Live chat with Lynn Jones, Director - South Washington County Military Support Group

March 20, 2006

Lynn Jones, director of South Washington County Military Support Group, which helps parents cope with the fact that their children are stationed in Iraq or Afghanistan, will be our Live Chat guest today starting at 1:00 pm and ending at 2:00 pm. Questions or comments can be submitted by clicking here before and during the chat.

Moderator: What prompted you to launch this group three years ago?

Ms. Jones: A group of people in the area realized that if you weren't stationed where your family member was, information was hard to come by. We decided we wanted to support each other. In this area, there are quite a number of people in the military in all branches of the service. So it really has been a wonderful experience.

How many members are there now and do members leave the group when their children leave the service?

Ms. Jones: We have 14 families currently, and we actually have families with spouses in the military as well as children. We have a basic core of about 12 families who are always there. We've had people whose children have gotten out of the military who are still part of the group.


How often do you meet and where do you meet?

Ms. Jones: We meet each Thursday evening from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at St. James Catholic Church in Boonsboro. The location is at Ford Avenue and Main Street. Anyone is welcome. We meet in the all-purpose room in the back of the church.

Of course, meetings are free and we welcome all branches of the service including air guard units and reserve units.

What do members do to provide support to each other?

Ms. Jones: We listen to each other. We have outside activities together, including going out to dinner. We do fundraising events as a group. We have our big holiday card drive for the troops in the fall. Until you've been through a deployment (loved ones being shipped out), it is difficult to put into words the emotions involved. Other members understand because they are experiencing the same thing. You don't have to explain a lot to someone who is in the same boat. Hugging, crying, laughing are the order of the day.

Does you group do any special projects or fund-raisers to further your ac tivities?

Ms. Jones: We actually do 4th of July Celebration in the Boonsboro Park (July 2 this year) and spend the first weekend of October at Walmart promoting the Holiday Card Drive. All the fundraising we do as a group is raised for our Holiday Card Drive for the troops. As a group, we publicize sending holiday greetings to our troops who are deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq during the holiday season. All of our fundraising is to cover costs for the project.

Moderator: How does the card drive work?

Ms. Jones: We ask people to provide the addresses for their loved ones serving in Iraq and Afghanistan during the upcoming holiday season. Then as a group we actually start advertising October 1st each year getting the word out to churches, businesses, schools (anyone who would like to participate) sending holiday greetings in the form of cards to our group. We collect them over six weeks and then we pack, sort, and mail them. We also take donations of candy, calling cards, batteries (especially AA) and CDs. And of course, monetary donations to help cover the cost of the card drive, which usually runs about $4200 annually. Over three years--with the help of the public-- we've mailed 107,973 cards and well wishes to roughly 200 service members.

Has any member's son or daughter been killed or seriously injured in combat?

Ms. Jones: We've been very fortunate. We've only had one injury.

On soldier was involved in an accident in Northern Iraq last summer. He lost a finger, was sent to Germany for about a month, and then went back to Iraq. We've been very blessed as a group. We've been able to donate a significant amount of money to the Fisher House at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and Bethesda Naval Medical Center. The Fisher House provides support to the families of seriously injured military personnel (i.e., meals, housing, etc.)

How do you react when a mother such as Cindy Sheehan, whose son was killed in Iraq, calls for the immediate return of the troops? Are anti-war protests upsetting to you and other members?

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