Spouse offers survival guide for military families
Your spouse is deployed and you suddenly suffer a personal injury, causing your income to plummet.
Or the furnace in your home breaks down and you don’t have a few thousand dollars handy to repair it.
They are real-life situations that Kimberly Suchek has had to deal with during her 13-year marriage to a sometimes deployed member of the Army National Guard, and which inspired her to write “Operation: Military Resources,” close to 300-page guide to websites and organizations that offer assistance to service members and their families.
Suchek, 42, took a rather unusual life path to writing the book, working as a police officer for six years and earning an associate’s degree in criminal justice. However, her marriage to Steve Suchek, now Sgt. Suchek and a full-time member of the Army National Guard in Michigan, brought her into the military community. A serious injury suffered in the line of duty that forced her to leave law enforcement led her to accept employment with Joint Force Headquarters, the hub for the Michigan National Guard.
She has worked as a family program coordinator, dealing with military families whose service members were deployed. But when she asked others in her office, “Where is your resource book?” she found there was none and that coordinators had to reinvent the wheel for each individual client.
“I was surprised by the lack of knowledge about these resources among service members and senior leadership – even those who had been in the military for many years and deployed numerous times,” she says. “But I didn’t want just to turn people away and say sorry. I wanted to be able to guide them.”
So to answer their questions, she started to search for websites and other resources to help them. And she made connections with organizations that aid military families.
“People were usually frustrated when they came to see you. Then (to help them further) you could ask how they were doing in another area, and they would say they want to go to school or get some free time (away from the children),” Suchek says. “I couldn’t do the work for them, but I could guide them.”
“I have written this book to offer support to service members and their families, and to help them easily access the information and resources that are available,” she says.
The book lists sources of information covering a wide gamut of issues facing military families, from protection of legal rights and educational benefits under the GI Bill, to health care, military pay and allowances.
Brief descriptions of the issues precede the website addresses, so readers can focus in on what they really need to know.
The book is not perfect, Suchek admits. There are resources out there that are not in the book, and organizations that are listed wax and wane, she says. “(But) I thought it would be helpful to list them all in an easy-to-use resource book.”
“There is never a reason a military spouse should feel alone,” is one of Suchek’s guiding principles, along with “It’s alright to ask for help.”
“It’s not that military families are asking for pity or a handout. I think most are prideful,” she says. “But there are just times when you have to ask for help.”
And she found it’s not just the help for a specific problem that is important, but the influence that some assistance can have on other aspects of your life.
“When my daughter woke up with nightmares (while her father was deployed) thinking he was going to die, knowing that I could take care of things and that resources were available,” she says.
I could focus more on her. And because I slept well, I could notice things about her,” she says.
Suchek has also learned, and wants others to know, that, “It’s okay to say I’ve had a bad day. It’s not a sign of weakness. YOU DON’T HAVE TO DO IT ALONE.”
It is with that goal in mind, to provide information to help military families help themselves, that starting this week Okinawa Stripes will offer weekly excerpts from Suchek’s book as well as provide an opportunity for readers to ask questions and have her answer them in her column.