The needs of families run the gamut. It might be assistance in legal matters, emergency financial needs, emotional, psychological or spiritual needs of a spouse or child. Or it can be a little more mundane.
"The simplest thing. How you turn the water off in your home or where the electrical circuits are," said Tonya Van Sickle, Family Program Director of the Kansas National Guard. "Things like that they may not have had to deal with because that spouse was the one who took care of those."
Just like the Minuteman, members of the Kansas National Guard know they must be "always ready." The same applies to members of the families of Guard members. That's why there are programs in place here, at Kansas National Guard headquarters, to help the families.
"If we do a great job with the families here, and they understand that the families are being taken care of, they're much more apt to be successful and concentrate on their mission in Iraq and Afghanistan," said Maj. Scott Henry, Workforce Support Chief with the Kansas National Guard.
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
Family programs at the Kansas National Guard came into prominence during the first Gulf War in the early 90s. During the current War on Terror, those services have expanded dramatically.
"And when I first became involved with the National Guard about four years ago, there were just three staff members in place. Now, we have ten staff people in place over the course of the past four or five years," Henry said.
For the families involved, the life change is dramatic. Elizabeth Kellison's husband, James, deployed last summer to Iraq. For their children, ages 2 and 4, Daddy is away at work.
"We put pictures up all over the house," Elizabeth said. "In every room, so it's almost like he's there. We get to see him wherever we're at. We've got a picture of him in the car, in each kid's bedroom, the kitchen, living room, even the bathroom, which he thinks is completely odd, but the kids brush their teeth with Dad every morning."
Day-to-day life is a big enough adjustment, and then there are those special occasions.
"Our anniversary - that was a big thing," she said. "Every year we go to the same place, sit in the same booth, order the same food. So this year, my son went with me. Mateo and I had a date. He ordered what Dad got."
The Kellisons rely on the family programs available through the Kansas National Guard. Elizabeth even serves as coordinator of the Family Readiness Group for her husband's unit.
"There's nothing that anyone can say that can make those feelings go away," she said. "Which is not the purpose of the support program. It's more a recognition that these things are going to happen and these feelings are going to happen and recognition that there are a ton of other people who are feeling the exact same thing you're feeling."
The Family Readiness Groups are the first line of family support, and you don't have to be connected to the military to volunteer.