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MFRC provides holiday cheer for deployed service members and their families

By 2nd Lt. Austen Jarboe | 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs | Dec. 6, 2018

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas —

There’s no place like home for the holidays, no matter how far away you roam. For many military families, that classic line takes on greater importance as their service member deploys during the holiday season.

These can be stressful times for the entire family, with increased financial and spiritual burdens being shared across many thousands of miles. However, a team of specialists at the Military & Family Readiness Center at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph is ready to assist every step of the way.

“During the holidays, we’re often tempted to spend a lot because we want to provide gifts to our friends, family and even ourselves,” said Bob Williams, M&FRC community readiness consultant. “Sometimes we get ourselves in trouble, because we spend more than we really have available.”

Financial counselors are available for mentorship on a variety of topics, including sustainable holiday spending, creating emergency savings accounts and reducing debt.

“Our goal is to help our servicemembers and their families to understand the importance of the financial resources that come to them,” Williams said.

Concerns about money back home can amplify while deployed across the world.

“Financial readiness is a part of mission readiness. If you are worried about your finances, it is hard to focus on your mission,” Williams added.

It has been said that there are some things money can’t buy and having your loved ones close for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s certainly fits that description.

Hearts Apart is a program provided by the M&FRC for service members and their families to stay connected and access resources to help them navigate the challenges of deployment. At the core of the program are monthly events for spouses, allowing them the opportunity to network with other deployed families and ask questions of M&FRC specialists.

“For December, we’re putting on a holiday party for our deployed families,” said Master Sgt. Dannella Smith, Hearts Apart director at JBSA-Randolph. “We’ll have dinner, Santa Claus is going to be there, we’ll do some arts and crafts, really an opportunity to show our appreciation and provide support.”

There are a wide range of services available to deployed families, but sometimes making a real connection with other spouses can make all the difference.

“I really encourage the families to network and to make those connections,” Smith said. “There are programs out there to help with child care, auto maintenance and other services, but they don’t always meet a family’s needs.”

“Sometimes the best way to meet your needs is to connect with another family in a similar situation,” she said.

Building a strong network of peer support alongside the conventional resources of the Department of Defense can give the maximum benefit to those who need it most.

The Hearts Apart program provides great service to the JBSA-Randolph community with limited resources.

“Hearts Apart does not receive any funding from the Air Force,” Smith said. “Whether it’s people donating time, resources or money, it’s 100 percent donations to keep the program running.”

For military members, often the hardest step is admitting they need help with issues that come up in their personal and professional lives. The specialists at the Military & Family Readiness Center come to work every day to provide resources and counseling to help them through life’s speed bumps.

“Everyone at MFRC is either military, prior military, married to the military,” Smith said. “We get it, we’ve been there, we’re still there for some of us, and we’re here to help.”

For those who have endured their fair share of stress, both home and overseas, perhaps the holiday season is the perfect time to consider giving back. Hearts Apart and programs like it rely on the support of the community to provide the most effective services to those who need it the most.

For more information on the HeartsApart program at JBSA-Randolph, call 210-652-5321.