By Sgt. 1st Class Mark BellMay 12, 2011
JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. Aca,!" Army Wives is a television series filmed in and around the Charleston area that tells a fictional story about the lives of four Army wives, their families and how they survive during deployments and stresses of a unique lifestyle lived by less than one percent of the U.S. population.
On May 10, several real military wives gathered at the coastal base along with members of all branches of the military and nearly a dozen outside agencies to talk about taking care of military families.
Army, Air Force and Marine Reserve and Guard components joined their active-duty counterparts during the quarterly South Carolina Inter-Service Family Assistance Committee to talk about issues and concerns about all servicemembers who call the Palmetto State home Aca,!" temporarily or permanently.
Aca,!A"We are here for our families throughout the state,Aca,!A? said Sherry Marsh, the committee organization chair from the South Carolina National Guard in Columbia, S.C. Aca,!A"It is important that we, as a collective group, communicate with each other about the resources available to our service members.Aca,!A?
Marsh, South Carolina National Guard Family Programs director, said she brings in outside agencies, such as Operation Home Front and Operation Military Kids, which could benefit all branches of service.
Aca,!A"This isnAca,!a,,ct only Army here today,Aca,!A? she said, looking into the packed room as Lisa Mustard, a military family life consultant, discussed the different Aca,!A"hatsAca,!A? people wear as they become involved in helping families in need. Aca,!A"We have members of all branches here that want to ensure their families have the best resources available to their families.Aca,!A?
Marsh said the best resources available to committee members are each other.
Aca,!A"Each of us out in the field get phone calls from military families reaching out for help,Aca,!A? she said. Aca,!A"Working in Columbia, I could get phone calls from Marine Reserve families whose spouses are deployed. Those families are reaching out for help or assistance. I may not have the answers or resources for them, but I do have someone that does have those answers. ItAca,!a,,cs about being a phone call away from helping a family.Aca,!A?
As business cards were passed around, informative notes written on available white spaces of the committee itinerary and networking conversations filled the room, Marsh ensured the military, government and outside agencies walked away from the base knowing they had the necessary tools to assist families in need.
Aca,!A"We gather four times each year to talk about our military families,Aca,!A? she said. Aca,!A"Our general officers stress the importance of taking care of our most valuable resource Aca,!" our young men and women who serve their country and their families left behind.Aca,!A?
Sitting in the second row with a pile of paperwork on an empty chair next to her and scribbled notes and a small stack of business cards on her lap, was Barbara Livingston. As she sat through the three-hour meeting, she took numerous notes and walked away more knowledgeable about the resources available to her team.
As a military spouse and mother to several children, Livingston knows all too well about the importance of keeping families informed.
She said deployments affect young and old, enlisted and officers.
Aca,!A"We must ensure all our South Carolina servicemembers have a helping hand in a time of need,Aca,!A? she said. Aca,!A"I never realized how much I relied on my husband until he recently deployed to Afghanistan.Aca,!A?
LivingstonAca,!a,,cs husband is not an infantry squad leader, light-wheeled vehicle mechanic or a company commander, but rather The Adjutant General for the South Carolina National Guard.
As the senior Guard member for thousands of Army and Air Force servicemembers, Maj. Gen. Robert E. Livingston, Jr., is responsible for the welfare of Guard families across the Palmetto State.
Sitting nearby Livingston was Leslie Love, wife to Fort JacksonAca,!a,,cs garrison commander, Col. James J. Love.
As several agencies promoted new, innovative programs, Love actively engaged members of the committee to ensure Fort JacksonAca,!a,,cs voice and issues were heard.
One new program presented by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs was the National Caregiver Support Program.
This program provides additional support to eligible post-9/11 veterans who elect to receive their care in a home setting from a primary caregiver. Eligible primary caregivers can receive a stipend, training, mental health services, and access to health insurance if they are not already under a health care plan.
Aca,!A"I am here as an advocate for both our Reserve and active-duty families who call Fort Jackson home,Aca,!A? Love said. Aca,!A"Not only am I here representing my husband, but all the husbands and wives of our Soldiers.Aca,!A?
Love said it important that her team, to include members of Fort JacksonAca,!a,,cs Army Community Service, attends these meetings because knowledge is power.
Aca,!A"We need to empower our Army families with the resources and tools to be successful here and our surrounding communities,Aca,!A? she said. Aca,!A"I know my husbandAca,!a,,cs top concern is the welfare of families who come through Fort JacksonAca,!a,,cs gates every day.Aca,!A?
Love also said the Army Reserve has a large presence on the training installation with major commands, like the 81st Regional Support Command, and said those citizen warriors do not go unnoticed by the Fort JacksonAca,!a,,cs command staff.
Aca,!A"It doesnAca,!a,,ct matter what patch a Soldier wear on their left arm or which component they serve,Aca,!A? she said. Aca,!A"What matters is the American flag each of them wear on their right arm. We are one nation, one Army and one family.Aca,!A?
Love said she is personally invested in ensuring that the ArmyAca,!a,,cs younger families have a positive experience while serving their country. From young second lieutenants spending late hours away from their families as company-level executive officers or drill sergeants struggling to maintain a normal life on the trail, LoveAca,!a,,cs passion is physically visible as she talks about the Army family.
Aca,!A"We owe it to them,Aca,!A? she said. Aca,!A"We owe it to their spouses and children. They are AmericaAca,!a,,cs heroes. As they give 100 percent to our country, we must give 200 percent back to them.Aca,!A?
Giving that dedication back to the families is no easy task, said Christy Burns, the 81st RSC Family Programs director.
Eight members of her team made the early-morning trek to attend the meeting.
Survivor Outreach Services and Child, Youth & School Services were just two of the numerous programs represented by the Army Reserve during the committee.
Armed with notebooks, pens and smart phones, the large contingency came with one mission Aca,!" to learn how to make a better Army Reserve for families.
Aca,!A"ItAca,!a,,cs important to work closely with our Guard and active-duty counterparts on family assistance issues,Aca,!A? said Burns. Aca,!A"We are one piece of a joint-service pie committed to our families, and together we are able to provide the best service to all servicemembers in need of help or to those who just have questions.Aca,!A?
As the lights were turned off in the conference and the parking lot slowly emptied, each team went back to their respective services will fresh, new ideas and more contacts to add to their toolbox of resources.
Aca,!A"It is important that we meet on a regular basis,Aca,!A? said Marsh. Aca,!A"Today it was Charleston and in August it will be Fort Jackson where we will bring together even more agencies and resources dedicated to helping our families.Aca,!A?