JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA –
The time differences and distance brought about by a deployment can be straining on a family. For the deployed military member the worry that their family is disconnected from the installation and shouldering all the responsibilities of parenting can be a distraction from their mission downrange. For the family members back home, the distance from their spouse and their family and friends can leave them without a support network.
The Hearts Apart program is held to provide those left behind with the needed resources to navigate military life without their spouse and provide them with a break by hosting regularly activities for their children.
“The military is one of the only professions in the world that routinely disrupts the family dynamic by having one or both parents in a family deploy in support of contingency operations,” said Master Sgt. Robert Smith, 628th Force Support Squadron Airman and Family Readiness Center readiness NCO in charge. “It is imperative that we continue supporting family members that are left behind, often far away from the support systems that they are used to or grew up around. It can be tough to meet new people, seek help, or even know what resources are available to you. These events cultivate a more resilient family dynamic and allow our service members to remain focused on their contingency roles.”
The AFRC here currently holds Hearts Apart events quarterly to support families of those that are deployed. They plan to expand to eight events this year and grow further in 2018.
“Our events are usually themed and geared toward giving the children something creative to do, so the parents can relax and talk,” said Smith. “The 628th Force Support Squadron, in general, has a ton of events that are fun and family friendly every single month which are often free or cost very little to participate. I definitely encourage our families to be aware of what's out there and to take advantage of everything this base has to offer.”
The most recent event gave kids the opportunity to design their own cars out of Arts and craft supplies with the help of volunteers from Airman Leadership School class 17-C Bravo Flight. The cars were used by the children to sit in like a drive-in while they watched a movie and ate pizza and popcorn.
“It is our first time coming and I know the kids really appreciate it,” said Hillary Paramo, wife of U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Caleb Paramo. “It is nice for them to be able to see other children whose parents are also away working. It gives them some comfort in knowing they are not the only ones who are missing their daddy. I’m really thankful to be able to come today and be able to use all of the facilities and all the programs that the Air Force and Navy have to offer.”
Despite challenges those left behind might face, programs like Hearts Apart can help ease the stressors of a deployment.
“These types of events really bring the community support aspect to the forefront,” said Smith. “At the end of the day, we are all one big family here to support each other to make the mission happen.”
For more information about Hearts Apart call the Airmen and Family Readiness Center at (843)-963-4406.