Monday, 8 January 2018
Active military are pretty much like anyone else. They have jobs, go through ups and downs, and take part in the community.
But the comparison ends when you realize that they also risk their lives in service to our country—often very far away from their loved ones. Sarah Blansett, a spokesperson for Military.com, says that inclusion is a major issue, so make an effort to have a conversation with members of the military and their families. “That can be expressed with a simple 'thank you,' or by asking them what they do in the military and showing an eagerness to connect."
“Another great way to offer support is to volunteer at the local food banks, kitchens, and homeless shelters," says Tara Glenn, a medically retired Navy AO Airman who lives in Albany, Ga., and is married to an active military member. “So many veterans are homeless, and I even experienced a time of homelessness during my service after I went to the reserves, so I know firsthand how important it is for the community to stand behind those that have the least."
She says military members are extremely appreciative of small gestures and stepping in to help to lighten the load. “We're usually away from our families, and we don't always get to go home for the holidays due to distance or expenses," she says. A token gift card—even if it's just $5 or $10—shows gratitude and can be used as needed.
“Perhaps the most valuable help is just paying attention and giving assistance when you see the opportunity, since it's hard for many people to ask for help," Glenn says. "For the most part, military families are like any other family but when the stress of deployment or moving is added, that is when civilian friends can jump in and take the kids for a few hours, or volunteer to take their giveaways—moving always prompts a purge of household items—to the donation center."
Some definite don'ts
If you don't know the family well, steer clear of food because there may be dietary restrictions. But it never hurts to ask what would be welcome, especially for single people or families in which one spouse is away. For example, Blansett knows of a church near a base that sets up a free babysitting night so grown-ups can go out or get some time alone. Glenn remembers a harrowing experience about homes in Pensacola, Fla., that were flooded, and some people lost everything. Members of her church came together to help those affected. “Even though so many lost so much, it made me appreciate what we still had."
You definitely don't want to questions about mental health or combat experiences, Blansett says, especially if you don't know them well.
“Also, know the difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day. Saying 'Happy Memorial Day' is inappropriate because it is a very solemn and significant day set aside to remember those we have lost."
And sometimes military members are asked to stand up and be recognized at functions. Glenn says that's always humbling. “I often forget how much my service means to other people." However, don't ask for a few off-the-cuff words. If you do want a military member to say something, ask well enough in advance so he or she can prepare.
Finally, even if their presence isn't obvious, National Guard and Reserve families tend to be forgotten. “They aren't always located near a military installation, and their service isn't as obvious because you won't see them wearing a uniform every day. But they serve and often deploy with fewer support systems for their families if they don't live near an installation," Blansett says.
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