Military Family Appreciation Month is this November. Designated as a time to honor the commitments and sacrifices of the families of our nation's servicemembers, the month-long celebration should serve as a reminder of the struggles and sacrifices that the spouses, children, parents and extended relatives of military personnel must go through. Whether their loved ones are stationed miles from home or awaiting orders, military families deal with unfathomable uncertainly every day. This November, take a moment to recognize their struggles and learn how to comfort them in times of grief.
How to show appreciation to a military family
Civilians can take simple yet actionable steps to show their appreciation for the various military families in their lives.
One way is to volunteer their time to help with regular chores and errands, especially if the servicemember leaves a family behind. Homes with a deployed spouse are comparable to single-parent families, as all of the primary responsibilities fall on the the remaining head of household. Even if the children are old enough to help care for themselves and their siblings, their homebound parent could use a break. Offer to give mom or dad a day off by looking after the kids or running errands; he or she will be grateful for the break.
Alternatively, you can create a care package for the family. This could be very helpful for homes that struggle financially. Put together a box of household items and food – homebaked goods are a nice personal touch – or even send a premade fruit basket. If you want to go above and beyond, organize a group event and get the entire community involved.
Finally, sometimes simply listening to their concerns is enough. Military family members go through a lot of emotional turmoil, facing unique problems that don't apply to standard civilian life. Yet they may feel guilty because they're not the ones in combat. Lend a friendly ear next time you see them.
How to comfort grieving military families
If tragedy happens, it's good to know how to comfort a grieving military family. According to Joanne Steen, certified counselor and co-author of "Military Widow: A Survival Guide," the best thing to say is a simple, "I'm sorry for your loss." State the deceased's name as they were known by the family, not by their military rank. Also, specify the servicemember's relationship to the survivor – wife, husband, etc. – to personalize them.
In addition, if you feel it's appropriate, ask noninvasive questions about the deceased. Talking about their hobbies, favorite movies and similar matters helps grieving families work through their loss. If, however, the surviving family members don't want to talk, don't push them.
Our servicemembers sacrifice a lot for their country, but their families must deal with their own struggles. This November, take time to recognize them during Military Family Appreciation Month.