As a military mom, Claire Stevens, PNC executive vice president – Asset Management Group, knows about helping a military service member through basic training, service and deployment and then transitioning back to civilian life.
Stevens’ son Michael decided at an early age that he wanted to serve when he saw how his close-knit New Jersey community was impacted by the events of September 11, 2001. Despite her apprehension, Stevens knew that family support would play a large role in Mike’s success as a service member. From baking to banking, here are four ways she recommends supporting children or other family members who have committed to serve.
- Stay Connected
- Help Your Soldier and Their Military Family
- Find a Support Network
- Assist with the Transition to Civilian Life
Especially during basic training, communication is extremely limited. Until recruits graduate and move to a base, phone calls or technology are off limits, but letters are welcome.
“You worry a great deal about if they’re doing well and if they even like it,” says Stevens. “We couldn’t talk in real time over the phone, but we wrote letters throughout basic training just so he knew we cared. Remaining in contact is extremely important for both the service member as well as the family.”
Some service members may need a trusted family member’s assistance managing accounts while they are in basic training or deployed. PNC online banking helps to make it easy to do this – especially in the absence of phone conversations – because you can both track what’s happening online if you both have access to the account. Additionally, it is important to know that the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act provides financial relief and protections to eligible service members. PNC’s Servicemembers Operations Center (1-844-PNC-SCRA) is the single point of contact for service members requesting benefits.
Not all soldiers receive letters or gifts from home and it’s easy for them to feel forgotten when deployed or on base. That’s why Stevens spent every weekend during Mike’s 2011 deployment to Afghanistan baking cookies for him and his platoon. She collected tennis ball sleeve containers, donated from a tennis club, and shipped a box with 10 to 15 sleeves of cookies every weekend.
“It made me feel more involved,” says Stevens. “And Mike’s comrades began requesting certain cookies, so that told me I was doing my part and helping them serve.”
If you’re not a baker, you can still help by sending socks, cards, instant coffee, gum, shampoo, beef jerky, or anything you think your child’s military colleagues would enjoy. The U.S. Postal Service makes this easier with a specially designed box for overseas shipping.
Service men and women are more successful abroad and better focus on their mission when they know their loved ones are okay at home.
“Deployment was very difficult, but I had a wonderful group of friends and coworkers who all knew Michael was serving abroad and asked about him regularly,” says Stevens. “Everyone wanted to help and it was so important that they cared about us.”
Stevens also found comfort in Mike’s battalion Facebook page, which allowed the family to see photos and receive updates. The commanding officer’s wife even reached out directly, organizing a number of worthy fundraisers for the brigade.
Your soldier might not be thinking ahead to exiting the military, but there are plenty of things you can help them do in advance to ease that transition. Stevens suggests starting a conversation about financial planning, future living arrangements, job searching and continuing education about 18 months before they plan to leave the service.
Stevens recommends looking up the Transition Assistance Program (TAP), a series of lectures and seminars facilitated by Veterans Affairs. It is specifically designed to help soldiers leaving the military integrate successfully back into civilian life. Transition to civilian life is also addressed and discussed by each branch of the military prior to a servicemember leaving their unit. Encourage them to take part in these lectures and discussions.
Your child will thrive in the military if you can support them throughout their journey. Schedule an appointment with a PNC specialist to learn how we can assist your military son or daughter with banking needs before, during or after their service.
Mike Stevens was born in Maplewood, New Jersey, and served with the U.S. Army from 2009 to 2013. As an infantryman, he initially served as a radio operator in a line platoon, working his way up to brigade operations. He culminated his service as an executive assistant to the brigade command group. Mike deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in 2011. He now lives in Denver, Colorado, and is pursuing his bachelor’s degree in economics at the University of Denver.