At this time of year, we are often reminded to support others in need — we donate food to people who are homeless or hungry, provide a warm jacket to a foster child or send a care package to soldiers serving in a faraway land. Mike Schindler of Edmonds would like us to add a worthy — and often forgotten — cause to that list: military families.
Schindler is a Navy veteran who was struck by the amount of media coverage devoted to how military families are being torn apart by deployment, and realized “we have to figure out how to keep families together. ”
Schindler, who lives in Seaview with his wife Keri and their two daughters, spent nine months interviewing military couples, chaplains, counselors and psychologists, and converted 1,000 hours of audio interviews into a book, “Operation Military Family: How to Strengthen Your Military Marriage and Save Your Family.” He also conducts workshops and seminars for military organizations through his Operation Military Family website.
His most immediate project, however, is one that was inspired by a family friend, Irene Endicott, whose husband served in World War II. “Irene pointed out that we are so focused on the troops during the holidays, but the families are often forgotten,” Schindler said.
Here’s how you can share some holiday cheer with military families who are separated from their loved ones this season: Sign a holiday card or cards (send as many as you like!) and place each in an envelope, but don’t seal or address them. Place a 44-cent stamp on each envelope, then place into a larger envelope and mail to Operation Military Family, 23632 Hwy 99, Ste. F #354, Edmonds, WA 98026.
Act soon, as Schindler needs all cards by Friday, Dec. 4. Questions can be directed to [email protected].
In addition to this effort, Schindler is immersed in causes aimed at supporting military families. His website offers a wealth of advice and tips for couples, including video interviews with veterans and their spouses. His book has been endorsed by Retired U.S. Army General Tommy Franks and many other top military leaders for providing military couples with the tools they need to “battle-ready” their relationships.
“We don’t prepare them for lethal combat, we prepare them for relationship combat,” Schindler said, reinforcing what every couple — military or not — has discovered at some point in their relationship: It isn’t always easy, and it takes work.
Noting that there are 26 million veterans in the U.S. and 3 million soldiers on active duty, Schindler knows that he has his work cut out for him. But he is a firm believer that creating strong family units before soldiers deploy will lead to a stronger military that can focus on the task at hand, rather than the distraction of family problems back home. He is also hopeful that reducing the military divorce rate will reduce the suicide rate, as military statistics show that struggling family relationships are a factor in 60 percent of cases when a solider takes his or her own life.
The Operation Military Family website encourages couples to develop a vision for their marriage and an action plan for realizing that vision, from pre-deployment to deployment to the soldier’s return and reintegration into family life. A key component is also developing a network of mentors — including other military couples — to assist through the rough spots.
During his many interviews with couples as he researched the book, Schindler said that there was one common thread: “The couples that made it had a very strong plan and a very strong support network.”