I’m normally an even-keeled person, but toss a husband’s deployment to Iraq in the mix, and all bets were off. Watching war coverage on CNN would set my heart racing. I’d cry whenever the car radio played Trace Adkins’ “Arlington” or Carrie Underwood’s “Just a Dream,” or really any country song about love and loss. And when soldiers from Kyle’s brigade were killed? I felt equal parts sadness and guilt that my husband was still safe while others’ weren’t. If you have a loved one who has served in Iraq or Afghanistan, you understand these feelings all too well.
The nonprofit Give an Hour recognizes the emotional burdens of military families, and its mission is to help shoulder the weight. Give an Hour has assembled a nationwide network of more than 5,000 mental health professionals who each donate one hour a week to counsel military troops and their families. That means grandmothers, cousins, brothers, mothers, fiancées, and other affected family members can speak with licensed counselors — at no charge — about everything from post-traumatic stress and anxiety to traumatic brain injuries and grief. “We recognize that family members — immediate and extended — can be profoundly impacted by their loved one’s service,” says Lauren Itzkowitz, a Navy spouse who works for Give an Hour.
Is it really free? Absolutely. If you are inspired to give back once you’ve used this service, Give an Hour will link you up with other worthy veterans service organizations that need volunteers. “We offer volunteer opportunities as a ‘pay it forward’ kind of system,” Lauren says. “It is not required.”
Find a provider at giveanhour.org. If you don’t see one in your area, send an email to email@example.com; Give an Hour will locate a provider for you.
It’s easy to use, and it’s confidential. You won’t be asked to provide proof that a family member is in the military; Give an Hour operates on an honor system. Don’t hesitate to tap into this valuable resource: Troops and their families have used more than 24,000 hours of free counseling since Give an Hour launched in 2007.