A question that I’m often asked is “What can I do to help?” (a family currently going through a deployment). Here are a few of my favorites:
1. Care packages: we sent weekly care packages to Craig, but he was only able to send, say, two to us. People often want to send care packages to deployed troops, but forget about the families back home. (Not that either is more deserving.) My parents would send care packages to the baby and me (like a lot of parents do during college years) of homemade breads, funny movies, things I can’t get here that remind me of home; likewise, one of my good friends sent cookies from my favorite restaurant in Grand Rapids, MI.
2. Ask your friends and family if they are close with any military families going through a deployment and offer to help, or ask around your neighborhood:
–I was teaching during Craig’s first deployment and every week one of my neighbors would bring my trash can up to the door. It wasn’t the act of bringing it up that was difficult or time-consuming, it was knowing that someone was thinking of me every week. I have another friend whose family hired a lawn service to come mow for her twice a month (she has two young boys and it was always hard to do).
–There are cute ways to help families stay connected too: one thing I have done for friends with older children is buy two set of the same unique stationary. The child keeps one set, the deploying parent takes the other, and when they both get their mail they know immediately there’s an important letter for them when they see the special envelope.
–If your close friend/family member is going through a deployment, see if you can plan something fun. One of my best friends planned a trip out to Raleigh and I counted down to it for WEEKS. The weather was terrible, but it was the best weekend of the entire deployment: lying in bed, watching movies and eating chocolate with my bestie.
3. If you’re a considerable stranger, there are many sites that will send care packages overseas to deployed units (many are tax deductible!). (Shameless plug) We’re running a Deployment Angels Book Sponsorship drive where families/businesses can sponsor books specifically for families with a deployed spouse this holiday season. We’ve been working on it for a little over a month and we’re already at 200+ books sponsored. If you’d like to sponsor a family, please go to http://www.daddysdeployed.com/pages/faq and click on the Donate button at the bottom of the screen. A $40 donation covers a hardcover book for a family.
4. There are sites that provide other cool services that I could have used in the past. Bake Me a Wish (http://www.bakemeawish.com/operation-birthday-cake.php) ships cakes to deployed service-members for $15. They can choose where it goes, or you can request to have them sent to a specific person. We sent a couple to Craig during his deployments and they somehow made it without a scratch. We also adore the folks at Lock ‘N Load Java and their option to send coffee direct to troops: http://www.locknloadjava.com/product/deployed-troop-package.html
Do you have any additional suggestions for well-meaning folks out there? Please leave them below!