Supporting your military service member

If you are proud to have a loved one serving in the military. You miss him and want to show your support. Here are some ideas from soldiers and spouses about what they want as well as ways to say I love you.

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  • When a loved-one serves in the military, it can be difficult. We honor and respect our servicemen and women who give their time and sometimes their lives to the defense of the country. How can we show support from the home front?

  • Having served in the military, and having family members currently serving, we have compiled a few ideas. Knowing how to show love and support for those in the service can be difficult at times. Still, it can help their morale and lighten their load. Here are some points to consider.

  • Understanding and patience

  • Sometimes you may not know where, or even how they are. Joel James, who is currently serving overseas in the Navy says, "The one thing that the family can keep in mind is you may not know what service members are going through or how they are doing with the day-to-day challenges. But showing constant support will mean something to them. With some service members, that may be all that you can do. Others will be open and share what is going on day to day. War sometimes feels like the rest of the world forgot you. If you have that home front support, then you know that you are not forgotten."

  • Everyone needs a different level of support

  • Julie Grimes, wife of an Army Captain, was asked how she showed support to her husband while he is overseas. She made a very good point. She said, "[It means] always being there for him when he needs someone or when he's having a rough day, making time for him even when it doesn't fit quite right into my schedule, letting him know he's my priority, even when I can't always be his."

  • Stress can be very high overseas, when your service member is away, try to put everything into perspective. He may forget your birthday, or anniversary and that is OK. Let him know that you understand that being away from family in a strange place can be very hard, the love coming from home can offset that to a degree.

  • Don't forget the families left behind

  • Many years ago, Shannon was in the airport waiting for her flight when she met a young father with four children. He was returning to war. After a very short conversation, he tearfully expressed his heartfelt concern for his family.

  • The wives or husbands and children of our service members have a hard burden to bear. You can show your support for military members by caring for and supporting the families they leave behind and worry about. Here is some advice from military wives for ways to help.

  • Pray

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  • Just knowing someone is praying for your family can help reduce stress.

  • Don't ask if you can help. If you see a need, just fill it

  • It can be hard to say yes and accept help, but if you arrive ready to offer some help, it's hard to turn you away.

  • Offer to babysit, set a date

  • Having a spouse overseas in war is almost like being a single parent. Getting a much needed break, even just a walk alone, is a great relief. Getting a date with your husband when he's home on leave is wonderful. If you offer to babysit, give your number and try and set a date.

  • Just be there

  • Be a good friend, pop in and say hi. Make sure they are OK and listen to their concerns. It is hard to worry about a spouse overseas in combat for months at a time.

  • Ideas for showing support to service members overseas

  • Social media

  • A note on Facebook, or a tweet can send an instant I love you across the world. Julie started a Facebook page called Walk to Afghanistan, where her husband is located. Friends and family can log their daily exercise minutes or miles and she compiles them, every day getting closer to the 7,000 needed to get to Afghanistan. One of her entries reads, "You guys have been doing an AMAZING job! Thank you so much for all your support in this. We are at 2,851 miles with 4,228 more to go... Let's do it!"

  • Email

  • Most, if not all, service members have an email account and even during a war, they are able to periodically send and receive messages.

  • Skype

  • This has become a great way to communicate from long distances.

  • Care packages and letters

  • Even if it's just everyday items, it shows you care. Joel gives this advice, "It always felt good to get a care package while I was overseas. Even if it was just day-to-day needs and not necessarily a box of cookies. It shows that I have support. A package of letters from a school or church group was always awesome to read. They could be found around the office being read by everyone."

  • Holiday packages sent by groups

  • Shannon participates on Julie's walk to Afghanistan page. She logs in her gym and running miles. She asked a relative serving in Afghanistan what the soldiers needed for the holidays. He gave her the number of soldiers without family who were not getting a package. She and the local church worked on filling the packages with love and Christmas gifts like lotion, chapstick and Christmas candy.

  • Remember, while you are trying to show your love, be upbeat and positive. Service members, whether at war or not, are often in stressful situations. Find ways to lower their stress level such as a kind word, a smile, listening or understanding if they don't want to talk. Understand that they cannot always reciprocate your support, even if they really want to.

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Shannon and Erin are a mother and daughter with lots of children and Utah and Oregon roots.

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