Frequently people think compassion and love are merely sentimental. No! They are very demanding. If you are going to be compassionate, be prepared for action.
- Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Just because you don’t live near a military base doesn’t mean you don’t have military families in your community. I guarantee that they’re there. Sometimes it’s an entire group of reservists who live in your midst. Or it’s people like us, whose children have enlisted and are now part of the forces deployed around the world.
Each of these families presents a unique opportunity to reach out. For our son, one of his greatest fears was how we were coping while he was deployed in harm’s way. So helping a military family can ease a soldier’s worry and help him focus on the job at hand.
Before our son began serving, we had no idea how to offer tangible help to these families. Now part of what I do is help educate communities to gather around these families with the support and encouragement they need.
The foundation of support every family needs is prayer–they need to be reminded that you are praying for their soldier and for them. I remember those sleepless nights while our son was deployed, sitting in the recliner trying to pray but being overcome with fear for him.
Every single time, the next day I’d hear from someone who would share that they’d been praying for Jimmy. It was God’s way of showing me that our son wasn’t forgotten and that even when I couldn’t pray, he had others on the job.
Here are some more tips to comfort families of those serving:
1. Be specific when you offer help. It’s hard for families to admit we can’t cope. Because of that, I rarely called someone to ask for something, but if they offered it was easier to say yes.
2. Don’t let families cut themselves off. Make phone calls, send cards, even drop by. One of the sweetest things that happened for me was when an acquaintance from church rang my doorbell one afternoon. Her husband was a reservist so she knew what I was going through. She brought me a huge chocolate bar and assured me she just wanted me to know she understood.
3. Reach out to the one deployed. Send packages to the soldiers, along with letters and pictures from home. It meant so much to me to know that others cared about my son too.
4. Ask for updates. My entire world seemed to revolve around the fact that Jimmy was half a world away in harm’s way. I hated to force my obsession on others, but I desperately needed to talk about what was happening. I was so grateful when friends and family gave me that chance.
Now it’s your turn. What helped you most when dealing with a deployment separation? Be sure to leave your comments in the section below.
Edie Melson is a leading professional in the publishing industry. She also knows what it’s like to send a loved one off to war. Her oldest son went from high school graduation, to Marine Corp boot camp, to Iraq; where he served two tours fighting on the front lines as an infantry Marine. Fighting Fear: Winning the War at Home When Your Soldier Leaves for Battle, is Edie’s heart project. Look for her two newest books for military families debuting in 2014: While My Son Serves and While My Husband Serves. You can also connect with Edie on Twitter and Facebook.