Commentary: Month of the Military Family

  • Published
  • By Ch. (Capt.) William McMullan
  • 78th Air Base Wing Chaplain's Office

Each year the U.S. president signs a proclamation, declaring November as Military Family Month. I recall it wasn’t that long ago when I moved to Warner Robins, Georgia, to become an active duty chaplain at Robins Air Force Base. Not long after that I began to see this unique logo appearing everywhere I traveled in Middle Georgia, “EDIMGIAFAD.” 

I thought, “Is this Greek, or perhaps Hebrew?” 

I did what any red blooded American would do, when faced with such a challenge:  I googled it!  I found out it stands for “Every Day in Middle Georgia Is Armed Forces Appreciation Day.” So I know there is an audience out there in Middle Georgia that is in interested in finding out how to better show support to our great military families during the month of November.

As a United States Air Force chaplain, when I visit our local churches in the Warner Robins area, the number one thing local pastors ask me is, “How can we better reach and serve the military members of our community?” 

So I thought in honor of Military Family Month, I would attempt to answer that question, that I am repeatedly being ask by our local pastors. Military members, and similarly military families, are special and have a unique set of circumstances that surround them. So it is no wonder that reaching them and ministering to them often remains a challenge. 

Just last week my wife was going on about an article she read that was highlighting the unique attributes of military kids and families. She said it pointed out that who else do you know where your license plate on your car, and your driver’s license are probably from different states? Or who else can say that all your children were born in different states? Even still possibly some from different countries and chances are they were not born in the one you are living in now. 

The most common response given by military kids when asked where they are from is, “I don’t know how to answer that,” or, “nowhere in particular.”

Often military families do not get to share in special times because of being dislocated from their families due to the constraints of military service commitments. The expense of travel can also make it hard or impossible to travel back to see the grandparents regularly.

I think the president has good reason to devote an entire month to appreciating the military family. It wouldn’t surprise me if Middle Georgia came up with another acronym, “EMIMGIMFAM.” Every month in Middle Georgia is Military Family appreciation month. There is no doubt that Middle Georgia loves their military families. But have you ever loved someone, like a brother or sister, but didn’t really know how to help them? Unfortunately as a chaplain I see this all the time. We often want to help people but just don’t know how to best do so, or maybe you would simply like to know more. If that is you and you are interested in learning how to show a little more love to the military families in Middle Georgia then let me share some simple ways in which you might do just that.

The first step is simply to learn more about the military families in your area. 

There are all kinds of different types of military service opportunities right here in our immediate area.  There are Guardsmen, Reservists, and active duty from the Navy, Marines, Army, Air Force and Coast Guard. Each type of service and each branch of service have unique and important ways in which they serve.  Depending on the type of work the military member does, the rates of deployments can vary from multiple times a year, to once every couple of years. If you employ a spouse of a military member or teach the children of a military members, a deployment is a big deal. Simply knowing the affected family’s military branch and type of service can give you clues as to how often their family member might deploy.

The bottom line is that the more you know about the military member the more you can better serve the military family members.

The next step is to take action. 

When you learn that a family is associated with the military, you need to do something to show them in a tangible sign that they are appreciated. The easiest way to do that is simply to say, “Thank you for your service.” The thanks truly extends to the entire military family. While the non-military members of the family may not have raised a hand to swear an oath, they certainly have paid a price and are an indispensable part to the Total Force structure. 

By the way, thank you to all those who say “thank you for your service” to our dependents and spouses as well. Why? It does something to show the entire family they are appreciated, which is important and deserved. Make an effort in each and every opportunity you get to show them the love.  Trust me it doesn’t go unnoticed and it is very much appreciated.

The last step in the process after you have learned more about them and then attempted to show them love, is to truly get to know the people who make up of our United States Armed Services and their families. 

Doing random acts of kindness is great but what really impacts the military and their families is a very rare commodity for most people: true friendship. The saddest part of moving from place to place is the friends we leave behind. When we move to a new area we are always on the lookout for new friends we can make. The greatest part of moving from place to place is finding new friends everywhere we go. 

By the way, military families are the easiest people to get to know that you will ever meet. Whenever we move to a new place I watch my kids make friends with other kids in a matter of minutes. The older you get the harder it is to find people willing to open up to you at first. So for my older kids, I have often had to encourage them to never give up and wait for true friends to open up. It may take a while, I tell them, but true friends are worth the wait. 

Now go out and find a military family and see the excitement they demonstrate when you not only know about their particular type of service, but show them genuine interest in being their friend. If you don’t know much about their service but want to still be their friend, don’t worry; they will be happy to tell you everything you need to know. They are experts at making friends after all; they just need a willing party to make that happened. And with that I hope you enjoy the month of November and learn a great deal about the military. I also hope you do much to show support to military families. If you are lucky maybe you will gain a lifelong friend in the process.