What can you give military families?
We were lucky that when my husband deployed the first time, it was after Christmas.
Not so lucky that he left on our anniversary, but oh, well.
And he returned before the next Christmas.
The second deployment, he left in early fall and return in spring.
We miss celebrating holidays and other fun events.
You can give the gift of time or service for a military family, deployed situation or not.
We often don’t need more things and we often won’t ask for help, even when we need it most. We’re used to fending for ourselves and caring for our own. And pretending everything’s ok.
This list is great year-round, for military families with a deployed member or not.
10 Gifts for the Military Family:
- Yard care. If you live in a climate with winter, you can shovel or snow-blow their driveway and sidewalks. It will be much appreciated. Trust me. Mow the lawn. Help with yardwork. Lots of youth groups or scout troops need community service. This is a great way to show support.
- Caffeine. Drop by with coffee, tea, or hot chocolate. Or gift cards to a local coffeeshop that has a drivethru. Especially on cold, dark, rainy, or snowy days.
- Visit. Stop by unannounced – maybe with donuts or fresh bread and clean the kitchen. Bring wine! Some friends from church did that for me on my birthday when my husband was deployed. I was elated. It was such a beautiful thing.
- Take the kids. Treat my kids to ice cream. Or to a park. Or to a museum. Or a movie. Out. Somewhere. Anywhere. Give this mom a break for an hour or two. As a homeschool mom with four kids and a deployed husband, I need a break, people.
- Encourage self-care. Take the kids for an evening (or weekend) so the couple can have a date night. If the military member is deployed, offer to watch the kids for an hour, an afternoon, or an evening to help out. Often, military couples have a hard time finding child care so they just don’t ever go out. Not cool. We need that adult couple time. A couple from church once took our four kids all weekend long so we could go away (only about an hour away, but still!). It’s only the second time we’ve done that throughout our whole marriage!
- Vehicle care. Get our vehicle serviced or detailed. Seriously. This is something a friend of mine received when her husband was deployed and I thought it was the greatest thing ever! I never think of it until the dashboard lights come on. I don’t know how to check my tire pressure, y’all. And then there’s trouble and usually lots of expense involved!
- Hospitality. Invite the family over for a meal, dessert, drinks, a music event, a holiday lights display. Something. Include them. We’re often far from home and family and feel isolated and excluded. And we’d love to learn new traditions and celebrate with you. We may decline for some reason, but we will feel loved.
- Carpooling. If you know the kids have music lessons, dance, gymnastics, art, sports, church activities, whatever…offer to help out, especially if there are babies or toddlers or preschoolers in the household. I am so stressed juggling my four kids and their activities when my husband is deployed. Sometimes, I would skip something to let the baby finish a nap. It was just easier.
- Anticipate needs. Bring grocery necessities by or call if you’re at the store to see if they need anything. It’s so frustrating to run out of milk or eggs or realize you’re missing an ingredient for a recipe and have to drop everything to run to the store. But to drag four kids out in a blizzard with no help and not being able to call, “Honey, can you pick up ____ on the way home?” Depressing. And I went to three stores yesterday to stock up on everything and still forgot the effing milk.
- Appointments. If they have medical or vet appointments, ask if you can help. Most vets and doctors prefer children not to be in attendance so there’s no distraction, so offer to watch the kids during appointments. Many moms don’t get check-ups since it’s so stressful. Help her maintain her health!
Ask. Offer. Be sincere.
We often say we’re just fine when we’re really hanging onto sanity by a fine thread.
You can offer to walk the dogs. Or just come over for a chat. Bring a bottle of wine or beer over after the kids’ bedtime. Email or call for some encouragement. Send a note or flowers that you’re thinking about her.
If something breaks in the house or car and she’s used to relying on her husband to fix it, help her find someone to do the job – for free or really cheap! We don’t have a network since we move around so frequently.
Be someone they can call if they need help. Be a listener. Be a doer.
Our neighbors helped to clear everything out of our basement when it flooded on a holiday morning and my husband was deployed the first time. (Thank God for my amazing neighbors. Bless those people!)
Be available. Be a friend.