As a chaplain, I have the opportunity of spending a lot of time with service members and their families. I often see them through the best and worst moments of their lives, but most importantly, I see them in the everyday moments too.
Just last month, I participated in a “Families of the Deployed” event where we brought together parents and children for a night at the movies. We bought out a theater and provided each person with popcorn, candy, and drinks. We take this opportunity to also set up tables for each of the support organizations in the community. Come for a movie, leave with information about counseling resources, spiritual resources, books on deployment and reintegration, and contact information for the chaplains and other helpers.
At this event, there was one mother who stood out to me. She had an arm full of children, and one more on the way. You could look in her eyes and see how tired she was. You could see that deployment was wearing on her. You could see that life was wearing on her. When she came up to me as she walked through the line of resources, she smiled.
And she didn’t ask for help.
We still provided her with resources, and she left with arms full of children and free stuff. We gave her and the kids a happy, free, night out. But she didn’t ask for any of it.
That’s the reality for many of the military families we serve. These families are proud – proud of their family members for choosing to serve our country, proud to be military families, and just plain proud. They don’t consider living military life to be a sacrifice. They sheepishly grin and say thank you when being thanked for their service. They aren’t looking for recognition, and they very rarely ask for help. Sometimes they aren’t aware of just how much help is available, but often they don’t want to ask for help.
There isn’t a problem with being proud. But it’s time for us to have an honest conversation about the real need within the military community.
The Military Family Advisory Network did a survey that found that more than 15% of military families who responded said they were experiencing food insecurity. This means that at any given point in time, 15% of families could be struggling to put nutritious food on the table. They may be going without in the days before payday. They may be feeding the kids and skipping meals themselves, or eating things that don’t quite meet their nutritional needs.
This challenge can become more prevalent during the holiday season. Military families are working hard. They are dedicated to a life of service and their families. Despite this, some are having a hard time making ends meet.
Everyone should be able to create happy holiday memories with their families, without the stress of whether they can afford to provide a meal hanging over them. Military families are no exception. Fortunately, there are people and organizations that can help — we all need assistance from time to time.
Chaplains will listen to you and support you without judgment and will hook you up with these programs and opportunities. We know that this is a season that many junior enlisted families walk through. Many service members have been in your shoes before. These programs will exist until the point in time when they are no longer needed.
And until that day, we are here, and we see you. We are proud to support you and serve alongside you.
This holiday season we need your help: we need you to help us connect military families to the local resources that are available in your community. With a move every two years, it can be difficult for military families to acclimate and learn about what exists around them.
In addition to providing information about available resources, the Military Family Advisory Network is currently working on an initiative to tackle food insecurity among military families. Please consider donating generously today to support our mission.