Volunteers offer much-needed assistance to local service members, families

Military deployments to combat hot zones are never easy. But for scores of NC Army National Guard members and their families, a recent pre-deployment event in Raleigh brought welcome relief as they prepare for the difficult days ahead.

"It was originally scheduled to be held in a helicopter repair facility in Morrisville, where temperatures would probably have been around 90," says organizer Bruce Kennedy with a chuckle.

Instead, Kennedy worked with management at Raleigh's stately Brier Creek Country Club to have the "Strong Bonds Event" moved there. And so, 160 members of the Morrisville-based 449th Theater Aviation Brigade and their families got to enjoy a great dinner, hear important information about the upcoming deployment, and learn about support services here at home.

"The whole group is deploying for a year," says Kennedy, the State Coordinator for the non-profit military support group "H.E.R.O.E.S. Care," which hosted the Brier Creek gathering. "The first months are going to be in Ft. Hood, Texas, where they're going to go through an additional three months of very intensive training. And then they will fly to Kuwait, which is a staging area for other locations in the region."

H.E.R.O.E.S. Care ("Homefront Enabling Relationships, Opportunities, and Empowerment through Support") is a volunteer network consisting of thousands of trained counselors, caregivers, and spiritual leaders. The organization is active in 17 states and growing.

"Our goals," Kennedy says, "are to support military personnel and their families pre-deployment, the families during deployment, and the returning soldiers for up to one year post-deployment." That support can be anything from emotional and financial, to the practical-- such as building a wheelchair ramp for a disabled service member.

H.E.R.O.E.S. Care serves all branches of the military, including National Guardsmen such at those with the 449th TAB who received that special dinner at the Brier Creek Country Club.

"The impact on these guys and their families is very, very significant," Kennedy says. "Because these are citizen-soldiers. They all have jobs and they're being yanked out of them. Probably in most cases they're making a whole lot more money in their private jobs than they are with whatever rank they might have in the Guard."

And H.E.R.O.E.S. Care is there to help them and the many other military families who sacrifice so much for the freedoms we take for granted.

If you're a service member or spouse and would like that help, or if you would just like to find out more about this organization, you can find their website at this link.

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