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DoD Reaches Out to Help Families During Wartime Deployment

By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 5, 2003 – The Defense Department is working to lessen the burden that deployments are having on family members left at home.

Many are faced with tasks of juggling finances, doing car and home repairs, cooking, and raising children.

John Molino, deputy under secretary of defense for military community and family policy, said the Defense Department is doing what it can to help families meet those needs and to ease the hardships of deployments.

"We are community and we want to provide for our families to the best extent we can," Molino said during a recent interview.

"We can't replace their loved ones at this time, but we can try to do all we can to ease the burden of separation."

Molino said that all military services have "solid" programs in place to help families, however, DoD is looking at ways to expand existing services at childcare facilities and family assistance centers.

Molino said military installations have added to the operating hours at many childcare facilities and family assistance centers are working extra hours to support families.

Also, DoD has set up a toll-free help line at installations most heavily impacted by deployments that allows family members to call 24 hours a day, seven days a week to get answers for just about any problem, Molino said. Many commands and installations are in the process of implementation.

Effective 1 February 2002 the service was available Marine Corps-wide (active and reserve) across the United States and overseas.

Molino said the help line allows family members to call and talk to a "master's degree level individual" who can help them with virtually anything. "They can call and get a referral with just about any day-to- day requirement in life with which they may be having trouble," he said.

In addition, he said that USA Freedom Corps is also partnering with DoD to lend support for military families. The organization, set up by President Bush in 2002, calls on Americans to get involved through community service. One initiative is called "On the Homefront," an interactive Web site, at www.freedomcorps.gov.

The initiative helps to channel individual, corporate and community aid to deployed Service members and their families. Local chapters of national organizations such as the chambers of commerce or veteran service organizations, match the skills of volunteers with the needs of military families. That way, families can get help with everyday chores and such things as repairs, yard work, financial planning, or mentoring of children, Molino said.

"The Web site also makes it easy to support our troops, to send an e- mail message to deployed troops, to sign an online thank you card, and to make a contribution for a care package," he noted."

During deployments, Molino suggests that families stay in contact with spouses through mail and the Internet. In an effort to bring families face to face with deployed spouses, Molino said that many installations can provide video teleconferencing.

"If you're in a high-tech area where you have access to a computer, you may be able to do more of that," he said. "If you're on the front line you might not have access to that type of technology, but every opportunity you get, we try to accommodate."

Molino said the biggest challenge for DoD is trying to meet the needs of all military families. For families that remain on or near the installation, the help comes easily, he said.

But for those families who have moved home with relatives while the service member is deployed, Molino said, "it's more difficult to reach out to them."

"This is why the toll-free number is important to us, because no matter where you are in the country you can call in and get support if you need it."

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