Friday, May 24, 2013

7 Special Sources for Our Military Servants

With your help I can attack an army.
    With God’s help I can jump over a wall.
~ Psalm 18:29, NCV ~

A treasured friend of ours now holds the rank of Captain in the US Army Reserve.  We have supported his wife, loved his children and shipped all sorts of goodies to him during his multiple deployments.  Memorial Day, Veterans Day and any other patriotic holiday always cause us to pause, taking time to thank him for his service.  We understand what a huge sacrifice our friend and his family have made for the sake of our freedom. 

When I look at everything our friend has endured and given up to protect the country he loves, I can't help but think of others like him who live with similar nobility, but who also have children with special needs.  I can't imagine the level of stress military wives raising children with special needs must face.  First off, no one goes into the armed forces to become rich.  I'm not certain that most Americans stop to think of how poorly we compensate our service men and women.  That financial challenge alone, coupled with the added expenses of caring for a chronic diagnosis makes these families noteworthy. 

Then, there are the deployments.  My husband and I often share our admiration for single parents raising children with special needs.  That esteem comes largely from feeling we can barely handle things as a couple!  When a spouse is called up for duty, life gets turned on its head.  In essence, you still have a member of the parental team, who can't fully function as a member of the team in some instances.  There are many times when the spouse at home feels like a single parent.

On the flip side, the distance of a loved one and worry about their well-being must certainly produce an underlying stress to the family.  How do parents properly prepare a child for such emotion?  How do they themselves cope with the pressure?  Certainly, reentry after deployment adds to the psychological and emotional strain on a family as well.

Thankfully, we live in a more proactive era than our predecessors.  There are so many wonderful tools, people and resources for military families to plug into these days:
  1. Military Special Needs Network is a phenomenal peer support for families with exceptional members.
  2. The Department of Defense Special Needs Toolkit provides parents with much needed information and apparatus for navigating benefits and resources.
  3. The National Military Family Association has several helpful insights and links.
  4. Wrightslaw has their own excellent resource page just for those in the armed forces.
  5. STOMP (Specialized Training of Military Parents) has served as a clearinghouse of information, a liaison for support, and a means for connecting parents since 1985.
  6. Numerous blogs offer experience, encouragement and empathy as they post on parenting a child with special needs while living the life of a military family.  Michelle Beau, Rebekah Benimoff, and Kathryn Sneed are just a few of the remarkable parents out there sharing on the topic.
  7. Care.com has special programming to help military families find suitable child care.  This can be critical for a parent who is desperately missing the help of their spouse.
While I am heartened by the number of options underpinning those who have given all for the service of our nation, I personally never think it's enough.  Freedom isn't free.  Come alongside these parents when you are able.  And be certain to join me in thanking those in the military and their families every opportunity you get. 

PRAY:  Father God, protector of mankind, bless and protect our men and women in uniform.  Watch over their families while they must be apart.  And pour your goodness out on these friends and neighbors who are willing to give all just as Jesus did.

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