Ok. I’ll admit that I don’t know the first thing about blogging! But I do know a few things about military families: their strength, their fierce pride & patriotism, their constant worry, leave-taking sorrows, what it feels like to miss someone so much that your heart aches, home-coming joys…the entire emotional roller-coaster!

When our son joined the Army right out of high school I didn’t know any other families in our area that had children in the military. I felt very isolated with all of the emotions that I felt about it. Then my husband and I attended a talk hosted by the Military Family Support Group entitled What to Expect When Your Loved One Comes Home from Deployment by Chaplain Tim Thompson. It was that evening when realized that we were not the only family in our area with a loved one serving. Just that knowledge soothed me in some way. We began attending the monthly meetings and connected with many lovely people – some whose service members were thriving in the military and others whose loved ones were struggling either with their military situations or as veterans struggling to reintegrate to civilian life. It was not the differences that mattered…it was the things we had in common that have been important. Finding a group of people who “get it” – who understand – was huge for me. I felt like the boy, Charlie, in Willie Wonka’s chocolate factory – full of wonder! Wonder at the strength, the weakness, & the honesty I found at these meetings. Full of relief that I had found a place to put words to what I was experiencing with having our son undergo intelligence training as an interrogator, obtain high security clearance, go on intense training missions, live in Korea for 12 months, have successes and failures, serve in Afghanistan for 12 long months with limited contact from him (yes, living in FOB’s, COP’s and even caves), and finally return to us physically, mentally & emotionally disabled.

I wish we lived in a society that was more sensitive to the special needs of military families. I wish that when people say that they ‘support the troops’ they would realize that those troops have family members living right here among us who also need support. Families with spouses raising kids alone; families using Skype & social media to stay in touch; families with loved ones in harm’s way across the globe; families separated for a cause greater than themselves. Support can be something as simple as a kind word at a difficult time. The one thing military families have in common is loneliness…missing their loved one while they are away. And it feels different than the families missing their child away at college, or missing their household head away on business. It is a crazy mixture of pride, longing, and abject fear – the fear that comes from knowing that a loved one has signed that blank check for their country…the one that could possibly include them giving their life…the fear of strangers in uniform knocking on your door. All this at a time when War is barely even part of the social conversation, when a large part of our society doesn’t even realize that there is a war still being waged, when patriotism is fairly unpopular and even mocked, when wars are being fought without the goal of victory and politicians are tying the hands of soldiers in the field.

Part of my goal in being a part of the MFSG is to create awareness in our community about how difficult it can be for the families left behind while their loved ones are serving. Figuring out ways to find, help and support these families. Giving voice to our fears, our joys, our frustrations. Educating people about the Combat-related PTSD epidemic our service members are struggling with & bringing home to their families and their communities – healing happens with understanding and compassion.

But my main goal in working with MFSG is to make every military member, every veteran, and their families feel valued and appreciated. There are over 14,000 veterans in El Dorado County and we don’t know exactly how many active duty military personnel are from our area. We have a lot of work to do! I was asked recently how the MFSG measures our success and my reply was that we measure our success one service member, one veteran, and one family at a time!

by Julie Leconte