Military spouses are left behind, but not forgotten: Family support center provides spouses with assistance to cope with loved ones' deployments

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Mary Davis
  • Public Affairs
Today's military members are tasked to deploy more frequently because of increasing worldwide commitments. Many times, this leaves military spouses behind to cope with domestic responsibilities alone.
The family support center provides spouses with tips, services and assistance to help ease the burden of separation from a deployed loved one.
Deployments are common in today's Air Force, and that's why it's so important to support our military spouses, said Tech. Sgt. Lee Daigle, FSC family readiness NCO.
"Communication is the key to preparing for a deployment," he said. "Military members should talk with their spouses about the responsibilities they take care of before they leave. They should also attend the family readiness briefing as a couple to get information to help them plan for the deployment."
FSC provides military families with a 35-page Mission Readiness Guide, a family readiness briefing, handouts, brochures and "Write From the Heart" stationery packages geared specifically for deployments. There are also programs available to assist spouses while their loved one is away. The center recently received 80 "Stay Connected" backpacks for children. The packs contain materials to help kids stay connected with their parent while they are deployed. It includes items such as a baseball cap and teddy bear, two disposable cameras, journals, two recorder pens, picture frames, lapel pins, mouse pads, key chains and bracelets. Parents can stop by FSC anytime during duty hours to pick one up for each child. This is designed for deployments, extended deployments and remote assignments.
"The Car Care Because We Care program is an Air Force Aid sponsored program providing spouses with a free oil change and vehicle safety inspection when their military spouse is deployed for 30 days or more," Sergeant Daigle explained. "Give Parents a Break is another AFA sponsored program offering five hours of free childcare one Saturday evening per month at the child development center. The AFA also provides free $20 phone cards."
FSC has four video phones to loan out to families of deployed members. Spouses can also place themselves on a base sponsored "Morale Call List," allowing military members to contact their families through the base operator.
"Deployed members can use their phone cards to initiate the call," Sergeant Daigle said.
The base chapel sponsors the Single International Gourmet Meal Opportunity from 4:45 to 7 p.m. on the last Monday of the month.
"It provides a venue for single Airmen, student pilots, families of deployed military members, as well as one-parent families a place to meet other people, relax and enjoy a home-cooked meal," said Airman 1st Class Monica Tripi, chaplain assistant.
Although the programs sponsored by the AFA are specifically for Air Force spouses only, the FSC does support spouses of other services as well.
Navy spouse Millie Bradshaw and her two children Isaac, 2, and Matthew, 1, waved goodbye to Navy LCDR Doug Bradshaw of the 33rd Flying Training Squadron last month. Although it will be a long deployment for her husband, she is grateful for the assistance she receives from the base, friends and her church.
"Everyone has been so helpful," Mrs. Bradshaw said. "I went to a SIGMO meal last month and attended a support group meeting there."
Having a schedule is helpful, said Mrs. Bradshaw, a native of Raymond, Miss.
"We have a routine," she said. "Having two small children, I squeeze in housework when I can. I try to keep busy - it makes the time go by faster."
Keeping in touch with their loved ones and staying involved with friends and the community are important, Sergeant Daigle said.
"Being involved provides a sense of ownership," he explained. "Spouses are not just 'around for the ride,' they have some control in how well they get through what can potentially be a difficult time in their lives."
Once military spouses return, there is a readjustment period for all family members, Sergeant Daigle said. There may be some expectations that were not met, or unexpected events that occur.
"People should be flexible," he said. "Children may have a hard time dealing with the return of a loved one, because so many emotions are involved and coping may be difficult."
Sergeant Daigle suggested having military members audio or video tape themselves to assist younger children stay connected with their parent, which was something the Bradshaws did before he deployed.
"We video taped Doug reading books to the boys," Mrs. Bradshaw said. "I know he will miss so much while he is gone, so this will help them remember Daddy until he comes home."
Helping military spouses cope and informing them about the available programs and services at Vance makes Sergeant Daigle smile.
"I truly believe our military spouses are unique individuals," he said. "The sacrifices they make and the demands they endure are proof that they too pay a price for freedom."