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    12 Tips to Make the Most of the "Adopt A Service Member" Program

    A change of scenery. A home cooked meal. A place to relax. 

    During the holiday season, I find myself thinking of young service members and their hopes for the simple comforts beyond the walls of their dormitory. Turns out, I am not the only one with concerns for military personnel at their first assignment. Here in Virginia, the City of Hampton is joining with Joint Base Langley-Eustis (JBLE) for the Adopt An Airman: Welcome Home to Hampton program. This worthwhile opportunity connects select families with young Airmen to “provide a home-away-from-home during their first enlistment in the military.”

    My husband and I happily added our name to the list of host families rallying for this “Adopt An Airman” project. By sharing our lives and our home, we hope to reach out to others in the Hampton Roads community and in our Air Force family.

    Attending a casual pizza party the other night, the host families had a chance to meet the military members in the program. As my spouse and I walked into the venue, a flutter of thoughts had me wondering...

    • Will we seem too “old” for a 20-year-old to hang out with?
    • Will we have anything to talk about?

    It was an exciting mix of awkwardness and nervous butterflies swirling around!

    Upon meeting our assigned Airman, her bright smile reminded me there was no need for silly worries. Sharing warm and friendly conversation, we were quickly at ease and found plenty to chat about. Making plans to tour local museums, try popular cafes, and hang out at the nearby beach, we were brimming with anticipation for adventures ahead.

    If the idea of “adopting” a service member appeals to you, I'm sharing a few tips for making the most of the experience.

    12 Tips to Make the Most of the "Adopt a Service Member" Program

    1. Ask about food allergies.

    An important element of hospitality is addressing the dietary needs and preferences of those you’ll host.

    2. Let the service member know about your pets.

    Each person may respond differently to animals. Ensure the military member is comfortable with the presence of your pets.

    3. Provide transportation.

    Young service members often do not have their own vehicle. Plan on picking them up from their dorm and driving them back.

    4. Start out slow.

    Consider going to a coffee house or cafe for the initial meet up. Choosing a popular public place gives the chance to observe the crowd during any potential lulls in conversation.

    5. After establishing a connection, invite the service member to your house.

    Even just the invitation to sit around your kitchen table will be a change of pace from dorm life.

    6. While at your residence, provide the service member your guest room.

    Maybe they want to change clothes or take a nap? Help the military member feel at home by offering your guest accommodations.

    7. Create a relaxing atmosphere.

    Take them on a tour of your dwelling, show them where to grab soda and snacks, give your WiFi password, and invite them to use your TV, gaming system, and stereo. Make their visit a chance to relax and unwind.

    8. Behave as a positive role model and keep these points in mind:

    • Refrain from offering alcohol or tobacco.
    • Steer clear of volatile topics such as politics and religion.

    Additionally, encourage them to share their own unique experiences rather than rambling on with your military stories.

    9. Make sightseeing plans.

    Look up local attractions in the area and ask about their interests. Be flexible with your timing as their schedule may change.

    10. Due to work responsibilities or travel expenses, many military members are unable to be with family over the holidays.

    Be sensitive to this and ask your service member about the traditions they’ve grown up with. Consider adding their customs to your celebrations to create a "home-away-from-home" atmosphere.

    11. Ask them if they'd like to bring along a roommate or friend from their dorm.

    Have the notion "The more the merrier" in mind for those wanting to take a breather from their daily routines. Having a buddy along may help them feel more comfortable. 

    12. Embrace the service member as “fr-amily” – a friend who becomes like family!

    Whether out exploring the Tidewater region of Virginia or gathering for a game in our living room, our military family enjoys spending time with our assigned Airman.We are thankful to share the holiday season with this new friend and grateful for the opportunity to make a rewarding connection. 

    If you're looking for a volunteer effort in your area, check in with the Family Readiness Group or family services office at your military installation. Additionally, here are a handful of websites with options to reach out to military members as 2017 winds down.

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    Mary Ann Eckberg


    Mary Ann Eckberg

    Originally from Nebraska, Mary Ann Eckberg is a writer, a dreamer, an animal rescue softie, a laundry ninja, a football fanatic, and a cupcake connoisseur. Honored to be a military spouse, Mary Ann collects good friends and good memories at every assignment.

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