How to Support the Family of a Deployed Soldier

When troops deploy their families often find they are overwhelmed by more than emotion. There are bills to pay, children to care for, emergencies, responsibilities and pressures that may suddenly overtake a spouse used to sharing his/her burdens with a partner. Caring friends and neighbors can offer invaluable support to these families lessening troop stress simultaneously. Offering repair skills, babysitting ability, grocery delivery, budgeting talent, tutoring, etc. can totally shift the atmosphere for a military family.


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    Before you make any inquiries, make a list of the skills you could offer a family. Be reasonable about the time you have to share, including possibilities that address practical needs and take into consideration the ages of affected children. Each project should be time-limited so there is no possibility of triggering an expectation/disappointment cycle.
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    Approach the head of the household directly and specify what you are capable of doing. If you list two or three skills, talents, errands, the pressure to accept or reject your offer diminishes proportionately. Depending on your level of acquaintance with the family, you may simply want to ask them what they would appreciate having help with.
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    Once you have made an overture, allow them time to consider your offer and get back to you. If the family is reluctant, you might suggest they contact you when they discover some task or need later.
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    Understand that you will not be asked to babysit or tutor unless you are already close to the family. They may need you to go grocery shopping if the parent gets the flu, fix the computer, repair a leaky faucet, open stuck window, or pick up their dry cleaning when you get yours. The more open you are to menial tasks, the more ways you can comfort our soldiers.
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    Think of a military family around the holidays or when the weather turns wintry and there is snow to shovel. Those are particularly tough times to be on your own with small children.
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    Ask the family if there is anything you can ship overseas to their soldier. Often, troops ask for basic toiletries, snacks, underwear, books or items to give to the local children in a war zone. You might get several neighbors to contribute something, but be sure you are cognizant of the restrictions for what can be sent.
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    The worst posture a giver can take is that they deserve to be appreciated and thanked. Give whatever you can with an open heart so that anything you do for the families of our troops becomes a gift for yourself. Anonymously donating grocery cards, phone cards, airline mileage, and something to the local USO is a way to be of direct benefit to these brave young families.
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    Remember, the family left at home usually has a very difficult situation. Even though the soldier is away from home and likely in a combat zone, the military is taking care of nearly all their physical needs. Make sure to ask the family member back home how THEY are doing, and do THEY need anything. Have a concrete offer as mentioned above. Often people concentrate on the soldier so much, that the spouse at home taking care of all the details and difficulties of home, can feel forgotten. (I am a soldier in Iraq-and know this first hand).


  • If there is no military installation within reasonable distance, and you have a recruiter in town or a reserve unit you can use them. They can gladly put you in touch with people who can help streamline anything you want to do.
  • Local Houses of Worship may have lists of requests for home repairs, groceries, clothing, etc. made by military families in the community.
  • Military organizations usually have emergency funding sources that will accept anonymous donations.
  • Credit counselors are usually volunteers organized through a community group to help financially stressed families create budgets.
  • Children from military families go to public schools that appreciate volunteers who can work daytime hours.
  • If there is a local military installation, call the PR office and ask about donating. Every base has a Family Relief office where families can get emergency supplies between paydays. Base Ombudsmen are available to liaison between military personnel and the public.


  • Some people will refuse help. Givers are obligated to respect that right and must never insist that any family needs what you have offered.

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Categories: Volunteer and Community Service