(StatePoint) As U.S. troops support NATO allies in Eastern Europe amid the crisis in Ukraine, efforts are being made to boost morale and connect service members to friends and family back home.
Sudden deployments like these are incredibly challenging for military families. One moment, a family is making plans for the weekend and deciding who will pick up groceries on the way home – and the next, a service member is packing their bags in a rush, canceling that vacation they had planned and saying goodbye to their spouse, children and friends. Suddenly, life goes from everyday normalcy to life on the frontlines.
“This is something they train for. Soldiers do layout after layout preparing to grab their bags and go at a moment’s notice,” said the spouse of a soldier at Fort Bragg.
However, no matter how much a spouse mentally prepares, nothing can explain the way it feels to watch them walk out the door. According to the Blue Star Families 2020 Military Lifestyle Survey, deployment and time spent away from family were two of the top five issues facing active duty, Reserve and National Guard families today. To support troops and military families, USO staff and volunteers in the United States and Europe are working around the clock to deliver helpful resources. These efforts include:
• Providing Wi-Fi and call centers to keep service members connected to family back home. This is particularly important for the thousands of troops in Eastern Europe who otherwise have no access to cell phones and laptops.
• Distributing care packages, to ensure service members feel valued and supported. Packages include hygiene kits with essential toiletries, and snack packs with foods that remind them of home.
• Sending USO2GO and portable boxed programs to military units on the move, which include snacks, toiletries, games and sports equipment to keep troops entertained while giving them much-needed opportunities for relaxation.
• Providing hot meals to deployed service members, as well as their families at home.
• Offering a place to relax at USO locations throughout Europe, including a newly opened center in Poland and unstaffed centers in Eastern Europe.
• Delivering thousands of blankets, beanies and hand warmers to those operating in extremely cold environments.
• Supporting military families on the home front with community-building activities, opportunities to communicate with deployed loved ones, and other essential resources.
Although deployment can be stressful, efforts like these can help alleviate the tension. According to USO research, 94% of surveyed service members reported that USO Programs ease their stress during deployment, and 96% feel more connected to loved ones during absence through the use of USO programs.
To learn more and discover ways to give back to military members and families, visit uso.org/uso-stands-ready-to-support.
“Although deployments are part of the journey for our service members and their families, the separation and uncertainty are among the most difficult aspects of life in the military,” said USO chief operating officer, Alan Reyes. “That’s why the USO always stands beside both service members and their families to strengthen and support them, especially during these short-fuse deployments.”