By Sara Croymans, Med, AFC
Communities across the nation are taking steps to provide support for our military Service members and their families. According to the Department of Defense’s (DoD) 2015 Demographics: Profile of the Military Community Report, there are 1,301,443 Active Duty members and 826,106 Selected Reserve members.
As a spouse of a retired Army National Guard Service member, mother (or mother in law) of three soldiers serving in the Army National Guard, and as a member of OneOp Family Transitions team, I am always looking for visible signs on ways our communities are providing support for military service members and their families. I have been collecting photos of these visible signs for the past several months.
The ‘yellow ribbon’ has become a universal sign of support of military families. Displayed predominantly during times of deployment, the yellow ribbon serves as reminder to remember the Service members who are making sacrifices to protect our country.
In fact, several communities across the state of Minnesota have been designated as “Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Communities.” Beyond the Yellow Ribbon is a comprehensive program that creates awareness for the purpose of connecting Service members, their families and Veterans with community support, training, services and resources. I am proud that my community of Montevideo, MN holds this designation!
Check out the Joining Community Forces program which expands on former First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Biden’s “joining forces” campaign by focusing attention on community-level efforts to support Service members, military families and Veterans.
Some individuals, families, and businesses express their support of Military service members and pride in our country with homemade signs or by prominently flying the United States of Prisoner of War (POW) flags.
A colleague shared this photo of a business showing their support for our military by providing reserve parking spaces for Service members with disabilities. Many businesses also offer discounts and special offers for Service members.
Once as I visited a neighboring church in my community I was thrilled to see a bulletin board dedicated to recognize their congregation members who were in the military. The board featured photos of the Service member in uniform as well as their family members who support them. (Unfortunately I hadn’t thought to get a photo of the bulletin board!) Another place of worship in my community formalized their support for the family of a deployed Service member in a way not so visible to others by arranging to have dinners delivered to their home once a week for the spouse and four children while the Service member was deployed.
One local restaurant provides this box for appropriate disposal of worn American Flags. What a great way to make it easier for folks to do the right thing!
I love fabric and quilt stores and was impressed that a local quilt store participated in the Quilts of Valor program whose mission is to “cover service members and veterans touched by war with comforting and healing Quilts of Valor”.
When my husband returned home from his second deployment a dear friend gave him this beautiful landscape fixture to think him for his service. Last summer I watched as my husband painstakingly repainted the faded piece because it had become such an important part of our home.
Last year while traveling I was very impressed with this sign thanking Service members at the San Antonio Airport.
The post office also has several stamps which commemorate our service members. Here is one I recently saw.
There are hundreds of additional signs that communities are supporting our military Service members and their families. What signs of support do you see in your community? Please share your examples in the comment section at the end of this blog.
Many resources exist to help communities and helping professionals build their community’s capacity with these efforts. I encourage professionals to participate in a Community Capacity Building (CCB) Training. The training provides strategies and tools needed to build capacity in a community. The goal of the training is to help you plan and develop programs for communities that promote capacity building. The modules provide a set of principles and practices with broad application to families, communities and situations. These practices will allow you to mobilize others in support of results that improve lives. Another great resource is the “How to Help Military and Veteran Families”, a series of fact sheet developed by the Military Family Research Institute at Purdue University that offers valuable information to various audiences to help them assist and support military service members, veterans and their families.
I encourage both military family service professionals, professionals and leaders within our communities, as well as ordinary citizens to become engaged in helping their community build capacity to support military Service members and their families. Begin by participating in the CCB training. Engage with others in your community to initiate a plan or expand current efforts. And, while you are at it, you can also hang a yellow ribbon to support our military, even if you don’t live near an installation or if a local Reserve or Guard unit isn’t deployed.
Each and every one of us benefits from the freedoms provided and protected by our Service members. What can we do as a community to support these Service members and their families?
Sara Croymans, MEd, AFC, University of Minnesota Extension Educator, member of the OneOp Family Transitions team, military spouse, and mother.