Having relocated to Arizona in our seventh (eighth?) move with the U.S. Air Force, I am constantly touched and astonished at the level of support our family receives from the Jewish community and beyond. Our rabbi and synagogue family are extraordinary when my husband deploys, and I know I can count on them.
Yet, there are still some things I would like civilians to know about being a military family in 2015.
1. Deployment is not a one-time thing anymore. In post-9/11 America, service members who commission or enlist are expected to deploy regularly. Whether in Afghanistan, in Iraq, to go fight ISIS, or at one of the many other “support” locations around the world, our families are under intense pressure to be resilient. Sometimes there’s short notice, sometimes deployment locations and durations are unknown.
2. War is just as scary now as it ever was. It is true that between the wonders of Skype, FaceTime, the USO, the USPS military-rate care packages, and email that family communication has improved for deployed service members. However, it is not a panacea. Certain career fields and positions cannot communicate regularly due to security restrictions and “other” reasons. Being apart isn’t easy on a family no matter the circumstances, but war can stress a family in unique and awful ways.
3. The little things our community does matters tremendously, and we military families notice. Does your synagogue or JCC offer a military discount? Do you offer High Holiday tickets to those who travel “home” to extended family during deployments? Do you fly the American flag outside your home? Do you volunteer to support your state or city’s National Guard or Reserve group? Or active duty installation? In a time of war, when so few families seem to be shouldering so much of the burden of war, the spouses on the homefront notice these details. They mean the world to us, and even more to the unbelievably small number of Jewish families who serve.
4. Anonymity is on the rise for military families. Most military installations now encourage spouses to practice “Good OPSEC,” or good operational security. What they mean is, don’t advertise that your spouse is deployed. Don’t post it to Facebook. Don’t display your military insignia on your car or a deployed Blue Star in your window, lest you draw attention to the fact that you’re alone and vulnerable. Therefore, it is easy for military families to feel unrecognized, even within their own communities. In a world where an ISIS hacker can post your home address online with orders to “go kill them” for all to see, feeling the support of our neighbors and law enforcement is critical.
5. Your personal outreach can make or break a deployment for the home front family. I will never forget my friend who I met at a PJ Library story time who dropped frozen yogurt on my doorstep the day my husband shipped out. I will never forget how many of our Tot Shabbat group helped us countdown until he came home, and then stopped by to shake his hand when our “Welcome Home!” banner went up. I will always remember that a lady I’d only met once stopped by to drop off a loaf of challah and a flower for me before Shabbat.
My husband deploys again next year. I know that our community will take care of us. Thank you to the Jewish community for your support. We need it, and we will pay it forward.