WASHINGTON, D.C. — Alan Reyes, the USO’s Senior Vice President of Operations, is no stranger to the sacrifices and hardships a military families faces when a parent is overseas. His father, a 30-year Navy veteran, was deployed when Reyes was born and didn’t meet his son until he was two months old.
Reyes, a Navy reservist, was a panelist at The Daily Beast’s Hero Summit in Washington on Thursday and was part of a discussion that focused on the life-changing hardships endured by military families when a family member is deployed or returns home with battle scars.
“When a wounded warrior returns from war – regardless of whether they have a visible or invisible wound – that individual is often a different person who now needs care,” Reyes said. “That creates a specific stress on the caregiver as an individual, on that couple and on the family.”
The USO knows that caregivers and spouses of wounded, ill and injured troops play an instrumental role in the recovery of their loved one. To recognize their efforts and help them through their transition, the USO holds Caregivers Conferences to let them know they are not alone.
“[The USO] brings together caregivers – primarily spouses, but sometimes mothers and fathers, even brothers or sisters – of wounded, ill and injured troops and helps give them tools, tactics and things they need to cope with the challenges in their lives.”
Reyes, who was joined on stage by co-panelists Dr. Tommy Sowers, an assistant secretary at the VA and Brannan Vines, founder and president of Family of a Vet, an advocacy group, also spoke about how the USO uses technology to help bridge the gap between deployed troops and their families.
“Today, there is an opportunity to strengthen that family bond whether [the family member] is deployed around the world or not. We have nine centers in Afghanistan and many of those soldiers, Marines, sailors and airmen have spouses at home. … We have the ability through our USO Centers to connect them through free phone calls and Internet access.
“We even have the opportunity to have service members virtually in the delivery room watching through Skype so they can be there in that moment experiencing [the birth of their child] along with their spouse.”
Reyes took a moment to recognize the unsung heroism of family members who don’t deploy, saying “those of us who are in uniform and deploy, we really look at the family as heroes and not the other way around.”
–Story by USO Story Development