Families need and deserve support, especially during activations and deployments.
Some spouses and families who need this support are geographically separated from military installations.
So, I wanted to share with you my own personal experience and also ask everyone to add questions/suggestions of their own...
I had heard all about Family Readiness Groups (FRGs) and was very eager to become part of one. While DH was in Basic, I felt very isolated.
I had friends, a career, interests, and nearby family--but I still needed contact with other military spouses. I had joined a general MilSpouse discussion board, which was very helpful. Many of these great MilSpouses had "been there, done that"--but I also wanted contact with those who actually "are there, doing that."
When DH entered OCS, I also joined an Internet discussion board that created separate threads for each OCS class. We wanted to reach out to the other family members who had not found this online support.
So, I left a very respectful (timid, even) voice mail at the commander's office, offering to "help the FRG leader."
When he called back, he basically told me there was no FRG leader--and told me the spouses could start one up if we wanted.
So, we started one from scratch--the blind leading the blind.
I'm not saying it is perfect, or that in an ideal world you would have to, but sometimes the only way to get something done is to do it yourself. If you find yourself in a situation without any support like this, here's what we did:
- Compose a survey to find out how best to contact people, what people want from the FRG, what their needs are, and how they can help, too.
- Get a list of at least one family contact per soldier (remember not to leave out the single soldiers if they have a parent or other relative they want contacted)
- Mail the survey if you just have mailing addresses, otherwise you can start by calling people. We had tons of responses to our survey!
- Follow-up with a phone call. Try to get e-mail addresses as this will make your life much easier.
- Get volunteers to help you. Do not do this on your own and burn out. There were three of us co-leading this "FRG."
- Establish as many types of contacts as you can--message boards, websites, phone trees, newsletters, monthly themes for care packages, etc. Make sure that everyone receives a phone call or e-mail at least once a month. We sent our newsletter out via e-mail and then printed and mailed copies for the ten or so people who did not have e-mail addresses.
- Keep in contact with the commander. E-mail a compilation of family questions once a week as possible. If you show the commander you can also make his or her job easier, you will get more command support. Try to get at least monthly updates from the commander to distribute to families.
- For longer term assignments, consider regional meet-ups. Since this was a shorter, training assignment, we got together before the mid-cycle picnic and at graduation.
Two resources that may help (these are for the Army because that is what I know about, but apply to pretty much any military branch):
- Army Family Liaison Office: Tips on starting an FRG
- Family Readiness Group: You have to have an AKO account to access this website that provides support to FRG leaders.
Remember that if you are feeling lonely, others probably are as well. Recognize that even incomplete efforts are better than nothing at all!
I would love to hear what others have done and also please post other resources, especially for other branches!
Army D/W posted this EXCELLENT comment on the interesting post, Mentoring MilSpouses, by Guard Wife:
Look for those DOD stickers on cars~no joke. You might be suprised just how many of "us" are out here, especially if you are not in a "traditional military town".
I don't know if deployed Guard and Reserve have DOD stickers? I've been attached to active duty my whole life?? If not, get GIANT Service Military stickers and magnets to identify yourself to the rest of us. :)
All because of those DOD stickers I've found a group of about 30 service members in my "non-military" neighborhood. I threw an appetizer "getting to know you" afternoon social and invited the ones I'd met and they brought friends. [...]
I talk to anyone with a DOD sticker, even if it's just to say "thank you" to an obviously retired military person. [...]