You can search the Web endlessly. You can read the Navy Times religiously. You can still come up empty-handed. It seems that everything is geared toward supporting military wives and children. There's even a support site for the lonesome cocker spaniels left behind.
But, as the proud parent and closest family of a single Sailor or Marine, you have questions, need advice, and want to be able to support your service member the best you can.
The father of a single Marine from Douglas, Ga., expressed those same concerns during the deployment of his son during the Gulf War.
"We didn't know who to talk to," he said. "Every day we waited for a phone call or a letter from our son. I even put a portable TV in my car while I drove to work because I didn't want to miss anything on the news. I wish I had known there were people who could have helped."
From trained command volunteers to support groups, there are people who can help. Here are just a few resources, tips, and ideas to get you started in the right direction:
The Navy's Ombudsmen and the Marine Corps' Key Volunteers
Ombudsmen and Key Volunteers serve as advocates for Navy and Marine Corps families by informing them of pertinent information and providing resources to meet their needs. While their services are usually tailored to spouses and children of military personnel, they can also provide support and communication to parents.
The level to which Ombudsmen and Key Volunteers work with parents is primarily determined by the command or unit, the number of volunteers available, and also the Marine's or Sailor's preference. Ask your son or daughter to speak to his or her command or unit about including you on phone call trees and family information rosters. You should know that when you are added to the list, depending on factors mentioned above, there might be a short delay in receiving information. Some units and commands have hundreds of families to contact all over the nation. Sometimes there are not enough volunteers to go around. But the Ombudsmen and Key Volunteers will do everything within their power to keep you abreast of what they know as soon as they can.
Find or Create Your Own Support Group
Some parents find that talking with other military parents is the best cure for the blues. They often share the same concerns for their service members who are away on duty. If you live close to a military installation, consider placing an ad in the base newspaper to locate other parents looking for support. You can also do this in your local newspaper; you might even catch the eye of a reserve family who wants to join you. But be careful about giving away too much information. Because many service members share the same last name as their parents, stick to a first-name-only basis. This also applies to revealing your service member's current location, rank, and other personal matters.
Consider online support groups for parents. Many websites offer chat rooms and bulletin boards where you can share ideas and tips for sending care packages, writing letters, and even valuable reunion information.
Stay Tuned to LIFELines
To obtain continuous support and information regarding the Navy and Marine Corps, make LIFELines Services Network one of your Favorites or Bookmark it so you won't ever lose our address. Our site was created to help support all Navy and Marine Corps families of active-duty and reserve members. LIFELines articles can guide you through your son or daughter's deployment, and can give you informative leads to other reliable resources. With articles such as "Geedunk to Quarterdeck: Learn How to Speak Navy," LIFELines can be of interest to every family member and loved one close to your Sailor or Marine.
Tips Just for Parents
If you haven't heard from your son or daughter in a while, don't assume there's cause for alarm. Deployed commands and units are kept extremely busy, and often there's only enough time to eat, sleep, and prepare for the next day. Just remember that they will contact you at their first available moment.
Encourage family and friends from your hometown to write letters of encouragement to your service member. You can even prepare pre-addressed, stamped envelopes for them to easily send off their well wishes.
Create a scrapbook. Save everything you receive from your Sailor or Marine during duty. Pictures, newspaper clippings, and even a seashell from the beaches of Okinawa can create a world of memories for you and your service member.
Talk with a chaplain or trusted friend when you're feeling down. Sometimes just getting things off your chest can bring up your spirits.