Support group forming to aid families of troops overseas

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

U.S. troops fighting in the war on Iraq are not alone in their struggles. Their loved ones, parents and other family members at home are dealing with the anxiety of not knowing when their servicemen will return, exactly where they are or if they will reunite at the end of the war.

Rose Mary Tennill of rural Marshall trusts her 22-year-old son Matt will be OK as he completes U.S. Army Ranger training in Georgia, but when he finishes in April, she has no idea where his duties will call him. She only remembers how she felt when he left for Afghanistan last summer. He couldn't tell her where he was going, when he was leaving or when he would be home.

Recognizing the fear other parents and family members are facing with servicemen and women possibly standing in the battle lines during the war in Iraq, Tennill is forming a local support group.

"What I want to do is get a group that if someone is having a bad day dealing with all this and needs to talk to someone, they can call or meet with people and receive that kind of help and support," she said. "Someone who can say, 'I know how you feel.'"

Help from peers and professionals

To begin the group, which will be called F-SAS, for Family/Friends - Support Armed Services, Tennill has been spreading word that people can unite at support group meetings that would take place in conference rooms or homes around the area. She also spoke with licensed clinical social worker Beth Parker, who said she would be there to help people find ways to cope with anxiety.

"It's a support group and I think my role really is just to be there for support, not there to guide anyone to feel a different way, just to help lend support and facilitate direction within the group," Parker said. "I'll be there to help them deal with what they need to deal with."

Two or three other professionals have also expressed interest in helping with the group meetings, and Chuck Mabrey, whose 21-year-old son Cory left last week to perform his Naval duties in the war, said he will also provide support.

"It's hard to describe and a lot of people have gone through this. But, as a parent, you worry about your children," Mabrey said. "I'm supposed to be getting used to this because he's been in the Navy three years, but every time there's a big uprising, he can't tell me where he's going. It could be a week, a month or three months before he is able to contact me again."

Mabrey said he would be more than willing to help people learn how to handle the war and the concerns that come along with it as a parent with a child in the military.

Making connections

"If you're a parent and your children are gone, it doesn't matter where they're at, you still worry," he said. "It's kind of like it's your job."

Tennill knows she and Mabrey are not alone, and for that reason, she believes a support group is just what some people need.

"I just want people to be able to connect with other people and it helps to know you're not alone in this," she said. "It's open to people with loved ones or friends in all military branches. It might sound strange to some people, but if you're a wife or mother or brother or sister, this might be something that can help you or help you help someone else."

The first F-SAS meeting will begin at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 27, in the back of the Division of Family Services building, 1239 Santa Fe Trail, Suite 200, in the office labeled Central Missouri Regional Center in Marshall. Tennill can be contacted for more information at (660) 886-2605.

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