Keeping up Morale- Mama Bear Style

February 18, 2009 · Filed Under Care Packages, Military Parents, One Army Mama Bear · 2 Comments 

Morale … you know your soldier … you can detect his/her mood in a message or the tone of their voice and you know that they’re down … the traveling px is there, but finance didn’t come out first … everyone is out of money and out of smokes (now I don’t want him to smoke, but understand that it’s the stress relief that he needs). The mail gets messed up – packages that are addressed correctly are returned to their senders, mail sent home takes months to get there. We want their heads to be in their job. We want them to be ON – really ON – and sharp! We send letters, funny cards, pictures, and packages. We send crazy stuff like Christmas trees and dart boards, and camping cooking forks with supplies to make s’mores … all to boost morale … for our soldier and all the guys in his tent.

As a parent you sometimes feel a bit out there because you’re not on base or near the FRG. I’m so thankful for a fantastic company FRG leader who keeps us in the loop. I, also, joined a Military Family Support Group near my home, almost twelve months before my son deployed. My motivation was to learn how to support my son’s wife before, during and after deployment – and of course to support my son. I had no idea how valuable this group would be to me. Our facilitator is in close contact with chaplains of several groups of deployed soldiers – all branches of the military. Our group is composed of parents, spouses, children, grandparents, friends, and troops who have returned home from deployment. When our facilitator gets word that there are troops who are not getting mail or packages from home, we ‘adopt’ them and send cards and boxes that say “we appreciate you and the sacrifices you are making for all of us.” Our efforts are to keep morale up and to let those troops know that what they are doing is important and appreciated by people back home.

I joined USO to help troops and their families as they travel and I’m very proud of my local USO because they’re committed to keeping it open 24/7. The Maine Troop Greeters were so amazing to our troops as they were going over and I just wanted to ‘pay it forward’. These things help MY morale and if I keep my morale strong, then I am better able to work on keeping my soldier’s morale up.

It’s scarey to hear our soldiers are down – no, they don’t say so – they NEVER would, but you hear it between the lines in the ‘tone’ of their message – or their voice if you can get a phone call. NONE of the things that get him down are within my control… as much as I would like to … I cannot correct the mail problems – or – ‘suggest’ that finance might make trips out to the FOB more often – at least before the traveling px comes. I’m a LOYAL Army Mom! But I’ve been a Mama Bear longer than I’ve been an Army Mom. Our deployed sons and daughters need to find home stable and strong when they communicate with us. They need us ALL to work together … it’s about morale … it’s about fighting the fight, they fight over there, we fight over here … it’s about keeping them focused on their jobs and staying focused on ours … and it’s about bringing them all back home – safe and strong!

Signing off – One Army Mama Bear

Hooah!

A National Guard Mom – Part 3

November 19, 2008 · Filed Under Deployment, Military Parents, National Guard Parents, Parents News · 1 Comment 

The last part of my friend’s Three Part Series.   I have a disclaimer here – I am no Angel!  We helped each other, we decided that if we couldn’t get the support we needed from the official channels, we’d do it OURSELVES – we found like minded  people, and supported each other.  There are GOOD FRGs, and they are a great place to start – but if you can’t find one – get up off the couch, and do it yourself, there will be others like you to join with. LAW

Ok back to my lament…….

To prepare us all for the Unit deployment,  the NG had all soldiers, and  families come into an informational meeting.  They invited anyone that wanted information on what was about to happen to these young men and women.  They talked about the war and the jobs our soldiers would be doing, how they had been well trained to do them and how proud they were of each and every one of them.  We listened and took notes, collected fliers but really never got any answers about what we were to do after they left.  I am a very “jump in and do what ever needs to get done to support them” type of person but nothing was even mentioned about how we could help.

Now the military,  as many of  you have found out,  talks and works in a special code only they are able to decipher.  Lots of letters for departments and programs  -all of which not only have names we never hear as civilians but if you get them out of order you could be ordering a tank for your front yard.  We were given numbers of places to call for support but the numbers were bad or not the “correct” department and after being transferred over and over again I gave up.

Nick was part of an advance group who went to Mississippi ahead of the big group to set up.  There was no good-bye ceremony, no news crews there, just a bus in the middle of the night in an empty parking lot.  “Good bye son” on the bus and he was gone.  My heart died that night, it was ripped from my body and sent to war.

He spent the next weeks in Mississippi getting ready for the larger group to come down and they were also helping the recovery from Hurricane Katrina.  When the bigger group got there he helped them process in and was told to make sure each soldier has the information for the “FRG” and that he should encourage them to tell their families to join.  He passed the information to his wife and then she told me so we could also join and to get me off his back constantly asking for what I could do.  We called got the information for the first FRG meeting and Myself, Renee (Nick’s wife) my husband and my parents went in to finally get the information we needed to not only help our selves but to support our troops.

We were introduced to our “FRG Leader” who was the wife of the first sergeant serving with our boys and girls.  She was with a person from the state level FRG, and we were told there were different groups all over the state.  She talked about  many things which frankly went right over my head, we are not in the military and don’t speak Army so we were a bit lost.  We were asked to join in and help organize the group and asked if we had any ideas to help keep the families connected.  We offered our suggestions which were for the most part ignored, and dismissed until our next meeting.

