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This page is devoted to the management of volunteer programs at the military level, including information for all branches of the armed services.

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~ December 2004 ~ Topics
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What Can I Do to Help Military Families?

We are a very independent "breed" of families. Most spouses of military members I know can confidently do just about anything – change a tire, hang Christmas lights, "deal with" a car mechanic or recalcitrant teenager, cook chili for 50 troops coming in from the field, direct the activities of packers who could care less that "this was my mother's china – be careful with it!" – some of those things all at once! We tend to not ask for help – at least not of anyone outside of our corps group of friends and peers. Yet we do need help, particularly during these times of extended separations due to our war of global terrorism efforts. Many of our neighbors and community members are looking for ways to help. The National Military Association has many helpful, practical, no-cost suggestions, some of which are listed below. But, for more, go to their website at: http://www.nmfa.org.

  • If you are a neighbor to a military family, check in periodically. The answer to your offer to help rake leaves or wash the car might always be "no thank you," but that will not diminish their appreciation for your offer.
  • If your child's friend’s parent is deployed, encourage your child to invite the friend along on family outings. He's missing his dad or she's missing her mom – you won't be a substitute, but you will sure help fill a void.
  • Become a secret pal. Leave your military neighbor a baked good, a thank you note, a plant – get your children in on the act. They'll love sneaking up to the porch to leave a surprise!
  • Due to heightened security on military installations, access to services that normally need volunteers is severely limited. Unless you are sponsored by a military member or dependent, you will not be able to volunteer on base. But military families are very active in their communities – and they traditionally form strong friendships that are long-lasting even after they move – your local church, school, YMCA, community center may very well have planned activities that directly support military families or can put you in touch with military families or organizations needing help. Check out the community calendar.

As important as tangible support can be, the intangible gift of gratitude is the most significant thing you can give the military member and his or her family. Regardless of your view of military actions, it is incredibly important to our service members to hear that you appreciate their service to our country. That is really all the help they really need.

Judy Morrow is an analyst and writer, employed at Edwards Air Force Base in California. She has more than 25 years of volunteer experience and 5 years experience as Installation Volunteer Coordinator and Relocation Assistance Manager. She also does consulting, writing and workshop presentations. To contact Judy, email her at: Judy.Morrow@edwards.af.mil.

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