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Family support groups ask for community involvement

by Brittany Yap, Military Matters editor

When soldiers are deployed for war they go through rigorous training to prepare for battle. This includes sitting through hours of classes about bugs and diseases, protocol for POW’s, and what to do if you’re captured. They also have to complete basic combat training before going into theater. Their families, on the other hand, are not well prepared for soldiers’ deployment and are often confused about the process and the military in general.

 

The Family Readiness Group (FRG) is a program provided by the military to help families prepare for deployment and to support them throughout the deployment process. The FRG provides families with information on what to expect and what benefits they are entitled to, and it also offers emotional support. This program was set up after the start of the Vietnam War because the military realized families were not getting enough support and were not ready for their soldiers’ deployment.

Pamela Lau, FRG leader for the 100th Battalion 442nd Delta Dragons, decided to get involved after her son, Sgt. Keenan Lau, took her to see the movie We Were Soldiers, starring Mel Gibson. Lau was touched by the movie and wanted to help other families go through this process.

“ Anyone who cares about the soldiers or who has connections with them can get involved. Roommates, best friends, or anyone in the community can come to FRG meetings,” said Lau.
According to Lau, the FRG is always looking for donated items for the troops and volunteer workers to help with projects and events. The community can also show its support by attending military appreciation days that are held at different locations around the island.

“ Any kind of resources they are willing to help us with, we’ll take. For example there are some mothers who need help with babysitting their kids and some soldiers’ parents need care because they are sick,” said Lau.

According to a Nov. 12 article in The Honolulu Advertiser, Ame Frey, a wife of a marine serving in Afghanistan, collected enough money to purchase 29 plane tickets to help bring soldiers home from Fort Bliss for the holidays. She was motivated to help when she found out that soldiers who didn’t have enough money to pay for a plane ticket home had to stay at Fort Bliss.

Kiana Mawae, special events coordinator for Delta Company, said that the FRG is working on several fundraising events to cover FRG program costs and for care packages for the soldiers.

"We are trying to fundraise enough money to send soldiers a care package each quarter. We have over 130 soldiers we are fundraising for,” said Mawae.

The FRG’s newest fundraiser is HI-5 recycling: where people are asked to save their empty cans and bottles and bring them to Fort Shafter every first Saturday of the month around 2 p.m. An FRG member collects them and takes the cans and bottles to the recycling center, and the money received is donated to the soldiers’ fund.

Members of the FRG are also selling Zippy’s benefit chili or banana or chocolate bread for $6. This money also goes directly to the soldiers’ fund.

Mawae is the wife of Sgt. Rockne Mawae, and the couple has a 4-year-old son. Mawae got involved in the FRG because she likes spending time with other family members of soldiers going through the same thing, and the group is a great source of information.

“ Fundraising is important, but I would like to see the FRG focus more on the families. We are fundraising so much, we need to refocus ourselves on helping the families,” said Mawae. “The FRG also needs to work on getting more people to participate and make family members feel more welcome.”

The FRG has also provided several seminars since the deployment of their troops. According to Mawae, some people do not know how to use computers or need help with explaining to their children about the war and what will happen to their daddy. An upcoming seminar Mawae is looking into is one that teaches wives how to maintain their vehicle by checking things like the tire pressure, water and oil. No dates have been set as of now.

This deployment has not only affected Mawae, but also her son. Although he is only four, he understands where his dad is going and what his job is in Iraq. Mawae said her son acts out more and often cries for his daddy. During the day he is fine, but at night he has a hard time.

“ He speaks highly of his dad and is very proud,” said Mawae. “Everyday life has changed for the both of us. The rituals the three of us used to do everyday have changed, and we miss them.”

How to help directly
The FRG for the 100th Battalion, 442nd Go For Broke Association, makes it easy to help through a new program called Adopt-a-Platoon. According to Staff Sergeant Joseph Yokoyama, coordinator of the program, the idea behind this is to assign interested companies and individuals to a platoon so they can send items to soldiers to help with their deployment. People can request a soldier’s platoon if they know someone in the battalion.

The first step is to contact Yokoyama by either e-mail or phone. A letter will be sent out to the donor with the contact information for the platoon, a list of items that soldiers are asking for, and directions on how to send them.

“ The soldiers have a “what we want” sheet, and I think it’s best if donors stick to that,” said Yokoyama. “Things like LED lights, cheap watches, baby wipes, soap, and any kind of local snacks.”

The 100th Battalion, 442nd is comprised of two companies from O‘ahu, two companies from America Samoa, and one company from Guam and Saipan.

 

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