Patriotic Hearts Care for Military, Families

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 11, 2008 - Servicemembers, veterans and their families going through problems related to deployments can get help from a California-based troop-support organization.

Members of the group, called Patriotic Hearts, have developed a plan to help families navigate the sometimes-unexpected issues they may face when a loved one returns from the front lines.

The plan involves working with spouses of deployed servicemembers to map out welcome-home parties, helping veterans find jobs, and hosting military marriage-enrichment weekends.

"This three-point plan also addresses the needs of the military children, who endure tremendous stresses," Mark Baird, president of Patriotic Hearts, said.

Welcome home parties, the first part of the plan, play an important and vital role in helping military families start over again when a spouse returns from deployment, he said. Held in a large picnic area on or near military facilities, the parties provide a day of fun, music, food and laughter.

These events, while being especially beneficial for the children, help the whole family close the book on a stressful chapter in their lives, Baird said.

"It is our conviction that welcome-home parties are cathartic, and that they play an important first step in increasing psychological, emotional and marital well-being among our troops and their families," he said. "The celebration completes the cycle." -- a free, online job posting and search board for troops, spouses and veterans -- works to help with the second phase of Patriotic Hearts' plan. It was created in response to an injured Marine's need for work after returning from deployment to find his family's car had been repossessed.

In San Diego, where the program originated, more than 2,000 members of the military community find employment each month.

Keeping families together and lessening the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder are ancillary effects that creates, Baird said.

Financial stress is a big factor in many divorces, he noted.

"When added to the extraordinary stresses of the military and multiple combat deployments, the lack of enough money can be lethal [for marriages]," he said, adding that finding employment also can remove a stress factor that can contribute to PTSD.

The third way Patriotic Hearts has to help military families is its military marriage-enrichment weekends. The program provides all-expenses-paid, off-installation marriage retreats for current troops and recent veterans.

"The first to be invited are the wounded warriors from base hospitals," Baird said. "But all troops and [recent] veterans are welcome to attend."

This is the least servicemembers returning from deployment and their families deserve, he added.

Patriotic Hearts is a supporter of America Supports You, a Defense Department program connecting citizens and companies with servicemembers and their families serving at home and abroad.

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