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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Monday, November 12, 2001

Families make sacrifices, too

By Patty Erickson

With America's renewed sense of patriotism, Veterans Day will have a heightened meaning this year. And while we will be honoring those men and women who have risked their lives in defense of our freedom, there is one self-sacrificing unit that is often overlooked: the military family.

These "troops" also serve their country but are not recognized at parades or with medals. Their sacrifices are manifested in their lifestyle: renouncing stable family life, continually leaving friends and enduring erratic civilian careers — all as part of their service to our country. But one of the most painful sacrifices a military family makes is being separated from loved ones during wartime deployments.

There is no doubt that these past two months have been some of the most traumatic for America. But picture yourself trying to grieve through our country's loss without the support of your spouse, the one on whom you depend the most. And while most people are comfortably keeping up with the war via the media, keep in mind that those soldiers, pilots and sailors are someone's spouse, parent and child.

Our nation's long fight against terrorism will continue regardless of a military family's personal milestones. Imagine missing the birth of your child, your son's first words or your daughter's high school graduation.

Imagine feeling helpless when your child is sick thousands of miles away, the fear your baby will forget who you are, or the guilt over knowing your family is struggling, while at the same time fearing they will do a little too well without you.

The military family at home sacrifices during deployment. The spouse suddenly becomes a single parent, often without nearby family for support. Children and teenagers, who are still forming their coping skills, may react with tantrums, poor schoolwork or even depression. And younger children don't understand combat, only that their parent won't be home for holiday dinners or birthday parties.

With this new "covert" war, many families don't even know where their loved ones are or when they'll be back. Imagine fearing the worst for your spouse, but not being able to call them for reassurance and comfort.

Consider this: Our military needs to be in a constant state of readiness and focused on the task at hand. But how can they be fully focused on defense if they are worried about the welfare of their families?

You may not be serving your country in an official status, but you can help those who are. Recognize that the families of military personnel make sacrifices out of support for their country. Let them know you recognize their efforts and appreciate what they do. By helping a military family, you are supporting and giving peace of mind to a military member who is risking so much for us.

If you know a family suffering through deployment, consider adopting them. Invite them over for meals, offer to help baby-sit, help fix that leaky faucet. If they are able to correspond with the deployed member, provide a few long-distance phone cards or stationery. Or if you have computer skills, help set up a family Web site or e-mail account. Use your photography skills so the deployed spouse can have an updated picture of the family.

If you're a business owner, post job openings at the Family Support Center on base, hold Military Appreciation Days and provide military discounts.

The most important thing you can do for a military family is to give them a sincere offer of help. Just knowing someone is there for them is a comfort. However you may choose to help a military family, consider it a small thank you for how they are protecting our country.

Patty Erickson is the research and production manager for Family First, a research and communications organization. Readers may write to her at Family First, P.O. Box 2882, Tampa, FL 33601.