Support our troops (and their kids)

There are lots of ways you can help


Graham Johnston


Lt. Cmdr. Carol Papineau has seen deployment from all sides. As a child in a military family, she was left behind when her father was deployed to Vietnam. As a mother and officer, she was deployed overseas, leaving her family behind. As a military wife, she’s stayed with the family while her husband was deployed.

It’s tough, no matter which way it goes.

“The children, of course, don’t always express their feelings,” she says. Some children even feel it is their fault that a parent has left.

Papineau, who is also assistant department head of the pediatric clinic at the Naval Hospital, Great Lakes, stresses that home life must remain routine—including things such as serving dinner at the same time or keeping up with family traditions. “The parent that’s left at home sets the tone,” she says.

Sometimes that can be the most difficult part for the child. Papineau recalls her daughters complaining that her husband ran a “boot camp” house when she was away.

The following groups can help keep life a little more normal for everyone affected by deployment. Whether it’s families at home or soldiers overseas, there are ways you can help.

• Operation Support Our Troops, (630) 971-1150,

Security concerns prevent “Dear Soldier” packages, or packages sent to an unknown receiver, so this group provides names of soldiers in need of care packages.

The Web site lists needed items such as snacks, batteries and playing cards. Debi Rickert, co-director of the local branch, says to think of anything your child would like to get in a package while they were at camp and that’s what soldiers would appreciate. “Some of these soldiers aren’t a whole lot older. They’d like to get a bag of licorice too,” says Rickert.

This is the one-stop shop for supporting our troops—you can send supporting letters, money or care package items.

• United Services Organization, (312) 923-7070,

The United Service Organizations, or USO, helps military families before, during and after their deployment.

“We help them in the way they need help,” says Megan Lewis, development director. That can mean finding a car seat for a family with a newborn child or helping provide a petting zoo for children. The organization also makes special “kid kits” for children whose parent is called to active duty. The kit includes stickers, stationery and candy. The USO receives no government funding, so it is most in need of financial donations.

• Gift of Groceries, (877) 770-4438,

Here you can purchase online gift certificates to be given to military families and used at military base grocery stores.

• Family Salute Web page, (800) 221-2681, www.nationalfamilyweek .org.

This site allows families to post messages to military personnel and their families.


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