After 20 years of U.S. forces in active combat in both Afghanistan and Iraq, some things about deployments all across the world have changed and improved from the early days, like more opportunities to communicate with loved ones, and the improvement of basic needs for service members, but some war time events stay the same. Care packages are always appreciated and looked forward to, and families need to weave together a network of support at home.
Luckily, support services have grown up from back in the day, and today’s families are better equipped to work through the myriad of stressors that exist, but searching for those helpful programs and events becomes another task to conquer during the deployment cycle.
MilitaryByOwner has numerous information packed deployment resources to share for your service member, you, and your family to find comfort and convenience while separated.
Start with these:
Support for Your Military Family
First, and really important, is taking advantage of all the resources the military provides. It’s also the most practical and likely free way to get some of the help you may need. If you don’t have a military base close, connect with them (CDC, MWR, Commissary/Exchange) online to see their Facebook posts for on-base activities.
There will be times when the trek onto base will be worth the effort. The CDC offers free and reduced child care for deployed families and not only summer camps, but care camps for over the long holiday breaks. Libraries always have reading programs available for children, adults, and teens.
Online, Military OneSource is invaluable. The site is so packed with information on topics from mental health care (which is free if you or your child could benefit) to career and educational programs to financial advice. It’s certainly worth investigating. You’ll find the help you need and through a rabbit hole of information, come across other programs that you didn’t know you needed!
It doesn’t do you any good to go through a deployment alone. You need friends and family to help out or just distract you from the routine of deployment life. Finding 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 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. Think outside of the volunteer box. Your time doesn’t have to be only spent at a local shelter or food bank. Shelving books at a library counts, and so does tutoring local kids in any subject you’re familiar with.
Dive into the world of military spouses. No, not just your unit’s family group, but those who do what they do because they love it. There are many authors, speakers, and bloggers who know a thing or two about the military 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.
Many spouses do their best to keep a career thriving throughout all of the obstacles military life brings. Seek out some that are in your field and they just might pass down some supportive information you never knew existed.
Support for the Deployed
The USO services around the globe are such a great benefit for military on the go. Help them out by reminding them of their facilities and programs. If you know which airports will be used, communicate before they arrive the exact locations of where to find a lounge center. For example, the USO lounge at Reagan National Airport is found at Concourse Level, Terminal A.
The USO actively supports military and their families and always is looking for more volunteers across the country. They’re a worthy cause to participate in while your partner is away.
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 big 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. They have an entire deployment guide ready for easy access.
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 for returning home is available.
It might not feel like you can do much to help your deployed family from so far away, but the small, seemingly insignificant things really 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 on, but there are businesses ready to send free items or help with shipping.
The United States Post Office has care package kits with the most requested supplies bundled together. The Hershey Company is partnering with the USO to send deployed service members a "little taste of home."
The tech company Sandboxx is dedicated to making communication between the deployed and separated easier. Installing the app allows families to easily send printed letters not only to your special service member, but other ones who could use a quick, "Hello! We’re thinking of you." Sandboxx even helps to plan travel itineraries to visit military graduations and other special occasions.
These are really just a great beginning to the abundance of deployment support services available now. It’s up to you to take a little time and see how they can be of assistance to your family and deployed service member.
By Dawn M. Smith