orangeleader.com (Orange, Texas)

May 18, 2013

How civilians can lend military families a helping hand

Special to The Leader
The Orange Leader

ORANGE — The efforts of men and women in the military is something everyone, be it fellow military personnel or civilians, can appreciate. In an effort to protect their country and stabilize other countries, service members make many sacrifices, including leaving their families for long periods of time.

As a result, life is not always easy for military families. Husbands and wives miss their spouses and children miss their parents. In addition, military personnel typically move a lot, making it difficult to establish roots in a community. But there are ways civilians can lend a helping hand to military families. The National Military Family Association offers some simple ways that civilians who want to show their appreciation can lend a helping hand to service members and their families.

• Volunteer. Many volunteer organizations provide services to military families, and these organizations rely on volunteers to keep those programs and services running. Whether volunteering your time, expertise in a certain field or simply making a financial donation, such efforts will be appreciated and will help these important programs continue to meet the needs of military families who need your help.

• Offer discounts. Local business owners who operate their businesses in areas with large military populations can offer discounts to service members and their families. Many service members are not well compensated, and discounts on certain products or services can go a long way toward helping military families make ends meet.

• Be flexible with employees. Business owners who employ the immediate family of service members can be flexible with respect to scheduling. Service members who are deployed don't always make it home for the holidays, and their leave from service isn't always convenient. But their family members cherish the time they do get with them, so employers can be sympathetic to this and give them some flexibility with respect to their schedule during times when their loved one is on leave.

• Make a military family part of your family. If a neighbor is in a military family and their spouse or significant other is deployed, invite them over for dinner once a week and include them in your holiday celebrations if they're spending the holidays alone because of a deployment. This can help quell the loneliness many military spouses or significant others cope with. A weekly meal with friends and neighbors can add some normalcy to a lifestyle that is often anything but normal.

• Offer some babysitting services. Those whose spouse or significant other is deployed often find it difficult to get out of the house for a night out with friends or even just some alone time. Offer to babysit or set up a play date with your kids and the child of a military family. This provides a much-needed break that can help men and women recharge their batteries and let off some steam.

• Provide a helping hand around the house. While it only takes one person to run a household, it's certainly easier when two people are around to handle such a big responsibility. Civilians can provide a helping hand around the house by offering to mow the lawn or make minor repairs should a problem arise. When heading over, bring some food along and give a service member's spouse or significant other a night off from cooking.

More information about helping military families can be found at www.militaryfamily.org.