With the holidays in full swing, you’re stressing over the final headcount for Thanksgiving, kicking yourself for not having started Christmas shopping sooner, and scheming for that perfect New Year’s party. And what about that family who just moved in across the street? The wheelchair caught your eye, as did the Purple Heart on the license plate of their van. Then you put two and two together.
After initial recovery and rehabilitation, wounded warrior families often find themselves permanently relocating as the service member is reassigned or transitions out of the military. Though military families are accustomed to moving, a post-injury relocation can bring with it a sense of isolation. The added factor of it being the holiday season just compounds the feeling.
Many wounded warrior families assert that this sense of isolation may be the root cause of difficulties they experience. Not only are they in a new and unfamiliar area, but living away from base usually means longer drives to medical facilities, and a lack of social outlets for spouses and children. The physical distancing ends up having an emotional impact on the family: they feel out of place in civilian circles, whose members often cannot relate to what they’ve been through.
Practical ways to help wounded warrior families.
Share your friends. Wounded warrior families will still be a part of their military community, though likely over a distance. You can help the whole family settle into their new, immediate community, just by welcoming them into your social circles. Invite them to your holiday open house. Introduce the children to the other neighborhood kids. Do what you can to give these families a sense of belonging in their new community.
Bridge the gap. The distance factor of living away from base or medical facilities can be an initial hardship on the family, especially during the holiday rush. You can help ease the burden simply by being a neighbor. Maybe they need a lift to a last-minute doctor’s appointment. Offer to watch the kids so Mom can do some shopping. You can’t shorten the distance, but you can cut the hassle.
Be a resource. Many resources for wounded warrior families are actually still in the process of being compiled and distributed. You’re not a military liaison, but you are a member of the community and are familiar with the locale. Whether the family is looking for activities for their kids or the best hotel accommodations for visiting relatives, you’ll be able to point them in the right direction.
While relocating is nothing new for wounded warrior families, moving due to reassignment or retirement causes its own set of difficulties. Living away from their military community and its available resources brings with it a sense of isolation, which takes its toll on a family’s morale.
So be a neighbor. Put aside your holiday hustle-bustle and let them know they’re not so isolated after all.
Sarah Dautel is the author of Ajax Bound for Glory (Woodley Books, November 2016), a children’s book inspired by honor, tragedy, and triumph. Visit her at www.ajaxboundforglory.com.