More than 3,000 U.S. Service members have been killed in Iraq. Just last year, three members of the Kansas Guard were killed in Iraq or Afghanistan. In its most recent annual report, the Kansas National Guard says since 9/11, more than 75 percent of all Kansas National Guard personnel have deployed as part of the War on Terror. Many of those have served more than one deployment.
Those are some of the statistics. But when you get beyond those numbers, you get to the disruptions in the lives of hundreds of Northeast Kansas families who have members serving in the Kansas National Guard.
When duty calls -- when a dad, mom, husband or wife is deployed -- what type of support system is in place for those left behind?
Maj. Scott Henry, at Guard Headquarters in Topeka, serves as Workforce Support Chief for the Kansas Army and Air National Guard. Part of his job is to make sure the support system is in place for the families of those who are deployed.
Resources for Military Families
If you or someone you know can use some help while a family member is deployed, here are some available resources:
- Workforce Support Chief Maj. Scott Henry - 785-274-1183
- Family Programs Tonya Van Sickle/Tuesday Erwin - 785-274-1173
- Family Readiness Coordinator Sarah Ragan - 785-806-1750
- Family Assistance Center Supervisor Laura Wheeler 785-587-9946
"The families are your nucleus. If you have an unhappy family back here or a family in need, it weighs upon the soldiers that are deployed, and it can really have an effect on that soldier that should be worried about the mission at hand," Henry said.
Family programs within the Kansas National Guard start with the Family Assistance Centers, or FAC's. There are five of them located throughout the state, providing resources and referral. The FAC's are primarily for Guard members and families, but also provide for the needs of military families from all branches of service.
"Each unit also has a Family Readiness Group. That Family Readiness Group is a volunteer organization that works with our office to support the soldiers and the families that are in that particular unit. They're usually a close group of people that know each other because they've drilled together and been together for many years, so that's also a place families can go for services," Family Program Director Tonya Van Sickle said.
Through these and other programs, the Guard offers several services, including:
- Pre-mobilization workshops, where families are prepared for what to expect when a loved one is about to deploy.
- Wellness Checks - about once each quarter during deployment, guard officials and volunteers offer these get-togethers, to find out if there are pressing needs.
- Re-integration workshops, at the end of a deployment, families are given the tools to help them re-adjust to a more normal family life
"They call it battle mind or battle stress. There are indicators of all that stuff happening, and if the spouse is aware of it and can identify with the indicators, it will make that transition much easier," Henry said. "And if they know resources are out there, they can definitely tap into those resources to get a smoother transition for that soldier or airman that comes back.".
While deployed, the service members of the Kansas National Guard certainly have enough on their minds. The goal of the family programs is to ease their minds as much as possible, in this one all important area - Family.
"I've heard over and over again, even if it's bad; the constant phrase is, 'I can deal with whatever you throw at me as long as I know you're taking care of our families.' So, if they know their families are taken care of, they feel like they can do anything they need to," Van Sickle said.