By Lara Maxwell
Military moms have their own unique set of experiences, and many resources are available to them both on and off base. The American Legion Dane R. Balcon Post 2008 is available to any military member or their family in need. The AFRC, or Airman and Family Readiness Center (sometimes called the Military and Family Readiness Center) on every base is another resource and offers support to both active duty members and families.
Kathy Peterson at the Dane R. Balcon Legion post said that anyone who has an issue related to a veteran can call the legion. “Whenever there is something we can do, we do it,” she said. Peterson currently helps veterans who need to process claims or upgrade disability claims. The Legion also helps veterans who need assistance with lodging or utility payments. Recently, they were able to obtain a crib and bed for a family who was expecting a new baby.
Emily Lussier, a U.S. Air Force spouse for 16 years and a mom since 2010, talked about resources available to families. “AFRC or MFRC — use it. Depending on when you get to a base, even if you aren’t new to the military but you get to a base and you’re new to the area,” she said. “Use the Heartlink program where they introduce people to the base. If you’re having a baby, use the new baby program if it’s available to you at your base.”
An often overlooked resource is the base library. “They can direct you where to go, or at least get you to the point of contact for you to get the resources,” Lussier said. As far as library resources in particular, they offer many programs for families. “Utilize story time, which is usually up to first grade or kindergarten. Each library is going to be different. Some have reading clubs, some have Lego clubs, some have STEAM things, most have an event at least once a month that you and your kids can go hang out at,” she said.
Active duty U.S. Air Force mom T.Sgt. Ashley Tarnow has a different experience because of her job. “I haven’t utilized a lot of the resources that are available, but I did use Bundles for Babies. It was nice because we had our daughter, and I had no idea what I was doing,” Tarnow said. “Someone from AFRC would come in and talk about all the things people never tell you about having kids. How do you get them to stop crying, including walking away, how to swaddle, where you can get formula.” She said they were given a big bundle of new baby items, such as a blanket, swaddles, bottles, newborn diapers and a suction bulb. “It helps out with that initial type of stuff,” she said.
“One resource I wish I had known about earlier is the Give Parents a Break, offered through the Child Development Center.” They open up child care one weekend a month for a few hours, at little to no cost for families. “You could have your kids go to the day care and have time away,” Tarnow said. “That was a big one for us because I don’t have a lot of mom friends. I do think there’s a disconnect between active duty and non-active duty spouses.” Because she and her husband are both active duty, she said that normally their family uses the military’s Family Days because the CDC is open, but usually empty.
Lussier addressed the active duty mom. “I would say, as much as you feel like you’re alone, you don’t have to be alone. That would be my No. 1 thing,” she said. “There are people there to support you and give you a hand. And even if it’s a military spouse not all of us are horrible people to active duty moms.”
Tarnow said that one of the biggest things she appreciates is that her unit and her spouse’s unit have been flexible with their schedules. “It’s just the willingness of the units to be fairly flexible. If the kids get sick, one of us is going to be out. Work is always flexible with us. We don’t have family here, so that was really nice.”
About being a military mom, Lussier said, “It’s a hell of a ride. I will say, that even for those negative moments, the rest of it is just ridiculous. You, in theory, get to experience things that most people wouldn’t. I would never in my wildest dreams be like you know what, let’s move to Alaska for a few years. And we’ve met so many people from so many different walks of life that I would have never met before, never had a chance to meet … I think it broadens immensely your view of the world and the people in it.”