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A deployment doesn’t only require a significant commitment from a servicemember; it requires a significant commitment from his or her family as well.
That’s the message behind Everyone Serves, a handbook released by Blue Star Families that aims to help family and friends of a service man or woman cope with the stresses associated with a deployment. The American Legion’s Economic Division gave input on the handbook, which is available in PDF, eBook or Web form at EveryoneServesBook.com.
The website serves as an ‘advice hub’ for military families and friends of servicemembers. In addition to the handbook, it features video interviews with individuals who share their experiences of having a loved one deploy and worksheets that help a military family evaluate how they are dealing with a deployment. Advice is tailored according to three stages: pre-deployment, deployment and reintegration.
Reda Hicks, wife of an Army pilot currently in Afghanistan, and her son, Howie, have had the experience firsthand of having a family member deploy and used the handbook for guidance. Hicks, who blogs about military life and her experiences as a spouse of an active servicemember, said Everyone Serves is a good resource because it gives practical advice in non-military speak.
“The book covers a broad array of things that come up before, during and after deployment,” Hicks said. “And the discussion is very straight-forward. You don’t need any background in military. There are none of the acronyms we love so much – truly anyone can read and understand what deployment is like, and find ways to help.”
Hicks said that the stresses of being a military spouse and a full-time working mother whose husband is away can vary depending upon the day. When faced with assignments from her employer, a boutique litigation law firm, she always has to consider her son and the fact her husband isn’t there to watch over him.
What’s worse, she said “Murphy’s Law of Deployment” will always apply, meaning what can go wrong around the house during her husband’s deployment always will go wrong. She’s been forced her to learn how to deal with car trouble, a garbage disposal on the fritz and a lawn that won’t grow evenly.
“Making major decisions is more difficult during deployment, because there’s no guarantee I will get a chance to discuss a decision with Jake before I make it,” she said. “That means I’m constantly worried about whether I’m making the right decision for our whole family.”
Hicks, whose Houston home is nowhere near a major military installation, said she has observed how unaware her civilian friends are of the impact that a deployment can have on the friends and family members of a servicemember. She said veterans, military spouses and veterans service organizations like The American Legion can help “bridge the divide” that’s growing between the military and a civilian population that is increasingly losing its connection to the military.
It’s crucial, she said, that the civilian population realize the issues that military spouses face.
“Many civilians don’t know that a large and growing population of military spouses are professionals – lawyers, accountants, teachers, medical professionals – who suffer from very high unemployment because they have a hard time getting a new license each time they move, and civilian employers don’t know they are there,” she said. “Many military spouse organizations are working on the licensing piece, but we need help raising awareness that these amazing women and men are out there, make great employees, and really need the work.”
Mark Walker, deputy director of the Legion's Economic Division, echoed those sentiments.
“We recognize the importance of not only making sure that military spouses and military families are taken care of during a servicemember’s deployment, but also want to raise awareness in the civilian world about the stresses spouses and families face," Walker said. "This handbook accomplishes both of those goals.”