PTSD Affects Entire Families – Caring for the Caregivers

Photo courtesy of Resilience 101 for Military Families.

There’s a new support group for military spouses and significant others whose loved one is living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. National Public Radio’s program “On Point” took a closer look.

To listen the full hour program click HERE

The featured guests are:

Victoria Bruner, director of the military’s new pilot program –- the Spouses and Significant Others Support Group –- for the spouses of servicemen and women affected by PTSD.

Col. Charles Engel, psychiatric epidemiologist and director of the Deployment Health Clinical Center at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Shamale Dancey, participant and peer facilitator in the Spouses and Significant Others Support Group program. Her husband, Army Specialist Marcus Dancey (temporarily retired), experienced PTSD after returning from Iraq.

Sheri Hall, participant in the Spouses and Significant Others Support Group program. Her husband, Army Major Jeff Hall, experienced PTSD after his second tour in Iraq.

With two major wars and more than eight years of fighting, the U.S. military is feeling the strain. Many servicemen and women have experienced severe combat stress, the effects of which can linger long after they’ve returned home.

The burden falls also on their spouses; post-traumatic stress disorder –– PTSD— affects entire families. One resource

Advertisements

An Army Mom Connects Military Families and Churches

Please welcome a new contributor to Off the Base. Tracie Ciambotti started her outreach – Military Families Ministry – before First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, wife of the vice president, called for such community involvement in  their Joining Forces campaign. Tracie has been reaching out and bringing people together for more than a year.

Tracie's son Joshua and his wife Alison, after he returned from his second deployment in Iraq.

By Tracie Ciambotti

My son enlisted in the Army two days after graduating high school in June of 2005—five months later he was in Baghdad in the middle of a war.  He received the best training in the world for his new job as an Army infantryman; I however, did not receive any information or training for my new role as the mother of a soldier.  Families that have a loved one in the Armed Forces sacrifice and serve with their enlisted and they need support. 

I could not find one support group in the community or county where I lived in Pennsylvania at the time.  Most communities in this country have support groups for all kinds of things; alcoholism and drug addictions; cancer and many other diseases; crime victims; and many more. 

So why aren’t there support groups for military families?  I think that most citizens simply do not realize the challenges faced by these families on a daily basis.  People understand that soldiers sacrifice—that is obvious, but they don’t fully comprehend the impact on the entire family. 

One of the Military Families Ministry group meetings.

I co-founded Military Families Ministry to support the entire military family.  Our target is churches.  There are two things in most communities; one is a church and the other is a family that has a loved one or close friend serving in the Armed Forces.  Our goal is to connect them. 

Churches provide the perfect opportunity to support the military families in their communities as they are already established organizations who want to care for those in their midst.  Our mission is to awaken church congregations to the challenges of military life and help them establish support groups to care for the families in their communities. 

Our ministry groups meet monthly, share a meal and conversation, encourage each other through deployments and other difficult times, and work together on service projects to support service members and their families.  

You can visit our website, Military Families Ministry, for details on our service projects and ways that you can get involved.

How The Citadel “Ya-Yas” Came to Be

Visiting with the cadets from 1st Battalion on Matriculation Day. Dorie Griggs second from the left.

By Dorie Griggs

Parents of cadets at The Citadel are a special group of people. They help each other through the uncertainties of knob year and become friends for life.

The Atlanta Citadel Club had a “Mom’s Club” for years. The Mom’s Club was started by the wife of an alumnus who was also the mom of a cadet. The group acts like a support network for Georgia families. At the end of my son’s knob year, an email went out asking for volunteers to help since the current coordinator had a graduating senior. I volunteered assuming I would help an upperclassmen’s parent. As it turned out, two of us volunteered and we both had rising sophomore cadets.

With one year of experience as Citadel parents under our belt, we headed up the group. Our first official decision was to call ourselves the Georgia Citadel Parents Group to make sure the dad’s felt included.

Citadel Family Association volunteers help the arriving cadets and their families unload the cars.

Each spring, we set up two parent orientation days in June and attend the pre-knob dinner hosted by the Atlanta Citadel Club for the incoming first year cadets. At the orientation meetings, we review The Citadel’s list of items the cadets are required to bring.  We also go over the “Nice to Have List” the Citadel Family Association (CFA) has on its web site.  The new parents have a chance to ask questions and the parents of upper class cadets have the opportunity to share their tips on surviving the first year.

There are so many things to learn that having a group of parents who have been through it really helps the new parents. In addition to what items to pack, there are new terms to learn, traditions to understand and some cadets are on military contracts, which adds a whole different perspective to the regular college experience.

CFA volunteers visiting with parents as they wait for their cadets.

Getting a cadet ready to report is really a team effort, but as a leadership school, once the cadets arrive at the school the parent involvement really drops off. The cadets begin to take charge of their own experience and are responsible for letting their parents know what they may need. Generally speaking this involves support, reassurance, reminders of why they are there and some money in their Bulldog account every now and then. 

In addition to volunteering with the Georgia parents, I also became active in The Citadel Family Association.  The CFA volunteers are a big part of Matriculation Day, the day when first year cadets report.  The CFA volunteers wear blue shirts that day.  They are there to help the new parents navigate the stressful morning when you drop off your son or daughter.  As the new families arrive, the CFA volunteers help unload vehicles and support the parents as they wait for their cadet to go into the barracks to report for the first time. 

The families and volunteers carry everything into the barracks.

Many volunteers can be seen giving hugs and offering a tissue or two.  Dropping a child off for college is difficult, leaving them at a military college is a notch or two above difficult. The training I received in seminary in chaplaincy work came in handy when listening to stressed parents.

The morning ends with the president addresses the new parents followed by a barbecue lunch for the parents and CFA volunteers.
 
The best thing about my son’s sophomore year was the friendships I formed with other parent volunteers. We had a particularly close group of friends who met and worked together that year. We are spread across the country. Our cadets often times didn’t know each other, but that doesn’t matter. We became very close out of our shared love for our cadets.

We call ourselves The Citadel Ya-Yas. (I’m sure I’ll write more about this group of friends later.) We met while supporting each other through the leadership training our sons and daughters went through at The Citadel.  We now support each other as our children graduate, are commissioned and go on to jobs or training in the U.S. Military.  A few of the graduates are now deployed.

A few of The Citadel “Ya Ya’s” (plus a son of a Ya Ya) gather for a reunion and to show off our new shirts thanks to Kaye (Not pictured) March 2010.

Our children decided to take the road less traveled and attend The Citadel.  We supported our children and each other along the way and found lifelong friends in the process.

Dorie Griggs has contributed previous blog entries about her journey as the mother of a Citadel cadet. You can read her previous submissions:

The Making of a Military Mom

Mom Readies for Son’s Military College

The Citadel: Year One a No Fly Zone for Hovering Parents

 

 

%d bloggers like this: