By Sgt. 1st Class Theanne Tangen
SDNG Public Affairs
The South Dakota National Guard's Service Member & Family Support program hosted a vision casting meeting in Rapid City at Camp Rapid Wednesday, Nov. 7.
The meeting introduced the idea of a South Dakota Coalition for Military Families, a program that builds partnerships between military personnel, past and present, with civilian personnel such as government services, education, nonprofit organizations, social services and faith-based organizations.
"I am excited to be a part of this new coalition because of the amount of South Dakota residents we can help," said SDNG State Command Sgt. Major Larry Zimmerman. "There are currently 72,000 veterans living in South Dakota, to include all branches of the military. There are more than 4,300 Soldiers and Airmen currently serving in the South Dakota National Guard and more than 3,500 Airmen working at Ellsworth Air Force Base."
The goal of the SDCMF is to connect local agencies and provide training to help civilian providers better understand the military culture.
"When we have Camp Rapid and Ellsworth Air Force Base in our community it's important to discuss how our organization can better serve our military population," said John Gordon, Youth and Family Services director of Special Projects and Community Support Development. "If you're a veteran you don't just have to go to the VA, there are other options such as Youth and Family Services."
The vision for SDCMF is the ability for every military family to connect to the right program, resource, service or benefit at the right time.
"When Soldiers or Airmen come back from deployment, many struggle to transition back into their normal routine," said Lt. Col. Bryan Jacobson, SDNG's director of Service Member & Family Support. "There is a stigma in the military. If a Soldier comes forward and asks for help they will be looked upon as weak or it will ruin their military career, and that is the farthest thing from the truth."
Most of the time, a service member does not realize that he or she has a problem. It is usually a family member who recognizes they need help, said Jacobson.
"Service members, veterans and their families aren't always comfortable going through military or government channels for care or resources," said Jacobson. "This coalition will provide a user-friendly option for military families to connect with more resources and build a greater connection between the American public and the military."
The SDCMF is inspired by Joining Forces, created by first lady Michelle Obama and second lady Dr. Jill Biden, who have met with military families, learned about their successes and challenges and made it their priority to support them. Joining Forces is a comprehensive national initiative to mobilize all sectors of society to give our service members and their families the opportunities and support they have earned.