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!

National Guard Parents – a different experience

July 31, 2008 · Filed Under Military Parents · 3 Comments 

In the community of MilParents (Parents of Serving Military) there is a “sub community” – the parents of activated National Guard soldiers. Many of the parents I met when my husband was National Guard were totally lost, and didn’t understand what had happened to them and their families.

Yes, they were proud of their soldier. Very proud of them, but for them the Army (National Guard version) was the one weekend a month that they couldn’t plan something with the family. It was the 2 weeks of “summer camp” or training somewhere else in the state or even somewhere else in the country, or when called up for a natural disaster, or when the Governor needed them for something else. True, they had mobilized once before, for a tour in the Bosnia area, but that was a lot of police type duty, and remembering what one young soldier told me, boring – but a way to get to the other side of the Atlantic and do some traveling on their R&R.

The Iraq deployment was something different. They were gone for so long. First in Mississippi and that was difficult, but there were phone calls nightly, they even came home for Christmas leave.. so while we were all worried, it was for “later” . Later came after a rain soaked farewell parade – the tears, the hugs and the “be careful”s. Later came when the phone stopped ringing when they were flying, when they got to the staging area. Later came when mailing packages, and for some putting the blue star in the window.  Later came when the rest of the State seemed to forget they were there, and the sympathy dried up… until the first funeral.

These parents told me, over and over, that this was just what the kid did to get to college – or when he was drifting and didn’t seem to have a focus – what she wanted to do for her country, herself, her family – how he got the training for a good job. They hadn’t come to that realization of what it really meant to “Be Army” yet, not like the parents whose child joined the full time service, and in this day and age, we all know what that means.

It’s a realization more and more NG parents are having to face. Are you? Tell us about it. This is a place for Parents of Active Military, for information, for a shoulder when you need it. We understand.

LAW