Q&A with Debbie Nichols, Founder/CEO, Military Childrens Collaborative Group
As we approach Month of the Military Child, please tell us a little about your experience as someone who became the guardian of your granddaughters when your daughter deployed.
My husband Alan and I were working empty nesters; overnight we became parents to a 6 and 10-year-old granddaughters, Ivie and Bailey. Who only visited us once or twice a year. Becoming a guardian was not like being a grandparent.
We did not live near a military base. The school we enrolled our granddaughters in had never had a military child attend. I thought our educators would be knowledgeable about the needs of a military connected student, I was wrong.
What is the one thing you wish you knew then that you know now?
No one tells you what a deployment is truly like and what to expect. Deployments are like a death in the family. You mourn for that person’s presence in your daily life. But you know they are alive, and it’s a difficult time for a military child and the family.
When our daughter returned from her deployment I thought I could hand back the children to her, like babysitting. That was not the case. My daughter needed to transition and it took time for her to adjust. When our daughter and her children returned to their home, my husband and I had a huge void.
What are some things people should be aware of when considering caring for military children?
Military children worry about their parent’s safety very day. These children face many challenges, frequent moves and lengthy separation due to trainings and deployments. They take on more responsibilities and worry about their parent every day. They know their parent can be called to duty at any time.
Because they are brought up in a military lifestyle, military kids have a “suck it up” attitude when times get tough. Communication is key to enabling a military child to share how they truly feel. Just ask, “How are you doing today?”
Military children enjoy giving back; supporting other military children facing the same challenges they have had to overcome.
What resources are available to these families?
Active duty families have more resources available then the National Guard, Reserve and Veteran families. These families have to rely on their own local community. In my community in Southern California, I began reaching out to local Veterans and Military Family Collaborative Groups and learning what organizations offer.
What can members of the community do to help these families? Where can they go to learn more?
You can acknowledge and support military children and their families in April- Month of the Military Child, May- Military Appreciation Month and Memorial Day and November- Month of the Military Family Appreciation, by encouraging your schools, work, and community to show their appreciation and support through activities that help teach their peers what it means to be a military child. And throughout the year it is important to continue to say “How are you doing today?” and “Thank you for your service,” as these children are serving too.
The Military Children's Collaborative Group has toolkits and resources available to help facilitate communication with military children of all ages. You can access these on our website at www.militarychildrenscollaborativegroup.org or www.mccgroup.org.
Wreaths Across America announced that its Executive Director Karen Worcester and Founder Morrill Worcester were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor Society’s Patriot Award, the highest award the Society can bestow to an individual.
I was a Navy spouse for 12 years and during that time we lost over two dozen of our closest friends. Most of whom are buried at Arlington National Cemetery and Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego.
Photo Contest Winners Announced
Wreaths Across America chose the 2018 Mid-America Trucking Show (MATS) in Louisville, KY, from March 22-24 to debut its newly designed Traveling Education Exhibit. This 48-foot display trailer hooked to its Chevy truck was loaded with many “hands on” technology and interactive information about the program to help visitors learn about the mission to Remember, Honor, and Teach.
Chairman of the Board of Directors, Wayne Hanson was honored to be one of the Wreaths Across America team accompanying the exhibit, where one of the more memorable things he had the pleasure of doing was to say two words to some of those present…”Welcome Home!”
As the only fully-integrated recycling provider in Central Texas, TDS joined in the effort to remember, honor and teach by donating their services.
All of the 30 Medal of Honor Recipients in attendance during the four days of events were glad to have a chance to meet Morrill and Karen.
The goal of the S.W.A.T. training is to create a core "support group" for location and fundraising volunteers with more experienced leaders joining the ranks every year.
"If you're an American, you're proud to do it. I know it's probably one of the best things I've done every year."
Mission Matters with Karen Worcester is a new program heard only on Wednesdays on Wreaths Across America Radio. Here's the schedule of the shows coming up and a link to the station.
Anyone who really knows me knows that I am often a walking Wreaths Across America billboard. They will normally see me sporting a WAA-branded sweatshirt or t-shirt, my blue and green WAA wristband and my ever-present WAA baseball cap. I’m proud of my connection with WAA and love to promote what we do and why we do it.
That being said, I want to relate a recent encounter I had while standing in line at our local Social Security Administration (SSA) Office the other day.
Air Force Veteran*, Wayne Merritt, currently manages the Veterans Transportation Program based out of Wreaths Across America Headquarters in Maine. Monday thru Friday, Wayne travels to area towns in the Downeast region to pick up veterans and bring them to their doctors’ appointments. This is just one of the many free programs Wreaths Across America offers to veterans and their families.
Military children worry about their parent’s safety very day. These children face many challenges, frequent moves and lengthy separation due to trainings and deployments. They take on more responsibilities and worry about their parent every day.
"I really don't see it stopping, and we want people to tell us where they see it. Take pictures and videos when you check it out and share them with us on social media."
Debbie says she and the transportation team are excited about new and more efficient systems that will be in place for 2018 and beyond.
To come up with an accurate wreath count for sponsorships, great effort was taken to assure no one was forgotten.
As we approached, Morrill and I began to realize that here laid the body of a very important veteran that we had apparently overlooked for the past 26 years in our annual wreath placement.
The many stops along the way at schools, veterans organizations, police and fire stations were also overflowing with love and good wishes.
I want my daughter to grow up understanding what true heroes are and the sacrifices that have been made for us to live in a free country.
Complete strangers just moments before, together, Denny and Ella read the name on her grandfather's headstone and talked some about him while laying his wreath.
"When she explained to us what Wreaths Across America is and does, it was a no-brainer for me that we would get involved."
On behalf of her father Rod, Cindi shared her grandfather's words with the audience during the memorial service. You can hear her presentation and see other highlights from the service in this video.
These two quiet and humble individuals are a team dedicated to giving back to their nation. They educate others by sharing their experiences and lessons of love and sacrifice not just from the war but the other "battlefields of life."
To better serve our volunteers in 2018 and beyond, we're reorganizing and providing more tools to support their inspiring efforts.
"I witnessed a few of the boys laying an "in honor of" wreath. They did it with reverence."
Guided by an infrangible faith when the supply of lifejackets ran out they gave up their own to save the lives of others.
"I went up to that hill and looked at all of those graves of my colleagues who have gone before me.
Volunteers planning to assist in removing wreaths are asked to attend a short briefing at the McClellan Gate at 8:30 a.m. and to follow these guidelines.
As witnessed through this video, the volunteer commitment of patriotic citizens is a year-round effort that culminates in a remarkable day of unity, friendship, and healing.
Some give the ultimate sacrifice of a loved one and are often left in sorrow to wonder if other citizens remember or appreciate what they gave up for liberty and justice for all.
Wreaths Across America knows some of the finest musicians out there are members of our military performance groups. Each month, we like to feature the musical works of those talented individuals.