As I wrote last week, this time of year holds some wonderful memories, but also the grief of losing both parents to cancer at this time of year. To counter act the feelings of loss I’ve developed positive ways to deal with my grief. This year with a son deployed my coping mechanism has turned to efforts to support the troops.
The Military Ministry of Roswell Presbyterian Church (RPC) played a big role this year in the outreach efforts. Members of the committee donated Christmas stockings filled with goodies to send to the battalion chaplain to be distributed to soldiers. We joined the efforts of Military Families Ministry in sending out the stockings. Military Families Ministry was co-founded by a friend and fellow contributor the blog Off the Base, Tracie Ciambotti. If you don’t have the address for a deployed service member, you can contact the nonprofit to find out how boxes can be sent. Their web site offers several ways in which groups or individuals can support deployed service members.
In addition to the stockings the Prayers and Squares ministry made and prayed over 100 prayer squares. The 6″ x 6″ squares of fabric have 5 strings or ribbons attached to them. When people say a prayer for the recipient they tie a knot. As I mentioned in a previous post the squares were prayed over at the veterans day luncheon and also by the middle school youth group at RPC. Each square was put into a ziplock bag with a card explaining what the knots symbolize. Half the prayer squares went to the deployed soldiers and the other half went to Fort Stewart to be given to family members of the soldiers deployed. Letters of thanks from the middle school youth went into the box with the prayer squares as well as hot chocolate packets, tea bags and snacks bars.
My daughter helped me get the boxes to the post office before Thanksgiving. Most were addressed to the chaplain, but one went to our soldier. In his we put warm hats, scarves and gloves along with his requested brands of special items. We also included some special items.
For years our daughter would visit the Santa at the mall near our house. Now that she is 14 this tradition has changed a bit. Instead of dressing in her best Christmas dress she wore her “Fangirl” t-shirt, hoodie, and bracelets. I was also in the photo this year with my Hero On My Arm “Army Mom” messenger bag. A copy of the photo went in my letter to our soldier. Our daughter wrote a special letter to her brother and the reindeer Santa gave him went in the box too. I choked up a bit when we visited with Santa and I heard Chelle tell him, “Please keep my brother safe.” When Santa asked her what she wanted for herself she said, “That’s all I need.”
Opportunities to support military families are all around you. One of the nicest things you can do is to ask the family member how they need to be supported. For us, sending boxes to our soldier helps us feel like we have a big support network. We are collecting items this week to send 14 Christmas care packages to soldiers with our soldier. After a quick Facebook post I heard from several people who would like to contribute. Letters, cards and pictures drawn by children are a terrific way to say thank you for your service. We hope to get the boxes in the mail by December 3. Please let me know if you would like to contribute to the mailing. We are looking for hot chocolate packets, instant coffee packets, baby wipes, beef jerky, dried fruit leather and other individually wrapped snacks.
While I am grateful for the many people who support us, I am still astounded at the people who have no idea we have thousands of soldiers deployed right now. I haven’t heard negative comments as much as ignorance of what our soldiers are doing. I am learning to use these comments to motivate me even more to be one more person getting the word out to support the troops.