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The Hood Magazine

Civilian Duty: A Call to Community

11/25/2014 06:20PM ● By Hood Magazine
By Tammy R. Lias, MA, LMFT, QMHP, Journey Therapy and Consulting 

 

Duty: obligation or opportunity? I say yes to both. Our military families “support and defend” (Oath of Enlistment) at no small cost. Military experts suggest that for each military member deployed, 8-10 family members are directly affected by his or her service. Most of us know one or more of those 8-10 people and may have felt a call to back their service, or wondered how we might best show our support.

Expanding the support system, a sort of extended family network, is a key component in the success of families who encounter deployment. The Department of Defense (DoD) notes the greater ability to cope for spouses more deeply rooted in their community. Some families are more vulnerable than others. Families with younger children (especially under age 5), newly married, first deployment, or isolated, fall into a “high risk” category.

It is impossible to address the unique needs of each family here, but there are some common areas in which the majority of military families struggle:

Logistics. The remaining family is left with double duty when it comes to everyday tasks, so any hands-on, practical help reduces this burden. Supportive employers can play a huge role in the success of military families during deployment.

Emotional. The loss of the service member’s presence accompanied by the fear of loss of life is very real and present in military families. Military spouses are commonly reported to experience loneliness, depression, anxiety, anger, and physical illness. If you are privileged to be close enough to provide emotional support to a military family, inquiring as to what is meaningful to them will reveal different needs, from a listening ear to spiritual support. Just be sure to hear what their needs are before you respond.

Here are some simple guidelines from a family therapist and reviewed by military families:

1. Reach out. These are strong individuals that are drawn to serve; they may not ask!

2. Respect. The privacy and boundaries set by the family.

3. Respond to their stated needs where you are able.

4. Research other ways to show support, from welcome home to giving time or financial support through trusted organizations.

If you or a loved one would like to get help, visit www.giveanhour.org and type in your zip code to find a provider in your area, or contact info@giveanhour.org. If you are a licensed mental health professional interested in joining Give an Hour’s network of volunteers, click “For Providers” on the website or visit www.connected.giveanhour.org to get started.