Warrior Wives Giving Support to Those on the Home Front
Editor's Note: It is The Pilot's policy to use full names in its stories, but in this case we want to protect the privacy and security of the individuals and their families as they serve our country.
By Claudia Watson
Special to The Pilot
"When you live in a nice peaceful place like Southern Pines, you just don't see the realities of the awful things going on over on the other side of the world," says Jessica, the wife of an often-deployed soldier. "But it's really intense in this town when you are in the military."
For military families, frequent deployments have become all too familiar. Many of the spouses, typically women, face important challenges alone.
There are the everyday things such as raising children, maintaining a household and paying bills. But add to that the intimate concerns about a marriage punctuated by long periods of separation, and the many adjustments leading up to and following deployments.
"It makes you go into survival mode," says Jessica. "We try to find a way to make it all work without doing too much damage."
It was not long after Jessica settled here that she was invited by a friend to attend a meeting of the Wives of Warriors, a Christian-based military support group sponsored by Trinity Christian Fellowship, an interdenominational church in Pinehurst.
"I'm pretty independent, so the thought that I'd need support initially didn't settle with me," she recalls.
But now she has firsthand knowledge of how valuable and vital this group's support has been to her and the other members.
"It's given us a greater awareness of each other's situations so we help share the burdens," she says. "It makes our lives easier."
A Safe Place
"These meetings are always a bit of fresh air for us," says Meghan, one of the group's first members, as she surveys the room full of women of various ages enjoying fellowship time over coffee before the meeting begins. "It's nice to have a place we can feel safe and share. We know and trust our sisters who care and love us, and that gives us so much comfort."
When the group was formed, it was with the intention of offering care and love to these women.
"We wanted to provide the women with a safe place to share some of the -challenges that are unique to being a -military spouse," says Debbie Brown, director of family ministries for Trinity. "That meant giving these women time to move out of their 'mom role' and connect with other women."
According to Brown, the leadership also wanted more than an information swap session.
"We wanted a group that allowed faith to be part of the group so there would be opportunities for prayer at these meetings," she says.
Kendra, who joined the group this year, served six years with the Air Force and moved to five duty stations in nine years with her husband, who is active duty. She has been a stay-at-home mom with two young children and says an opportunity for prayer was an important consideration for her.
"I've experienced many military support groups, but unfortunately, discussions of faith and God are not part of many of these groups anymore," she says. "In Wives of Warriors, we have many different denominations represented, which makes it very comfortable. It brings variety that we are all Christian-based. It is nice that we are all comfortable with prayer. It brings us hope, and we get strength from this time together."
On the Front Lines
A recent meeting opened with a prayer circle - women lifting up both praises and concerns about parents, children and friends. But on this day, it was the heartbreaking news of another loss within a unit close to the group that made some cry.
"It's a lot. It's so difficult, so please just pray," asks one woman.
"Many of these women are on the front lines emotionally and psychologically and, therefore, spiritually," says Dr. Al Hill, a career Navy chaplain and senior pastor at Trinity Christian Fellowship.
"We cannot guarantee the safety or well- being of soldiers in harm's way, but we can help loved ones who are living with loss or the fear of loss," he says. "We can give them compassion, encouragement and a safe place to be with one another, to get practical advice, learn to pray, and remind them that we are all in God's hands."
Hill notes that Wives of Warriors provides an opportunity to reach and provide support to all military families in the community, even though many will never become members of Trinity.
"As Christians, we know they have a need and we have some understanding from our own military backgrounds of how to meet that need," he says. "So we do it because God would have us do it, and it is the right thing for us to do."
Wisdom and Guidance
Brown says the group has been blessed and supported by a team of retired military wives.
"They know the ropes, they know the life, and they have a good sense of what these women need," she says.
Early this year, Brown and the group's leadership decided to assign the retired military wives to teams, called prayer partners, to support each member.
"This gives our approach a one-on-one emphasis, which is necessary to build and strengthen the relationship," Brown says.
The teams of prayer partners "come alongside" the young women members. Each team is responsible for the care of eight to 10 women. They are available 24/7 and provide their contact information with the explicit request, "Call us for anything; we are here for you," says Brown, who readily offers to pray, sit with a child, run an errand, cook a meal or just listen. "Often, that's what they need the most, just someone to listen."
One of the other important aspects of the group is that the women feel safe enough to leave their children in our care," explains Brown. A multipurpose room in Trinity's Ministry Center converts to a child care center. Two paid day care workers, as well as church members, staff the child care center for these occasions.
"This allows the women to meet at Trinity Hall just around the corner, and enjoy themselves for two nonstop hours without worrying about their children," says Brown. "And the children connect with the staff and the other children, so it is a positive and fun experience for them, too."
In addition to the monthly support group meetings, Wives of Warriors also sponsors family activities and Mother's Night Out. For most of the women, it is a rare chance to spend time alone or with a friend, or to have a date with her husband when he is home. The children are cared for at the Ministry Center for three hours on Mother's Night Out, relieving parents of a hunt for a baby sitter.
"We haven't been out on a date in a long time," says Jessica. "He works hours that keep him away from home at night - and then add the deployments - so our time together is very precious. To have a Saturday night carved out for us is special. And the children are in a safe, protected environment, so it makes for a great night."
Brown says they are continuously looking for new ways to enrich the experience for these women. During a recent support group meeting, the prayer partners surprised the women by offering each a warm footbath followed by a foot massage and warm towel.
"It is incredible to have this time," says Kendra. "It's two hours without our kids, and for most of us who have young ones, we never have time to realistically just have a cup of coffee. We are so thankful to these women; they understand what we need, even when we don't."
Jan Ellis is a prayer partner and the wife of Dr. Larry Ellis, pastor emeritus of Trinity, who also had a 30-year career as a Navy chaplain. She says that many people outside the military do not understand how important these types of connections are for the young wives.
"They are all in it together," she says. "These women have such great hearts. It is uplifting and fulfilling to see women of this age with this level of compassion for and sensitivity to another person. They love each other. We try to help, but they help each other so much more. They are warrior women."
For more information about Wives of Warriors, contact Debbie Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (910) 215-5775.
Claudia Watson is a freelance writer and may be contacted at email@example.com.
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