Support is Out There and Easy to Find
I was an active duty Marine for four years and never stepped in the installation family center. This was in the late 1980s and, to be honest, I didn’t even know the base had a family center. I knew about voluntary education because I was taking college courses. And I knew about the child development centers because the child care providers were always outside walking the toddlers in their multi-seated strollers – they were so cute!
My knowledge of family centers grew a little after I separated from the Marine Corps. I was a veteran trying to use my GI Bill benefits, a military spouse, and a young mother looking for temporary child care. It was really when I became a Battalion Key Volunteer spouse that my real initiation into all the base programs and services began. Around the same time, my husband and I were also running a support group for military parents with children with special needs. I was eager for information and resources to share with my unit and support group families. The family center was the first place I began my search.
These are all the services my family has used in the last 21 years:
- Exceptional Family Member Program
- Family Advocacy Program
- Family Member Employment Assistance
- Transition Assistance Program
- Family Readiness Program
- Children, Youth and Teen Programs
- Information and Referral
- Relocation Program
- MWR Activities (bowling, soccer, swimming, etc.)
We were moving from state-to-state, our children were growing, and we needed different types of support at different times. For example, I used the Information and Referral program when I was gathering information for my application for U.S. citizenship, the base summer camps for the kids when our children were on summer break, and the Family Member Employment Assistance Program when I was searching for a part-time job. There are more programs offered at the installation family center that I didn’t list. These are programs, such as the New Parent Support Program, that were implemented later after we no longer needed them.
Times have changed. The kids and I live more than thirty miles from the nearest military installation. My husband is stationed in North Carolina and we are geographically separated. Today, when I need assistance, I call Military OneSource (1-800-342-9647). Their specialty consultants have helped us find scholarship opportunities for my daughter and a list of local driving schools. They helped us when we were moving to Virginia and researching autism programs and searching for attorneys with experience working with adults with disabilities.
I also use the Military OneSource Web site (www.militaryonesource.com ) a lot! I love the Online Libraries. I used the Home Improvement Reference Center library resources last weekend to educate myself on how to remove an old copper kitchen faucet. I also order many of their materials; their CD, Letting Go: When Your Child Goes to College, was very helpful. Mothers can have separation anxiety too!
I think it’s a blessing that the Department of Defense makes Military OneSource available to our active duty service members and their families, and to the Guard and Reserve. So, no matter where you live or what stage in the military life you’re in, you can get help.
If I were a young Marine today, the installation family center would be the first place I would go for information or I would call Military OneSource. I would probably make an appointment with the Personal Financial Management program and get started on my personal savings plan, too – hindsight is 20/20!