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Group gives support to Guard members' families

March 06, 2003|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

Joy Enders has been there. She has watched a military plane carrying her husband ascend into the sky, until it is little more than a speck among the clouds, until it disappears from view completely.

Enders is now president of the local Family Readiness group, which provides support to family members left behind when Guard members deploy.

Recently, about 200 members of the 167th Airlift Wing in Martinsburg were called to serve. Half will go to Puerto Rico, and half to an unspecified destination in Southwest Asia.

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Two groups left Wednesday, and Enders and others with the support group were present to lend a hand if needed.

Forty to 50 people volunteer with the group. They help out, or simply listen. Child care is provided if a parent needs a break. Events are organized for family members to gather and meet one another.

"It's just to relieve (Guard members') minds so that they don't worry about their family while they're gone," Enders said.

Before they leave, Guard members fill out a form letting Family Readiness officials know their concerns.

Often they are worried about someone who is sick, their families, even whether the grass is going to get cut or the driveway plowed.

"Just little everyday things," Enders said.

Many of the group's volunteers have had family members deployed before, and all are part of a big military family, Enders said.

"All of us are in this together," she said.

Now retired, her husband was with the West Virginia Air National Guard for 33 years and was a former squadron commander.

Having been there, Enders said she knows what family members left behind are feeling.

"They're apprehensive. They're worried. They're trying to figure out how they're going to do all these jobs that they now have as a single parent or a single person," Enders said.

As she waited for Guard members to deploy Wednesday afternoon, Enders said most family members handle it well.

"I think they're very brave," Enders said. "The majority of them send them off with a smile. They're proud of them and they care about them."

First Sgt. Bill Matthew has been overseas three times, and said he would advise family members to write whenever they can.

"E-mail is a big help. Contact and support from home really means everything to people over there," Matthew said. "When you go over there your life kind of stops. Everybody's life here goes on and people have a tendency to feel they're left out and forgotten. When you get packages from home, e-mails from home ... that means all the difference in the world."

Part of a national program, the local Family Readiness chapter has been in place since 1990. As more and more reserves were being called up for duty, Pentagon officials realized a family support program was needed, Enders said.

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