"There's a song that has been running through my head for the past few days. "Check Yes or No" (George Strait) ** It started the ear worm journey when I read a post from Admiral Mullen who wants to do away with a certain check box. During those days and weeks before deployment, service members fill out forms for pay, insurance, wills, there's a whole checklist of medical, GI Bill of rights, dog tags... and somewhere in that stack, is THE check box, a check box that asks if the service member's family wants to be contacted. Too many service members check - No. I remember a form that asked for email addresses, and usually the service member put in HIS (or her) email address, not the address for their spouse. As Admiral Mullen said about his effort to get rid of this box:
This effort will be a step toward keeping families better informed, and also will help to close a gap, particularly for Guard and Reserve families who often are far from the support of a military installation.....I know there are FRGs that only contact the family members when they are fund raising, that do nothing at all for the families or that turn into a Peyton Place - we all know those. We all know that there are as many dysfunctional FRGs as there are functional ones. But. And it's a major But. Without the ability or permission to contact the family - the families miss out. Not just on the holiday party or the Easter Bunny hunt - but on the "just for military families" opportunities, the changes in certain benefits and most importantly on the support, the camaraderie, the family that will hold them up and be there at 2 am when they need it, the other men and women who do understand what they are going through and can empathize.
Talking to a former FRG leader, she remembered the young NCO who told her that his wife didn't need any help, she had her support network of her family and friends and he didn't want her to be bothered by the unit. Since our unit tends to not deploy en masse, we don't usually know who might be downrange, when and for how long, so we don't have phone trees or contact lists. The soldier left, and the spouse called - she was having an emergency and her support network - well - it wasn't! I've talked to other family support leaders, who say the same thing - it's usually the military servicemember who is nervous about having his spouse talking to the rest of the unit, or the spouse who has had to go through a deployment with a dis-functional FRG that soured their outlook, and very often those are the ones who really need the contact, the help and the support.
The frustration of knowing that there are young spouses and family members out there, who WANT to know what is going on, and cannot understand why no one has called them - reading the "please help me, I don't understand" emails, blog comments or letters to military family websites from the families that need help and aren't getting that support - drives me batty. We are a small microcosm of the public - we are that 1%. We need to support each other - answer that call, be there for that cup of coffee or lunch, send a note, or just hang out together. If we don't know who is out there - we can't help.
So - let's start a conversation - do you agree with Admiral Mullen? Do you want to be left alone during deployment, or would you appreciate that phone call or the email from the family support?"