Groups offer military families support

By Anita Tedaldi: FNM columnist

There are many organizations which use their time and resources to help military families. Each one of them has a slightly different focus but they all serve a very important purpose: they link military families to resources and to the help they need.

During deployments, life for those back home can be challenging. Finding the support to make it through a medical emergency or a financial contingency can make the difference between feeling like we can handle anything, and being on the verge of losing it when our families need us the most.

And it’s not just during deployments that things are tough. Family and friends can sometimes help out during tough times or emergencies, but military families often live far from family, and are frequently transient to neighbors and communities. So normal networks that civilians rely on are not as available.

When that’s the case, military families need to know that there are people and organizations out that that want to help. Military bases have programs through the family readiness centers, and many individual units use spouses groups to help out their members’ families. Sometimes the support is as simple as dropping off a blanket for a new baby, or meal when someone at home is ill, but even these smaller gestures go a long way.

Knowing where help can come can be a two-way street, and you may want to volunteer yourself. Everyone is busy, but volunteering locally or contributing to non-profits which support servicemembers can really make a difference.

If you want to volunteer or donate outside of your immediate surroundings there are many organizations to choose from. Here’s a small selection:

• Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) is a nonprofit and non partisan organization that focuses on the specific needs of veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. For example, in October, IAVA released a report titled “Women Warriors: Supporting She ‘Who Has Borne the Battle,'” and launched a week-long initiative to honor and advocate for women troops and veterans. On their web-site www.iava.org there are many ways to get involved.

• Blue Star Families is a group whose mission is to “Support, Connect and Empower Military Families.” It’s a non-partisan, non-profit organization, created by military families which offers help online and through local chapters.

• Wish for Our Heroes is a new organization, which will launch its web-site on November 2nd (www.make4wish.org). The foundation will offer help to military families facing extreme hardships, but also to those facing the daily struggles of military living, by matching wish requests with volunteers. A family might request help mowing a lawn while a husband is deployed, facing financial stress or child care needs, finding mental health support, or anything else.

• NMFA or the National Military Family Association, offers a variety of programs and support for military families, from children’s camps to other support for spouses.

• Association of The United States Army (AUSA) offers support for army families through various initiatives and resources.

• Army Wife Life uses new media and a variety of services to support Army Wives and empower them to fulfill their aspirations.

This is just a sampling of the many great groups out there ready to provide help – and often looking for volunteers to help provide it.

It’s just a matter of finding the perfect match and giving back to the community.