We went on a trip to Illinois this past week. My cousin was supposed to graduate from the Navy’s only Boot camp in Great Lakes but sadly was injured. We ended up just seeing the sights and sounds of Chicago which was about 40 miles away. We weren’t prepared for the cold. Personally I thought it was windy like Oceanside is breezy. There is always a constant breeze here because of the proximity to the ocean well let me forewarn whoever makes any plans to ever visit there. Bring scarves, thick jackets and gloves! This time of year there was not freezing but felt like it due to the tropical storm like winds! When they say Chicago is the “Windy City” the words are not exaggerated by no way shape or form!
Thankfully we’ll get to go back because this trip was all about getting lost. Blackberries and Droid phones were useless against the countless construction projects and detours which lead us to nowhere most of the time. We wandered the cityscape which by the way is the size of 4 Houston skylines. It is long and full of one ways and the whole reason I could never find my Gino’s Deep Dish Pizza!! Man versus Food places next time guys so be ready!
On our first night in Great Lakes we went to dinner with the Kleinfelders’ who are parents of a Marine who went to Afghanistan with Anthony. They volunteer with many supportive organizations that support the Marine Corps & deployed troops overseas. Angie invited us to speak at a Marine Parents support group to talk about Wounded Warrior & the Family Readiness Program. We didn’t really know what to expect since its family members and we’ve talked to more Marines and wives than moms, dads and family members. There was supposed to be a recruiter there just going over uniforms but he couldn’t make it so we were more than happy to step up.There were no words to describe our experience though other than absolutely inspirational and motivating.
What we witnessed is amazingly resilient families from all over the ‘time in’ & MOS spectrum of the Marine Corps get together, talk out issues and lean on each other for support mentally and emotionally. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard it said and then said it on here that it takes a village to help each other come to terms with this life and not just survive it but thrive in it. These families have proved that logic absolutely right and have inspired Anthony and I to seek more of these groups out. We’d love to help wherever possible and these outstanding parents just wanted to know more about the Marine Corps. We can see now that there is that need for more involvement and information now more than ever. Whether it’s knowledge of the Marine Corps history, bootcamp information, uniform names, rank structure, MOS’ or even different programs that help parents & family members the need is there and should not be set aside or overlooked. We got to speak with girlfriends, sisters, soon to be and step fathers, mothers and even poolees. Families from airwing and marsoc positions to sawgunner and grunt units it was just heartwarming. We were told how appreciated we were for coming out and speaking but we got so much more from just saying a few words than this group of family members will ever know. Angie is so great for exposing us to something new and absolutely motivating. Information and knowledge about this lifestyle is the key to being able to take things as they come and be stronger throughout what comes our way. Poor poolees & first time families who were there; we apologized for maybe talking over their heads & talking about not so fun things but hopefully they see the reality of the situation yet also know that there are strength in numbers. Hopefully when we go back again we’ll get to go to another meeting and maybe talk about the bootcamp experience, care packages or deployments in general. LOL!
For those of you who were at that meeting let me give you some more information that not everyone may have heard or didn’t get a chance to ask me about.
It is easy for a Marine to say that he’s prepared his family fully for deployments & everything that comes along with this lifestyle and sometimes they believe that. There is always something to learn though regardless of whether you’ve been around military since birth or just this past year. In all actuality I believe the Family Readiness Program should take a more active approach to introducing families who aren’t close to a base like most wives are to all aspects of how this lifestyle will impact them & their Marine for years to come.
1) I encourage all of you once again to find your FRO and contact information for your company Family Readiness Assistants (FRA’s)
2) Check your units Facebook page, unit website, twitter page regularly
3) If the unit is deployed call the hotline for information that the unit website may not have (or even try calling the unit their attached to); google alert information to be sent to your email or smart phone the RCT & unit name so you’ll have the latest information available not always ‘officially released or confirmed’ from the unit
4) Email your FRA regularly to keep that bond there for either the homecoming or even the next workup and deployment
5) If you haven’t already look into taking the L.I.N.K.S. for Parents online course it has invaluable information that can and will be used throughout the entire course of your Marine’s career
6) Read the Marine Corps Times regularly & keep in tune even if its sporadically with Marine Parents & the other organizations which provide forums and chat rooms
How can Family Readiness Program help me?
The Family Readiness Program assists the families of deployed Marines and Sailors in several ways, including:
1. Keeping you informed. While the units are deployed, the Family Readiness Program is the means by which families receive all official messages from the command. Heard that the MEU is leaving early? Coming home late? Somewhere dangerous? If you want the true scoop, go to your Family Readiness Assistant as they will have the latest information direct from the unit and can help dispel any rumors. This way, you don’t have to rely on the lieutenant’s brother’s girlfriend’s nephew for information on the MEU.
2. Providing the voice of experience. Family Readiness Assistants know the ins and outs of military living, and possess the knowledge to help other families through the difficult deployment period. In addition to their life experiences, they receive extensive training on the programs and services available to military family and are eager to pass this information on.
3. Information Referral Services. Looking for a way to get involved with other spouses with children or similar interests? Your designated Family Readiness Assistant will gladly refer you to the endless resources that are made available to military families.
4. Family Readiness. The Family Readiness Program’s number one mission is to enhance family readiness for the deployment, and does so by creating programs, readiness packets, and social events designed to make the separation caused by deployment a little easier to bear.
5. A support system. Remember, you are not alone. As military families, we are part of a unique community and in a profound way – we are a family unto ourselves. Any problem you may be facing has no doubt been met and overcome by another family member and the Family Readiness Program provides the means for their experience to benefit you.