “We are always looking for ‘crumbs,’ or people who bake for us,” says Jeanette, “we have them all over the country.” Or, you can make a tax-deductible donation to help with postage. The have shipped almost 3 million cookies since 1990!
- OperationShoeBox.com – Their “Troops and Teachers” program pairs up troops and teachers as a way of allowing school children to learn geography and reach out to volunteer troops overseas.
- OperationGratitude.com – This group has local assembly days where you and your family can arrive at a central location and help put together care packages.
- YellowRibbon.mil — Through the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program, National Guard and Reserve Component members and their loved ones have access to conferences, resources, referrals, and services to minimize stress on families during all phases of deployment.
- MilitaryOneSource.com — This is a one stop shopping for military families to find the help they need. Everything from military vacation clubs where they can find inexpensive rooms, to information on how to get their college education to how to find free financial counselors who can help them with a budget.
Separation Stress Busters for Kids
If you know children of the military who are facing separation from a parent, here are some ways to help them.
- Minimize Media – It’s ok to turn off the news or limit your child’s exposure to media that could cause your child to be concerned about their parent.
- Watch the Watch – Before they deploy, get a matching watch with an alarm for the parent and the child. Then decide on a time each day when the watch alarm will go off for both the child and the parent, such as 7:00 AM for the child or 8:00 PM before they go to bed. It’s a way to know that you are both thinking of each other at the same time.
- Teach the Teacher – Let your child know that a military member in your home has deployed so that the teacher and administration can be aware of the stress that may manifest itself in the classroom. Work with the teachers to mitigate the emotion or “acting out” that sometimes accompanies long separations.
- Skyping Stories – Have the military member record a video session of themselves on Skype or Oovoo reading their child’s favorite book. Then you can play it back each night and not miss out on bedtime stories.
- DaddyDolls.com – These are dolls that are made from a photo of the deployed member for the child. They can hold and hug these, let them sit at the table for birthday parties, talk to them and love them.
- Regular Routines – As much as possible, keep the schedule as normal as possible in order to create security in your family’s routine. It’s especially important to enforce family rules and stick to regular bedtimes so that your child can have the safety net of boundaries that do not change even though mom or dad is gone.
- Stinkin’ Thinkin’ – If an infant can pick up on a negative attitude from mom, then how much more can a tween or teen detect it. Keep a positive attitude in front of your child and speak words of encouragement about dad’s safety. When you vent to a friend or family member, make sure your child cannot hear you.
- Kids Support Groups – Family Support Groups often have special events for kids, even if you feel to depressed or tired to take your child to these happenings, make sure they get plugged in. You can find help finding one here. This is a place where other children understand what they are experiencing and they can find comfort and courage in camaraderie.