To make a really long rather nasty experience shorter we gave up after just a couple of meetings.  As a family we were ignored and made to feel as outsiders, as we were not part of the unit our leader was most connected with.  When our son called to say he had been told to have his Mom back off, that was it.  Our last meeting was a Christmas Party (we only went because my grandson was registered a long time ago) at an Armory where not only did we get to sit in a gym with a bunch of tables, no one knew where to go or what to do they just sat there, nothing for the babies to do and no one was trying to greet anyone, it to say the least was a total disaster.  We were about to leave when we were blessed with a guardian angel, she came up to us and said “hey I know you”.  It turned out to be one of the other wives that had been at the awful first meeting and recognized me as being the one who every time I made a suggestion it was shot down.  She had been treated the same way.

Now not to toot my own horn or anything but I do this kind of stuff for a living –  organizing, fund raising, and group events, and I am very successful at it as well. (I can witness to that – LAW) So when I made suggestions they were not made without thought and consideration.  I was more than willing to donate as much time and effort to help out but no one ever even bothered to call me back.

The angel had given me her number and e-mail address and after some great sharing of information (she was a “lifers” wife….. yahoo someone to help me, who knew the magic codes, she was fluent in Army) we talked about the experience of the “FRG” (Family Readiness Group for those who do not know) and I was floored to find out just how the rest of the families were being treated.  People were told they were not welcome in the group, one person had no family here and was very alone, and this cruel rejection darn near did her in.  Now I am not going to go into the whole mess but leave it  that out of the over 300 families that were assigned to our group we never had more than handful of people at the meeting and near the end there were only 3 or 4 people including the leader that showed up each month.

I found this very sad, there was so much I wanted to do and be a part of here to let the unit know that not only did we support them but we were here for there families anytime they needed anything.  So with the help of our Angel we started our own group (and we invited everyone to join no matter what, even the leader from the old group came and helped) we called our selves “RHSC” (Red Headed Step Children) and we did things that made me proud and I felt like I actually counted and mattered.  We sent over 3000 cookies for Christmas, we sent 5000 thanksgiving cards that were made by area school children, we made trips to the VA here, and we held each other up and always had each others backs.

Many soldiers talk about the friendships they make while in a war, but we made the same connections here.  I would not have made it without these friends and I will love them until the day I die, I owe them everything and no matter how many miles apart or years that go by all any of them ever have to do is to call and they know I will drop everything to be there.

So my message to all of you –  is you are never alone in this and if you are in need ask.  Start a small group with someone else in your area, call another group like Blue star moms (they will also help everyone not just Moms), ask at the unit headquarters; call the chaplains connected to your unit.  Post a blog on this site and you will get answers.  You never have to face the fears of knocks on the door, phone calls in the middle of the night or that ache in your hear that just won’t go away.  Do not, and I can not say this loud enough DO NOT sit at home and get lost in the grief.  We are here for you, arms wide open!

I want to thank my angel she saved us, and we saved each other.  I love you my friend and am so proud to have you on my side!

A Navy Mom – Blue Star Mom

From a Navy Mom.

I’m not the best on this computer, but my daughter-in-law thinks I’m pretty hip that I even try.  Wouldn’t want to disappoint her.  She is my life line to my son, as many daughter-in-laws are.

Our chapter puts out a newsletter.   We do not require that our mothers be members to participate in our newsletter.  We like pictures and stories from any parents.  We have an email of about seventy-five addresses, some are to our children over seas, family members and friends around the world.  It has been a great support tool.

My strong support for being in the Blue Star Mothers organization is for the fringe benefits that a chartered chapter has.  It makes it much easier for us to fund raise for troop support packages when the donations can be tax deductible under the 501 C (3).  Other than that, the group is pretty much the same as the parentzone.  We want to support those military families.

I saw several postings about the FRG Sponsor not doing their job and not keeping everyone informed.  I know one of these volunteers personally and I’m sure everyone wishes she was in charge of their FRG group.  She keep the FRG so well informed, provided times each month for those close enough to get together and relayed the information to everyone that would give current addresses and email.

She was called upon this past weekend to help a widow who was waiting for her husband’s body to arrive from Iraq.  After talking with the wife, she was able to take care of all the food and supplies that were needed in the home and at the funeral home.  The wife was so grateful that those duties would be taken care of and she could concentrate on other things.  Our FRG Sponsor traveled three hours, following the military reps, to help this lady whom she did not know.  Spent the night and returned that next day.

Do parents and spouses really know what duties are expected from these FRG Volunteers?  Volunteers are as good as their hearts.  Not all are the same.  I do not believe I could be a FRG Sponsor.

For parents and spouses it is a good idea to get your passport before your child or spouse is deployed. I would not have thought to do it, but my daughter-in-law insisted and I am so glad that I did. You never know when you will need it. You might need to meet your child in a different country for a vacation, R&R, or for an emergency. I can take several weeks to get one and you would not want to miss out because of not having a required passport.

Thank you for allowing me to add to your parents zone.

Bless all your sons and daughters,

Lovingly-Caring-Being-Supportive-Mothers

Lake Cumberland Blue Star Mothers