One of the hardest things a member of the military will ever have to do is leave the family, because there is never any guarantee that he or she will return to them. Often young, and the parent of very small children, the service member knows the risks he faces in leaving are very real, but he is honor-bound to serve his country.
The comfort of knowing that the family is waiting back home may be one of the few things that keeps a deployed soldier's spirits up. By the same token, worrying about the family left behind could also heavily wear on his conscience: How will they get from point A to point B in a strange city? What if they need money or food or clothes or medical care? Where will they turn if I'm not there to help?
When I commanded the allied troops in Desert Shield and Desert Storm, I held my subordinate commanders personally responsible for their efforts to support not only the service members under their command, but also to support those service members' families. I found that knowledge of their families' health at home contributed significantly to the military readiness and preparedness of the men and women serving our country abroad. It was the soldiers who were most preoccupied with concerns of their families' wellbeing who were least able to focus on the job at hand.
I am not the only person who recognizes that healthy military families contribute substantially to the overall health of the military. There are a number of military and nonprofit organizations dedicated to helping military personnel and their families, such as the Armed Services YMCA (ASYMCA). The ASYMCA has recognized this critical fact since the organization's founding during the Civil War. The organization is committed to helping husbands, wives and children of U.S. service members � especially junior enlisted personnel � cope with the realities of everyday military life. These include long hours, frequent moves, increased financial burdens, additional childcare responsibilities, changes in schools, separation from friends and family, and the tremendous stress and uncertainty related to wartime deployment.
ASYMCA programs include things like childcare, hospital assistance, spouse support services, food services, computer training classes, health and wellness services and holiday meals. The basic daily needs, or the technical skills required to obtain a job, or the concentration needed to sit through the school day, may be things that you and I and our families take for granted, but that are critical to ensuring the health and wellbeing of your average military family.
Knowing that their families have a support network back home lifts a great burden from our soldiers' shoulders, allowing them to concentrate on their duties, so that we remain safe. That's the kind of support our military personnel and their families deserve.