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After 20 years of U.S. forces in active combat in Afghanistan and Iraq, some things about deployments worldwide have changed and improved from the early days, like more opportunities to communicate with loved ones and the improvement of basic needs for servicemembers.
But some things have stayed the same. Care packages are always appreciated and looked forward to, and families get through deployments easier when they weave together a network of deployment resources at home.
Luckily, today’s families are better equipped to work through the myriad of stressors, but searching for those helpful programs and events sometimes becomes another task to conquer during the deployment cycle.
So, MilitaryByOwner has collected numerous information-packed deployment resources to help you sort the support so your family can find comfort and convenience while separated.
Start with these:
Support for Your Military Family
First, and this is important, take advantage of all the resources the military provides. It’s also the most practical and likely free way to get the help you need. If you don’t have a military base close, connect virtually with your closest installation and their CDC, MWR, Commissary, and Exchange online to see on-base activities. You could make plans ahead to attend some of the activities.
There are times when the trek onto base is worth the effort. For example, The CDC offers free and reduced child care for deployed Army families. You should also watch for complimentary summer and daycare camps over the long holiday breaks. And, don’t forget about base libraries. They always have reading programs available for children, adults, and teens.
OCONUS and CONUS
Are you worried your child will miss your voice while you’re away? Try United Through Reading’s recorded books. Servicemembers can record themselves on video reading to your family even though they’re far from home.
Online, Military OneSource is invaluable. The site contains information on topics like free mental health care, career and educational programs, and financial advice. You’ll find the help you need, and maybe through a rabbit hole of information, you’ll come across other programs you didn’t know you needed. It’s worth noting again that Military OneSource is not only for dependents but for active duty, too. Advice for managing deployments and the transition to returning home is available.
It’s tough to go through a deployment alone. You’ll need friends and family to help with daily life tasks, special occasions, or just to distract you from the routine of deployment life. Connecting with spouses within the deployed group’s ranks automatically puts you in the same boat with the same complaints. They know exactly what you’re going through. You can express anger, fear, and disappointment, and they’ll totally get it.
Volunteering in any fashion introduces you to new people and lifts your spirits. The opportunities are endless, and it’s a great family activity to share with kids. If you’re uninspired, think outside of the volunteer box. You don’t only have to spend your time at a local shelter or food bank. Shelving books at a library counts, as does tutoring kids in any subject you’re familiar with.
Dive into the world of military spouses! No, not just your unit’s family group, but try following the military spouses who do what they do because they love it. Many military spouse authors, speakers, and bloggers know a thing or two about the lifestyle and want to share their experiences so you don’t have to suffer. There’s no reason to reinvent the wheel, so take their advice and make it work for you.
Support for the Deployed
The USO services around the globe are an excellent benefit for the military on the go. Help the USO continue their outreach by reminding your military connections about their facilities and programs. You should also check out the USO’s Care Package Program if your spouse’s deployed community could use a little excitement in their mail delivery.
If you know which airports your servicemember will use, let them know the exact locations of where to find a lounge center before they arrive. For example, they’ll find the USO lounge at Reagan National Airport at Concourse Level, Terminal A.
The USO also actively supports the military families and always recruits more volunteers across the country.
Don’t forget the big military supporters like USAA. They have many resources tailored to those out of the country and can be very helpful with significant events like buying a car or selling a house. Even the small tasks can get done quickly (discounted prices on flowers to send home!) with their assistance. In addition, they have an entire deployment guide ready for easy access.
Care Package Resources
It might not feel like you can do much to help your deployed family from so far away, but the small, seemingly insignificant things make a difference, and regular care packages wrap up all of those little items nicely. Of course, you can pack your own and send them (USPS has free care package kits), but some businesses are ready to send free and paid items and help with shipping.
The tech company Sandboxx dedicates its services to making communication between the deployed and families back home easier. Installing the app lets families easily send printed letters to your servicemember and others who could use a quick, "Hello! We’re thinking of you." Sandboxx even helps plan travel itineraries to visit military graduations and other special occasions.
These are a great beginning to the abundance of deployment support services available now. So, take a little time to research and see how they can assist your family and deployed servicemember.
By Dawn M. Smith