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College of Human Ecology

K-State specialist gives tips to support Troops, families for Veteran's Day- and after

Friday, November 2, 2007

HAYS, Kan. - With Reserve and National Guard members on active duty and deployed, families and communities are left to fill the void at home and in the workplace, said Elaine Johannes, a Kansas State University Research and Extension youth development specialist.

Families with service members also may be living some distance away from support services typically provided by military staff on post and nearby communities with a history of reaching out to military personnel, Johannes said.

She and other K-State Research and Extension personnel are working to help military families and their communities fill the gap in services via Operation: Military Kids, a U.S. Army outreach program funded through the U. S. Department of Agriculture´s Children, Youth and Families Program.

"Our goal is to raise awareness of the needs of military families in the community and to help those in the community - local agencies, civic groups, churches and others willing to volunteer time and talents - identify local military families and, then, to come together to help families who are experiencing change and facing new challenges," said Erin Sanders-Hahs, a collaborator on the project.

Sanders-Hahs, a graduate student in marriage and family therapy in K-State´s College of Human Ecology can speak from experience - her husband has served in Iraq.

"What we think soldiers need may not be what they need," she said, referring to recent work with a soldier returning home for a two weeks of rest and relaxation between combat assignments.

A joyful homecoming party and time with extended family and friends were set aside with respect for the soldier who wanted to come home and stay at home, she said.

"Living the life of a combat soldier is very different than life on Main Street," Sanders-Hahs said.

When asked what individuals and communities can do to help military personnel and their families during deployments and during homecoming transitions, Sanders-Hahs said: "Get involved. She also suggested checking with the local National Guard or Reserve Unit, American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) or military recruiters to identify local military families.

Think about how you or your family can help, said Sanders-Hahs, who offered suggestions to help families experiencing such changes:

* Sponsor a help day with offers such as cleaning the gutters, putting the garden to bed or tightening up storm windows and doors.

* Put together a community resource list along with contact numbers, and distribute the list to families who may benefit.

* Offer to provide transportation to and from school and community events.

* Provide childcare to give a suddenly-single parent time to run errands or have dinner with a friend.

* Mentor a child in a military family or pinch hit for the absent parent at school and community events.

* Be a friend.

People will typically turn out for a parade or homecoming party, but help with the basics often can be just as - if not more - important, Sanders Hahs said.

The military culture is different than typical family life, she added.

"Facing up to the reality of assuming all of the responsibility for the family often is new to Reserve and National Guard families facing deployment," she said. "That´s why it´s important to help."

But then, even military families who are familiar with separation and shouldering additional responsibilities also can usually benefit from a little tender loving care.

More information on helping military families is available by contacting a county or district K-State Research and Extension office
or by calling: 785-532-5833 (main office) or Johannes or Sanders-Hahs at 785-532-5773.

Story by:
Nancy Peterson
K-State Research and Extension

To look at other news releases, check out our web page at http://www.oznet.ksu.edu/news/

For more information:
Elaine Johannes is at 785-532-5773 or ejohanne@ksu.edu
Erin Sanders-Hahs is at 785-532-1516 or ems10131@ksu.edu

This article was posted on Friday, November 2, 2007, and is filed under College News, Family Studies & Human Services.