By Margaret Ziffer
Garrison Public Affairs

Life as part of a military family can be a rewarding experience. However, it is certainly not without its challenges, especially when it comes time for service members to deploy. Before stressing out about running the home front solo, take a minute to learn about some of the resources and benefits available to the families of deployed service members. Benefits are available from Corvias, Directorate of Family and Moral, Welfare and Recreation, Army Community Service, Child and Youth Services, USO Fort Riley and other organizations.

One resource available to all family members of deployed Soldiers or, Blue Star Families, is the Blue Star Card Program. The Blue Star Card Program provides discounts and exclusive recreational opportunities for spouses of Soldiers who have fallen, are deployed or are geographically separated due to a temporary duty change of station, unaccompanied permanent change of station or 90 to 179 day TDY. Families of Soldiers assigned to the Warrior Transition Battalion are also eligible.

Getting a card is simple, any eligible spouse can visit the Leisure and Travel Services office and complete a registration form. A card will be issued on the spot. Cards are valid for 30 days prior to and 90 days after effective dates on their spouse's orders.

Present the card for freebies and discounts at various locations around post, to include Warrior Zone, fitness centers, the bowling alley, automotive center, Outdoor Recreation Center and Leisure and Travel.

"Cardholders also get access to special high-demand events like Chief's football games, concerts and shows before tickets are made available to the public," said Rex Willey, deputy director of DFMWR, "Additionally, cardholders are eligible for special giveaways and complimentary ticket offers."

For more information about available Blue Star Card Program discounts, contact the Leisure and Travel Services office and follow the Fort Riley Blue Star Facebook page at www.facebook.com/fortrileybluestar.

For Blue Star spouses with children, Child and Youth Services offers up to 16 hours of free child care per month with an additional 20 percent discount on full or partial-day programs for those whose spouse is deployed to a designated combat zone. For more information and specific eligibility criteria, parents can contact Parent Central at 785- 239-9885.

Army Community Service is another resource for Blue Star families, offering programs like the Hearts Apart for Waiting Families program, which sponsors social activities, educational workshops and provides a forum to network, meet and share with other families who are separated from their sponsors for 30 days or more due to mission requirements. More information can be found on the Family Readiness and Deployment Support page of the Fort Riley website at home.army.mil/riley, or by calling ACS at 785-239-9435.

Corvias offered an incentive to residents of Fort Riley to remain on post throughout the service member's deployment. Eligible families were notified directly by Corvias and invited to apply by Dec. 14 for a $500 incentive when renewing their lease for a year.

Angela Watson, Operations Director with Corvias Fort Riley, said, "Moving is not a simple life change and our goal was to remind people of the many benefits of living on post and keeping their home life as consistent and stable as possible. Offering the incentive gave many the ability to make that positive decision and have something extra through the holidays. We had an overwhelming positive response with over 780 families registered for the incentive."

The USO provides programs and activities designed to help family members stay connected with their deployed Soldiers. Spouse Sip-and-Chat events, family game nights, Coffee Connection, monthly No Dough Dinners, Military Spouse Networking, Operation Phone Home, United through Reading and the Care Package Program. Family members may visit the USO Fort Riley Center at 6918 Trooper Drive, call 785-240-5326 or visit fortriley.uso.org.

Blue Star Museums is a collaboration among the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families, the Department of Defense, and museums across America. Each summer since 2010, Blue Star Museums have offered free admission to the nation's active-duty military personnel and their families. This benefit will be available between Memorial Day and Labor Day, 2019. Learn more at www.arts.gov/bluestarmuseums.

Blue Star Families, a private organization headquartered in California, offers its members discounts and perks. It also partners with other institutions to offer programs such as Blue Star Museums, Blue Star Parks, Blue Star Theatres, Blue Star Books and other events, according to its website. Learn more at bluestarfam.org.

Additionally, local businesses may offer discounts and special features to family members of service members. Present your DOD identification and inquire with management.

Along with the programs described above, the Religious Support Office and unit Family Readiness Groups provide formal and informal support groups. Networking with fellow spouses in similar situations can build resilience and develop friendships that persist even beyond the military career.
Soldiers and their family members could find the separation more tolerable through maximum participation in programs provided by a comprehensive network of organizations that offer support to service members and their families.