Little Things Make a Big Difference

Do you know someone who has been fighting in the Iraq or Afghanistan wars? That was the question that Oprah and Tom Brokaw asked in a recent show about The Bravest Families in America. That question was easy for me to answer – my father retired eight years ago as a Commander in the United States Navy after serving in Iraq. But the next question they posed really made me stop and think. What you have done to help and honor these brave people and their families? Shamefully, I haven’t done anything. Of course, I always tell soldiers thank you when I see them in uniform strolling through the airport in their fatigues, but a simple ‘thank you’ just doesn’t seem to be enough. I was astounded to find out that only 1% of the American population is ”bearing 100 percent of the burden of battle.” One percent is such a small number, especially for such large sacrifices.

I know that people are grateful for the brave work of our soldiers, but it’s also important to remember the sacrifices their families make so that their loved ones can serve. I remember being a little girl when my father was called to serve in the first Gulf War. I was at a friend’s slumber party when her mom came to me and said that he was on the phone and was leaving that night. Of course being a military kid, you always know there’s a possibility your parent will get the call to leave at any given time, sometimes for days, weeks or even months. But you can never truly be prepared enough for when that time actually comes. I’ll never forget that night, and I’ll also never forget when he was called to action for the Iraq War when I was in my sophomore year in college. I am grateful everyday that my dad returned home from both deployments unharmed, but I know that there are so many families who aren’t as lucky.

As difficult as it can be at times having a parent at war, growing up as a ”Navy Brat” was an amazing experience that shaped me into the confident woman I am today, while influencing my decision to enter the world of public relations. The military is a unique family of its own because very few people can understand what you go through. All the dance recitals, basketball games, birthdays, and holidays that your parents miss are made easier to take when there are other understanding people in the same boat, and has taught me the value of strong relationships both at work and in life.

Only recently however, did I have my ”lightbulb moment” when it comes to the level of obligation we owe troops and their families. Whether you are in support of the wars we are engaged in or are against them, one thing is certain: these soldiers, and their families, are making a huge sacrifice. As Oprah commented during her interview with Tom Brokaw, regardless of your political affiliation, ”you bleed the same, and hurt the same.” Right now soldiers are hurting, families are hurting and two parent households have been turned into single parent households because the other parent is serving in the military. We should all feel a responsibility to those families that have sacrificed so much.

I remember my stepmom having to play both mother and father to me and my brothers while my dad was away. While she – like so many other military spouses – did it with a strength and grace that is awe inspiring, the burden doesn’t have to fall so heavily on their shoulders.

So what can we do to help? I was thrilled to learn that at DKC, Bruce Bobbins, executive vice president, led public relations for the Fund for Veterans Education and the Campaign for a New GI Bill to advocate for what became the largest investment in veterans’ education since World War II. The bill covers the full cost of the college education for veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. This was a hard fought campaign, but a great example of work that can be done to improve the lives of our veterans and their loved ones.

Not everyone needs to work towards getting approval of a new Congressional bill in order to make a noticeable difference. Little things are also important. It’s easy to search for organizations in our hometowns that support military families and enable us to lend a helping hand in whatever way we can. I say this as the daughter of a veteran who experienced first-hand the big impact that little acts of kindness can make.

It’s because of these experiences that I want to do something to help. I was a makeup artist for years so I’ve decided to reach out to a group of military moms and give them a day of makeovers. These women need a break and some pampering and if I can help ease their mind if only for a minute, then I am more than happy to help.

One percent of our country is supporting 100 percent. They are doing more than their share. Shouldn’t we contribute?

Written by: Ashley LaStrapes