Want to get involved? Here are some local
Bittersweet. That's how Molly Smith, a 37-year-old
Wilmette native, describes this holiday season. Her husband, Lt.
Col. Sam Smith, is deployed overseas, making him miss out on
everything from family traditions to complicated Christmas morning
"Sam loved finding crazy places to put Elijah, our Elf on
the Shelf," says Molly Smith, mom to three boys, 11, 8, and 5.
"I'll need to step up my game this year."
Veronica Greeley's husband, a staff sergeant in the
Illinois National Guard, serves with the 108th Brigade and is
currently deployed to the Middle East. He'll miss Christmas,
leaving Greeley, who lives in Elk Grove Village, to deal with two
young children, 5 and 1, during the dreary winter
"Sometimes I crave adult conversation," says
Her sentiments are echoed by military spouses, who like
Smith, admit "it's not easy to ask for help."
While it may be difficult for milspouses, as they call
themselves, to reach out, it's easy for people to help make the
holidays a little less difficult for the 1 percent of Americans who
serve in the military.
Military bases are generally set with enough supplies for
troops, including baby wipes and lip balm. Instead, collect iTunes
or Amazon gift cards and drop them off at a local reserve unit or
National Guard base so the next group of deploying soldiers can
stock their iPod or e-reader.
Host a military spouse night at your business.
Donella Raible, a Marine spouse whose husband was killed in
Afghanistan, had to travel from Arizona to Washington, D.C., for
the dignified transfer of her husband's body. Raible's father used
Hero Miles-frequent flier miles donated by travelers-so he could
attend the ceremony in Dover with her.
Scuttle the annual cookie exchange in favor of a drive for the
Illinois USO. Take the cash you would use to bake a dozen buttery
snickerdoodles, organize a get-together and donate the cash the
Reservists and Guard are the police officers or accountants who
balance both civilian and military life. When their unit is
activated, they put their careers on hold and deploy. The spouses
are left to assume the role of mom, dad, and yes, lead snow blower.
Get a shovel brigade together and tackle a neighborhood military
spouse's driveway. Don't ask, just shovel.
"The best thing you can do is also the
simplest," says Janice Laging, a family assistance center
specialist who works at the Crestwood Armory and helps nearly 200
area military families whose service member will be deployed this
"It is so overwhelmingly welcome when someone says thank
you to a military spouse," says Laging. "Family members serve too,
just without the uniform."
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