We all agree that protecting our troops and their families on the home front is of paramount importance. But while alarm systems and locks protect their physical well-being, let’s not neglect protecting the hearts and spirits of the heroes at home, as well.
Here are some ideas anyone can use to support military families.
Get your church involved
Churches (or other community groups) are in a perfect position to minister to families of deployed service members. Here are just a few ways to provide reinforcements:
Send reverse care packages.
Send care packages to the deployed members, and “reverse” care packages to the families on the home front. If possible, find out through email from the deployed spouse what he’d like his/her spouse and children at home to have for special holidays such as Mother’s/Father’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Military Spouse Appreciation Day (May 7), birthdays, Christmas, etc. These are all days when a spouse and parent’s absence is felt the most keenly. Then make sure the family gets these items on the special days. If the deployed member can’t be reached, deliver a gift card to Starbucks or a local spa, movie tickets or something else you know the family would enjoy.
Offer a Military Night Out.
Once a month, offer a Military Night Out where the church provides dinner and child care for children of the military member. The parents can go have a date night together, or if the spouse is deployed, the spouse at home can get a break from the kids, run some errands, and get together with friends. Or maybe she can just have some time to herself.
Organize a returning veterans fellowship.
When the deployments end, those coming home from combat need to be in fellowship with others who understand the special adjustment issues they will be facing. Often the military member doesn’t want to share all the details of combat with the spouse to protect her from those images. Organize a simple gathering for veterans to benefit from being with others who understand exactly what they’re going through.
Honor the troops.
Watch the calendar and honor the troops around Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Veteran’s Day with special breakfasts for them or at least a mention from the pulpit. Show military members and their families (veterans included) that they are special.
Take personal initiative
No time to get a group together for an organized military ministry? No problem. Choose from this arsenal of ideas to personally support the military spouse at home.
Create some coupons.
Instead of simply telling a military spouse you’re willing to help, give him/her some specific ideas of what you can offer. Either give a list of your services or create a coupon booklet for free babysitting, a coffee date, financial counseling, running errands, an hour or two of housework, etc. It’s much easier for military spouses to cash in on your offer to help if she knows exactly what you can do for her.
Make an ordinary day special by dropping off a basket of favorite foods, a great book, or new magazine and/or a movie rental you know the military spouse or kids have been wanting to see.
Fix what’s broken.
Find out what’s broken and fix it—or help tide the family over until a professional can make the repair. If her computer is down, let him/her use yours to email her spouse. If the car stopped running, offer to give (or arrange) rides.
Get your hands dirty.
For every season, there are jobs to be done outside. Pitch in when you can to mow the lawn, pull weeds, clean out gutters, shovel snow, or wash windows.
Bring a meal.
Providing a ready-to-eat (or ready-to-cook) dinner means one less thing an already stressed military spouse would have to think about. If you don’t have time for a full dinner, a homemade loaf of bread, muffins, or cookies would still be great.
Make a call.
Every so often, make a quick phone call to see how the family is getting along. Keep it brief, and leave a message if there’s no answer. Let them know you are there to support them.
Visiting is a great mood lifter, but ask first before showing up unannounced.
Mark your calendars to send a small note or email or phone call on a regular basis—not just right after the spouse deploys. And don’t expect a response each time. Support that spouse; regardless if she thanks you for every thoughtful gesture of yours.
Pray for the one serving our country overseas, but also pray for those serving at home—the spouse and children. Pray for the entire family even after the spouse returns home, too! That re-entry adjustment period is often just as stressful as deployment.
Supporting the spouse on the home front allows him/her to support the deployed spouse and children in a way that only she can. And knowing that his family is supported back home will allow the deployed spouse to better focus on his mission. When you minister to the military spouses and children, you are supporting the troops as well.
Jocelyn Green, a former military wife, is the award-winning author of Faith Deployed: Daily Encouragement for Military Wives [J1] (Moody Publishers 2008) and Battlefields & Blessings: Stories of Faith and Courage from the War in Iraq & Afghanistan [J2] (AMG Publishers 2009). Visit the Web site at www.faithdeployed.com for resources and encouragement. Join the Faith Deployed Facebook group at www.facebook.com/faithdeployed .