This Valentine’s Day we highlight the joy of volunteering with a loved one. “Volunteering as a couple is fun for us. I guess you could say we complement each other’s skills and personalities,” explains Sandy Peck of Battle Creek, Michigan. Sandy, along with her husband Steve, both participate in the American Red Cross Reconnection Workshops helping military service members and their families readjust post deployment. The Pecks, married for 37 years, both have mental health backgrounds and were looking for opportunities to give back to those who have given so much for their country. “We get so much more than we give. We have met lots of great new people. When a smile appears on a participants face, they joke about something, it is very rewarding.”
The couple understands how life in the military is very different from civilian life. “Both the person deployed and those at home have changed. For sure, communication in the military and at home is very different. Many times both sides have unrealistic expectations on how life will now be after deployment. Reconnection topics can help bridge that gap with information and skills for everyone to try. In the Boots on the Ground programs we have done in Detroit, we have had participants from the Vietnam era through today. Many of those who have given us the most positive feedback have been out of the service for several years.”
Steve recalls one workshop, Exploring Stress and Trauma. “It was a small group, and one man was clearly struggling with PTSD. At first he didn’t participate, but as he became more comfortable with the group he did talk a little. There were a couple of difficult moments but the group was supportive and we were able to move along. As we were all leaving, he came up to me and gave me a hug saying ‘Thanks Man. I didn’t realize until tonight how far I had come. I’m going to keep trying in my program.’ Very simply, that is why we do Reconnections.”
Steve and Sandy Peck have been volunteering their mental health services for seven years and continue to provide hope and support for military families in southwest Michigan. “There are so many things that volunteers are needed for in the Red Cross,” says Steve, “that even though you may not do the same activity, there is something for everyone. For us, we do things together and separately.” Steve also works with the No Vet Dies Alone program at the Battle Creek VA Hospital while Sandy instructs classes at their local chapter. Both are instrumental in the care they provide for service members and the assistance they give to people affected by disaster.
Reconnection Workshops are free and available to all those impacted by a military deployment from all branches of the Armed Forces, which includes Reserve, National Guard, active duty service members, veterans and their families, including spouses, parents, siblings, significant others and close friends. Workshops and materials focus on learning useful tools, effective coping mechanisms and where to find resources. To learn more or schedule a workshop, please contact Chris Duffley at Chris.Duffley@redcross.org.