Exclusive Video from the Family Care Package Launch

Enjoy this video of yesterday’s launch of the Family Care Package and take a few moments to read the story behind the story below…

From the Desk of Jeremy Borden, USO Staff Writer:

Nancy Fiscus says that even though her husband has deployed six times, she has never gotten used to his absence.

Her husband, Army Lieutenant Colonel Paul R. Fiscus, is currently on his sixth deployment in Balad, Iraq, as a battalion commander. Nancy was one of the volunteers and military spouses on hand Wednesday at the Army National Guard Armory in Washington, DC, to pack a different kind of USO care package. Instead of going to service members overseas, this one is a “thank you” from the service member to family and loved ones back home.

The pilot program, called the Military Family Care Package program, will allow deployed troops to send their own word of thanks and a few thoughtful gifts, including a journal, to those who matter to them most. “They don’t realize a lot of the things you go through back home,” Fiscus said. “(With the journal) you can at least write it down and get it off your mind.”

Volunteers, including Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden and Cheryl McKinley, wife of Air Force Gen. Craig R. McKinley, chief of the National Guard Bureau, explained how the program will help in those first weeks after a service member is deployed. They also helped pack 3,000 care packages that will be received by Florida National Guard members who are deploying Thursday, as well as several Air National Guardsmen from various locations, will all receive the packages in mid-March. After they’re received, USO officials will conduct a survey and look to assess the program before deciding where and how it could be expanded.

Inside a donated FedEx box, loved ones will find a journal to record events and memories they can share once the service member gets home, a gift card to the digital photo service, RocketLife, phone cards, Hallmark greeting cards, Verizon phone cards, a gift certificate to Tutor.com as well as other useful items such as local USO information, particularly for the Centers in Pensacola and Jacksonville.

“Today is not about the USO. Today is about our military families,” said Sloan Gibson, the USO’s president and CEO. “It’s really a message to all of our military families, and it’s a reminder to all Americans of the profound sacrifice our families are going through. We want to be there for these families until all of their loved ones come home.”

Alex Baird, the National Guard’s chief of family programs, said the strain of multiple deployments have exacerbated many of the challenges military families face. “All of a sudden, (they’re) gone,” Baird said of the long weeks that lead up to deployment. “Then in the mail comes this package from FedEx, and I’d call it a Hallmark moment when, ‘Oh my gosh, here’s this package from my spouse who was thinking of me on the way out the door.’ That’s why we think programs like this are so essential.”

Dr. Jill Biden greets a DC National Guard member who was a student at the high school where she once taught, Feb 24, 2010. (USO Photo by Mike Theiler)

Biden, whose son, Beau, recently returned from a deployment in Iraq, said her work with military families has reinforced how committed they are. She and others are working to address the many challenges military families face.

“They’ll spend the next year trying to create normalcy … and I certainly know how that feels,” Biden said. “The items in these packages will make life just a little bit easier for them.”

Army National Guard Master Sergeant Shannon Goodwin knows both the sacrifices of being deployed and having a loved one deploy. She and her husband were both deployed in the first phases of Operation Iraqi Freedom. “Even though they’re not out on the battlefield (families are) still serving, they’re still making sacrifices,” Goodwin said. “Being a spouse myself, I think if I received a package like this, it would make all the difference in the world to me.”