National Day of the Deployed is observed on October 26 to acknowledge the commitment Service members make to serving and protecting the United States. As a short history lesson, National Day of the Deployed was first recognized in 2006 in North Dakota. Shelle Michaels Aberle, a constituent, approached the governor at the time and requested to have a day that honored the deployed. Shelle’s cousin, LTC David Hosna, was the inspiration for this request, who was deployed at the time. North Dakota became the first state to recognize Day of the Deployed on October 26, Hosna’s birthday. The first event was held in Grand Forks, North Dakota (where Grand Forks Air Force Base is located) to honor deployed local units. Today, all 50 states celebrate this day in some way. National Day of the Deployed was first recognized by the federal government in 2011 and continues to be recognized annually.
Between September 11, 2001 and September 2015, 2.77 million Service members served on 5.4 million deployments. Further, more than half of these Service members were married and about half had children at the time of deployment. This indicates that, in addition to Service members, many family members are also affected by their absence. Honoring them and their families in tangible ways can show support, especially during deployment.
Honoring Service Members During Deployment
Send a Care Package
- Sending a care package to a deployed Service member can boost their morale and help them feel connected to home. Military OneSource offers some guidelines to consider when sending a care package. If you do not know a specific Service member who you could send a care package to, organizations such as Packages From Home can help facilitate sending packages to deployed troops.
Donate to a Military Organization
- If you don’t personally know a Service member or family of a Service member, donating to a military organization can support Service members more generally. Find recognized and reputable organizations through the Military Benefits.info website.
Write a Letter
- Sometimes, it can be difficult to make a phone call to a Service member while they are deployed. They are likely in a different time zone and work varied hours during deployments. Sending a written letter to a Service member can be another form of communication that can build support for them. Additionally, you can write a letter to a Service member who you may not know. Angel blog provides some suggestions for how to structure letters to loved ones and to Service members you may not know to provide support and encouragement.
Honoring Military Spouses and Families During Deployment
Prepare a Meal for the Family
- Military spouses often carry the responsibility of two parents while the Service member is deployed. If the family is comfortable having food prepared for them, consider preparing a meal as a way to alleviate some responsibility. This can help the military spouse have time for other important tasks that they are handling while their partner is deployed. Meals can be as simple as soup or sandwich fillings (such as chicken or egg salad). Make sure to ask the family about any allergies prior to preparing food and, if possible, send food in containers you don’t need back.
Take Care of the Children for a Few Hours
- Because military spouses are essentially acting as two parents during deployment, they often do not have time for self-care. Offer to watch a military spouse’s children for an afternoon or evening so they can have some much-needed time to relax and regroup. Age-appropriate board games, outdoor activities, and learning a new skill can provide some engaging activities to do with children for an afternoon.
Lend Your Time and Skills
- Lending your time and skills to help military families during deployment can provide support. Are you handy? Offer to fix the fence that might be broken. Are you skilled with emotional support? Offer to bring over coffee while the kids are at school to talk for an hour. Do you run errands often? Offer to pick up the groceries for the family or bring home the kids from school. These tasks can save time for the military spouse and provide support so they are able to more effectively attend to other family needs.
Each of these are small ways to acknowledge and support Service members and their families during deployments. Although military families are capable and resilient, we all need support and encouragement at times.