America Supports You: 'Salute Our Services' Expands
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 16, 2005 An organization that helps bridge the miles between deployed servicemembers and their families has added several new services to its lineup to augment those provided by existing military family support programs.
"Salute Our Services," which connects troops and their loved ones through a private Web community and offers a mentor to family members during the deployment, is adding the new programs to better serve those who serve.
Its founder, Tricia Johnson, said she knows firsthand how important it is to have the support of loved ones and the community during military deployments. Her husband, an Army reservist, has gone through two deployments, and during the first one, no active family readiness group existed to support the family.
Johnson can now tap into the resources of a family readiness group, which she calls "the best," but said she gets "great feedback" from users of the Salute Our Services site who either don't have access to family readiness groups or enjoy the added services the Web site provides.
One new program offered on the site, "Kids Serve, Too," is designed to foster awareness and appreciation for the sacrifices and challenges children face while their parents are deployed. The program focuses on building support systems in school districts not located on military bases and on sponsoring activities and events for military children to demonstrate the country's appreciation. It also provides informational and educational tools and resources for military families and the communities that support them.
Johnson said Salute Our Services is finalizing plans for events to honor children in April, the Month of the Military Child.
Another new program, "Once Upon a Soldier," gives deploying members of any service an opportunity to be videotaped reading their child's favorite bedtime story, to leave behind during the long absence. The service is provided free to the military through the donations of corporate sponsors, and the Salute Our Services Web site offers details about videotaping locations around the United States.
The Salute Our Services Web site also provides visitors state-by-state information about programs available to them and military legislation that might apply to relieve their stress during the deployment. The "52 State Salute" page offers regularly updated information, as well as details about discounts and other promotional programs in place to honor military families.
For people looking for ways to show their support for military families, the Salute Our Services Web site features "Ask Judith." That service offers details for people wishing to donate items, money or services to servicemembers and their families, and information about where the help is most needed.
Johnson said she and other members of the organization know from personal experience how important it is to have the support of loved ones and the community during military deployments.
"Some of us have served, some grew up in a military family, and the rest of us are spouses of both active and reserve personnel," she said. "We truly understand what it is like 24/7 to worry, to raise our children alone, to be alone, to be strong, to be supportive, and most of all, to recognize that we and our military kids are an important part of the dedicated military family that so proudly serves our nation."
For more information about the program or to show your support, visit the Salute Our Services Web site.