Supporting the Military Family
by Jocelyn Green
When a military family is separated by deployment, the burdens on the spouse and children at home become too heavy to bear alone. Marriages are strained, resources are often strapped, and hearts are overwhelmed with the unknown future and the responsibilities of being solo for long months on end.
While civilians cannot truly understand the pressures of deployment, they can offer the support necessary to lighten the load.
Get Your Church Involved
With record numbers of troops deployed or returned from the current war, most churches are in a perfect position to minister to families of either Active Duty, Reserves, or National Guard 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 wife and children to have for special holidays such as Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, birthdays, Christmas, etc. These are all days when a husband and father’s absence is felt the most keenly. Then make sure his family gets these items on the special days—whether it’s a gift card to Starbucks or a local spa, movie tickets or something else. Reverse care packages are a great way to serve that family and support the marriage, too.
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 and do errands, get together with friends or just have some time to herself.
Organize a returning veterans fellowship
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 wife at home.
Create some coupons
Instead of simply telling a military wife you’re willing to help, give her some specific ideas of what you can offer. Either give her 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 wives 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 wife or kids have been wanting to see.
Fix what’s broken
Find out what’s broken and fix it—or help tide her over until a professional can make the repair. If her computer is down, let her use yours to email her spouse. If the washing machine is on the fritz, let her do a few loads at your house this week. 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 wife 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 her know you are there to support her, but be sensitive to the fact she may not want to talk long.
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 wife regardless of 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 military wife allows her to support her husband 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 wives and children, you are supporting the troops as well.
A former military wife, Jocelyn Green is the author of the award-winning devotionals Faith Deployed: Daily Encouragement for Military Wives, and its sequel, Faith Deployed . . . Again: More Daily Encouragement for Military Wives. She is co-author of Stories of Faith and Courage from the War in Iraq/Afghanistan and Stories of Faith and Courage from the Home Front, which inspired her Civil War novel, Wedded to War. She served as the editor for The Military Wives’ New Testament with Psalms and Proverbs, which releases in March from Zondervan. Visit her at www.jocelyngreen.com.