Supporting The Service Member & Their Family

A Guide and Reference for Extended Families & Friends of
Military Families
C 2004 Army Wife Talk Radio

Across the United States anyone can find millions upon
millions of US Flags and yellow ribbons. If you are a member
of the extended family of a service member, or even a friend
or neighbor, you quickly realize supporting the military and
its families takes much more than a ribbon or a flag.

Military members give their lives and their hearts to fight
for our country. Every day many find themselves in
deployment situations. Though the Department of Defense has
created many programs and services to support troops in
times of war and peace, an active role by the family and
friends is imperative for morale.

It has been found that many immediate families such as the
spouse, and children have some understanding of what the
soldier is facing. However, as the chain grows longer the
extended family usually knows less and less. Below you will
find tried and true ways to not only show your support for
the service member, but to provide a strong system for the
military family as well.

Tell Them You Are Proud
Tell the soldier and their family that you are proud of what
they are doing. Even if you do not agree with the situation
or our leadership decisions, support the sheer selflessness
act of your soldier.

Show Your Pride
Pride can be shown in numbers of ways from flying a flag,
tying a yellow ribbon around a tree or pole, placing a
service flag in your window, putting a magnet on your car,
buying a bracelet or trinket with their name or unit,
placing a flickering candle in your window symbolizing
"keeping the light on", and many more. Find the way you want
to show your support and fly it high!

Do Your Research
Know where your soldier is going. What kind of weather is
there? What kind of religion? What rules? What is their
mission (if possible to know)? Be interested and find out
more about where your soldier will be and what he/she will
have available to them while they are away.

Help With Chores & Tasks
The family left behind is left with many additional duties
due to the absence of the service member. If possible, help
with duties like mowing the lawn, small home repairs,
babysitting etc. If you are too far away to help with these
things consider sending a gift of "lawn maintenance for one
year" from a business local to the family, or finding a
local sitter service and purchasing a gift certificate.

Get Involved - Participate
Be involved in your soldiers' life and with their family.
Don't be afraid to call them just to say "hello" and check
in to see if things are going okay. Every soldier has some
sort of family readiness group or support system (depending
on the branch) that offers information pertaining to
families. Get involved in this group. Allow them to call
you, mail you, or email you with updates or information.
Participate in their fundraisers and events.

Don't Forget The Ones Left Behind
Often we remember the soldier, but forget the spouse and
kids. Remember that the soldier will be more at peace by not
worrying if everything at home is squared away. Offer as
much help as you can for the family that has been left
behind. Be an open ear. Visit them if possible.

Buy your soldier a phone card to call home. Buy one for
their kids or spouse also. This shows that you are opening
the lines for communication. Create a simple basket and fill
it with phone cards, stationery, and kids' supplies
(markers, glitter pens, colored paper) for keeping in touch
with the deployed member. Write the soldier letters, send
cards, care packages, or email. Don't get upset or
distraught if you don't hear back from the soldier.
Remember, they are often busier than you can ever imagine.
Each letter is anxiously awaited and welcomed on mail day
even if you hardly ever hear a word back.

Send Care Packages
Don't wait for you soldier to send a list of things he/she
"needs". Send a care package once a month or as often as you
are able. Pack the package with fun things (see our care
package article for suggestions at Send an AAFES (Army & Air Force
Exchange Service) gift certificate to a service member or
their family: Don't forget that
the soldier is not the only person that needs/deserves a
care package, mama and the kids do too! So send any
significant people that were "left at home" a special

Remember Important Dates & Attend Important Events
Often times, your soldier leaves behind a family at home.
Life continues where they were left. Children graduate,
dance recitals, soccer games, etc. Remember these special
events and try to attend if possible. Always try to remember
special dates such as birthdays, anniversaries and more.
Holidays are the toughest times when a family member is
deployed. Remember that most military families don't live
near their relatives and may not be able to travel this
holiday season. So, invite a military family over for a
holiday meal, buy them a small gift (or make a craft) or
offer to baby-sit while the parent does shopping. If at all
possible, celebrate through the miles.

Tara Crooks is the site owner and talk show host of Tara's journey with the
military began in 1998 when she and her husband CPT Crooks
PCS'd to their first duty station, Ft Hood. Since, she has
earned a profitable living by building a great Army wife
internet talk radio resource. She is a PROUD Work at Home
Mama & Army Wife.