Homefront Help

May 17, 2010
by Rita Boland, SIGNAL Connections

Homefront Help is SIGNAL Connections’ effort to support U.S. service members, veterans and their families. The column highlights programs that offer resources and assistance to the military community ranging from care packages to benefits and everything in between. In that same spirit, Homefront Help presents opportunities for readers to donate time, offer resources and send words of thanks to those who sacrifice for freedom. Programs that provide services are listed in red. Opportunities for the public to reach out to service members are listed in blue. Each program description includes a link to the organization's Web site, when available.

Operation: Military Kids

Operation: Military Kids (OMK) supports military children where they live through national, state and local partnerships that establish access to youth programs and other services. More than 600 OMK partners operate around the country to provide opportunities for young children to teenagers. One of the efforts, the Speak Out for Military Kids program, trains military and other youths to form speakers bureaus to advocate for military-connected children affected by deployment. The OMK partners also offer resources for youngsters who have school-related problems, and they put on single-day and weekend camps. In addition to planning special events, OMK partners can provide transportation to activities and participate in the Hero Pack Initiative.

Hero Packs are knapsacks filled with items from partner agencies to present children with activities and methods to stay connected with their deployed parents. Young Hero Packs are available for children 3 to 8 years old; Hero Packs are targeted to kids 9 years of age and older. Parent Pouches include information for adults about local support programs for children and families.

More information about the OMK, including how to assemble or donate Hero Packs, is available on the Web site. The site organizes most of its specific information and efforts by state, so site visitors can learn more about activities and programs available in their local areas.

DVD Helps Children of Deployed Parents

The USO in conjunction with the Trevor Romain Foundation has released a free, animated movie titled "With You All the Way! Dealing With Deployment." The DVD addresses preparing for deployment, staying connected during the separation and planning for reunion. The movie also helps civilian children understand the challenges their friends in the military community face when a loved one is deployed.

In addition to the DVD, military families can receive deployment kits at no charge. These contain postcards to send to those deployed, an interactive journal with activities and writing prompts, a caregiver booklet, a keepsake box, a set of dog tags and a stuffed bear. Families who want copies of the movie and kits can visit a USO center and pick them up, or request them through Military OneSource.

Sons and Daughters in Touch 20th Anniversary Event

Sons and Daughters in Touch (SDIT) will celebrate its 20th anniversary in Washington, D.C., June 18-20, including a special ceremony at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, also known as The Wall, on Father's Day, June 20, at 10 a.m. SDIT members and others who lost their fathers in military conflicts will lay 2,000 roses at the base of the memorial. Army Chief of Staff and SDIT member Gen. George W. Casey Jr. is scheduled as the keynote speaker. Other activities include all-day sharing circles moderated by trained counselors, washing The Wall at sunrise on June 19 and a banquet that evening. More information and registration forms are available on the Web site.

The SIGNAL Connectionsstaff encourages readers to take advantage of the programs mentioned in this column and to pass along the information. In addition, if you know of a program that is helping service personnel, please let us know about it. Submit that information to SIGNAL's news editor.